The old-fashioned loyalty of Jake Almeda LopezJake Almeda Lopez joined the Lopez Group as head of ABS-CBN’s personnel division in 1961. Among other accomplishments, he spearheaded the company’s name change from Bolinao Electronics to ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation in 1967 and built the ABS-CBN Broadcast Center in 1967-68. He still serves on the board of several Lopez Group companies.
LAWYER Augusto “Jake” Almeda Lopez is not related to the late Eugenio “Geny” Lopez Jr., the eldest son of Lopez Group founder Eugenio Sr. But they were as close as two brothers can be, having met as teens at the Ateneo de Manila in the 1940s.
Almeda Lopez is the son of Tiburcio Lopez, a former governor of Tayabas, Quezon who was a political rival of Pres. Manuel L. Quezon. His mother, Natividad Almeda Lopez, took the bar in 1914—“almost a hundred years ago,” Almeda Lopez notes—and went on to become the Philippines’ first female judge.
He got his law degree from the University of the Philippines in 1952, placing fourth in the bar exams. After stints with various law offices and a detour to Mindanao where he tried his hand at ranching, he rejoined his Ateneo classmate Geny in Manila, first as the Lopezes’ lawyer, then at the fledgling ABS-CBN in 1961. He became the broadcasting giant’s general manager in 1966.
As general manager, Almeda Lopez also had a ringside view of how Geny grew and later built ABS-CBN into becoming the country’s biggest broadcast company.
And if there is one trait of Almeda Lopez that helped him lead ABS-CBN in its early golden years, it is loyalty not just to the owners but to its employees as well.
‘Soul’ of ABS-CBN
Geny paid him the highest compliment when he declared that his good friend Jake was the “soul” of ABS-CBN. He was the kindly boss that employees approached when they needed an advance on their salary or had any other request. Almeda Lopez was loyal to his staff to the point of sharing the risks inherent with their work, as in the case of field reporters of News and “Radyo Patrol.” Wearing the blue bush jacket uniform of a “Radyo Patrol” reporter, Almeda Lopez would go into the field to cover a violent demonstration with the regular team.
In fact, Almeda Lopez would even take the mike and help deliver on-the-spot reports using the radio name “George.” He would be subject to the same risks of inhaling tear gas and being hit by police truncheons as any “Radyo Patrol” reporter. This was a terrific morale booster for everyone.
In like manner, Almeda Lopez remained loyal to the Lopez family and ABS-CBN even as martial law was declared and the station was closed down. He defied the dictator’s iron will by leading protest actions after Geny was imprisoned. Eventually, Almeda Lopez was imprisoned himself for a year for his protest activities.
His prison experience didn’t stop Almeda Lopez from helping Geny escape from military prison in 1977. He was a key participant in the meticulous planning for the daring escape from the heavily guarded prison for political prisoners at Fort Bonifacio.
After the successful escape, he joined Geny in exile in the United States and kept himself busy protesting the Marcos dictatorship from abroad. He was a key figure in the protest over the Bataan nuclear power plant. But life in exile didn’t suit him. He longed to return to his country but he was too high on the list of enemies of the dictatorship to do that. He eventually decided to slip in the country via the Southern backdoor but was arrested during this attempt.
When the EDSA Revolution happened, Almeda Lopez was ready to welcome Geny back and helped him regain control of ABS-CBN and other Lopez enterprises, including First Philippine Holdings which was the former Meralco Securities Corporation.
As Geny had said himself: “Jake’s got a good heart, a lot of malasakit, and so people trust him. He is par excellence when it comes to interpersonal relationships. …I learned so much about people from him, about the importance of treating employees well—listening to them, dealing with them, giving them what they truly deserve. [In the early days of ABS-CBN] I was all efficiency- and profit-oriented. Jake would balance me beautifully. …I am very grateful for that, because looking back now, if a lot of our employees remained loyal to us, it was mainly because of him.”
Almeda Lopez formally retired from the Group two years ago, almost a decade after his good friend died in 1999. But he is still something of an elder statesman, called upon for sound advice and inspiration.
“The strength of the Group is its unity, it’s solid. For Geny, it is all about the unity of family and business. I am confident that the Group will always be strong,” Almeda Lopez says now.