The Vision of My Father
by Elvira L. Henares Esguerra, M. D.
MY father, Larry Henares, long past the age of reason, has now entered the age of wisdom. He can look back from the peak of his life and gaze upon the valleys and rivers and gorges that he has crossed, and see that the trajectory of his existence, so carefully planned by those who loved and influenced him, has finally brought him to his destiny and destination.
It was his father, Hilarion Sr., who aroused in him a lifelong interest in things scientific, of being an engineer and a scientist, with a mission to industrialize a country long condemned to “the idiocy of rural life” as Karl Marx would express it. This wonderful and amiable man shared with his son his piles of National Geographic and Scientific American magazine — magic carpets of science, discovery and invention that carried my father to flights of fancy and imagination even before he went to school. It was his father who admonished him, “Make as much money as you can, and when you have more than enough to spend in ten lifetimes, so that you are assured of all the necessities of life for yourself and your family — when money becomes only a means of keeping score in the great game of life — then retire. Retire in the most productive period of your life and offer your time and your talents to the service of your country. For the greatest gratification a man can have is to make his mark upon history.”
It was his mother Concepcion Maramba, who taught him how to love deeply without counting the cost, his future wife and family, his country, his God, with a mission to serve our nation and its people, especially the least of his brethren. She was a chemist and a pioneer in Home Economics, who introduced the course in Centro Escolar de las Mujeres, Philippine Women’s University, and the University of the Philippines. And she went on to be the president of the National Federation of Women’s Clubs. From his mother who pioneered in the manufacture of paint, Larry got his ideas and ideals of Social Justice. It was his mother who once said: “To be rich is a beggar’s dream. But to find love is the dream of kings!”
It was his grandfather, Senator Don Daniel Maramba, who would imbue him with a strong sense of nationalism born out of the Revolution of 1898, and led him to join the crusade of Claro M. Recto, with a single-minded dedication to public service, to enter the corridors of power and influence government policies, and to alter the course of history and the tide of national events. He saw to it that his grandson would have as many classmates as possible to propel him if possible to the Presidency of the land. And so the earlier schooling of Larry Henares and his cousin Fedi Maramba was in the Kindergarten class of PWU, dressed as a little girl, where his mother was a professor; Tinongan Barrio School in Isabela, Occ. Negros, where his father was in charge of a Sugar Refinery; La Granja Barrio School in La Castellana, Occ. Negros, where his uncle Felix Maramba was in charge of an agricultural experimental station; Manaoag Elementary School in Pangasinan where his politician grandfather operated Hacienda Nuning; Lingayen Elementary School where his auntie Emilia Maramba and her friend Mejiang Mejia run a dormitory, Ladies Hall; Sta. Barbara Elementary School, the old hometown of the Maramba side of the family — till at long last he was allowed to enroll in the Ateneo de Manila.
It was his Jesuit mentors, among them Father James B. Reuter, Father Joseph Mulry, Father Horacio de la Costa, who discovered and nurtured his God-given gift of gab and pen. And it was his close friends and classmates — J. V. Cruz, Neno Abreu, Nenec Paredes, Ricardo Vicente, Victor Lim — who developed and sharpened this gift by example, cooperation, interaction and competition. With them, Larry developed a love of reading that persists to this day. In a seven year stretch he read one book every day, devouring entire sets of the Book of Knowledge, Hardy Boys, Boy Allies, Tom Swift science series, Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and all the books of P.G. Wodehouse (Jeeves), Ernest Hemingway, Damon Runyon, G.K. Chesterton, H.G. Wells, Booth Tarkington (Magnificent Ambersons, Penrod and Sam), O. Henry, the Harvard Classics and others. And with them he learned to write short stories, essays, scripts, news articles and poetry. As a writer, he was a gusher, as distinguished from a bleeder (start-stop); when he starts a piece it flows clearly and logically to its conclusion without let-up. With them he excelled in extracurricular activities in drama, debate, oratory, script-writing, photography, and electronics.
All these influences set the direction of his life, its angle of elevation, its velocity and trajectory, from birth to the twilight of his existence. Facts can be taught, he said, but values can only be inspired by forebears, teachers and friends, and the motivation to succeed can only come from an internal fire fueling an sense of mission.
And so, Larry Henares distinguished himself as a writer starting in the Guidon, the Ateneo school paper, and later in the national media, as a feature writer in economics, culture, and science. He took up Liberal Arts in Ateneo, Mechanical Engineering in the University of the Philippines, Business and Engineering Administration and Economics in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He hired himself out as a business consultant, then took over from his father the family business (which his mother started by making roofing paint from emulsified asphalt, iron oxide and clay. He expanded and diversified this small paint company into conglomerate making 56 different products, which became the 300th largest corporation in the Philippines. He was a pioneer in the field of industrialization and scientific management, and to promote management of industrial corporations, at the age of 25, he set up and was the dean of the first two schools specializing in scientific management: the Feati Graduate School of Management Engineering and the Lyceum School of Commerce. He was a millionaire at the age of 30, at a time when being a millionaire was rare, and the peso was worth 100 times what it is worth today.
