Friday, June 19, 2009

Oscar S. Villadolid: He Dared To Dream Big

The piece below was written by my wife, Hilda ‘Deeda’ Villadolid Gonzalez, a masteral graduate of the National University of Singapore and the eighth of nine children of Oscar and Alice Villadolid. This is a slightly edited version of the introduction to the chapter of her father in the book, "How To Make It in PR: PR Veterans Tell Their Stories," edited by Romeo Virtusio and published in San Juan, Metro-Manila, in 2007. Deeda wrote:

If you want to live an exciting life, dare to dream big and then work hard to make it come true. It was Oscar S. Villadolid who, when I was fresh out of college, first showed me the validity of this philosophy in pursuing a successful career.

While my father had built a reputation in journalism, corporate communications and public relations, guided by such a truism, it was his stint as Philippine ambassador to the Holy See at the Vatican where it was tested as applied in diplomacy.

In 1991 when my father began his tour of duty, the social plight of Filipino overseas workers was an issue unfolding at the margins of Philippine diplomacy. While the OFW’s presence in Italy had significantly increased since the 1970s, the priorities of Philippine foreign affairs were naturally anchored on the bilateral and multilateral representation of the country in politics and economics.

Early in his five-year stint, however, my father focused on the OFW’s social welfare. His goal was to place their spiritual and social needs and aspirations on the foreign affairs agenda, given their sizable presence and their contribution not only to the Philippines but also to Italy and the Vatican. He joined them on Sundays, when they would congregate for mass and social activities, and listened to their issues. He designed initiatives around these issues. He actively supported the effort of the Filipino community, Jaime Cardinal Sin, and Bishop Ramon Arguelles to establish a Filipino Chaplaincy, leading to the designation by the Vatican of the Basilica of Sta. Pudenziana in Rome as the “spiritual home” of Filipino migrants.

While his framework was considered to be “against the grain” and met with some skepticism at the time, he kept to his trademark approach--boldness in ideas and tenacity in implementation. Towards the end of his stint, his approach proved prophetic when His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, proclaimed the Filipinos in Italy as the “new evangelizers” - bringing by their example the message of Christianity to Italian families. The worthiness of placing the OFWs at the center could not be more valid than what we see today when they are keeping the economy on solid footing.

When I became a parent in 2004, my first thoughts were of my parents, Oscar Villadolid and Alice Colet, for the steadfastness they displayed, as they raised a family of nine children while building successful careers. Our childhood was a collage of stimulating memories. There were the conversations around our long dinner table, where my mom and dad would share with us the latest news in politics and society and then encourage us to pitch in our opinions or ask questions. Older siblings took care of younger ones, and everyone had chores.

In grade school, my first responsibility at 5 am every weekday was to awaken everyone for school. Afternoons were spent playing patintero or doctor-doctor in the yard while mom, who like dad never stopped working, typed away on her telex to beat the deadline for The New York Times. Books were handed down from the eldest to the youngest. Despite their busy schedules, dad and mom brought us every summer to the Hundred Islands with the Villadolid cousins, while parties were spent with the Colets.

Looking back and marveling at how our parents managed to raise 9 children, I attribute it to a confluence of sacrifice, boldness and faith. As his family was growing, dad set aside his passion for journalism and joined San Miguel Corporation, building a career of 25 years to eventually retire as senior vice president.

Even as she directed our upbringing, mom built a career in journalism--becoming the Manila correspondent for The New York Times and Newsweek--and public service, as Press Undersecretary under the Aquino administration. She would again be asked to balance two responsibilities when dad served as the Ambassador to the Vatican where she helped him render diplomatic duties after which she would shuttle back to Manila to manage the affairs of the Philippine Press Institute as its Executive Director. Throughout these busy years, they still managed to help us navigate the challenges in our young lives with equanimity and firm guidance based on values and faith.

Today that filial fabric woven in one generation remains sturdy. We have sought to give back to our parents by following their example, not in the number of children, but in mirroring their hard work and in maintaining the strong fabric of closeness despite the pull from different locations.

Deoji, the eldest, owns and manages a successful distribution and trading company after years in San Miguel in Manila and Hong Kong. Osee has been a globe-trotter, advising companies worldwide on IT solutions as a director for Asia of a multinational company. Having graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines and proceeding to earn a masteral degree in communications from the University of Michigan, Tessa has since raised a family and built a career in marketing in that most exciting of cities, New York.

It was Joey and Anna who inherited the artistic genes. Joey melded entrepreneurship and the arts, successfully establishing his own professional photography studio in Manila and now practicing his craft in San Francisco. And what more can be said of Anna, whose ballet career began in Manila and culminated as a principal soloist of the Munich Ballet, where even mom and dad are introduced as “her parents!”

Tina spent years in the country’s biggest corporate foundation and applied her graduate units from New York University in an international philanthropic organization. Paula has built throughout 17 years a solid career as a Training and Organizational Development expert. Lynn, another globe-trotter, holds an MBA from Harvard University and advises entrepreneurial start-ups in London. As for me, I followed my parents’ interest in the social sciences, starting in journalism and then spending years in public governance and development consulting.

Deeda Villadolid-Gonzalez

1 comment:

  1. Very inspiring tribute to one's parents; thank you for sharing. I am sorry to hear the recent loss of your Dad; but his legacy continues.

    I used to work with Pau at Convergys; great person to work with.

    Hazel (Cebu City)