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Cover Story

In Honor of Our Captain

Compiled and edited by the Aboitiz Eyes team with contributions from Darlene Arguelles, Lloyd Revilla, Claren Padinay, and Josiah Piola.

 

This special feature pays tribute to the late Rene B. Ronquillo, President and Chief Operating Officer of Hedcor Group, the company that pioneered run-of-river hydro in the Philippines and anchored the Aboitiz Group’s entry into power generation in the Philippines nearly 40 years ago.

To his family, especially his three sons, he was a superhero who never lost touch with his fun-loving childlike side. To Hedcor team members whose lives he touched, RBR was their leader, mentor, and father all rolled into one who set the standards and inspired them to do their best for nearly four decades. To all of us at the Aboitiz Group, he was the embodiment of our core values of Integrity, Teamwork, Innovation, and Responsibility.

RBR treasured his deep and loving relationships with people from both personal and professional aspects of his life, and those who have been privileged to be part of that group can confidently say they have all become better from it.

 


 

 

Anton Ronquillo

 
I would like to start off by thanking everyone.
 
It’s been a really difficult couple of months and it really made things a lot easier to have all of you guys here, from the Aboitiz organization, friends and family, and prayer warriors who helped mom, from abroad, on her phone, and on Viber.
 
Dad was just amazing. He loved his comic books; he loved his practical jokes; he loved rock music, and since everyone’s said it, yeah, he drank like a fish. He was our 61-year-old adolescent, and we loved every single minute of it. We really, really did.
 
He really was just someone who loved to have a good time, sometimes a bit too much, but he made sure that everyone always had a great time with him. Whenever he was around, it was just smiles and laughter.
 
But also, on the other side, he knew when to give advice. He was always the right person whenever you had a problem, no matter what it was, he always had the right answer whether it was the answer you wanted to hear or not.
 
But, you know, as much as he loved comics, to us, he was our superhero. The monumental task that he faced in Baguio, to drive up and down 8 to 10 hours, sometimes to do the trip once a day, sometimes be away from us for weeks…he would be so tired. He did that for decades. He didn’t blame anyone because he loved what he was doing and he really loved the fact that he did this all for us.
 
I think a lot of people when they see how old he was, 61 years old, they say “Sayang, he worked so hard. He was right there. He was going to retire, finally going to be able to rest.” But work was never really work for him. It wasn’t like he was struggling 9 to 5; that he just wanted to clock in and clock out…go home. He loved the people he worked with, he loved what he was doing, and he loved the fact that he was able to help everyone in his own special way. To say that it was a waste is definitely not true.
 
To the guys at Hedcor, sorry, we really tried to get him back to you. Every board meeting with you, every appointment that he set — that was probably worse than the cancer, he always said that he’d been gone for so long that he left all of you guys unsupervised. He always wanted to be there with you guys. He was so proud of each and every one of you. I know for sure he gave you guys a hard time but it was because he loved you guys.
 
I thank you guys for coming from all over the Philippines, and I know it’s rough on you but I’m sure Dad would say “Kailangan pa rin kayong pumasok bukas, ha?” If you guys slow down at work, mumultuhin kayo. And no one loves a practical joke like that so I really think he’ll do it.
 
So, guys, please make sure to get that ISO certification done. Please make sure your power production is up.
 
You know, it’s hard to think of why. Why is one of those questions we really are never going to answer but I think that Dad’s time here was perfect and beautiful. And I’m sure that when we all get up to the gates of heaven, we’re going to see Dad and it’s all going to be ISO-certified. He’s going to be telling you just what to do and he’s going to make sure that everyone is welcome.
 
But I think the best way to go about this is really not be sad, but to be thankful and to cherish each and every single memory that he gave us. He gave us so many fun moments. And 61 years may be a short time, but 61 years the way he lived was not. Hunter S. Thompson said it best when he said, “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in one pretty and well-preserved piece. Life is to be lived sliding in a cloud of dust and smoke, saying ‘I’m thoroughly used up but that was one hell of a ride!”
 
And that’s who Dad was. Thank you, Dad. We love you.

 

Mrs. Belay Ronquillo

Thank you for being with us during our moments of grief.

Today is a day to give thanks.

I thank the Lord for the 32 years I have known Rene and the 25 years we have spent our lives together.

I thank the Lord for the blessings He gave us; to have three wonderful sons.

