The birthday celebrator with spouse Connie, some of his children and in-laws, and Ang Misyon’s Jovianney Emmanuel Cruz and Tinky CruzThe 85th birthday celebration of Oscar M. Lopez (OML), Lopez Group chairman emeritus, was nothing short of a celebration of life. It is a life that was both amazing and inspiring. And it is a life that continues to draw ohhs and ahhs even as it gives younger people something of an ideal to aspire for as their years speed by.
OML as we fondly know him in the Lopez Group, relishes the company of close family, associates and friends. This is why the nearly 500 people that afternoon are those he described in his thank you speech as having “been with me through my journey all these years.”
Registration was set to start at 5 p.m., but people starting coming in early. Guests were a veritable who’s who of local society, but best of all, they were OML’s longtime friends. Many were wheelchair-bound. There was Socorro Paterno (widow of former Sen. Ting Paterno), who suddenly passed away two days after, and Erlinda Fabella de Carolis from OML’s student days in the US.
With Pol Nazareno, Manny Pangilinan, Washington SyCip and Anna SyCipOther guests were Carmen Vargas, who according to daughter Tina, owed OML her being able to walk after she was literally forced by him to stand up and go around the mall; taipan John Gokongwei arrived early and waited on a corner couch for the celebrator to arrive; the Philippine Mt. Everest group, which accompanied OML in all his memorable mountain climbing feats; Amando Doronila, who edited the Manila Chronicle was there as was Pauline Paredes-Sicam, another ex-Chronicle journalist.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, an Ilonggo like OML led political leaders at the occasion. Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, a former Chronicle reporter who showed OML the ropes in the police beat was there too. DILG Sec Mar Roxas took time out to be present. But mostly, there were the past and present executives of Lopez companies with whom OML had interacted with during his watch as Group CEO.
OML was met several times with a standing ovation, from the time he entered the filled-to-capacity Rizal Ballroom of Makati Shangri-La, to the time he gave his response at the end of the program.
The program emphasized the values dear to OML of family, loyalty and love of country. OML’s love of music was highlighted with the rendition of songs from the Lopez musical “Undaunted” as well as other memorable songs that captures the OML spirit. Two of these songs, "Defying Gravity" from the musical "Wicked" and "We Share a Dream (the Philippines is for Filipinos)" by Noypi and the Juan dela Cruz band were rendered by Lea Salonga. The ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Filipino Youth gave an outstanding performance of music that evening.
With nephew Mike Lopez and niece-in-law Chris LopezImportance of family, bonding
Federico R. Lopez (FRL), who now heads the First Holdings Group emphasized the importance of family and bonding in his welcome speech.
Piki, as he is known in the Group, talked about his growing up years and how OML inculcated the family values and love of music that were important to his own life. Pike spoke of how OML taught him the value of lifetime learning in “an environment that encouraged learning in so many ways beyond school.”
There was music, and books, and how the OML family was “always around nature, the outdoors, trees, mountains, the sea and animals.”
Best of all, Piki related how OML taught them how to regard their material wealth with a strong sense of responsibility. Piki recalled that OML would always remind his family that “wealth can empower you to do great things, but it also carried great responsibilities and he never believed that our happiness should ever have to revolve around its ephemeral trappings.”
Interview with Ninoy
With Rico de Manzana, Dr. Ted Esguerra and the Philippine Mt. Everest teamThe revelation of the evening was the story of how Piki had this interview with Ninoy Aquino who was then in exile in the US.
Here is Piki’s account: “there was something at the end of the meeting that struck me." He said, “You know I had quite a tussle with your Lolo Ening sometime in 1968.” I asked, “What about?” He said. “Well, it was over the extravagance of your Lolo’s Ruby Anniversary celebration with the champagne fountains, flying in European royalty and American entertainers and all. I just felt at the time it was not proper for a country mired in so much poverty." But well, Ninoy shrugged, “he believed God gave him the opportunity to make a lot of money and so he felt he could spend it however he wished.”
Piki continued to recall that “upon returning home to Manila that Christmas, I mentioned the comment of Ninoy to my Mom and she expressed something Dad never revealed before: ‘We never told you this but your Dad felt the same way and voiced these same concerns and sentiments to your Lolo. Doing so strained their relationship, and later resulted in his exclusion from a subsequent trip to Hong Kong acknowledging everyone who helped in the success of the celebration.’
'Many unconnected dots'
Organizing committee head Beth Canlas (left) with Shirley Hombrebueno and Ilene Estrada with a standee of OMLKnowing how much he admired his father, I know that must have hurt him immeasurably. But the story closed so many unconnected dots in my mind about Dad. It exemplified his conviction that wealth can empower you to do great things, but it also carried great responsibilities and he never believed that our happiness should ever have to evolve around its ephemeral trappings.”
Piki’s revelation connected a lot of dots too in the minds of many of OML’s friends, executives and business associates who many have found it difficult to reconcile OML as they knew him and that controversial party of his father. Now they know.
It is now being said that 80 is the new 60 and perhaps, 85 is the new 65. OML isn’t showing any signs of slowing down as he celebrated his 85th and is probably contemplating what mountain to climb next.
Yes, Climb Every Mountain was sung too during the evening’s musical fest. Because it was about OML’s 85th, the classic from the Sound of Music was a natural to celebrate the essence of OML. (Story/Photos by: Dulce Festin-Baybay)
Young Lopezes (l-r) Adriana Vargas, Joaquin Lopez, Briana Guingona, Isabel Puno, Rocio Puno, Robert Lopez (partly hidden), Marco Vargas, Jaime Lopez (partly hidden), Josef Lopez, Marty Lopez, Marianna Vargas, Bernice Guingona, Sam Abello, Maia Abello, Sophia Lopez, Ines Lopez and Erica Abello perform with “Undaunted” cast members