'I used to be so excited about bumping into Filipinos because they felt like a window to the world I ached so much for'
MAKATI CITY, Philippines – Jaime Zobel de Ayala, chairman emeritus of Ayala Corp and one of the richest men in the country, does not often give public speeches; but he makes an exception once a year for a group of people close to his heart.
Last February 9 at the Circuit, Ayala Land’s newest development in Makati, Ayala candidly shared his views on leadership, failure and growing old. In the audience was a mix of students, professionals, soldiers and seminarians. They are the alumni of the Ayala Young Leaders Congress (AYLC), a leadership development program of the Ayala Corporation now on its 15th year.
“All of you here were chosen for leadership qualities and together you form a powerful force,” said Ayala. He went on to remind the audience that being a member of an elite club of young leaders carried its share of responsibility. “We are here for a purpose to mean something for our country, to right what is wrong.”
Joseph Navarro, an alumnus from batch 2007, knows this responsibility by heart. He is idealistic, passionate and proud to be a Filipino. Together with other AYLC alumni, he set up a Servant Leadership Camp for high school and college students in Central Luzon to replicate what he learned in the congress.
“It’s my way to pay it forward,” said Navarro in Filipino, adding, “There are others in the communities more deserving who can’t attend the conference.” Navarro added that the AYLC gave him the opportunity to be a "servant leader" which he now wants to share with others.
Servant leadership is at the core of AYLC principles and peppers every conversation with alumni. It is the idea that good leaders are those that put the welfare of his or her followers first.
For AYLC Congress Director Monchito Mossesgeld, leadership as an expression of service, stewardship for those who have less in life, and the desire to make a difference are what every AYLC graduate takes away. This is evident in the different community projects initiated by AYLC alumni all over the country that were featured during the anniversary.
Among them is a Peace Caravan that teaches interreligious, intercultural and intergenerational understanding to Filipino youth in Mindanao. The caravan was set up by AYLC alumna Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman of Asia America Initiative (AAI) to change the mindset and provide psychological healing to youth from armed conflict-affected areas.
Joseph Anthony Quesada has worked directly with the AYLC graduates in his role as Program Manager. He has observed that delegates come in as individuals but leave as a collective group of changemakers.
“One constant realization from the delegates is the sense that they are not alone and they are now part of a support network of leaders who share the same passion and values,” Quesada told Rappler. “This knowledge becomes a strong foundation to do more and collaborate more with other leaders.”
In part due to their leadership talent and academic abilities, many of the AYLC graduates join the corporate world. Other graduates enter the government, the academe, or are part of the military and the police academies. AYLC also counts seminarians among its fold.
Mossesgeld was quick to add that the congress is not a recruitment program for the Ayala group of companies. According to their estimates, around 6.5% of AYLC graduates currently work for Ayala companies.
At the alumni gathering, which takes place every 5 years, members from the different batches exchanged greetings like reunited high school classmates. The actual conference lasts only 4 days but the friendships made can be life-long. It is this growing network of over a thousand idealistic young professionals that Ayala hopes will become the country’s future leaders.
“At this moment, we are in the Philippines that is at the top top top. We are the mini bonito of the world,” said Ayala. “Now is the time to realize that we are where we are because the leaders of the country have made it strong. Therefore I ask that you keep it strong.”
For Joseph Navarro, Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman, and other AYLC graduates, this is a challenge they are happy to accept. – Rappler.com