Oscar Lopez: Life is a long-distance race, so pace and push

'In this race of life, there will really be no winners and losers, but only those who reach the finish line and those who do not finish,' Oscar Lopez tells University of the Philippines graduates

LIFE'S A RACE. Lopez family patriarch addresses graduates of University of the Philippines-Diliman after he was bestowed an honorary doctor of laws degree on April 22, 2012. Photo by Dawn Fabrero

MANILA, Philippines [UPDATED] – The patriarch of the Lopez Group of Companies encouraged the University of the Philippines-Diliman graduates to “pace and push” themselves beyond their comfort zones to reach the “finish line” of their lives.

On Sunday, April 22, Oscar Lopez, the chairman emeritus of the Lopez Group of Companies, stressed in his speech during the 101th Commencement Exercise at the state university that “Life is a long-distance race.”

The 82-year-old health buff, mountain climber and nature lover, used the metaphor to stress that his audience are in for an “endurance race” after graduation.

“In this race of life, in the final analysis, there will really be no winners and losers, but only those who reach the finish line and those who do not finish,” he said, making this the trademark line that some of those in the audience shared on social media during his speech.

“Run on your own capabilities, your own cadence. Pace yourself, push yourself beyond the comfort zone,” he added.  

The finish line

Citing his own experience as a member of a family that has stakes in Philippine politics and business, he said that his own “finish line” changed along the way.  

“I will let you in a secret: As I ran my own race of life, what I saw along the way and who I came to know along the way constantly changed what I defined to be my finish line,” he said.

He talked about his earlier years’ goals of getting married and having a large family, as well as his professional and corporate goals when he assumed the top position in their family business.

“I strove to prepare myself to assume that leadership,” he said. “Our businesses are better off when I pass on the mantle of leadership to the younger Lopezes than these businesses were when I was forced to assume it after the untimely passing away of my brother Geny in 1999.”

Amid family, professional and business activities, he said new goals became necessary.

“When you see that the things around you are not quite right, you cannot be a bystander,” he said, adding that protecting the environment became his new advocacy.  

Environment as advocacy

He also announced that the Lopez Group Foundation Inc has committed to establish and fund a center for collaborative research on climate change and natural hazards. It will support research undertakings of academic institutions, including UP-Diliman.

“The current level of research on the environment is absolutely minuscule relative to what is occurring,” Lopez said. Comparing the published papers of the country’s top universities in the past year to those of the University of Singapore, Lopez said that there is need to level up the research capabilities in the country.

Lopez noted that natural disasters such as the devastating typhoons Ondoy and Sendong, the Ormoc flashflood are reminders of the country’s continuously depleting natural resources. “Be afraid, be very afraid, because we don’t know when and where the next disaster will hit,” he warned.

Lopez identified the problem of graft and corruption and the abuse of power in the government as the root of the continuous degradation of the environment.

“We have laws in abundance to protect the environment, but the main gatekeepers of the law are often the worst exploiters,” he said, referring to government officials who turn a blind eye on environmental issued and tolerates unlawful activities such as illegal logging and the harvesting of black corals.

Taking off from the values of the Lopez family, the companies in the group set aside resources, including employee time, to pursue and support environment and health-related advocacies through the various corporate social responsibility efforts of the different member companies.  

The group has stakes in some of the country’s biggest industry players, including media unit ABS-CBN Corp and the power and energy units under First Philippine Holdings Corp. 

The university conferred Lopez the honorary doctors of law degree. He said his father, Eugenio Lopez Sr, earned his law degree from UP in 1923. – Rappler.com, with reports from Dawn Fabrero

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