Gone so soon

We were in Sydney last week to attend the wedding of my wife’s cousin. At first, I was hesitant to join her as we just finished the Go Negosyo Women Summit. There were so many requests for me to speak in different events. I also wanted to attend the 50th birthday of Jaza and personally welcome him to the “half century club”. But, priorities had to be set, so I joined my wife’s family reunion in Sydney.

While in Sydney, I got an SMS from a good friend, Dito Borromeo. Our common friend, Franco Delgado, passed away in the medical plane as he was heading home from Houston.

I got to know Franco eight years ago. We met in their beautiful island of Hermana Mayor. Some say that I got to know Franco at a time in his life when he was more tamed. I did not bother to probe what they meant. In the Eulogy of his sister Isabel, she described Franco as naughty during his childhood days. He also smoked at a very early age. I remember Franco even telling me how naughty he was in school that his father had to ship him out to boarding school.

We did not have much in common, since I neither like fast cars nor motorcycling. What I found in Franco was his zest for life. He enjoyed it. He loved the beach and the beauty of the Philippines. He would go around the country, biking with his friends. He loved the Philippines and believed that we have what it takes to be a great nation. He used to share with me his business ideas. I saw how optimistic he was.

Whenever we got together, he would always tell me how much he loved his wife, Ros Ros, and his children. He knew he wasn’t a perfect husband, but he loved his wife for always being there for him. In fact, what his brother Mayee said about him being cariñoso was true. He would spontaneously call his siblings and would not hesitate to say “mahal kita”. In one of his last text messages to me, when I was trying to get him into Vitamin C therapy, he mentioned “Pare, mahal kita”.

The last time I saw him was when he hosted dinner for us – Mike Tan, Lance Gokongwei, Kevin Belmonte and our wives. He actually cooks one of the best Sukiyakis and serves Patron Tequila as our dessert. He shared with us how lucky he has been with the many accidents and near death experiences he had. I told him that he had nine lives. He also said that maybe he is still not wanted up there. About two weeks after that night, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

With the encouragement of his family and friends, he gave a good four-month battle against the big C. I admire his courage in facing death. He gave his best in the fight. But, when he knew it was over, he wanted to die at home and see the rest of his family. Despite the odds in making it through the flight, he took the risk. I was told that he passed away, holding his son’s hand in the plane.

I share this story because life is, indeed, very short. We never really know when our time is up. As entrepreneurs or professional managers, we tend to keep ourselves busy and full of things to do. Being busy makes us feel important. But, there will come a time when we would realize that many important things in life have already slipped us by. Our children have grown. And, even sometimes, our relationship with our wife has already been taken for granted.

Franco Delgado’s journey on earth has touched his family and friends in many ways. His life reminded me to give time to enjoy life and to make sure that time with family is not taken for granted. God has given each of us an opportunity in this life on earth. The journey for each of us will be different. The people we meet are not only by accident. For me, they are predestined to guide us. We just need to have our antennas up and be sensitive to these things in life around us. Family and friends are our mentors and inspiration.

Franco was to turn 59 this year. His father, Don Paco, is 92 years old. We wonder why he has gone too soon. Life is, indeed, a journey. It is GOD who only knows the reason behind every journey. In the end, it is not how much wealth and power a person amasses. It is how he has touched the lives of people he met during his journey on earth. From what I saw at the funeral mass, Franco has touched so many people in different ways.

Franco, we will surely miss you. God has opened his doors to you… Take care my friend.

* * * * *

As negosyantes, we often struggle to live a balanced life and take our health for granted. I try to exercise as often as I can. In fact, my running partner in the treadmill is my blackberry. I juggle trying to stay on the treadmill while sending texts and emails. I feel energized and my best ideas often come during workouts. As negosyantes, the key to success is living a healthy balanced life.

Talking about a balanced life, Condura is on its second year of the marathon event. While last year aimed at helping protect the Tubbataha Reef, this time it is all about the protection of the Philippine Whale Sharks – the Butandings. My cousin Ton Concepcion, President of Condura, and Renna Hechanova, Vice Chairman, expect close to seven thousand people participating in this run. Ton is youngest child of my Uncle Raul. I guess he is also a natural entrepreneur. Inborn with the Blue Ocean talent, he was able to turnaround the refrigerator group, from a losing division to a profitable unit in just three years, (of course, with some free mentorship from me). But, seriously, he created the Condura Negosyo Ref and linked it to Go Negosyo, which now has taken them to almost market leadership. He has a great blue ocean story. On March 22 at 6am, the run starts. My other cousins, the Hechanovas (who are on the heavier side), are expected to run as well. I promised them that I will be there, although my problem is not being able to run 5k but waking up at 5 AM. Maybe I’ll run, if they also run. For more information, go to www.condurarun.com or call 391-0980.

I also have to congratulate my uncle Paeng Hechanova who had his book launch last Tuesday. His daughter Raisa, who retired from Citibank, was the project manager of the coffee table book. It was a compilation of all his speeches, while he was in the rotary. His whole life was devoted to the Rotary. Also, my father’s book on Namfrel and “YES The Filipino Can” is an idea waiting to be implemented. I hope my uncle’s book inspires my father to move on with his book.

Lastly, I would like to congratulate parents Raffy and Gina Hechanova and their son Robert. He will be receiving the St. La Salle award – one of the highest awards to be given to a student in high school for his leadership, honor, and his “go” attitude. It is finally an improvement from the loyalty award Raffy and I received back then. Congratulations.