Postcards from life’s journeys

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AT A LUNCH get-together at Rockwell in January of 2020 (just before the hatches were slammed shut by the pandemic a couple of months after), some of us classmates with their WAC (Written Analysis of Cases) professor, Santi Dumlao, were wondering how best to celebrate a milestone event. The 50th anniversary of the Asian Institute of Management’s (AIM) batch ’71 was coming up in 2021.

“Why not a book?,” our former professor Santi suggested. Maybe letters to our grandchildren or life stories after AIM? It was one of those “nice to do” projects that could so easily get shelved after the photos were taken of the lunch. A book project was not really the stuff that bucket lists are made of.

To mark the golden jubilee of our AIM class in 2021, in the first quarter of that year AIM organized for our class a case discussion of Parasite, the best movie at the 2020 Oscars. The case discussion was done via Zoom and the class was asked to watch the movie beforehand. The case method was applied to the Korean movie about a downscale family taking over the household of an upper-class counterpart. (How should they have handled the exposure?) That mock classroom exercise (with an actual professor conducting the two-hour session) brought back memories from 50 years back… except that thankfully there were no grades given.

Again, the book project came up.

A rough organization was formed to shepherd the now-getting-more-concrete prospect of a book. There were guidelines given on the subject (life stories and lessons learned from AIM) and a word count of 1,000 to 1,500 words. Why not different lengths including what we eventually called “vignettes” of about 500 words? Easier to edit and read, and good as fillers between epic struggles of a few.

We really didn’t expect an avalanche of entries that would bury the editorial staff. We were not disappointed.

Just to prime the literary pump, Marily Orosa, our eventual publisher and adviser on the process of printing books (and award-winning Annual Reports) but not including marketing these (not a priority for this anyway improbable bestseller), arranged for a writer’s workshop, also by Zoom, to be run by distinguished author and columnist (“Penmanship”) Butch Dalisay. About 15 attended the virtual workshop.

This session on how to tell a story (begin in the middle) was intended to lower the fear factor for those who have limited their writing skills to marginal notes on business proposals (needs some work). Not sure if the workshop boosted literary skills or confidence. Anyway, the entries started trickling in.

The editorial board cast an even wider net for contributors by inviting family and friends to write about classmates who had passed on. Carlo Katigbak contributed a piece on his father, Nick. Rufo Colayco did a touching tribute to his brother Boy, part of Class ’71. Art Macapagal, the class president of our batch, was remembered by his widow (Mariter) and son (Alex). Mariel Francisco, a writer herself, had a moving Valentine piece for husband Chito.

The Class of 1971 had 70 graduates (well, 69 — but that’s another story). Of these, 26 contributed pieces to the book. Since the book turned out to be 289 pages with almost 100 entries, a few contributors submitted more than one entry. Add to this the relatives and friends who posted memories of their dearly departed ones.

The process of putting together a book with over 40 contributors can be daunting. The editorial board, mostly its managing editor, Emmy Hayward, living in Sydney and hosting most of the executive sessions on the project from there, was “not passive.” (This is a synonym for cracking the whip.) While there was an effort to preserve the distinct voices and style of the contributors, the narrative flow, grammatical correctness, and clarity of the prose needed to be upheld.

Of course, some contributors needed no editorial interference or pruning. Nards Silos’ essay citing the different approaches in education and management between Europe and America citing the book by Jean Jacques Servan-Scheiber, Le Defi Americaine, as he was deciding on a business career takes the reader on an intellectual trip, no less delightful for that. Nards was very involved with AIM in later years as a professor.

The book is done.

This is not a book review of First Fruits but a story of how we collected the postcards of our classmates’ journeys. It is a tribute to our Alma Mater, now headed by Dr. Jikyeong Kang, who also contributed the Afterword in the book.

AIM this year celebrates its 52nd year as an institution put together by Harvard Business School, Ateneo de Manila, and De La Salle as the first Asian Business school. The journey continues.

Tony Samson is chairman and CEO of TOUCH xda