PoliticsTough guy

Tough guy


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Transportation Secretary Art Tugade means business—and he has the corporate experience, the work ethic, and the backbone to get a myriad of projects off the ground

There is a personal dimension to this interview, because 20 years ago, this guy was my boss.

Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade spent the first 45 years of his career in the corporate world. He was the president of the Transnational Diversified Group (TDG) of J. Roberto “Robbie” Delgado. Art had started out working for Robbie’s father. When Robbie went on his own, he took Art with him, and together with their team, they built TDG into a multi-billion peso juggernaut.

TDG was built on important relationships with foreign principals, relationships that Robbie nurtured and grew, while Art was the bastonero, the enforcer, who built the organization and relentlessly drove it to run efficiently and profitably.

Art grew up poor. His parents were Ilocano migrants to the city. They lived in Sampaloc and Tatalon, and he spent a lot of time on the streets as a child, “up to no good,” as he himself admits. He ate frugal meals out of plastic bags, as his parents struggled to make ends meet. They had no running water, and their toilet was an outhouse. The area often flooded in the rainy season, and Art would collect kangkong that drifted around, or would catch gourami fish to eat, using a motorcycle battery and live wires.

He attended San Beda College on scholarship from elementary to law school. He graduated magna cum laude in Philosophy from the university in 1967, and again, magna cum laude and valedictorian from the law school in 1971. He notes that he spent most of his time in the library, as he could not afford to buy his own law books. He was classmates, and friends, with Rodrigo Duterte at San Beda Law.

After passing the bar in 1972, and a brief period practicing law privately, he joined the office of Ambassador Antonio Delgado as an executive assistant. He reinforced his education with an Executive Education program at the National University of Singapore in 1985.

Art started his own group, called the Perry’s Group of Companies, in 2003. He left TDG soon after. Perry’s was named after a son of Art’s who died tragically young from an illness. The group, which is now run by Art’s children, engages in niche entrepreneurial businesses such as boutique hotels and travel services, as well as mainstream businesses, such as gasoline stations.

In 2012, Art was appointed President and CEO of Clark Development Corporation. He turned it from a subsidized state firm into a profitable revenue generator for the government, grossing about P1.5 billion from 2013 to 2015.

Art knows more about business and people than almost any other manager I have ever met. He has a deep understanding of finance, operations and control, efficiencies, programming, selecting and motivating people, negotiation, business modelling, planning and structure, strategy, competition, and investment.

Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade inspected the plates manufactured at the new Land Transportation Office platemaking facility in Quezon City.

His management style is not for everyone, as he is the first to admit. He can have a violent temper, and does not stand for any incompetence or nonsense. On one of my first days on the job, he told a group of us young managers, “Don’t worry, you will never disappoint me, because I never get disappointed: I get angry. If you screw up, I will simply fire you, instead of wasting my time with disappointment.”

One former TDG executive told me, when I joined the company: “Art Tugade is [a stream of expletives]. But everything I know about business, I learned from him.”

I can certainly attest to the learning part. Here are excerpts from our interview:

AD: You have had great success in the private sector, including the Clark Development Corporation. You could retire if you wanted to. Why did you take on this headache of joining government?

APT: I don’t know. Maybe it is some compelling moral reason, but let’s go to the more simplistic. Number one, I campaigned hard for Pres. Duterte. I had the temerity to leave government, and explicitly say I was leaving, because I would campaign for my classmate. Many said that was a wrong move because I was throwing the dice on the table. But I did. Nanalo, eh. Akala ko hindi siya mananalo, eh nanalo. Alangan naman iwan ko siya ngayong nanalo siya.

But shying away from very simplistic reasons, perhaps it’s payback time. Perhaps, I said, I am now in a position where I should not be corrupted. I am now in a position where I can tell myself, “Hey Art, don’t go for money, but go for the memory and the legacy. Here is the golden opportunity. You are 71 years old (at that time), in the twilight of your life, maybe you do something for the bansa, for the republic and the Filipino people.” Believe it or not, that was the reason, Apa.

