Studying friends

By Herbert Vego 

“A FRIEND in need,” says a hackneyed quotation, “is a friend indeed.”

I cannot forget the quotation because of a ticklish experience I had with Manny, the entertainment editor of the defunct Daily Express in the mid-1970s when I was doing publicity work for a music-recording company in Manila.  He was such an introvert that I found it hard winning his friendship.

I can’t forget the day I gave him a box of long-play records of our artists.

“If I were not the entertainment editor,” he asked rudely, “would you give this to me?”

Embarrassed, I fumbled for words that did not come easy. Sensing my defensive position, he kept the gift in his drawer.

But since I badly needed him, I changed tact. The next time I submitted a press release and nothing else to him, it broke into print the next day. I knew at once that he was not a “team player”. One of a kind, I thought.

When I myself became editor of the tri-weekly entertainment tabloid Movie Flash (defunct), I opted to chart the opposite direction because no matter how “selfish,” ours is a give-and-take society where quid pro quo –a favor earned for something given – is the rule

That applies to the business world where the seller always befriends hard-to-please customers to win their patronage.

If you are the boss, you need to be a friend of the employees, suppliers, customers, and government agencies.

If you are a hired hand, you have no choice but to be in good terms with the boss, co-workers and everybody else in the organization.

No wonder we get disappointed over “unfair treatment” from relying too much on another person. The more we rely on someone, the more we see his imperfections without realizing that he must have seen our imperfections, too.

We have learned from Charles Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” that people are programmed at birth to be selfish. This means that whatever good we do to others is commensurate with their usefulness to us. Imagine what would happen if we feed others to the point of starving ourselves.

If we expect the best of whatever from all of our friends and relatives, it could lead to frustration and despair.

Whereas, accepting human nature as it really is makes us focus on actions that also create value for others.

People do not easily shed off ingrained habits and beliefs. I saw this for myself when I received a Hindu tract from a friend. Try hard as I did, I could not swallow its persuasion to worship the elephant god Ganesh in exchange for good fortune.

Therefore, I did not ask my friend to worship Jesus Christ.

Still, people may change due to a traumatic experience. I saw this in my late Uncle George, who had served a decade in New Bilibid Prison. When he got out of jail, he kept out of trouble, no doubt because it was his bad temper that had caused him to shoot a man to kingdom come.

It is therefore wise to select business associates, friends, and spouses whom we share common values with. A marriage between a rabid Catholic and a rabid Protestant may trigger frequent arguments, ending in a broken home.

We become hypocritical when we pretend to “adjust” to people with ideas and beliefs contrary to ours.

To quote American book author Robert Ringer, “All people, at one time or another, deviate from their moral beliefs; they are sometimes hypocritical. The cause is the desire for instant gratification.”

So, if you still think that the typical politician has the people’s welfare in mind, think again.



By chance, I read an article on Sir Roel Zabala Castro in CEO business magazine. Every Ilonggo now knows him as the friendly President and Chief Executive Officer of MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) in Iloilo City.

One of the quotations attributed to him in that article reads, “I’ve been in generation, I’ve been in transmission and now I am in distribution.”

Obviously, it’s because of his more than two decades in the power industry. Before kick-starting MORE Power, he had worked for the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) and the Palm Concepcion Power Corporation.

Castro sees energy as an ever-growing industry.

When MORE Power took over the power distribution franchise for Iloilo City in February 2020, there were about 62,000 legal customers taken over from the previous utility. There are now almost 70,000.

“Marrying technological efficiency with financial efficiency is something that I’ve always been attracted to,” he told CEO. “In this industry, the evolution of technology is moving so fast that it always challenges me to work within a balance of investments in new technology versus the price to consumers and the bottom line of the company. We had to start from scratch. There was no customer data turned over to us, so we had to look at the system from outside. We didn’t have access to the substations, nor access to operating data. So, there was great disruption to the billing cycle of customers.”

CEO quoted an advice from a priest friend: “No storm is permanent. Every storm will be gone in a few days. What is permanent is that there’s always the sun and the sun will always come out.”