As many of you have heard, our dear colleague Fil Alfonso passed away a few weeks ago. As one of the founding members of the Global Network for Corporate Citizenship , Fil brought decades of experience with CSR throughout Asia through his leadership at The Asian Institute of Management and the founder of the Asian Forum. More than that Fil´s incredible warmth and colleagueship was instrumental in developing and guiding the Network.
Fil´s colleague Maya Baltazar Herrera and the current GNCC representative from The Asian Institute of Management published this glowing tribute to Fil in the Manila Standard Today which we wanted to share with our colleagues across the globe.
Fil not only showed us what could be, he gave us the priceless gift of believing in us.
I write this on a day that would normally be filled with joy. Today, 11 April 2013, marks the birthday of Felipe “Fil” B. Alfonso. He would have been 76 today.
Instead, today is a day for other emotions. Today, we will celebrate Fil’s life while struggling to find a way to continue without him. Fil passed away in the early hours of April 5, 2013. He leaves behind family, friends, and colleagues who will feel his loss deeply.
Fil was a leader. His was a life full of recognition and accomplishment.
He was one of the founding faculty of the Asian Institute of Management (“AIM”) and was recognized with the title of Professor Emeritus. He was president of AIM from 1990 to 1999. During his tenure as president, AIM became the top ranked business school in Asia and won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding.
He led the team that developed the AIM research that was to become the foundation for AIM’s Center for Development Management. In recent years, he was probably best known for his work in corporate social responsibility. Fil was the founding director of the AIM Ramon V. Del Rosario, Sr. Center for Corporate Social Responsibility. He was the founding Director of the Asian Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility and continued to be its guiding light even after his formal retirement from AIM.
As news of his death travelled the world, the outpouring of memories and messages showed just how much Fil will be missed. AIM received messages from board rooms and corner suites of international businesses, from academic leaders and civic leaders, from former students and former colleagues, and from the many, many people Fil continued to collaborate with.
This is a testament to Fil’s leadership. Fil was more than a manager of people. He forged new paths. He found new ways of thinking about things and he inspired others to work with him and build things with him.
Teacher, Colleague, Mentor
Fil was, first and foremost, a teacher. Toby Canto, AIM Professor Emeritus, says that he will always remember how Fil loved the case method, how he would “keep probing the problem until deep and unexpected insights were discovered”, and how he truly enjoyed those moments of discovery. Fil, Toby says, will always remind him of what it truly means to be a teacher, how teaching means “stretching students’ thinking and thereby truly making a difference.”
AIM alumni from many generations remember Fil not only as a brilliant professor but a compassionate man. Jess Gallegos, who was Dean during Fil’s tenure as AIM president, says that “Fil was always supportive” and his leadership style was “empowering.”
AIM’s current dean, Ricky Lim, says he best remembers Fil for being “very good at simplifying complex things.” Ricky says Fil distilled decisions down to a few simple questions: (a) Do we want to do this?; (b) How much do we need to pay for it?; (c) What do we do now?; and (d) What do we do later?
He says this ability to drill down allowed him to make the management message simpler, and made it easier to both make and communicate decisions. Ricky says that Fil had a unique way of looking at things and drilling down to the essence. This allowed him to find what resonated with the core of the organizations he worked with and probably contributed to his great success at bringing people together.
This, in fact, is perhaps what Fil is best known for, his ability to bring people together to work towards a common goal.
Both Jun Borromeo, current Dean of AIM’s Graduate School of Business and Titos Ortigas, AIM professor, credit Fil with the internationalization of AIM. Jun says Fil brought AIM into international consortia and established exchange programs with other academic institutions. More importantly, he says, “Fil, with Gaby, inspired us to think international”. It was, he says, Fil with the late Gaby Mendoza who always asked the faculty to stretch their horizons, to ask what other countries AIM could serve.
It is apparent from the facts of his life and career that Fil was deeply devoted to the community and the role of business in uplifting society.
What is less apparent from his resume is how truly committed he was to his principles, how deeply he believed in doing the right thing, how passionately he cared about being of service.
Fil leaves behind a family who adores him. They are, perhaps, the best testament to Fil, the father as well as Fil, the man.
Six years ago, Fil celebrated his 70th birthday and the thing that struck me the most is that his children all said that Fil lived his life to serve. They all said that they understood that the role of every individual is to make the world a better place. They all understood that they shared their father with the world and they felt this was ok, because their father was helping make the world a better place.
No one was prepared to see Fil go. It was not that he did not prepare us for a life without him. It is that his energy never seemed to waver and his passions never seemed to flag. He was always, for those of us who worked with him, a constant source of inspiration and strength.
Fil not only showed us what could be, he gave us the priceless gift of believing in us. Fil always had faith in us. That faith allowed us to believe in ourselves and gave us the courage to live up to his ambitious visions.
Titos says that he always admired Fil for his ability to trust. He says that Fil never let his experiences with betrayal stop him from continuing to trust the people he worked with. It was “the Fil Alfonso way”, he says.
But what Titos says he admires the most about Fil was his unflagging energy, an energy that was always available for AIM. Jess Gallegos echoes this: Fil was … always willing to help, generous with his time, and was a good mentor. We shared 36 years working together at AIM, and every time we met, it was always about AIM, the country, and family. His loyalty to AIM never wavered, and he was always concerned with the issues confronting the Institute.”
Rina, Fil’s youngest child, who shares his birth date, said this about FIl’s passing: “Of all of us, he was probably the most prepared for this.”
That is, perhaps, Fil’s most important legacy. He prepared us for a time when he will not be around.
Exactly a year ago today, I went up to Tagaytay to help celebrate Fil’s 75th birthday. In the cool mountain air, as we looked at the far horizon, Fil talked to me about his dreams and his visions, about his life work and about AIM.
That is how I will always remember him. Whenever I look at the far horizon, I will remember him and I will remind myself that he lives on. In the many lives he touched, in the institutions he helped build, in our hearts and minds and memories, he lives. Somehow, we will find a way to be strong. He would want that. But we will always miss him.
Bon voyage, Fil.
first Published by The Manila Standard Today 12 April 2013 in the column Integrations by maya baltazar herrera
You can email Maya at [email protected]. Please visit her archives at manilastandardtoday.com/author/maya-baltazar-herrera or integrations.tumblr.com or www.mayaherrera.aim.edu.