He married Cecilia Roensch Lichauco who bore him six children, three boys and three girls, a perfect balance sheet. He was awarded by Malacañang its highest award for Exemplary Family Life. He was adjudged Industrialist of the Year and Young Businessman of the Year, by the Business Writers Association of the Philippines. He won the FAMAS academy award for Best Documentary of the Year, “Without Fear of Tomorrow” on the industrialization of the Philippines. Also the Pride of Youth Award in Rizal’s Centennial Year. He has at last count 496 Plaques and Certificates, and has refused to accept any more since 1986, saying “just give me a barong or a pen or a good book.”
He realized that Industrialization can only come about with government incentives and government policies designed to deliberately usher the economy from subsistence agriculture to industrial status. “Look around and see that industrial nations never starve, but agricultural nations often do; that industrial nations are rich and agricultural nations are poor.” So Larry Henares invaded the public sector as a civic leader and public servant. He became the chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee of the Jaycees, and then like his father before him he became the President of the all-powerful Philippine Chamber of Industries. As such he effectively lobbied for laws conducive to economic development.
President Diosdado Macapagal appointed him the highest paid member of his Cabinet (“the most brilliant among them”) as Chairman of the National Economic Council and Presidential Administrator of Community Development (PACD). As the Economic Czar, he inherited a “decontrolled” economy set loose from its moorings, at the time Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea were managing their economies under Import and Exchange controls. The foreign exchange rate rose from P2 to a dollar to P3.90 per dollar, the foreign reserves plunged down and many industries faced extinction. As the Economic Czar, he exercised the authority of the Executive to adjust tariff rates for the first time since 1909, and kept the floating dollar rate stable at P3.90 per dollar for almost ten years, up to five years after he left office, with the GNP growth rate at about 10 percent per annum, the highest in Asia.
It was only in 1970 when the IMF, Finance Minister Cesar Virata and his free-market economists took over that the value of the peso deteriorated from P3.90 per dollar in 1970, to P18.00 per dollar in 1986 when Marcos was ousted. Under the IMF and CB Governor Jobo Fernandez, the peso value further plunged to P28.00 per dollar during the Cory Aquino years. During the martial law and the Cory years the economy suffered a zero growth, and became the basketcase of Asia and the dynamic Pacific Rim region.
Many of the great industries were forcibly liquidated by government policies favoring multinational companies, including those of Gonzalo Puyat, Toribio Teodoro, Jose P. Marcelo, Domingo Guevara, Manuel Elizalde, Fernando Jacinto, Jesus Cabarrus. My father sold out and liquidated his businesses sometime ago because he realized that new technological developments are rendering his products, which he pioneered and developed into a lucrative market monopoly, obsolescent and obsolete. His Old Town Carbon Paper, 91 percent of the market, was threatened by the advent of the copying machine. His Crayola Crayons, almost 100 percent of the market, was threatened by the felt marker pens made by Pentel. His Mongol pencils, 95 percent of the market, and Parker Quink Ink, was threatened by the development of the ball pens. His blackboards may soon be replaced by the whiteboards, his paints based on alkyd resins may soon be replaced by various synthetic resins.
He wanted to influence government policy and he run for the Senate with the Liberal Party, together with Ninoy Aquino, Soc Rodrigo, Camilo Osias, Maria Kalaw Kartigbak. Of all of them only Ninoy Aquino won, and martial law and IMF dictation was imposed a few years later. The sense of betrayal he felt with American and IMF pressure and influence led him to be a critic of both the Marcos and the Cory administrations. This is the time he launched a new career as a writer for the Mr&Ms Special Edition and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and became the most widely read columnist in the country, according to all surveys including the 1991 and 1992 report of the Philippine Survey Research Center (PSRC which rates the media for advertisers) with 15 readers to every two of Luis Beltran, and to every five of Max Soliven, the most popular old timers.
Ninoy Aquino and my father agreed that the best way to immortalize oneself is to write for the next generation. But they differed when to write. Ninoy wanted to write at the beginning of his career, because it opens doors for him and get him in touch with those who make history. My father answered: “Ninoy, writing is a starvation game, and you are lucky to have a rich wife beside you. But me, I have to write at the end of my career when I would have accumulated enough wealth to be financially independent, and enough knowledge, wisdom and experience to pass on to the next generation.
Two things my father learned as he tried to influence the nation to repudiate the IMF, the CRC, and the free market economists. First, those in power do not give a damn about any dissenting opinion, and cannot be moved by criticism because they are used to being hated and feared. Second, he discovered that the only way to hold their attention is to do what they hate most, being ridiculed, being made fun of, because that lowers their image and self-esteem. In this way, and with his infectious humor and computer-like mastery of any subject, he became the most effective critic, the most feared, the most read and the most enjoyed of all columnists.
But in the end, he realized that being a critic and a gadfly was not his real vocation. As pointed out by his wife Cecilia, he is much better as a participant in national development, constructive and self-effacing, and this is the role he is now playing in the Ramos government as Presidential Consultant on National Affairs, once described as a cabinet position without portfolio.
This volume, the sixth of a series, continue to chronicle his innermost thoughts, his style and substance, his original and brilliant insights, his contagious and outrageous sense of humor, and his vision for a better Philippines.