In Memoriam

March 02, 2020

On March 6th, this Friday is the death anniversary of our late father, Tomas B. Morató.

I was in school in the United States when it happened, taking up my Master’s degree in Economics. I graduated in 1957.

In 1964, September, I enrolled again in the University where I graduated. This time, I was not a boarder in the university which I was before for four whole years where I acquired my bachelor’s degree in Economics.

The apartment I stayed in was in downtown Los Angeles, and something unusual that evening happened while I was writing my father a letter.  

My desk faced the main entrance of my apartment. It was Friday evening, March 5, 1965 in Los Angeles, sixteen hours behind and March 6 in Manila. My father loved to cook a few Spanish dishes and Teflon pans had just come out of the market in the United States. I planned to mail it to him the following day, Saturday, for I had no classes on a Saturday and I had planned to airmail the package for my father. I put the package by the door of my apartment to remind me to go to the Post Office the following day, Saturday.

While I was writing to my father explaining about the Teflon that he could use without oil, my desk was facing the main door and on the floor the package I was supposed to airmail the following day.

A strange thing happened. At about 10 p.m. as I was writing the letter to my father, the main door knob kept turning, clicking as if somebody wanted to enter. Three times it sounded like the key was being opened and the door knob was turning. I stared at the door and said: Come in, come in. It continued and then it stopped. I was truly scared. I called my Jesuit priest professor at Loyola University and told him: Father, something strange happened tonight. I related to him what had happened. My Jesuit priest professor told me: “My son, go to bed, turn on the television,” which I followed.  

The following day in the morning I called the priest-professor of mine and I told him: Father, something happened last night. I received a telegram from my sister in Manila that my father passed away. I knew that the incident last night meant something. My Jesuit priest-professor at Loyola told me: I know my son, but I did not want to tell you for you might even be scared. He told me, “the spirit of the dead can travel fast. Your father was saying goodbye. Go back to Manila and be with your family.”

I immediately left Los Angeles by plane and I took a PAL plane to Manila from San Francisco. On that flight, I sat beside Don Andres Soriano who owned PAL. He told me: “Manoling, I’ll neve forget your father, Don Tomas, because if not for him, I would have not been able to put up businesses in the Philippines. Your father helped me get my Filipino citizenship through Presidential Decree from President Quezon.”

My father also told me about that. He said that “he never asked President Quezon for any favor, except this one for Andres.” That’s how Don Andres Soriano started his businesses in the Philippines.

When I was the PCSO Chairman in 1994, I met with Andy Soriano, the son, about a recommendee of his to the PCSO. Over lunch in a restaurant in Makati, he told me that he indeed recommended to President Ramos somebody to the PCSO. I told Andy, I already told President Ramos that your recommendee was not a good person and President Ramos told me to fire him. I did. In fairness to Andy Soriano, he thanked me for getting rid of that person. I guess he did not know the person that well.

Among the lessons I learned from my father after graduating from Loyola University of Los Angeles with a bachelor’s degree on Economics was very meaningful to this day for me.

My father owned the Philippine Plywood Corporation and Sta. Cecilia Sawmills, Inc. He was a lumberman.

When I joined the company as vice president, we encountered business reverses in the 1950s. There was a slowdown on our plywood exports to the U.S. and the plywood piled up all over the compound of our plant in Tagkawayan, Quezon Province. I suggested to my father to cut down on the 3-shifts the plant was running. I thought maybe we could reduce to one shift until the market improved.

This is what he told me: “Hijo, how can eight hundred employees earn a living and feed their families if we cut down work to one shift? Money can be earned back, but can you bring them life if they die of hunger?”

From that day on, I threw everything I learned in school out of the window for what my father said was true. Life is more valuable than money. Concern towards our fellowmen should always be our concern.

Papa, may God keep you in His keeping forever. You are in heaven because of your kind heart for the less fortunate in our midst.

May God reward you with Mama beside you through all eternity. Amen.  

For comments and suggestions email at mlmorato@yahoo.com