I thank the Lord for blessing Rene with loving parents and siblings who have made him who he was to each of us.

I thank the Lord for my own parents and siblings for all the love they showered our home.

I thank the Lord for all the people who banged at heaven’s door for prayers and support.

I thank the Lord on behalf of my family, for the great blessings of having the Aboitiz family with us throughout Rene’s life journey ’til the end.

I thank the Lord for his coworkers, employees, and friends in the companies he had worked with who translated his and the company’s values into the workplace and their family lives.

What he left us all is a legacy of nurturing relationships, of always doing what is best, of being compassionate and just. Hopefully, all of these will ease our pain and what should remain is what he meant to each of our lives.

God bless you all.

 

family 3 Rene Ronquillo

 

 


 

 

Erramon I. Aboitiz
President & CEO, Aboitiz Equity Ventures

 

I first met Rene at 3rd grade in Sacred Heart School in Cebu. Romy was temporarily transferred to Cebu by Esso. 

After some time, Romy and family moved back to Manila. But our close friendship with Rene developed when Romy and Chiki permanently moved to Cebu when Romy joined Aboitiz & Co.

Our relationship with Rene evolved both personally and professionally.

Being of the same age, we hung around together; we played tennis and golf together. I used to tease him by calling him my ATM. We partied together. We even took a trip to Europe together with Bobby Booth and Sabin.

Lots of stories.

We also worked together in Hedcor…in fact, I see many of Rene’s teammates from Hedcor here today.

When Ernie Aboitiz started Hedcor, which was our mini hydro business, he chose Rene to help him set it up in Baguio. Rene saw and was mainly responsible for the growth and development of Hedcor that started out almost like a backyard operation to what it is today, a professionally run owner, developer, and operator of numerous small hydros across the country.

In fact, it was really the entry of the Aboitiz Group into power generation.

The business had its ups and downs…most downs at the start, but Rene’s resiliency, perseverance, and dedication resulted in success in that endeavor. It is something Rene should be very proud of and something he felt totally responsible for. I know something he had in his mind up to the very end, its people, its future. 

We also went through many things together in our personal lives. Many things we would love to share, others we probably want to keep to ourselves.

Our families became close; our wives Belay and Judy became friends; we saw each other’s children grow up. 

It is therefore with great sadness that I stand in front of you today to celebrate the life of my friend. 

Rene’s life was taken away from us too soon and it is hard to understand why tragic things like this happen to such good people.

Unfortunately, this is a question we do not have an answer to and probably will never have an answer to…..so it is therefore probably not worth dwelling on.

What we can however do is celebrate his life and remember all of the remarkable things Rene accomplished, how he touched all our lives, his positive attributes (which he has many) and how wonderful his life with all of us was.

It is incredibly sad that Rene’s life with us ended so soon. I cannot put into words how much I (and am sure all of us) will miss him. But knowing Rene as much as I do and knowing how positive a person he was, I am sure he would not want us to be sad today. If he was here with us, he would tell us to cheer up, move on and remember all the great memories we all shared.

Even though Rene may not be with us anymore, his memory will live on in all of us forever.

Rene, I truly appreciated your friendship and will never forget you.

 

SERVICE AWARDEE. RBR flanked by ARM and EIA at the 2014 Aboitiz Recognition Night.
SERVICE AWARDEE. RBR flanked by ARM and EIA at the 2014 Aboitiz Recognition Night.

 

EIA with Hedcor team led by RBR at the old ACO Makati office.
EIA with the Hedcor team led by RBR at the former Aboitiz office in Makati City.


Antonio R. Moraza
President & Chief Operating Officer, AboitizPower

 

For 38 years, Rene acted as a captain, steering the organization to new heights. More so, Rene acted as a father to our Hedcor team leaders and team members, molding them to become one of our strongest BUs.

When AP Gen and AP Corp were formed, Rene became our toughest critic and strongest advocate. He extended his wisdom to the CSUs, called us out when we were getting too fancy and lost sight of the big picture. And when we needed help, he was the first to give us support.

Many of us have great stories on how Rene touched our lives. He was very much involved with people within our organization and with our communities. He cared deeply for all those who worked with him. Truly a charismatic guy.

This is Rene’s legacy — truly an A-person who embodied leadership, integrity, empathy, and simplicity.

