PAL board appoints veteran in BPO management and corporate turnarounds as president and COO

File Photo

By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo

PIONEERING flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) has a new chief pilot on the seat.

PAL made the formal announcement of its new leader at 3 pm, saying the 15-man PAL Board had “unanimously approved” the choice of Gilbert Santa Maria, a “handpicked nominee of PAL Chairman and CEO Dr. Lucio C. Tan,”
as president and chief operating officer.

Earlier, two separate sources on the PAL board of directors confirmed that Santa Maria, a veteran in establishing and managing business process outsource (BPOs) companies, is the new president and chief operating officer of the airline.

“[He starts work] today,” said one source who requested not to be identified as he was not authorized to speak on the matter. Another source, who requested anonymity, said “there were other candidates [but Santa Maria seems] more experienced in management. He came highly recommended. And he looks more confident.”

Both sources declined to say who were, and how many other candidates were considered by the board. But one source underscored, “it’s a 10-man Corporate Governance Committee [who went over the candidates’ qualifications], to ensure maximum compliance.”

Other sources also averred that Santa Maria was recommended by a headhunter with a note on his massive “corporate turnaround experiences from PepsiCo [which he used to manage in the Philippines], and other companies. He also has extensive experience in corporate communications/marketing.”

Prior to joining PAL, Santa Maria was in the information technology and services industry, having been COO of the US-based Ibex Global Solutions, and was also responsible for driving business of eTelecare, both BPOs.


The board of directors of Philippine Airlines (PAL) today (July 29, 2019) confirmed the appointment of Gilbert F. Santa Maria as the flag carrier’s new President and Chief Operating Officer.

The 15-man PAL board, in its regular meeting at the Century Park Hotel – Manila unanimously approved Santa Maria, a handpicked nominee of PAL Chairman and CEO Dr. Lucio C. Tan.

In a brief message, Dr. Tan enjoined the PAL team to support Santa Maria as he embarks on his new role as president and COO.

“I call on all PAL executives and staff to support Gilbert Santa Maria. Let’s work together and help him face PAL’s many challenges,” the taipan said.

For his part, Santa Maria said he considers it a privilege to serve the country’s flag carrier. He urged his fellow PAL workers to help him achieve Dr. Tan’s vision of making Philippine Airlines the airline of choice across all markets it serves.

“PAL is the airline that meets the needs of local and global travelers by showcasing our brand’s main strength — the passion for safety and service. Maintaining the current level of service is important and of course, profitability. Let us do our share to make PAL reach greater heights. I will be with you every step of the way,” he added.

PAL EVP and Chief Administrative Officer Vivienne K. Tan said, “It is important for my father’s vision to be translated into PAL providing consistent quality service to our customers and also, the flag carrier serving as a means to contribute to nation-building. With this new leadership, we will accomplish this further.” 

The new airline President has three decades of executive management and leadership experience gained across multiple industries in companies around the world.

For the last 15 years, he was a key leader and contributor in the Philippines’ highly successful BPO industry. Until early 2018 he was COO of Washington, DC-based BPO company Ibex Global and was responsible for its 18,000 employees around the World.  Before IBEX, he was COO and CFO of IQ BackOffice, a California-based Finance & Accounting outsourcer that was an investee company of LiveIt Investments, Ayala Corporation’s BPO holding company.

He supported the governance of LiveIt’s investee companies as a member of the boards of IQ BackOffice; Integreon, a London-based KPO; and Stream, a leading Massachusetts-based global Call Center company. Before this, he led Corporate Development for Stream, having joined its leadership after its 2009 merger with Arizona-based eTelecare Global Solutions, where he led Corporate Development and eTelecare’s 11,000-employee Philippine Operations through the integration of the two companies. He joined the startup eTelecare in 2004.

Prior to joining the BPO industry, Santa Maria helped lead a Singapore-based internet 1.0 startup called He was Executive Director of Argosy Partners, which was organized by Filipino business leaders in the wake of the Asian Currency Crisis in 1998 to be the Philippine affiliate of global Private Equity funds like Warburg Pincus, Chase Capital and GE Investments. He was one of the youngest General Managers of Pepsi Cola Products Philippines’ Manila Operations.