Right after the inauguration of Virac Airport in Catanduanes, Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade visited Virac Port on June 1, 2018.

I have performed the functions for barely two years, in the quiet of the night, and I ask myself, [expletive], why did I accept the job? If I consider my acceptance of this responsibility a job, amigo, I would have left a long time ago. You are underpaid. You are exposed to sarcasm, ridicule, and even suspicion, with every move you make. You don’t have allowances, representation expenses. Kung trabaho ito, p’re, alis na ako. But then I told myself, hindi trabaho ito, commitment at advocacy na ito. And like any advocacy, any commitment, mahirap talaga yan…Kaya tinutuluy-tuloy ko lang hanggat kaya ko. If I wanted to take it easy, as many would, why will I take a heavy load?

AD: ’Di ba, you had a health scare some years ago?

APT: Yes. I imploded. I had an operation. I was given less than a 50-50 chance of survival. I thought about this—bakit kaya ako binuhay? It changed my perspective. I started getting involved with street children, in NGOs. I changed my patterns of business to make them employee-centered. I was 59; nobody believed when I started complaining. But one day it happened. When I asked permission from Robbie Delgado to leave, they thought I was feigning illness, but barely a year after I left, I imploded. Justification na lang, payback time. Legacy moments.

AD: Yeah, I guess this was a life-changing experience for you. This was Art Tugade 2.0.

APT: (Laughing) It is! You know, the transition, ang hirap, pare. But then, it’s got to be. It had to be done, it had to be accomplished.

AD: But then you are still the same commanding personality that I remember when you were my boss…

APT: It does not change. The passion to do something, to perform, even out-perform, is still there. Kung wala kang passion, surrender ka rito. You know me as an early worker, ‘di ba? I still start my day at 7 in the morning, and I travel from Ayala Alabang to here. Today, I was here 10 minutes to 7. Imagine what time I left my house. That is almost daily.

AD: Just getting from Ayala Alabang to Balintawak is already half a day.

APT: That is the reason we have to improve the traffic flow. Call it personal, because I am experiencing it every day.

AD: The SLEX-NLEX connector should be finished in about 18 months?

APT: That is a flagship project of the Department of Public Works and Highways headed by Secretary Mark Villar, a very hard-working, industrious secretary. He is to finish that in barely two years. And wow, when that happens! Couple that with the train, the new airport terminal, the inter-operability of tolls, traveling to Clark. If you have options, and you have a faster transport system, abot iyan, pare, in less than an hour.

AD: Wow! Fantastic! Because it is only 75 km, right?

APT: That is correct, more or less. At hindi lang yan sa Clark, ha. Inter-operability, connectivity, and mobility will happen all over the country. That is the marching order of our President.

AD: Tell me about the train. This project has been going on since before my children were born.

APT: At this time, the train from Tutuban to Clark is already being implemented. We are starting with mobilization and clearing up.

AD: Let us start with the right of way.

APT: We are starting with the re-alignment of utilities and the right of way. Yung realignment of utilities, hindi mo naririnig na problema iyan, pero that is a major issue.

AD: Are you going to use the original alignment of the train that used to go to Damortis, Pangasinan?

APT: Substantially, yes, but there will be a little deviation. Some would be more elevated, some would be grounded. That would not be possible if this administration did not solve one legal issue.

AD: Which is?

APT: The Northrail-Sinomach. Remember the Chinese issue? [Note: ‘Sinomach’ is the new name of China National Machinery and Engineering Group (CNMEG), the original contractor. —Ed.]

AD: Well, yes, but it used to be the Spanish, then the Chinese took over.

APT: Then, hindi natuloy, then nagka demandahan. Did you know that we were able to settle that? For free! Walang consideration. Government did not pay a single cent. The government did not commit itself to give them projects, just their faith in the new administration. All in their belief that, at long last, the railroad will be put up. Pare, natapos namin iyan in barely six months.

