Sunday, April 03, 2005

Pope John Paul II and ICT

"This world is not capable of making man happy."
- Pope John Paul II, 1920-2005

Much has been, and will continue to be, written about the great sanctity and holiness of Pope John Paul II's life and papacy. I'm quite sure that none of those writings will answer the question, "Did the Holy Father ever use a computer?"

The answer is yes! My sister, Anali Mapa-Drilon was right beside him when he used a Macintosh. The year was 1996. The place was the Vatican. The event was the unveiling of the first-ever CD* on the papacy of Pope John Paul II. Below, in her own words, is my sister's description of how it happened. Her memories were triggered when she saw, on CNN, the Pope's private chapel in the Vatican.

"We walked through that chapel to get to his study. Together with Cardinal Sin and Fr. Aris, we walked through what seemed like miles of corridors, layers of guards, dozens of closed doors. When we got to the study, I kissed his hand, then presented to him the picture where he was kissing Cheri (our youngest sister).

We then walked over to the Macintosh, accompanied by many other cardinals and priests. This was the first-ever CD on his papacy, so it was a big thing at the Vatican. He had such huge hands, almost as big as a baseball glove. I remember that my hands were like an infant's beside his.

It was over all too soon. Before we left, he gave us his blessing, and he told us to "Keep doing good things". I remember right after we left the study, I cried and cried, I was so touched by what had happened." See this story on MSNBC!

*NOTE: The CD was entitled "Mabuhay ang Papa". It was a multimedia compilation of the Holy Father's 1995 commemoration of the World Youth Day in Manila. It was the first commercial CD produced in the Philippines, and was created using Macromind Director.

Pahabol: The photos below were taken in May, 1980 at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican. My mother and father had saved enough to take our family on a world tour, including a 2-week stay in Italy to attend the Genfest of the Focolare Movement. While in Rome, we attended the Holy Father's birthday celebration. We were blessed to find ourselves right beside the path which the Popemobile would take. When he stopped in front of us, his escorts first lifted my sister Anali, then my sister Mitzi up to him for a blessing. Finally they lifted up my sister Cheri.

To the cheers of the crowd, the Holy Father took Cheri into his arms, kissed her on both cheeks, and whispered something into her ear. Upon returning to the hotel, we asked Cheri, who was all of 2 years old at the time, what the Pontiff had told her. "Be a good girl", she echoed. My sister must have taken the advice to heart; she is pursuing a religious vocation, and is close to completing her studies at the Focolare formation center in Fribourg, Switzerland.

Friday, April 01, 2005

ZamboEcozone and Freeport

It was 6:00 p.m. Thursday evening when I got the text message from Secr. Peña, "Pls call me urgent." Now it should be obvious that when you get a message like that from your boss, you don't call him right away. You first need to find out what on earth is so urgent! :-)

So I called his executive assistant, and I found out that CICT was being asked to attend an Ecozone Board Meeting in Zamboanga City the next day, a meeting which was to be presided over by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. I checked my calendar, decided that the 3 meetings on my agenda could easily be rescheduled, and only then did I call my boss. "Yes sir, no problem, I'm off to Zamboanga tomorrow!"

I got up at 3:00 a.m. to meet Director Wally Rodil of CICT's TelOf at the NAIA to pick up our tickets. We landed at the Zamboanga International Airport around 7:00 a.m. That's him below in the white shirt, walking towards the terminal building.

After breakfast, we proceeded to the 65-hectare Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone and Freeport , which was properly decked out for the occasion. The ecozone was created in 1995 under the sponsorship of Rep. Clara L. Lobregat and then-Senator Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. There is already one IT company located in the ecozone, OMED Corporation, a Japanese-funded SW development company run by 2 engineers from India, and staffed by over 20 local software engineers.

The ecozone has miles of beaches in front and 15,000 hectares of forest highland in the back. There are plans to build residential dormitories for the call center workers envisioned to be operating here in the next few years. Can you imagine it? If you were an agent working here, you could go to work, then afterwards hit the beach or trek in the forest, and get back home in time for dinner!

PGMA arrived by chopper around 10:00 a.m., from the SouthCom base where she had stayed the previous night. We immediately got down to business with a powerpoint presentation by Norjamin Gallardo-Delos Reyes, planning manager of the ecozone. PGMA presided over the meeting of the ecozone board, and it was clear that she had specific objectives for the meeting, specifically how enhance the ecozone's role in the Philippine Cyberservices Corridor.

Rick Santos, president of AMCHAM Philippines and MD of CBRE Philippines praised the human capital potential of the area, then summarized the three concerns of locators: power supply, telecomms infrastructure, and peace & order. Rick, whose father hails from Zamboanga City, and whose mother is an American, promised to assist in preparing a report on the ecozone, which could be used in enticing locators to consider the area for their operations.

The CICT was asked to outline its plans to attract additional cyberservices companies to the ecozone, and we responded by presenting the plans for telecomm infrastructure buildup in the region. We recommended inviting the members of BPAP to visit the area. Finally, we recommended exploring joint ventures with Pakistan call centers serving Middle East countries. These JVs could be initiated as a result of the upcoming state visit of the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

After the board meeting, we had an interaction session with the press. For me this was a chance to chat with Vice-Mayor Maria Isabelle G. Climaco, whose passion is making ICT safe for children. Her website is I also had a chance to renew ties with Fr. Bill Kreutz, president of the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, a source of excellent human capital for future cyberservices locators.

Just as PGMA was about to leave, she was presented with a birthday surprise by Georgina P. Yu, Chairman and Administrator of the ZamboEcozone, and Celso L. Lobregat, Mayor of Zamboanga City. PGMA's birthday is on April 5.

Before returning to Manila, I took the opportunity to visit with CICT's stalwarts in Zamboanga City, NCC Director of Regional Operations Tess Camba, and Telof Region IX Director Mito-on Ibra. I briefed them on what had happened, and both expressed a strong hope that Arabic call-handling employment opportunities for our Muslim brothers would have a beneficial effect on the peace & order situation in the area.

My plane landed in Manila at 7:30 p.m. My wife picked me up and we rushed to the OMI Retreat House in Tandang Sora, Quezon City, where we delivered a talk at the Discovery Weekend for engaged couples. Finally, at 11:00 p.m., I got home and ended the 20-hour day which had started at 3:00 a.m.

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