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Joecon: My father, my mentor

We have already laid to rest my father, Jose “Joecon” Concepcion Jr., and the stories about his remarkable life continue to be told. His friends, former colleagues and ordinary people would share with us their encounters with him and how he has changed their lives through the many roles he took on as a businessman, public servant and civil society leader.

He loomed large and occupied a big part of our family’s story. Even when he wasn’t physically present, he still managed to be there in our thoughts. Last year, I had the opportunity to visit Lourdes with my family, marking only the second time I had been to this sacred pilgrimage site in France. The first occasion was many years ago, when I went with my father. It was a significant journey for us, as my father was unwell and couldn’t accompany us on this trip. However, I could strongly sense his presence during our visit, particularly in the sanctified presence of our Holy Mother. The memories of our previous time together in Lourdes remained vivid in my mind, as if he were physically there with us.

The priest who presided over his Requiem Mass described my father as a national hero, an icon, as someone who had great influence over those whose lives he touched. This is especially true of how he influenced me. He was my first and greatest mentor.

Not many people know this about him, but Dad once wanted to join the priesthood. He felt he had a vocation; but after much soul-searching, he came to a realization: one can always respond as a layman to God’s call to live an exemplary life. Understanding the layman’s call, he would later tell the eminent writer Nick Joaquin, was the turning point in his life. Feeding the soul and the body were not opposites. One needed the other to survive.

My grandparents told him there were “so many other ways to help one’s fellowmen and serve the country.” They suggested providing the poor with employment by becoming an industrialist. And become an industrialist he did; he employed people and championed local industry, both as a ConCon delegate, as trade secretary and as a private businessman. He walked the talk.

This has inspired me in my various roles throughout the years: as the head of RFM Corp., when I founded Go Negosyo in 2005, when I became Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship and as the lead for the Jobs Cluster of the Private Sector Advisory Council.

I see employment generation as a primary benefit of MSME development. It is employment where it is needed and for who needs it the most: in the small communities and for those who may not have the means to be employed in the mainstream.

Another thing about Dad was how he loved farming and how he enjoyed it thoroughly. He grew vegetables in their old backyard and even raised chickens. In fact, he did it so well the family was having chicken almost every day. And though we had our differences in the potential of livestock as a part of the future of RFM, I have come to share his concern for the Filipino farmer. I appreciate how making it profitable for farmers to keep on farming is so important to the future of the country, and this I always keep in mind as I go about pushing for agricultural productivity via the Kapatid Angat Lahat sa Agri Program.

Dad was persistent. One of his former colleagues remarked that he had a “kulit” management style, and credited it for the increase in investment commitments from P3 billion to more than P400 billion in three years under his watch at the DTI. I find this is especially useful to see projects through to completion.

He believed in giving encouragement and recognition. The export-oriented Foreign Buyers Association of the Philippines recalls how he contributed to the garment and textile industry back in the 1990s by honoring and giving awards to the top 10 garments exporters every year. He did the same with generations of young people through the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines program. I try and do the same by giving recognition to MSMEs, OFW-entrepreneurs, tourism MSMEs and women entrepreneurs.

Dad could talk to the rich and powerful, and still connect with the poor and vulnerable. He had what is called the common touch. I tried to emulate that during the pandemic when I had to step up my Tagalog so I could be better understood as I talked about how important it is to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and later as I mentored small entrepreneurs at our free entrepreneurship mentoring roadshow 3M on Wheels.

My father has done so much and helped so many Filipinos in his lifetime. He left such a good name that we in the family feel it is now our duty to protect it and never tarnish it. In the hearts of the many people he touched, he lives on. In the lessons he imparted to me, he will live on. Every time I mentor and help others do the same, his spirit lives on. In mentoring other people, you light a candle whose flame is kept alive every time these lessons are taught and passed on.

If anything, what I have learned from him and his passing is that in the end, we are here on this earth for only a short time. The success, the riches, the glory, they will not last forever. What endures are the lives you’ve helped. They are the memories that never fade.

Source: Go Negosyo -


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