AD: Talaga? That case was dragging on for around eight years or something…

APT: In barely eight months, we are all pogi. Procurement is now in place. Magkakaroon ng bidding in the next couple of weeks. But we do not anticipate any problem there. We will complete that in barely three years. Speaking of trains, alam mo ba na yung total rail population ng Pilipinas ngayon is only 77 km? Do you know that our objective is 1,900 km of railways? It is a long shot, but we will do the three-point shot.

Tugade is envisioning a train system linking the metro to Clark.

Where will those 1,900 km be? Tutuban to Clark, Tutuban to Calamba, Los Baños to Bicol. You know about the MRT and the LRT, right? Of course, you know about the Mindanao railways. We’ll do the procurement, we start next year, the first phase: the Tagum-Davao-Digos portion, 600 km.

There will be lots of improvement. And the one good thing with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) having offices here in Clark is that we can now personally and directly monitor the first railway track. From 77 to 1,900, that is a tall order. It will take time, but it’s got to start. Most of the projects, we will finish during the term of the President. But the Mindanao express, not complete. It’s too long, 900 km. Hindi namin matatapos iyan, but the first phase, we want it finished by the end of the term of the President. Tutuban-Clark, finished by 2022. The Tutuban-Malolos-Calamba and the first phase of Mindanao finished.

AD: Ok. So tell me about the airport roadmap.

APT: This is the aviation roadmap I designed, as Secretary of the Department of Transportation. At present, we have only NAIA and Clark. NAIA is being improved. Clark is being renovated and rehabilitated.

AD: Are you going to add a second runway?

APT: Ultimately, it will go there, but it depends on how the factors on the platform will be finalized. As you develop NAIA, you must really do a full-blown rehab of Clark. But you have to develop other sites for airline operators, operations.

Right now there are two sites being discussed. Bulacan, Ramon Ang group. Sa Sangley, dalawa ang proposal ngayon diyan. One is an unsolicited one from the Solar group, and the other a government-to-government proposal by the province of Cavite, Governor Jesus “Boying” Remulla and his group, as local officials.

My position is, improve and rehabilitate Clark, which we are doing now. As we speak, we have started the bid for Clark Terminal 2. That has been a topic of conversation for a couple of years. Now, it is a reality. We are opening the bid in a matter of time. We will have an operator, and we will have operations and management.

As we do this, there are plans to develop a second runway at NAIA. So we will now have to improve the terminal operation, as we have to improve facilities, structure, system, and even the habits of the people working in NAIA 1, 2, 3 and 4. Kailangan i-improve mo ’yan. There was an issue before of punctuality in NAIA.

Remember there was an issue of NAIA being one of the four worst airports in the world? Eh, kung sabihin ko sa iyo na hindi na? Sabi ng mga international organization, it is one of the most improved airports in the world. Now, it is in the category of good or satisfactory. Imagine the jump, from the worst to most improved.

We have approved the unsolicited proposal for Bulacan, they purport to put several runways. Matatapos yung dalawang runway before the end of the term of the President. Whether they do it or not, time will tell. I hope they are able to do it.

The original NAIA is due for an upgrade.

AD: What is the connector, NLEX?

APT:  No. There will be multiple connections. The rail network will pass through the periphery, but there will be a road network that will open itself to the airport, to the Bulacan one. But as you develop Bulacan, you look at Sangley.

AD: Sangley is problematic. The runway is only about 1.3 or 1.4 nautical miles, maximum. So you will have to reclaim so much. Mahirap na iyon.

APT: I was there, just this Saturday, to personally inspect Sangley, and it is doable with the cooperation of the Navy, Armed Forces, the LGU, and we were all there, just this Saturday. And there was optimism in the air, because of the collaboration, cooperation, and willingness to make Sangley airport alive.

I will make all the airports an option for each other. I honestly believe that NAIA Terminal 1, 2, 3, and 4 will not be there forever. When that happens, when NAIA already ceases to operate as an airport, both international and domestic, it becomes what? A real estate platform. Imagine a situation where you will develop NAIA as a real estate platform, bigger than BGC.

