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PBSP pays tribute to one of its founders and longest-serving officer

With such an illustrious career in business, government and social development, Bienvenido A. Tan, Jr. has indeed become many things to different people.

In the Bureau of Internal Revenue, he was regarded as an upright Commissioner who enforced strict discipline and eliminated corruption during his term. When he was the Philippine Ambassador to Germany, he strived to improve the country’s image.  He was also a sought-after businessman who became director of 40 companies.

For social development practitioners, Tan is a role model and their biggest influencer who helped shape not only the landscape of social development in the 1970s but also its future workforce. Last August 2017, the current and former officers and staff of Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), gathered in a rare occasion to pay a fitting tribute to the longest-serving pillar of the 46-year-old, business-led organization.

AN INSPIRATION TO OTHERS 

Tan spent 46 years of his life in PBSP. He was part of the 50 business leaders who founded PBSP in 1970 to help solve social ills and improve people’s lives. Later, he became its first president (1974-1989) and executive director (1974-1978). After that, he continued to be an active member of the Board, attending each and every Board meeting and reading page per page all pertinent documents. This is on top of sitting on the Board of nine other foundations, and running five foundations from his office in Makati. It was only recently when the 93-year-old Tan retired from PBSP.

But in all these years, Tan, the General Manager of The Bookmark, Inc., has made a significant impact not just in the lives of his beneficiaries, but also the people he worked with.

“It was Ambassador Tan that brought me to PBSP. He was the keynote speaker during my graduation in the Ateneo. In that speech, it was the first time I heard about PBSP and the fantastic work that he and his team were doing. At that time, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do in life but that (his speech) actually opened my eyes to what I could do. When the opportunity came for me to get into professional work, I decided to work for an NGO, and PBSP was one of the NGOs that I applied for. I wasn’t accepted at first. So I worked for another NGO for nine years, bringing with me the spirit that Ambassador Tan has given me. Several decades later, I was invited to work for PBSP and was very fortunate to see Ambassador Tan still in the Board. And I have to say that the last six years of my life in PBSP was really a very worthwhile experience. If there’s one thing I will always remember whenever I encounter trials and difficulties in the work that I do, it would be the fidelity that you have shown to the call that you have been responding to all your life – the call to serve the people,” said Rafael Lopa, former PBSP Executive Director (from 2010 to 2016), during the tribute held at the PBSP building in Intramuros, Manila.

VISIONARY AND SERVANT LEADER 

For Ruth Callanta, former PBSP associate director, Tan is a visionary who along with the Board, helped usher in various forms of corporate social responsibility initiatives.

During his term, Tan helped set up laboratories, gave scholarships to deserving but poor students, built water systems in waterless communities, donated medical equipment to various hospitals, conducted livelihood programs, among others. He also gave personal attention to each project by visiting the sites from as far as Tawi-Tawi in Mindanao and interacting with the beneficiaries.

“How does one pay tribute or even say thanks to a person who influenced you in your lifetime? To a person who helped mold you to what you are today? And to a person who continues to help you with the day-to-day management of your life? My 16 years in PBSP was made particularly rich and meaningful because of the leadership of Amb. Tan. He is a giant in terms of leadership but from him I learned meekness. While meekness could signify weakness, in him it signified strength. When faced with challenges where one would easily lose one’s cool, he remained calm and humble. He never surrendered to the pressures of situations or succumbed to compromise,” said Callanta. “The fruit of his labor is evident in the lives and works of those who had the privilege of learning from him and followed in his footsteps. These are the men and women whose concern for those who have less in life was shaped in response to the example of the life he led,” she added.

Most of the former officers and staff of PBSP are still doing development work for the government and other local and international agencies.

MAN WITH A MISSION 

Tan is also known to espouse the values of integrity, humility, simplicity, and accountability. Callanta revealed that their boss shunned publicity and self-glorification.

“I have known Benny for the past 46 years, 22 of those years are in PBSP. In all those years, he had always been my mentor, my counselor, and my boss. I was molded by the values of the man, the same values that I share with my family and with those around me. The first is integrity. Right is right, wrong is wrong. He is not preachy but shows his values in his actions, in the way he lives his life, and in his witnessing,” said Ernie Garilao who served as Executive Director from 1978 to 1991.

According to him, Tan would always remind them to find their true vocation, ensure accountability at all times and deliver results.

“Second, find your vocation. You are in PBSP because it is your vocation to serve the poor. In many instances, he would say, ‘If you want to get rich, PBSP is not the place for you.’ Third, we are stewards of the resources entrusted to us. The funds of member-companies and partners are for the poor; we are, therefore, accountable in ensuring those resources improve their lives,” he said.

Tan also went out of his way to show how he cared for the people that worked for him. And this was through training, close working relationships, and leadership by example.

When she was just an ordinary employee, Callanta recalled that Tan who was in Cabanatuan at that time, even found time to visit her parents who were pleasantly surprised. This was one of the best memories she had of her time with Tan.

“When we started PBSP, social development was a new field. And we paid premium to train and develop the social development practitioner. This has likewise been the value many former PBSP staff brought to their respective organizations to ensure the commitment, competence and excellence required. And this is what they brought in the service of the poor. Benny always took pride in that PBSP has the competence that other partners sought for collaborative work. PBSP was trusted to deliver, and deliver well,” Garilao said.

Amid all the accolades and accomplishments, Tan continues to live a simple lifestyle, focusing only on the things that matter most: his family, his work, and his mission to serve the poor.

“The message I would like to give is Magis. You give what you give and you are not satisfied with giving more. I want PBSP to keep on helping people and to not be satisfied with what they do,” Tan said.

About Philippine Business for Social Progress 

Philippine Business for Social Progress is the largest business-led social development NGO at the forefront of corporate citizenship that contributes to sustainable development and poverty reduction. Established in 1970, PBSP remains to be the consultant and partner of choice of companies and local and international donors who wish to add strategic value to their CSR programs.

PBSP scales up impact by adopting the Collective Impact strategy to solve large, complex, systemic problems.  PBSP organizes Platforms for Collective Engagements (PlaCEs) to ensure alignment and sustainability of initiatives by multiple stakeholders.

Responding to the changing landscape of CSR, PBSP’s brand of corporate citizenship taps into the core business competencies of companies and promotes inclusive business as a strategy. PBSP also continues to strategically engage companies through social investment, responsible business practices, and philanthropy.

PBSP creates sustainable solutions to societal problems in its core program areas which are Health, Education, Environment, and Livelihood and Enterprise Development. It also provides off-the-shelf options for engagement of companies and their employees.

With a proven track record, PBSP provides end-to-end services in development consulting which include project and grants management, events and backroom management.