May we all be inspired by Rene and I enjoin everyone to offer a prayer for him and the rest of his family.

ARM offering a toast with RBR at the Hedcor Sabangan plant inauguration in 2015
ARM offering a toast with RBR at the Hedcor Sabangan plant inauguration in 2015

 


 

Manuel ‘Bobby’ M. Orig
First Vice President – Mindanao Affairs (Retired), AboitizPower

 

Today, a strong positive working culture and bias for performance exists in Hedcor practically because of the inspiration provided by RBR. That is validated by the fact that every year when there is an annual competition to recognize outstanding achievements, the Hedcor team always emerged as winners of many performance awards.

But I would consider as one of the greatest achievements of RBR is — before any other company has done it — he has taken the lead in developing run-of-river power plants and has proven that it can be a reliable and cheap source of electricity.

And because of this huge, huge success, many other companies have followed suit. This is an accomplishment that I believe our country will be in debt of gratitude to RBR and this is an accomplishment that all of us can be proud of and will always remember RBR for.

 

2005 HEDCOR ANNIV MAY 7 GOLF (263)

 


 

Emmanuel V. Rubio
Executive Vice President – Chief Operating Officer, AboitizPower Generation Business Group

In the 10 years that I have worked with him, I’ve considered him my beacon, my performance standard. We shared a lot of things.

We played a lot of golf and one thing I learned from him, he said, “Manny, the reason why I love golf is because golf gives you second shots, and most of the times it’s the second shots that matter.” That lesson told me a lot about Rene — he was patient, understanding, forgiving. If you don’t have those, Hedcor won’t be the Hedcor of today, given that there’s a lot of development that we’ve done in Hedcor.

To Hedcor, I’m sure Rene has been a father to you guys, a leader, a mentor. But to all of us, we look up to Rene as a pillar of AP. AP won’t be AP without Rene. It’s really a privilege to have worked with him.

EFX_8738 2005 HEDCOR ANNIV MAY 7 GOLF (54)


Chris Sangster
Executive Director, AboitizPower

 

For most of us at Hedcor, RBR was the one and only president who has led us since we first started at the company. He was our mentor, advisor, leader, guide, teammate, and, most importantly, our friend. For me, it is his guidance and friendship I will miss the most.

RBR was the passion behind the great success of Hedcor over the years. He provided us the inspiration and motivation to do what we do, to strive to develop new green projects, to challenge the way we do business, and to look for better ways in what we do. He helped make us the kind of team members and team leaders that we are today.

Let us remember RBR for his passion in both his work and his enjoyment of life. He was always a great host and loved his food and wine. There was never a dull moment when he was around and in one of his storytelling moods. Certainly, part of who I am today is a result of the influence that Rene has had on me over my past 15 years here, and I am grateful for that.

Our condolences go out to his wife, Belay, his children and the rest of his family. His legacy will continue to shine in Hedcor and he will continue to inspire us all to do greater things. 

 

Rene Ronquillo

 


Chris Faelnar
Senior Vice President, Hedcor

 

