Oscar M. LopezA very good evening to all of you. I thank you for taking the time and effort to attend this evening’s presentation and festivities. Each of you has been an important part of my life, and I consider myself very blessed and very fortunate to be able to share this evening with you. To be able to reach the age of 85, even in this day and age, is an achievement worth celebrating. And to be able to do so in a healthy, ambulatory state, with all my mental faculties still spinning, is, to use a Gen X/Gen Y word, simply AWESOME!!
I suppose it means that for all the challenges and obstacles that life has posed, it has also provided many kind and gentle moments. It means that life’s journey has, to this point, not been a lonely and cheerless one; rather, it has been a stimulating, often exciting journey in the company of warm and wonderful friends, associates and family. And so once again, I thank all of you for having been part of my journey to I don’t know what ages. But I hope another 8 to 10 years. But I am not yet 85 today. I will reach that exact date on Sunday, April 19 and then I will be in our Baguio home in Camp John Hay, on the edge of huge pine forest, where I can fill my lungs with unpolluted fresh air.
Tonight, we have been entertained by a show that sets elements of that journey to music. I congratulate those who painstakingly put it together. It tells, or sings, of some of the things that I have stood for, that have given my life meaning: the values that I have tried to live by, my passions, my advocacies and my interests. In the metaphoric library that is my life, they are like paintings on the wall, and framed pictures on the mantle. And as I sit among these paintings and pictures, memories and thoughts occur like comforting books and pieces of music on a cold, rainy night.
The trees we planted, the mountains we climbed, the early morning walks and calisthenics for exercise, day-long treks through the rain forest seeking to identify new species of plant life, visits to bookstores all over the world, concerts attended, cruises along the coast, good food tasted, trips with the children and grandchildren. These are all of great comfort and satisfaction to someone fortunate enough to be able to ease himself into the senior years. And for all of that, I am most grateful.
I am also most grateful for the many marches that I have led, and the many battles that I have fought, at the head of first, the First Holdings Group of Companies, and later, the wider Lopez Group of Companies when my elder brother died in 1994. It is a privilege to have taken my turn as chief steward of our businesses, and to have left them in a better state than when I took them over. It is a bit saddening that some of my colleagues have gone ahead, or have retired, so that I do not see them among you tonight.
But it also warms my heart that I have been able to pass the torch of leadership on to the next Lopez generation with my son Federico or Piki and my nephew Gabby Lopez and their core of young, dynamic executives who have been prepared well for the challenges of bringing our businesses forward.
The good news for me is that, even at 85, and this also applies to those of you who here tonight who are likewise in their seventies, eighties, and even nineties, there are worlds left to conquer. If there is anything that characterizes our world today, it is the fact that technology, life science, information and software make it possible for even the most senior of us to remain productive.
I would dearly love to be able to continue climbing mountains, although I can accept that I may not be strong enough to do so any more, except on a very good day with very good climbing companions and given enough time to rest at intervals during the climb. The same goes for hikes in the rain forest. But I can still lose myself in the great biodiversity of our native hardwood trees, and occasionally, go out and plant one, fully expecting to see it grow to relative maturity.
I can still champion our need to be more aware, more knowledgeable, and more involved in protecting ourselves, our people and our country from the adverse effects of climate change. I can still climb with some difficulty six flights of stairs to my office, to show all the young ones that wellness is something that really pays off. I can dabble in the design and creation of a music hall where young Filipino artists will be able to express themselves through beautiful classic and contemporary music. And there are many, many things that I can still do to contribute to a better system of education for our youth.
When I look at our world today, I see a glass half full. I see a Philippines with the potential and opportunity to leap forward in a way that it has never done before. In a way that, having shown the same promise in the fifties, it failed to do so in the sixties. That opportunity has taken all of fifty years, a full generation, to recur. We cannot afford to waste it again. I hope and pray that we choose our next leaders well, and we should all do everything we can to make it happen. But if the country is to take that leap forward, then it will require the passion, dedication and effort of all Filipinos, of all ages, to do it.
There is so much that we can do, that we can contribute, each in our own big or little way, so that we can wake up every morning energized and eager to do something positive. On that note, I look forward to getting together with you again in around five years’ time to talk about what we will have accomplished between now and then. If I can last that long!
Let me close by saying that a walk through life without a companion would be just about the loneliest thing that I can imagine. For the better part of 59 years, I have walked with a companion, a friend, and a partner who has been loving, steadfast and supportive, and with whom I have been able to share everything – all the good times as well as the bad these past 59 years. My dear wife Connie, thank you for being with me all this time and caring for our big family. I also thank all my 8 children, 28 grandchildren for all their love and support for our family.
Again, good evening and thank you all!!