He was also a management consultant at Booz Allen & Hamilton in New York where he led various strategy and operations consulting engagements for global clients like P&G, J&J, BOC of the UK and BHP of Australia. He started his career as a management trainee in production and engineering at Unilever in Manila.

Santa Maria is leaving his Los Angeles-based advisory firm to join Philippine Airlines in Manila. He has a Master’s in Public and Private Management from the Yale University School of Management and a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of the Philippines in Diliman. He was born and raised in Mindanao.

With a report from Lorenz S. Marasigan

Image Credits: Nonie Reyes


Recto conferred UAP highest architecture award

Noted architect Philip H. Recto (BS Arch ’70) was conferred the Likha Gold Medal Award by the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) last April 11, 2019. This is the highest UAP architecture award and is given to illustrious architects in recognition of their impeccable moral character, highest standard of professional and ethical conduct, excellence and prestige in the practice of the architectural profession, and distinguished contribution and service to the UAP, the community, government and country. As of 2019 only 14 architects have been conferred this prestigious award out of more than 44,000 Filipino architects.

Arch. Philip H. Recto

Previously, Arch. Recto was also bestowed the 20008 PFPA Professional Excellence Award by the Philippine Federation of professional Associations which is affiliated with the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC). He was chosen from among nominees of 43 professional organizations representing more than one million registered professionals in the country. Earlier, he was presented the 1998 Outstanding Architect of the Year Award by the PRC and 1999 “Araw ng Maynila” Mayor’s Award of Honor for Art and Culture.

Arch. Recto was also bestowed the 2012 UPAA Distinguished Alumni Award in the field of Architecture and the 1999 UPAA Professional Award in Architecture. In 2000, the Philip H. Recto Design Excellence Award was established at the UP College of Architecture in order to recognize outstanding thesis. To date, it has 176 awardees, 33 of whom were facilitated to undergo a 2-year post baccalaureate training at prestigious architectural firms in Singapore, Hongkong and Shenzhen, China.

At present, he is the Principal of Philip H. Recto Architects, responsible for many landmark buildings in the country such as the 61-story Corporate Finance Plaza and the 54-story One Corporate Centre in Ortigas Center, the One San Miguel Avenue office building and The Avantgarde Residence in Ortigas Center, the 20-story De La Salle University-Br. Andrew Gonzales Hall in Manila, St. Paul College in Pasig, the Manuel M. Lopez Development Center (now known as First Pacific Leadership Academy) in Antipolo City, the PNOC head office bldg.. in BGC and many others.

Arch. Recto is also the board member of The Museum at De La Salle University-Manila since 2006.

Source: Philip H. Recto Architects

Pic source:—-arch._philip_h._recto.jpg

Japan Confers Decoration on Ambassador Delia Domingo Albert

The Government of Japan announced on May 21, 2019 the conferment of The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star on Ambassador Delia Domingo Albert, former foreign secretary, in recognition of her contribution to strengthening the economic relations between Japan and the Philippines.

Ambassador Delia Domingo Albert

When she was foreign secretary in 2003 to 2004, she took an initiative of the negotiation of Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), which later greatly contributed to the enhancement of the economic relationship between the Philippines and Japan, especially in the area of people exchange.

She also contributed to the promotion of inviting Japanese private sectors in the Philippines in mining industry when she served as Presidential Advisor for Multilateral Cooperation and Development in 2004 to 2005.

Furthermore, as a senior advisor of Sycip Gorres Velayo & Co., she has being supporting the Japanese companies in the Philippines in a various ways.

The government of Japan extends its sincere congratulations to Ambassador Albert, and hopes that he will continue to take an active role in further strengthening the close relations between our two nations.


Karla Bautista-Siao: From beauty queen to lawyer

Cebu City, Philippines—When she was a kid, Cebuana beauty queen Karla Bautista-Siao dreamt of becoming a lawyer.

