ABS-CBN chairman and CEO Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez's Retirement Speech

>> Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I was surprised to see the word "Retirement" in the title of this article which I read from ABS-CBN's official newsletter. I didn't see this coming but as the age old adage says, "All good things must come to an end."

I'm keeping a copy of this speech here to remind myself of how great it is to be a Kapamilya.
We had our ups and downs. Many times we wanted to quit. But we have to admit, iba pa rin ang Kapamilya.

ABS-CBN chairman and CEO Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez's Retirement Speech
Delivered during the Kapamilya Awards 2011 

Wow, 25 years Freddie (Garcia)! I feel I can do another 25.

25 years. Not even my marriages have lasted that long!  The only relationships I have had that lasted this long are my siblings, my parents – talagang Kapamilya.  When I look at the list of 25-year awardees I realize it’s all the people that I started with.  Like everyone, we all have certain beliefs, lessons that we accumulate over the years.  Normally the lessons I have learned, the insights I have gained, I share with senior management.  Today I will share it all with you – my Kapamilya.

Rapid Change:  We live in a time where change has accelerated rapidly.  The changes in technology affect all of us in profound ways:  The way we communicate, the way we interact.  ABS-CBN in 5 years will be a very different company from where we are today.  ABS-CBN in 10 years is likely to have TV revenues as a very small part of our overall revenue.  When we started 25 years ago, we were not even on satellite throughout the Philippines.  Today we are on satellite throughout the world.  But one thing has remained constant in the last 25 years and likely to remain so for the next 10 years – “In the service of the Filipino.”  As long as our north star is guided by this simple yet powerful mission, we will never go wrong.

Follow Your Instincts:  I cannot count the number of battles I have been through.  We have been up, we have been down.  We’ve been to the pinnacles of success.  I remember my father with President Ramos pushing the button in the ballroom of Shangri la Hotel when Pan Am Satelite became operational as our television signal was transmitted live to North America.  The first of many satellites as we send our TV signals across the globe.  We have also experienced the depths of despair – none more poignant then walking through the corpses of our Kapamilya in the Ultra tragedy, entering the stadium and facing Alou, our EP, and her production staff.  In all of these incidents, in the events that defined ABS-CBN, I like to think that the decisions we made were never driven by profits.  I followed my instincts but those instincts were molded by the years I have spent in the trenches of ABS-CBN. 

Magic in the Air:  Never forget that at its best, ABS-CBN is magic on the air.  The alchemy that comes from creating content is pure magic.  And this goes for all job functions not just those in production.  For I am sure all of us have treasured stories about our jobs.  Many nights ago I was watching the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra perform Maalaala Mo Kaya in a classical style. I could not help but reminisce about how far we have come.  25 years ago, I was sitting in a restaurant or karaoke bar with Charo, Freddie, and Rolly Cruz, where the genesis for Maalaala Mo Kaya was born.  And here we are, 25 years later, with Maalaala Mo Kaya the longest running drama anthology of all time.  Who would have imagined such an outcome.  And yet this is part and parcel of what we do everyday.  That magic comes from passion, for without caring you cannot create.  It is passion that is the driving force for ABS-CBN alchemy.  And as I often like to point out:  Making money is like breathing oxygen, you can’t live without it BUT it’s not why you live.

The Dying of the Light:  The lesson I hold closest to my heart, embedded in my DNA by my father is:  You never, never, never, never give up.  You can be up against the most unbelievable odds, as he was when he planned his escape, but you never give up.  And so I say to you Kapamilya, you will undergo your own struggles, your own crisis. You may change business models, you may close divisions, you may change tactics, you may be up against seemingly insurmountable odds but you never give up.  You never give up on your corporate values, you never give up on your principles, you never give up on our mission.  As Dylan Thomas once said “Do not go gentle into the night but rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
When I move on, Peter Musngi and I will be the last employees who worked in both the pre-martial law and post-martial law ABS-CBN.  It is in many ways the end of an era.  We started from the ground up.  Many of you will never experience the struggles and hardships we, the remaining 25-year tenured employees, have undergone.  Undoubtedly you will undergo your own struggles, your own pressures, your own sleepless nights.  Who is to say that our struggle is more important than yours?  They are all equally important to the future of ABS.  For make no mistake, the challenges we face in the next 5 years are daunting indeed.  We have always been a trailblazer, a company known for its innovation.  But that innovation has always been tempered by our North Star firmly guiding us.

Promise of Service:  So as I close this chapter, it is good to reflect on our North Star with this story from Fr. Tito, our chaplain, which he told during one of our relief operations in Cagayan de Oro during Typhoon Sendong. And I quote:

There were two soldiers, Joe and Carl, who were close friends. It was war time and they were together in one company that was engaged in an encounter. Their company was outnumbered and they started to suffer heavy casualties, and the commander ordered a retreat.
When the company got to safe ground, Joe noticed his friend, Carl, was not with them. He immediately went to the commander and asked permission to go back to look for Carl. The commander disapproved saying that with the heavy fire of the enemy Carl would surely have been killed. He told Joe that they would recover the bodies when it was safer. Joe apologized before he disobeyed the order and ran back to the battlefield.
Several minutes later he came back carrying Carl’s dead body. As he put down Carl’s body, the commander saw that Joe himself was badly wounded. He was furious and he told Joe, “I told you he would have been killed in the fire fight. You foolishly endangered yourself and now I risk losing another man. What a waste!”

Joe, now fighting for his own life, calmly told the commander, “Sir, it was not a waste. When I got to Carl he was still alive. I held him up and propped him on my lap telling him to hold on. He gasped for breath, he smiled and his last and only words were, “Joe, I knew you would come.”
After this story Fr. Tito went on to recount how Diether Ocampo was talking to Chona, an 11-year old girl – “Nandito kami para sa iyo at marami pang mga Kapamilyang darating para dalawin kayo.”  “I knew you would come” was the meaning of Chona’s smile.
To many Filipinos here and abroad, this then is the true meaning of our mission “in the service of the Filipino”:  A commitment to be there in times of need.

I was a wild and unruly youth when I joined ABS-CBN 25 years ago.  Everything that I have become I owe to ABS-CBN.  I am not going away but my role will change from CEO to Chairman.  As FMG would say, from mentor to tormentor.  In many respects I have been the child growing up to be a man as a result of what I have learned here at ABS.  Now I feel like the father saying to ABS, you have to know how to make your own decisions without me weighing in; you have to make your own mistakes as I have.

ABS-CBN has a deep bench of talent with many people as deeply committed, as deeply passionate.  The next 5 years will be among the hardest, the most volatile, but also the most fun and the most creative season for all of us.

As I end this stage of my career with ABS-CBN – I just want to say – I don’t regret a day, a minute, a second of all that I have experienced.  It has been an honor and a privilege to lead you these past 25 years.  All things come to an end but it is my wish that ABS and what it stands for will live forever. It cannot live forever if it doesn’t learn the process of passing the baton from one generation to the next.  And that is what I am doing today.  But always remember, till my dying day I will always be Kapamilya.


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