AD: If you look at the history of the big airports of the world, JFK did not cause La Guardia to close and become a real estate play. Narita did not cause the closure of Haneda. Le Bourget is still operating. Gatwick and Biggin Hill are still operating.

APT: Correct, but mayroon tayong Bulacan at mayroon tayong Sangley. In other words, there are other options already in place. NAIA can be the Gatwick, you can develop it. Again you are opening the option of NAIA being a real estate play. That is the reason why I could not agree when the Consortium of Seven offered a concession period of 35 years. No way! In fairness to them, last week they lowered it to 15 years. Maybe I will counter-offer 12. We will see how the negotiations will go, but they realized that 35 years is a no-no, at least for me. Kawawa naman ang bansa, pare.

AD: Yeah. Let us look at the examples of the past. Pag binigyan ng napakatagal, inaabuso iyon.

APT: At saka, no sovereign guarantee. No government subsidy, in any form. No guarantee of transfer of accounts, by poaching on existing airports. There will be no unemployment when you improve on the airports. And at the same time, the government will maintain all the standards of service and will have a say on all tariffs. It is also integral that you develop the other regional and provincial airports. How? Both by increasing or developing runways, and immediately making them all night-rated.

AD: Right now, what are night-rated? Manila, Cebu, Davao?

APT: I am not sure of the numbers, after one year we had 14 or 15. And you know what is the icing on the cake? Yung Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), there is a new building. Now you can monitor all flights, and anything and everything in the open sky, makikita mo. Puerto Princesa binuksan namin. San Vicente binuksan namin. Cebu Terminal 2 will be completed, inaugurated on June 7. Panglao, almost starting from ground zero. That will be commercially operational, ang target namin is in August. When we speak about mobility and connectivity, totohanan ito, pare.

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, together with Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and other officials and VIPS, led the inauguration of the new world-class passenger terminal building of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport last June 7, 2018.

AD: How about the Marine Sector? That is a tough one.

APT: The Philippines is an archipelago, consisting of various islands including the three largest, Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. How do you connect that? By bridge, that is the domain of public works. We create ports. We develop and encourage roll-on, roll-off para may connectivity, para may operability, for full passengers. We are putting, right now, several ports.

More importantly, the safety and security of the Filipino people in the open sea. Trabaho ng Navy, pero yung Coast Guard, sa akin din iyan. So we are buying watercraft, we are adding people. We have presence now in most of the maritime waters. They are all here. By June this year, Pres. Duterte will inaugurate the first barge terminal ever in the republic of the Philippines.

AD: Fantastic. Where are you going to put it?

APT: In Tanza, Navotas. I went there noong Saturday. Nilinis yan ng ICTSI, tinapos, at no expense to government. What is this barge terminal? Yung mga container na dumadaan sa kalsada, they will now move by barge. Hindi na sa kalsada. The 20-footers and the 40-footers. Maybe we will be successful with 50 percent. But over time, you can create more of this thing and have all the containers off the road. Mag o-operate sila on water, walang color-coding.

There is a full blown aggressive program to develop Pasig River. We created a committee, ang chairman niyan another energetic and innovative Secretary, Ben Diokno. Siya yung Secretary of Budget. There is an inter-agency department. And he is pushing it fast, quickly, and aggressively.

AD: Let us talk about domestic shipping. I remember, when I worked for you, you explained to me at the time, it was cheaper to send a container from Manila to San Francisco than from Manila to Davao. Has that changed?

APT: Baka magulat ka sa ginawa namin, Apa. Yes! We started the first RoRo between Indonesia and Davao. Before it took them two to three weeks; now it takes two to three days. Before it took them US$2,000 per container, now it’s US$200 per container. We do RoRo domestic operations, domestic, maritime, bilateral, or trilateral agreements with other countries. Of course the issue of cargo, the issue of piracy in open seas, na-a-address din yan.

Piracy is still a problem. That is why there are efforts to create a satellite-based tracking system, not limited to transponders. That is why there is a need for fast moving crafts. Ang katawa-tawa nun, yung mga Abu Sayyaf, mabilis yung mga sasakyan nila, mabilis pa sa mga sasakyan ng mga Coast Guard. Pero ngayon, 25-30 knots kami ngayon. And then we made some prohibitions on registrations on bancas and motorized vessels in open seas.

