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Opinion

Business and philanthropy

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

There’s always a fairy godmother in every grand ball but for the glittering and star-studded Tatler Ball, the bearer of good fortune is a fairy godfather, no less than tycoon Ramon “RSA” Ang, dapper in a sleek suit and elegant tie and yes, with his trademark baseball cap.

RSA donated P25 million from the RSA Foundation to support the famed and much talked about charity ball, held for the first time since COVID-19 struck.

It was as glamorous as a ball could be and anyone who is anyone showed up either in fancy designer gowns or black tie suits.

From RSA Foundation to Ayala Foundation

But it was RSA’s magic wand that lit up the night with his generous donation of P25 million for the charity ball’s beneficiary, education start-up U-Go, which in the Philippines has partnered with the Ayala Foundation.

The U-Go Scholar Grant hopes to provide scholarships to the initial class of 75 to 100, and expand to at least 1,000 recipients in the medium term.

Tatler Philippines, which targeted to just raise P8 million, is grateful to RSA and to all the donors. RSA’s donation brought the total funds raised from the ball to roughly P40 million.

“Thank you Mr. Ramon Ang for your generosity, support and kindness. His very generous donation will help the U-Go/Ayala Foundation, a charity for deserving women who would like to pursue higher education,” says Tatler Philippines editor-in-chief Anton San Diego in a post on Instagram.

That night, RSA also received the Diamond Award, the highest award given to an individual for their contribution to society, as well as being an inspiration to others.

Helping the country

In his acceptance speech, RSA said:

“Truth is, I’m no different from most Filipinos who simply want a better future for their families. I love what I do, and while it’s not always easy, I find meaning and purpose in it.

“Beyond that, I feel a sense of duty and responsibility to our country. Just like everyone in this room, I want to see our country succeed. Perhaps, what makes my own story unique, are the personal decisions I’ve made throughout my life, and the values and philosophies I have chosen to uphold.

“At San Miguel, we always strive toward our higher purpose: to help make the Philippines – and the lives of Filipinos – better.”

RSA set aside competition and gamely helped the foundation of rival conglomerate Ayala Corp.

He is quite known for his philanthropic work. Many moons ago while in the backseat of his car, coming from an event where he invited me to join him, I saw him roll down his window to give alms to street children who swarmed his vehicle at a stoplight.

In lending a helping hand to those in need, he said to me after giving alms to the kids, it does not matter whether you are a tycoon or a journalist.

“What is important is the intention,” he said.

When COVID-19 struck, he responded to the call of the times.

In September 2020, at the height of the lockdowns, he announced that the RSA Foundation is building a hospital and a center for infectious diseases to help the country respond to future crises.

Others in the business community, including those from rival conglomerates, are skeptical about RSA’s philanthropic efforts, doubtful of his kindness. Once, he was even suspected of having plans to run for public office.

The Razon Group

We need to see more businesses become involved in serious philanthropic work. We have seen what can be done when the government and the private sector work together to help respond to the challenges of the times, such as what happened during the pandemic.

Another tycoon who especially played an important role during the pandemic is Enrique “EKR” Razon.

The ports and casino tycoon said as early as March 2020 that he was writing off that year because of the uncertainty of the pandemic and its devastating impact on his businesses.

But that didn’t stop him from leading the procurement of Moderna vaccines for the country, which were rolled out to hundreds of thousands of Filipinos in a very efficient manner.

The Razon Group built a P250-million mega vaccination facility capable of inoculating 15,000 individuals every day. As of end-December 2021, it had spent P1.5 billion in social investments, including the administration of over 300,000 doses of vaccines.

We’ve seen how these efforts really helped us, as a country, battle the pandemic.

As I said, serious acts of philanthropy and charity are welcome in this country where inequality is still one of the widest in the world.

But it should come with no strings attached and it should not be an exercise in power or as a means to boost public influence.

Indeed, as RSA said, what is important is the intention and in this nation of 110 million where a fourth of the population live on less than a dollar a day, what counts really is the sincere desire to help without waiting for anything in return.

Billionaires have the biggest capacity to help, as tycoons RSA and EKR have shown us, and their efforts have been good for the country. Indeed, we need genuine fairy godmothers and fairy godfathers who will help feed and rebuild this nation and send its children to school.

What we don’t need are wheeler-dealers or cronies disguised as philanthropists as in the likes of some members of the notorious Davao Group or Vito Corleone-like godfathers who help only to gain more influence.

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Email: [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at EyesWideOpen on FB.

COVID-19

RAMON ANG

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