In less than a year, I lost two people who were very close to me. My father passed away last November and now Rene. It’s very painfull when you loose someone dear to you, quite tough actually.
First of all, in behalf of the whole Hedcor family and my Family, we would like to express our deepest sympathies to Rene’s family most specially to Belay, Anton, Roberto, and Carlos. To the Ronquillo family & to the Villarama family. You may have lost a head of the family, but equally painful is that we in Hedcor lost a LEADER that we really treasure.
Rene and I go back 36 years. We practically grew up together in Hedcor. One of biggest decisions that I made in my life (apart from marrying my wife Oyee) was to accept Rene’s invitation to join him in Hedcor in Baguio for a very exciting project. When Rene explained to me what the project was all about, I did not hesitate to accept his invitation since it was a great opportunity to grow as an electrical engineer. This was probably the biggest break in my career and I would like to sincerely thank Rene for this. 
From a measly 4,200 kW of hydro generating capacity, to 85,000 kW of generating power. From 4 hydro power plants to 22 hydro power plants and counting. This would never have been possible if not for Rene’s leadership, guidance and constant motivation to develop and grow.
I saw Rene as the captain of the ship called SS Hedcor sailing against the waves of mediocrity, constantly in pursuit of excellence in everything that we do in Hedcor. It is therefore very safe to say that the reason why Hedcor is where it is today is because of RBR. We in Hedcor are all, and will always be inspired by what RBR has done. RBR worked very and would also party very hard!!!
Just to give you a snippet of how we partied hard with Rene, during our Asin days in Benguet, circa 1985…after a hard day’s work, we would drink and play darts. In our early days in Asin, we have four cases of beer a night as our loneliness allowance. When we play darts, as you lose a game, you will have to bottoms up 1 bottle of beer. Rene holds the record of the most bottoms up in one night. Rene had a record of 13 bottoms up. The morning after the record breaking event, Rene woke up and saw Corlu de los Santos combing his hair (construction manager at that time) and Rene asked Corlu, “Corlu, what are you doing in my room?” And Corlu’s reply was, “Ren….this is my room.”
I will not divulge the other stuff that we did for it will remain a secret that we will forever share.
Through his journey in Hedcor, Rene has created a lot of friends as well as partners in the communities where the  plants are located. Way, way back, Rene always  believed that as we grow as a company, it should be a must that the communities and its people should grow as well. This was RBR…and we hope to continue his passion for a better life for the communities where we are.
On a personal note, Rene has been my mentor, coach and most importantly a friend. Rene taught me the value of Service Above Self. Rene brought me into the Rotary Club of Baguio when he was President. As his community service director, we did a lot of community projects together. The lessons and advice imparted to me by Rene will forever be remembered…
At this juncture, on behalf of the whole Hedcor family, we would like to thank RBR for his leadership, guidance, and constant motivation.
To Belay, Anton, Roberto, and Carlos, thank you very much for sharing Rene with us. We are forever grateful.
Let me read Rene’s text when he replied to me when I greeted him on his 61st birthday last June 14.
“Thnx for the greetings & most specially the prayers Chris. All needed. As you may already know  back in the hospital again. Kapoy na gyud. I too hope to see one more sunset in your place. Hopefully not too long from now.”
Ren,  from where you are right now, you will probably see the best sunsets from now on….
Thank you very much.

RBR with Chris Faelnar (right) and Jovy Batiquin (left), retired AboitizPower Oil Group President & COO, at the Hedcor Christmas Party in 2005.
RBR with Chris Faelnar (right) and Jovy Batiquin (left), retired AboitizPower Oil Group President & COO, at the Hedcor Christmas Party in 2005.

 


 

Gregorio ‘Boy’ Jabonillo
Vice President for Business Development (Retired), Hedcor

 

Back in January 1986 at Asin Tuba, Benguet, I met RBR again since parting ways from Metaphil, Inc. I’ve known him since our colleges days in USC (University of San Carlos). My brief description of him: he was a comprehensive and a very humble man. He will always push you to the best you can. He will always be there to support you and always let you feel that he is always at your back.

All throughout those years, we had many experiences we drunk play darts together, we laughed together, and faced problems together. We have been friends for more more than 31 years and I had many good times and good memories with him that I will cherish forever.

His unquestionable leadership that put Hedcor to where it is now is beyond imagination. The lives of the people and communities he touched will never be forgotten. The trust and confidence that I earned from him that made me strong in performing my duties and responsibilities. 
My whole family will forever treasure the friendship that we had with RBR, and we continue praying for his soul wherever he is right now.
Farewell, my friend.

 DSC_0880


 

Ria Calleja
Vice President Corporate Branding & Communication, AboitizPower

 

Amongst the executives, RBR was one who would be very involved in CSR. He was very passionate about community service. He would ambush me in my room, hunker down and talk about things that matter but not usually discussed — projects, communities, and service. He cared deeply because he understood and was humbled by the privilege of being in a position to change people’s lives. 

 

 

 


 

Atty. Joel Ray Lopez
Former Mayor, Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur

 

It’s not really so meaningful to talk about the development of Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur without associating Hedcor and how it changes the lives of our folks in the upland areas – farmers who can now conveniently transport their products through farm-to-market roads built by the good investor. Neither would it be so meaningful and wonderful to talk about Hedcor without associating its greatest president, towering, handsome, intelligent, articulate, hardworking, and a very gentle person.

 


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The day we think we’re the best and have reached the top will be the day we will start to decline. What has gotten us this far to date has always been, first and foremost, our teamwork. Nevermind who gets the credit. Never mind whose problem it is. We are all in this together as one. Walang iwanan. Walang selosan. We are one Hedcor.

– RBR