AD: By the way, just for disclosure, I’m in a lobby group. We are trying to institute a system of registration for private yachts and motor vessels.

APT: I know that, in fact I have been talking with them. I share your dream that one day part of our beautiful waters will be home to international yachting.

AD:  You know Bangkok, from almost zero, 20 years ago, to maybe 3,000 yachts today.

APT: I know too, of the registration delays. Biro mo, mag ya-yate ka, hindi mo maire-register agad iyan. In the meantime, may binabayaran kang financing. Again we have to address the issue of security kasi baka naman yung mga nakasakay riyan mga terrorista, yung iba may mga dalang droga o diamante. But then again, details of implementation should not obstruct the realization of a good concept. You have to refine and rationalize these details.

Let’s address the issue of security, not only of piracy and terrorism but also drugs and smuggling. That is why we need to satellite-track. That is why we need fast-moving crafts. That is why we are adding personnel. In fact, it is my target, in the Coast Guard alone, to increase my compliment of men and women by 40,000 by the end of the term of the President. Again, a tall order. Well, the President, you know, has a strong political will.

AD: This is about political will. You have been sued already.

APT: Even now, I have cases all over the place. They say that if you don’t have cases, you are not doing your job. So I pat myself on the back. Ganito iyan pare, kung ayaw mo ng kaso, kung ayaw mo na iniinsulto ka sa media, kung ayaw mo na gagawan ka ng eskandalo, don’t join government. Those are the things you just have to live with.

AD: How about the MRT maintenance contract, what is going to happen there?

APT: Siguro in the next 30 days. There is a case. I sued them for plunder. Si Roxas, si Abaya and a lot of officials. We terminated the contract with Busan, and we are now self-managing it, but we cannot sustain it on our own in the long term. I am bringing in Sumitomo.

AD: Are they willing to come back?

APT: When I talked to them the first time, they were not. But now,  they are ready to come back with the help of the Japanese government. I pleaded for the assistance of the Japanese government, which they graciously gave, and now we are finalizing the agreement with Sumitomo.

AD: Can you get the Dalian train to run on the MRT?

APT: There is a third party international audit. I would rather reserve my comments on the Dalian until we have officially reacted to it.

AD: But will it be made public, the results of the audit?

APT: No. That is why I cannot speak about it at this time. Many claim they have a copy. Maybe they have, maybe they don’t. We are really reviewing it point by point, page by page. It is not easy.

AD: But bottom line, can those coaches be brought up to standard? That is what everyone wants to know. And, of course, there is the signaling issue.

APT: Ang mga issue na iyan, hindi naman iyan irremediable.

AD: The signaling system, definitely, can be fixed.

APT: Which we have already done with the help of Bombardier. Maganda yung arrangement doon, and Sumitomo is also helping us with that. But there are issues like, is it overweight? If it is overweight, does that substantially prejudice the safety of the passengers and the safety of the unit, the rail? I would rather open my mouth when the official statement is released.

AD: What is the maximum number of trains you think you can run? Can you increase the capacity to 600,000 passengers a day?

APT: At this time, we are doing 200,000 to 300,000 a day because we are limited to, fluctuating, 15 to 16 trains. There are a lot of things that we have to address. How I wish we can do half a million. Kaya iyon, given additional coaches, trains, repaired rails, but it has to be a confluence of many things. Again, it is a door issue. No longer a coach or train issue, but a door issue. Yung pinto, pag pinilit mong buksan yan, at hindi nagsara, titigil yung tren. Minsan, no interlock happens because pinipilit ng tao, or sinasandalan.

Remember you are dealing with an old system, from coaches to trains, to railways. Na-maintain at na-address namin yan. Ibig bang sabihin wala nang problema? Like any old trucks that are old and newly repaired, the time will come, may problema ka ulit. And that is why the vigilance of maintenance should always be there. And how do you address the vigilance of maintenance? Spare parts!