Karla Bautista-Siao: From beauty queen to lawyer. | contributed photos

“I am fascinated about law and I wanted to be the voice for the voiceless,” she told Cebu Daily News Digital.

Twenty-six years later, that childhood dream came true.

Last May 3, 2019, Karla’s name came out as among the 1,800 examinees who passed the recent Bar Examination.

The 1,800 examinees are equivalent to 22.07 percent of the 8,158 examinees who took the examination which was done in four Sundays in November 2018.

The big day 

According to the  34-year-old beauty-queen-turned-lawyer, she already saw signs that she would pass the Bar Examination.

She shared that prior to the release of the results,  she saw Mama Mary in her dreams last April 28, Sunday. 

The second sign came a day before the results were released, when her her 7-year-old daughter handed her a plastic rose. Siao believed that the rose was a symbol of intercession from Saint Padre Pio and Saint Therese of the Child Jesus.

“That (rose) was an assurance na dili ko mag doubt (the results of the examination),” she added.

(That rose was an assurance for me not to doubt the results of the examinations.)

Siao learned that she became a lawyer while she accompanied her 7 seven-year-old daughter for an ear check-up in a clinic.

She received a photo from her friend which was sent via Messenger. She had no idea that it was a screenshot of the results. 

Dili pa mo load ang photo (The photo did not load). After my friend congratulated me, I assumed that I passed the examination,” she said. 

It did not sink in first that she passed the Bar Examination since she had to focus on her daughter at the clinic.

Everything sinked in when she went back home after her daughter’s check-up. 

The journey to her dream 

It took Siao seven years to finish Mass Communication at the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu since she had to stop going to school twice. 

First, when she lost her mother in 2002 and second when she fulfilled her dream to become a beauty queen and was crowned Miss Cebu in 2003.

Siao had to join Miss Cebu 2003 since she also wanted to fulfill her mother’s dream to become a beauty queen. 

She then joined Binibining Pilipinas 2004 and became the country’s official representative in Miss World 2004 in Sanya, China. 

Before competing for Miss World 2004, she underwent surgery because of an ovarian cyst. 

Siao brought pride to the country after finishing Top 5 and earned the title Miss World 2004 Queen of Asia and Oceana.

After that, she continued to pursue her dream to become a lawyer.

“The dream was still there to become a lawyer,” Siao said after the height of her pageant career. 

She earned her degree in Mass Communication in 2008 and later on worked as a flight attendant in an international airline. 

It was part of the plan to work since she had to help her family and at the same time a chance for her to save up for Law School.

In 2011 or three years after working as a flight attendant, she went back to Cebu and married Merrick Siao.

The couple is blessed with two daughters, aged 7 and 3 years old. Currently, she is six months pregnant to a baby boy. 

After marriage, she helped her husband, Merrick, run a spa business in Cebu. 

In 2013, she continued her childhood dream and enrolled for Law School at the University of San Carlos (USC) and graduated in 2018.

Law school was not an easy journey for her. 

She had to undergo a major operation on her first year because of adhesion of intestine. In 2014, her father passed away. 

The law school also had to wait on her third year when she got pregnant and underwent another surgery for adhesion during the cesarean delivery of her second child.

Siao started reviewing for the Bar around August 2018. She had to balance her time between reviewing in Manila and coming back to Cebu to attend to her daughters. 

Women with substance

After passing the Bar Examination, Siao wants to practice being a lawyer.

“I want to find an opportunity where I can expand public service,” she said.

Siao was not the only beauty queen who passed the recent Bar Examination.

Patricia Magtanong, one of the Binibining Pilipinas 2019 candidates, also made it as part of the 22.07 percent passing population. 

Siao said that there is now a paradigm shift to beauty queens.

“Not just their physical looks but people are now looking to beauty queens as women with substance,” she said. 

Siao advised the beauty queens to pursue their advocacy.

“It has become a challenge. Beauty queens should not just have pretty faces but also serve their purpose,” she said. /bmjo