The Filipino dream
Accenture country managing director Manolito ‘Lito’ Tayag.
Joanne Rae Ramirez
The Filipino dream
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - February 11, 2020 - 12:00am

He wears his being a farmer’s son and the country managing director of Accenture on his sleeve he is profoundly proud of being both.

Manolito “Lito” Tayag still has to pause to hold back tears whenever he talks about his late father, as he did when he gave a talk before the Assumption Alumnae Association at the Assumption College (AC) campus in San Lorenzo Village in Makati recently.

“Plain and simple, my father was a farmer. But it was from my father, that I learned the first lessons of hard work. He would leave the house at dawn, rain or shine, and come home in the evening. In between planting seasons, he would work as an agent for heavy equipment for machinery. And all because he wanted to make sure that his children were in school. In all his poverty, his lack of education, he was very clear that he believed it was through education that he would be able to transform our lives.”

“And so from him, I also learned the first lessons of hope, not the hope (born) out of frustration, but the hope born out of seeing opportunity. Not because he was ashamed of being a farmer, but because he saw that we had the opportunity to be more than who we were, we can be more than who he was — a farmer.”

Fortunately for Lito and his brothers, a kilometer from their house was the Assumpta Technical High School (ATHS) in San Simon, Pampanga. Founded in 1970, the school was one of the very first projects of the Mother Rosa Memorial Foundation, a social development foundation organized and run by the alumnae and friends of the Assumption in memory of Mother Rosa Maria, who taught generations of Assumption girls before she passed on in 1965.

Lito graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University on a scholarship

The school aims to provide secondary technical education to the children of farmers. Courses include training in integrated farming, carpentry, electronics, sewing and tailoring, food trade and small business management. Lito and his three brothers were sent there.

“I found out later, of course, that this same aspiration and this belief in education of my father was not very different from what Assumption’s founder St. Marie Eugenie taught us, and that education, transforms society and liberates it.”

“So it was from the Assumpta Technical High School that I obtained my foundation, both moral and academic. From this school, I also learned the meaning of kindness and generosity.”

Lito acknowledged the donors to the Assumpta Technical High School, some of whom were in the lunch that day. He also acknowledged the presence of his former principal, Sister Ana Melocoton, r.a., and Sister Josefa Derayman, who were also in the lunch audience. Present, too, was the AAA president Dr. Clarissa Velayo.

Sister Ana remembers that once, after classes, she saw that Lito was not heading home. She asked him where he was going. “I’m going to the bayan to sell sweepstakes so I can buy paper for my classes.”

After graduating valedictorian from ATHS in 1978, Lito was accepted into the Ateneo de Manila University as a financial aid scholar. “It was almost unimaginable, the impact on a provincial boy like me. My father said it better, and he said it was like winning the sweepstakes.”

At the Ateneo, where Lito took up management engineering, the director of admissions (Father Raul Bonoan, SJ) also took him under his wing, telling him, “The Assumption sisters and I are watching you and praying for you.”

Lito found himself overcoming some awkward moments, as his roommates in the campus dorm were scions of wealthy families from the provinces. One of them couldn’t fit in his school clothes in their room’s one-meter wide cabinet, while Lito struggled to fill up his cabinet.

“God threw me a lifeline, Father Bonoan, and he was the one who made the bet on this awkward provincial boy that I was. He was a source of inspiration. In Father, I learned the first meaning of stewardship and through him, I thought I should (also) thank Ateneo for the education and the scholarship.”

After his graduation from Ateneo, Lito was employed by one of the biggest technology companies in the Philippines at the time. He thought it would be a temporary stint, and he would move on to another field.

He started from the bottom as a programmer, an analyst, eventually moving up into the management brands. He also had his share of stints abroad, in Malaysia, in the US, in Canada.

In New York, Lito found a job on Wall Street. He was assigned to one of the venerable investment houses, “and so I said somehow, I think I made it there. And as they say, if you make it there, you’d make it anywhere.”

 At the end of his contract, he was offered a full time job on Wall Street. “I declined the offer. And part of it was because in my very own mind, I thought that with whatever little talent I had, I didn’t want to spend it on a street with a nameless, faceless many, but in the industry and country where I would make a difference. So, as I said, it was an offer I could refuse.”

He promptly returned to Manila after that.

“In the end, it doesn’t matter what industry you join, whether you’re selling soap, or teaching school children, or programming computers, because we can all find a way to make a contribution to the country and to the economy. In our case, I thought the part of the outsourcing industry was providing jobs in Philippines instead of our people going abroad to find those channels.”

In 2002, Lito joined a company called Accenture, effectively only the second company in his long career, a new company for him.

Eight years after Lito joined Accenture, he was appointed country managing director in the Philippines. “Whatever success I had in Accenture was because there were people, who, along the way, mentored me and guided me and wanted me to succeed.”

He shared that he always prays for wisdom, courage and humility. “The first two I needed to be successful in my role. The last I needed to guard against myself. Because in this role, it is easy to get carried away. Today, Accenture has more than 55,000 people in the Philippines. I’m not taking all the credit for this. But I do take significant pride in making a contribution to the country and to the industry...”

Lito has found a soulmate in his wife Nadia. Together, they raised two very accomplished daughters Anna and Gabbi, both of whom he sent to the Assumption and the Ateneo. Anna graduated summa cum laude in management engineering from the Ateneo, while Gabbi, cum laude, also in management engineering.

Lito finds being the face of Accenture in the Philippines “an honor and a responsibility.” Just like he finds it an honor to have been raised by a hardworking farmer, just like he finds it a responsibility to have been given the best education even when his parents couldn’t afford it.

He made it in New York, but it is here, in the Philippines, where he goes home to San Simon on weekends (and where his 92-year-old mother still resides), that Lito Tayag has found a calling he couldn’t refuse.

And did you know that Lito, the former financially strapped scholar of the Mother Rosa Memorial Foundation, is now the foundation’s chairman?

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