AD: I remember that press release from Busan—o, dumating na yung spare parts, tapos, puro mga lata ng WD40.

APT: Walang spare parts. Ngayon meron na. Are they complete? No. There is a continuing procurement. Biruin mo, 28 days wala akong unloading! That is the longest since 2011. At walang Sumitomo niyan. Kami-kami lang. Kaya lang nagkakasakit kami. Inuubo na lahat kami. Ang bahu-baho doon at the MRT-3 Depot near Trinoma.

AD: Beyond the current system, are there plans to expand beyond the current system? I mean beyond the MRT 7?

APT: Oo naman. Baclaran to Dasmariñas, Cavite, that is in place. From Commonwealth to San Jose Bulacan, that is MRT 7. Yung una is LRT1. There are a lot of improvements. I am also doing monorail. We are going to start with connecting Taguig with Makati.

A cable car is a concept that can be reviewed. I was reading a letter from [Foreign Affairs] Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano. He already approved for me to sign the ground agreement with the French government to fund the feasibility study for a cable car—one in Pasig, from Pasig to Makati. The other is Caticlan-Boracay. The other is La Union-Baguio. You can position it with  huge parking, instead of cars going there. It reduces carbon footprint. These are the things that we are seriously looking into now. I hope I can have one cable car before I leave.

APT: Pag ito nakuha mo ito, lahat nung mga tinatanong mo, nandito lahat. You know the annual report…

AD: This must be the first government annual report I have seen in my entire life.

APT: I have two. Barely two years lang. July 2016 to July 2017. Then I have a full 2017. I distributed this to the cabinet, January this year. Sabi nila, ang yabang-yabang mo, may annual report ka. Heto ba ay 2016? Hindi ho, 2017. Eh bakit January na? Kasi Sir, ang gawain nung iba, gagawa ng annual report at the end of the year. Ako, gumagawa ng annual report at the start of the year, so at the end of the year I print the annual report, so I have the annual report. It is all here. We will die, float or sink with this report. All factual.

For example, do you know that the toll system actually causes delay? Kasi multiple. So I have made them agree to a unified toll system. Ang problema ko na lang, as we speak, ay yung cash portion, but I think we can handle that in the next three months. What is the short-term, or medium-term objective for a unified toll system? The other is in three years, ang dream ko, wala nang toll booth. Kinukuhanan ka na lang ng picture ng RFID. We are now constructing the common station. Away-away dati iyang mga iyan. Napagbati-bati ko sila. How we are able to do it, I don’t know. Maybe they have so much faith in President Duterte.  You know what is not known about the Department of Transportation? We are one of the primary revenue generators for the government. We are third. P25 billion.

AD: How the hell?! Where did that money come from?

APT: From LTO, Maritime, Toll Regulatory. Do you know, that for this year, I will be declaring, for the first time, that C.AP is giving a dividend of P3.2 billion? Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) will be paying P3.1 billion. NAIA will be paying P1.2 billion. So it is like Clark before. Negative. I came in, it became positive. We pay dividends and people in government ask me, how come you got this revenue? I can only answer for my term. Of course you know about Lucio Tan, ‘di ba? He paid P6 billion in arrears. They never paid before.

Gusto mong bigyan kita ng scoop? Lahat ng nagtatrabaho dito, four-day work week. Their weekend is either Friday-Saturday-Sunday or Saturday-Sunday-Monday. We determine who, then we change in six months. You know, by doing that, you are actually a tourist. I have actually planted the seeds for domestic tourism. Sabihin mo kay Madame Romulo-Puyat iyan. I give them free shuttle. Matitigas lang ulo ng mga tao eh. Ako, mas matigas ang ulo ko.

Nothing has changed. Noon, nanununtok pa ako, eh. Ngayon, hindi na ako pwedeng manuntok. Matanda na ako. Nambabato ako noon, eh. If you give me papers that are not deserving of my desk, I put them in the waste basket. Duduraan ko pa yan para mahirapan kang kunin.

