Business As Usual

Sergio Ortiz-Luis: The heart and SOL of Philippines' export sector

Jennylei Caberte - The Philippine Star
Sergio Ortiz-Luis: The heart and SOL of Philippines' export sector

MANILA, Philippines — In 2008, Dr. Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. had a life-threatening experience when his appendix burst. The Philippine business community – particularly the small, medium and enterprise (SME) sector – would have lost a staunched advocate had his condition gone south. Fortunately, the operation was a success.

And with a new lease on life, Ortiz-Luis Jr. shifted to a more health-conscious lifestyle from then on, assuring Philippine exporters and SMEs that their long-time champion would continue to be in their midst.

 They call him SOL

Ortiz-Luis Jr., known to people in the business circle as “SOL,” is recognized as the soul and voice of local exporters, having been the president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport) for as long as anyone could remember.

He didn’t buck down during battles for the welfare of the export sector, especially the small indigenous exporters.

 PCCI driving force

Ortiz-Luis Jr. has also been one of the driving forces of the growth of the local SME sector, being a fixture in the leadership of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the biggest business group in the country.

He is also known in the business community as one of the PCCI prime movers, making sure, along with Amb. Donald Dee and the late lawyer Miguel Varela, all the chamber’s projects are implemented continuously without any hitch, year in and year out.

The most important annual undertaking of PCCI - the biggest gathering of the movers and stakeholders of the country’s business and industry - the 44th Philippine Business Conference (PBC) is slated on October 18 and 19 at the Manila Hotel.

“We get guidance from SOL to ensure success of the PBC. He provides us with wisdom culled from his years of experience, so his opinion is very important to us,” current PCCI president Ma. Alegria Sibal Limjoco shared.

 Looking back 

In his younger years, Ortiz-Luis Jr. smoked like a chimney, consuming up to three packs of cigarettes a day. His exercise was only walking to and from the car. He recalled that he was already sickly during those times. There was not a day in a month that he won’t be ill. 

 In 2008, after attending a birthday party of fellow businessman PCCI past president and director for tourism Samie Lim, he experienced pains in his abdominal area. His wife brought him to the hospital and doctors found out his appendix had burst. He went under the knife to address his appendix problem. 

To cut the story short, he checked out of the hospital and stopped smoking. However, the De La Salle University alumnus experienced weight problem and a rise in his blood sugar level.

 “I looked for another form of exercise. I used to swim in our pool before, but I stopped because it didn’t have a heater,” he said 

PCCI Board and Officers 2018: Standing (from left) are Jose Leviste, Angelito Colona, Robert Lim, Pedro Dumana Jr., Renato Simbulan, Gov. Benjamin Loong, DAlberto Fenix, Ramon Ang, William Co, Edgardo Lacson, Jesus Varela, Samie Lim, Mercedes Quisumbing, Ivan John Uy, Roberto Amores, Crisanto Frianeza and Bernardo Benedicto III.

 ‘One vice to another’

 One day, he met Ambassador Howard Dee who urged him to try his hand in golf. Ortiz-Luis Jr. was actually an inactive golfer that time. He used to own shares in several golf clubs in the country. “I was getting ribbed by my friends for paying as much as P100,000 for monthly dues in these golf clubs,” he chuckled.

Right now, SOL plays 18 holes of golf once or twice a week as part of his physical regimen. In fact, ANC broadcast journalist Cathy Yang was surprised that he did not ask for ashtray during their meeting, inspired her to introduce a new segment in her program called “One Vice to Another.” As expected, Ortiz-Luis Jr. was the first guest of the segment.  

“In fact, the ANC team led by Yang covered my golf session at Eagle Ridge,” he said.

Aside from getting fit, Ortiz-Luis Jr. now enjoys his time bonding with his stress busters – the eight dogs in the family. “Our dogs provide me relaxing time and free me from stress,” he said.  

 A lesson in time management

 Ortiz-Luis Jr. shared that he is now making full use of his time through proper scheduling of his tasks and advocacies. “I don’t have much work now because it involves a lot of directorship activities which means a lot of meetings,” he said.

“I just try to fix my meetings. Considering the traffic, I have to be a in a certain area at the same time so that my meetings can be held one after the other,” he added. 

That also gives him more free time, in the process allowing him to share his wisdom and experiences to the younger generation of Lasallians.

Recalling his student life in BSBA and DLSU for his MBA, and 2 honorary doctorates, SOL said he had fond memories in the campus, developing friendships with fellow students who have remained close to him until now. “We’re among the graduates in high school and college who still have regular get together every time somebody comes back from the US or other countries,” he pointed out.  

His influence

Since he has a close-knit group, Ortiz-Luis said said they have a regular get together on a quarterly basis. As far as mentors are concerned, he said he has respect for his former theology professor Ariston Estrada Sr., who gave him a strong foundation in logic and theology, which he still cherishes today. He also acknowledged his professor, whose name he could no longer recall, for developing in him the appreciation for reading classical and historical books that he enjoys up today.

“I like authors who write based on historical events. I also like religious books,” he said.

SOL honed his skills in economics when he started working and got involved in advocacy work with the government. “I used to run a business and economic development affairs with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).”

With all the influence and clout he has, SOL – a doting husband to wife Margie and loving father to sons Gio and Mark – was asked how he remains grounded. He said the key is not to take life too seriously and just remain simple.  “Live a normal life as possible. “I’m a minimalist. I don’t want to do something that I’m not happy and comfortable with,” he explained. 

His secret to success? “First, you have to earn the respect and confidence of your peers. Whatever you do in business, you must earn the respect of your employees and colleagues. Second, money is not everything, it’s important that your family is proud of you, ‘na wala kang masamang’ record.  Third, always go back to your relatives, at the end of the day when you grow old, it would be very fulfilling. It’s nice to hear positive words from your friends and relatives,”  he enthused.

That’s the soul of Philippine export sector speaking.



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