The man who will always be ‘Kapitan’
COMMONNESS - Bong R. Osorio () - November 6, 2006 - 12:00am
The word "captain" is both a nautical term and a military rank. It came to English from the Latin capitaneus (chief), which is a derivative of the Latin word caput (chief). In team sports, a captain is an honorary title given to a member of a team primarily responsible for strategy and teamwork. In business, he is the "main man" who holds the steering wheel and directs the path of the organization or drives the corporate vessel to success. In the vernacular, a "captain" is called kapitan. Literally, it means somebody you can hold on to. In leadership terms it connotes intelligence and charisma – somebody who has mastered the power of both IQ and EQ.

One such kapitan is Eugenio Lopez, Jr., or "Geny," as he is commonly called. He steered the phenomenal rise of a communication empire even during the tumultuous events of the past 50 years. In the words of columnist Amando Doronila, "his vision and ethic inspired the men and women who worked with him to transform ABS-CBN into an influential force in Philippine media."

Geny’s story of brilliant stewardship has been vividly captured in the book Kapitan: Geny Lopez and the Making of ABS-CBN, written by prolific book author Raul Rodrigo. It tells the story of Geny’s vision for the network, and how a tightly knit band of similarly minded individuals made it a reality, not once but several times, in the face of immense odds. Through it all, he said that what excited him the most about being in business was not profits, but the chance to put his values into action.

Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III writes in his foreword: "We have survived fires, floods, coup attempts and a dictator’s henchmen storming our gates. People have been trying to write our epitaph for decades. But we are still here. The values and the stories in this book will help pass on the lore of this network from one generation to the next. And it can help let the world know why Geny Lopez is the man we will always call our Kapitan."

Kapitan
is as close a story as you can get on how ABS-CBN came about. It is as interesting, fun and exciting as it has been for Geny. It captures the spirit of everybody who got involved in building the company. More than anything, it gets across once and for all just how important ABS-CBN associates, employees and friends are to its success.

The book looks back on Geny’s personal and professional life, vividly narrating how all the pieces came together. It’s a look at the past as it reflects on the challenges and color of building a broadcast empire. But if I had to single out one element in his life that made a difference, it would be the passion to compete. That obsession pretty much kept him on the go, looking ahead to meet up and brainstorm with partners, launching innovative programs, discovering fresh talents, and initiating new ventures and adventures.

Kapitan
is a story of beliefs, entrepreneurship, risk, hard work, setting directions, and doing everything you can to follow your road and reach your destination. It’s a story about holding on to your principles, believing in your idea, and sticking to your guns. But more than anything it proves there’s no absolute limit to what plain, ordinary working people can accomplish if they’re given the opportunity, encouragement and incentive to do their best.

Kapitan
is more than a memoir of a media maverick. It is also a charming, absorbing tale of the Philippine broadcast industry. Leafing through its pages, I personally took a trip down memory lane. As a child growing in the ’60s and ’70s, I remember watching religiously (on our black & white Radiowealth TV set that has a sliding door) shows like An Evening with Pilita, Buhay Artista, Oras ng Ligaya, Tangtarangtang, The Nida-Nestor Show, Student Canteen, The Sensations, and Stop, Look & Listen, among others. I was a child of TV, and these programs largely influenced my fascination with its power to entertain, educate and inform.

The book abounds with nuggets of wisdom that you can learn from. Here is a sampling of the Kapitan’s vision and values:

Determination:
"ABS-CBN was my baby. I gave my all to ABS-CBN. I sacrificed my family life. I gave 110 percent of my time. And in a way I’m sorry because I was not able to have the same kind of relationships that other parents have with their children. So I sacrificed that part of my life in favor of bringing up the broadcast business."

Hard work
: "There is no substitute for hard work, there just isn’t any. Your competitor will work 24 hours a day; well, you have to work 25 if you want to beat him. It’s as simple as that."

Hitting the top: "
I was determined to be number one. And to be able to be number one, you have to get the number-one people and you have to pay the number-one wages. So there’s no other choice."

"Nagging" as a management approach
: "My style as a manager is that I drive people hard; I’m a nagger. I know exactly which tasks have to be accomplished or when something has to be done. Then I keep on following it up with the individual who’s in charge."

Truth must prevail:
"When my father would talk to my brothers and my sister, he would always stress the importance of sticking to the truth. He was very unforgiving when he was involved. It became part of the value system that I pass on to my employees."

Truthfulness:
"I demand absolute honesty. I don’t want anything hidden from me, because how can you solve problems when you’re not honest with each other?"

Turning danger into opportunity:
"I wanted to use the suffering as an opportunity for growth rather than just to pity myself. In prison, (where Lopez was detained during the Marcos years) you learn that you cannot afford to pity yourself, and you cannot afford to hate anybody. These things will just eat you up. Pitying yourself doesn’t do you any good as an individual. You have to tame the mind, control your fears, and learn to be more detached."

Keeping peace with oneself:
"Prison gave me time to think about the really important things I often took for granted – family, friends, relationships and freedom. I got to know myself better, and frankly, I didn’t like what I saw. Prison gave me a better grip on what values I should have. And I rediscovered God."

Serving people:
"The motto of ABS-CBN is and always will be ‘In the service of the Filipino.’"

Kapitan
is peppered with Geny’s philosophy on life, an existence that has been great to him, probably better than any man has the right to expect. His being was all wrapped up in the vastness of ABS-CBN. But still he remained the self-effacing, dedicated, thoughtful, charismatic captain that eloquently steered his ship through good and bad times, and, probably heeding Seneca’s admonition, "It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult."
* * *


E-mail bongo@vasia.com or bongo@campaignsandgrey.net for comments, questions or suggestions. Thank you for communicating.

ABS AMANDO DORONILA AN EVENING BUHAY ARTISTA CBN EUGENIO LOPEZ GENY GENY LOPEZ KAPITAN LOPEZ
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