I waived my intelligence fund. That is around P5 million. I don’t charge my representation expenses. I don’t have back-up. May security ba ako? Kung oras ko, oras ko. Tirahin ninyo ako. Siguraduhin mo lang na may mangyayari sa akin. ‘Pag wala, yayariin kita.

APT: This morning, when I arrived, before 7, I closed the door. I just have my coffee at Starbucks. Wala pang tao rito. Wala pa sila. When my secretary arrived, half of my papers are finished, then she will buy me my breakfast snack, which is a sandwich. Just a sandwich from Starbucks. (To Secretary) Ano yung paborito ko doon?

SECRETARY: Yung Salmon Dill.

APT: No one should talk to me. No one should come in, except when I call. Pinakamatagal ang papel sa akin para lumabas is three days. I hope I can make it one day. That is my habit. Friday. I require all my people: clean-up day. Before you go on your weekend, lahat ng papel sa mesa mo, sa mga undersecretaries, kailangan tapos, and I inspect. In other words, no door should be locked when I work on a weekend. I have six undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, directors. Pare, I handle more than 12 agencies, including the Coast Guard. Now tell me, when am I going to be able to finish all those papers? I have to devote extra time.

APT: No one should talk to me. No one should come in, except when I call. Pinakamatagal ang papel sa akin para lumabas is three days. I hope I can make it one day. That is my habit. Friday. I require all my people: clean-up day. Before you go on your weekend, lahat ng papel sa mesa mo, sa mga undersecretaries, kailangan tapos, and I inspect. In other words, no door should be locked when I work on a weekend. I have six undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, directors. Pare, I handle more than 12 agencies, including the Coast Guard. Now tell me, when am I going to be able to finish all those papers? I have to devote extra time.

AD: Do you still get to spend time with your grandchildren?

APT: Ah, non-negotiable iyan.

AD: How many do you have now, five?

APT: Is that a trick question? [Laughs] I have six, going on seven. Meron akong college sa Pennsylvania, engineering. Matatalino sila. They are also good-looking, mana sa nanay.

Ngayon, when I interact with my children, ibang iba. Kasi, of course noong umpisa, ayokong mag let go. Later on, na-realize ko, kung hindi ako maniniwala sa anak, sino pang maniniwala sa kanila? Dumiskarte ka, habang nandito pa ako. Don’t keep on consulting me. Mas magaling silang negosyante kaysa sa akin. How do I know? Eh mas malaki ang kita, eh. I just had 12 people when we started, now we have 700 people.

When my children get married, I give them a house and lot in Alabang. I think you know that.

AD: Yeah. Are they all married?

APT: Oo. Kumpleto na nga, eh. Wala na silang bibilhin. May refrigerator na, may auto na. Kasi, growing up I realized the hard way na yung bahay ang pinakamahirap ipundar at pinaka-importante. So I thought, when they get married, I don’t give them the option or liberty. Kung ibigay mo pera, baka walang mangyari doon. House and lot. Nasa pangalan na nila lahat iyon. Kaya they are all in Ayala Alabang. Pero naisahan ko sila, eh. Kasi lahat nasa Alabang, so when I need my apo, I just call them, at sasabihin ko sa driver, sunduin mo nga sila. Imagine kung nasa QC iyan.

Kapag ako, hindi binigyan ng allowance, patay ako. Pero mababait naman ang mga anak ko. Paano ako mabubuhay dito kung hindi nila i-absorb yung ibang expenses? Sabi ko nga sa iyo, Apa, it is no longer the money. It is the memory, legacy, the paying back. That is correct. Sinasabi ko sa anak ko iyan. Noon, I gave you money, I gave you memories. Now, I want to give you a name. AD

This story appeared on Asian Dragon’s Vol. 12 No. 3 issue. Downloadable  from https://www.magzter.com/PH/Foresight-Books-Publishing-&-Dist.-Co.,-Inc./Asian-Dragon-Magazine/Business/296982

Portrait: Paulo Valenzuela
Other photographs courtesy of the Department of Transportation


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