Ramon Ang’s new mission

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

Tycoon Ramon Ang or RSA is embarking on a new mission and it has nothing to do with a new business deal.

This new goal, he said, is one of the reasons why he initiated a major succession strategy in San Miguel Corp., the sprawling and diversified conglomerate that he leads – putting his eldest son, the 44-year-old John Paul, as vice chairman, president and COO of the company.

I’m sure there are many other reasons but this one is perhaps the most important and tender one for RSA.

RSA, you see, is embarking on an apostolic mission but not the literal kind which, among Christians, means spreading the Holy Gospel.

“Apostolic” in the Philippines has derived a new meaning, coined by dotting grandparents who have discovered the exhilarating joy of having grandchildren or apos.

Indeed, the 70-year-old RSA told me that he wants to spend more time with his grandchildren. He wants to take them around the country and beyond.

“I want to travel with my family, my grandchildren,” RSA said when I asked him about the reasons for finally starting a succession strategy in SMC, which for the longest time was an enigma for company observers.

“Ay ang sweet!” I said. I was pleasantly surprised because I was expecting a business-related answer.

RSA’s squad

But surprise, surprise. The heart of this aggressive, tough and brave tycoon has been won over by a squad of little boys and girls.

RSA said that indeed, he wants to spend more time with his apos – he now has eight grandchildren, he proudly shared.

I am happy for his grandchildren.

As someone who grew up with a tender, dotting, wise and very loving grandfather, I know that every grandchild deserves to have one. A grandparent is one of life’s greatest gifts.

To a small person like a child, a grandfather is that tall legend of a man who is wise, witty and wonderful. Who was it who said that a grandfather is “the best kind of grownup,” a man with “silver in his hair and gold in his heart?”

In good times and bad

They are also there when your parents, who are still young and navigating the world of parenting, don’t know what to do in times of crisis.

I remember one time when we were kids, my little brother and I were having lunch when suddenly, he found himself choking on a small piece of chicken bone. My mother did not seem to know what to do as my brother turned blue.

It was a scene straight out of the emergency room of Grey’s Anatomy, that medical drama series on Netflix which focuses on a group of doctors and their mission of saving lives – every second spelled the difference between life and death.

Except we weren’t in an emergency room and there were no doctors who could help us at that exact moment.

Luckily, my mother did not freeze. She raced out of our house with my out-of-breath brother in her arms and headed straight to my grandparents who lived two houses away.

She ran like a headless chicken and screamed her heart out, calling not to the heavens, but to my grandparents.

She stormed my grandparents’ house and found my grandfather who, despite flying decibels from my mother’s screaming, remained calm and composed the whole time.

He held my brother in his forearms and gave him strong back blows. That cruel chicken bone was no match for our grandpa and was out in no time.

Indeed, in good times and bad, grandparents are a special part of growing up and in the same vein, perhaps having grandchildren is also a special part of one’s senior years.

Thus, it’s no surprise that RSA wants to spend more time with his apos.

It’s not to say though that he will be retiring from SMC. Not at all. Or at least not yet. He is still the energetic and indefatigable tycoon who will continue to steer SMC to greater heights, with Paul as his wingman.

Full circle

RSA was named chairman and CEO of SMC from his previous designation as president and COO. He would continue to guide Paul and would also be focusing on SMC’s legacy businesses, including the arduous task of transforming NAIA.

In a way, it’s a full circle of sorts.

RSA was a young 45-year-old when he was elected in 1999 as vice-chairman of SMC, then chaired by tycoon Eduardo Danding Cojuangco Jr. or ECJ.

In 2002, RSA became president and COO of SMC and led the conglomerate’s diversification from just a beer business into food, oil, power and many more.

Paul, his son, is no stranger to SMC and its subsidiaries, and in running a business. He is a director of SMC and its different businesses, and has been president and CEO of Eagle Cement since 2016.

Although low-key and quiet, Paul is actually well-known in business circles as astute and business savvy.

Like RSA, Paul is also folksy and unassuming, in stark contrast to the stereotyped Ateneo de Manila graduate.

“They are good people,” RSA once said of his children.

He always reminded them to share with others what they have or what they’ve made, “for the good of everybody.”

Perhaps it’s a lesson he will also share with his grandchildren as he embarks on his most important mission yet – the “apo-stolic” kind.

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Follow her on X, formerly Twitter, @eyesgonzales. Column archives at EyesWideOpen (Iris Gonzales) on Facebook.

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