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Al's Gore-geous women |

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Al's Gore-geous women

MS.COM - Yoly Villanueva-Ong -

By now, it’s common knowledge that Hans Sy, president of SM Prime Holdings, is a passionate environmental advocate. By his own account, his “conversion” was almost by serendipity. He was on a plane when he first encountered An Inconvenient Truth. The message hit home so deeply that when he returned to Manila, Hans set in motion what has become one of the most comprehensive green marketing efforts undertaken by the nation’s leading retail conglomerate. Five years later, SM’s biodegradable plastic bags, waterless urinals, water recycling system and garden cities have become standard fare, to the delight of their patrons and the deep appreciation of environmental groups.

So “Al Gore Live in Manila” was just one more item on Hans’ green agenda for the preservation of our ecosystem. His sister, Elizabeth Sy, SVP for marketing of SM Prime Holdings, is also a true believer in the cause. Her flagship project, Hamilo Coast, is master-planned to balance development with nature. 

Now, behind the man who planted the seed to invite the guru of global warming is a bevy of ladies who made sure that no manmade disaster took place during the entire visit of former US VP Gore.

Annie Garcia, president of SCMC, became the prime mover. Under her baton, she orchestrated the event, both on the grand scale and the minutiae. Like a five-star general she marshaled the conference program, the time and motion plan and security details. Not leaving success to chance, she made sure of every detail, down to the flower arrangements at the dinner table, the belt tracks for organized entry, the usherette’s uniforms with matching scarves and the gifts for Al. No stone was left unturned. The coup de grace was shipping an entire sala set from Cebu for the Green Room that served as Al Gore’s holding room in the SMX complex. Kenneth Cobonpue’s acclaimed collection, which was highlighted by the Bloom chair, indeed showed the best of Filipino creativity.

The other Al Gore lady is Nita Claravall, corporate marketing head of SM Investments. She laid the groundwork for making his visit happen and created major buzz about the coming VIP guest.

As head of SM’s Environment Committee, Lisa Silerio, AVP for Operations of SCMC, had her hands full. Aside from spearheading programs, projects and events in support of SM’s vision to be an environmentally responsible corporate entity, Lisa and her team organized nationwide and mall-wide events and projects like the Green Bag launch, Green Film Festival, Green Ride, Bike For A Change, etc. All these activities walked the talk of SM’s green advocacy and led to the grand finale of Al Gore’s message, “The Leader as Environment Steward.” And as if that weren’t enough, Lisa also headed the reception and hospitality committee for the event. She was one lady whose plate was overflowing!

Literally more than a hundred SM employees — too many to list — were involved in the launch of the most attended Third Leadership Conference Series. As partners and co-organizers of the event, Campaigns and Grey also fielded its counterpart female contingent: Marilyn Villapando, Ledz Lim, Jane Villa, Rocky Tirona and this author, to name a few. Even the close-in for the entire visit of former VP Gore is an honorary lady, Don Bautista.

Completing Al’s Gore-geous ladies is broadcasting icon Cheche Lazaro, who facilitated the conference discussion with her usual panache. The irrepressible and intrepid reporter couldn’t help but ask the question on everyone’s mind regarding Al’s much-publicized recent separation from Tipper after 40 years of marriage. But always the proper interviewer, she first asked him if he allowed personal questions. To which the Green Billionaire promptly and firmly replied, “No, I don’t.” Nice try.

It seems that Manila is on its way to becoming a favorite stop on the global speakers’ circuit. From the 1,000 who listened to Mayor Rudy Giuliani speak on “Leadership in Times of Crisis,” to some 2,600 attendees of Tony Blair’s “The Leader as Principled Negotiator,” a staggering 4,000 participants watched the updated Asian edition of Nobel laureate Al Gore’s winning documentary.

As of this writing, talks are underway to bring another much-in-demand international leader and charismatic speaker for Part IV of the Leadership Conference Series.

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Ms.Com went on leave from her regular Monday column in Business Life to be part of Sen. Noynoy Aquino’s campaign. Contact the author at

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