My five cents’ worth
DECEMBER is the month of Christmas and for me, at this age, Christmas is the best time to make kids happy and so many years, so many pounds, and so many black hair ago, there was this animated Christmas display that kids from all walks of life gravitated to every Christmas season.
I have always been open about the fact that my working career started in 1975 as a 20-year-old college undergraduate when I first worked at the Manila COD Department Store as a salesclerk at the men’s department in Cubao, Quezon City, and stayed for more than two years until I transferred to the Martel Group of Companies.
And this animated display was at Manila COD, it was a brainchild of Alejandro Rosario, Sir Alex to the employees, same for me until I got married in 1983 and he was one of the “ninongs”, and it was Ninong Alex from thereon, the staff in my section referred to him too as 5-star, being the highest ranked company officer, he was the president.
I look at myself as fortunate that even for that short period, I worked at Manila COD, there I learned how to inter-act with people, took away my inhibitions too as I was forced to talk to people because it was my job, otherwise, how could I convince them to buy our merchandise, little did I know that this experience would also help me as I shifted to a corporate career, starting as a Personnel Clerk at Marsteel Consolidated, later on with Victoria Court whose owner Archie King was a nephew of Ninong Alex.
But more than leaning and developing some skills, I am fortunate that I had a chance to meet Ninong Alex, and even as I was down there in the totem pole of ranks at the store, I got to know him on a personal level, and he got to know me, a big honor that I take pride in, in fact if I did not leave the store in 1977, I could have been a section head and eventually a department head there in the future, something that my ninong confirmed later when I used to see him even when I was already working somewhere else.
He used to walk around the store, checking both the merchandise on display but he also took time to talk to us salesclerks, we were all intimidated by him but I believe he was the most respected and loved by the staff, I remember the time when we used to be open up to almost 12 midnight going into the last few days before Christmas.
It was December 24 of 1976 that closing time was announced and it was around 11:30 p.m. already and I knew that I would not reach our house in Paco in time for our small family noche buena, but as we were walking down the stairs o the way to the exit, there he was Ninong Alex , waiting to shake hands and greeting each and every one of us Merry Christmas, and saying thank you too that we stayed late at the store.
And for someone that young, it was an unforgettable experience for me that some one like him would do that to someone like me, a mere sales clerk in their family-owned store.
So when I quit my job there, there would be times I would visit the store at night and Ninong Alex would find time for me at his office even for a few minutes talk, we even used to meet at Century Park Hotel where a former COD and Sheraton employee whom I was able to get employed at the hotel, met a hotel guest and eventually married him and moved to Germany. When she comes home to Manila, we would call Ninong Alex and Ma’am Flor and set up dinner at Sheraton where we would reminisce about our COD days.
As the years passed, there were fewer occasions that I would be able to see my Ninong Alex but since his son Olympic swimmer Ral Rosario became a good friend, after all I was and still am a sportswriter and I used to write about him in various sports magazines, and that made my Ninong Alex happy and proud, I still knew how he was doing.
I was even able to attend a birthday party for him at his residence a few years ago, it was reunion of former COD employees and I went there staright from Mt. Banahaw where I had a leadership workshop for my Y-JAM group, and there were a lot of us there, former COD employees from everywhere to greet my ninong that night, just to show how popular and respected he was among his former employees.
That is why I am happy that just a few months ago, I was able to visit my ninong, then bed-ridden already but still very alert and could remember a lot of details about how he started the store with his brothers and sisters and his brainchild, the animated display and how even as Manila COD closed down for good in 2002, Greenhills Shopping Center engaged him to continue the display, this time in Greenhills.
Ninong Alex shared with me that afternoon not just his joys but also his sadness about things in life and I could only tell him that with the kind of life he has had, with what he has achieved, not to mention the millions of kids he made happy every Christmas with his animated display, he should dwell on those and be happy.
For more than two hours, I stayed at his bedside, listening to him and again, looking back at the days when I was working at COD and I felt proud that he complimented in what I have done with my life, hearing that from someone you have very high respect for, how else could I feel.
But now my Ninong Alex is gone and has joined his Creator, and this is the reason why I wrote this piece as my personal tribute to someone special in my life and has made a positive impact in my life. I will pay my last respect to him tonight, Wednesday at Mt. Carmel and I am sure, there would be again his former employees from COD, doing the same thing.
Maybe, just maybe, unconsciously, my ninong influenced me in what I have been doing now for the past years, making poor kids happy every Christmas to the extent of my capability with simple gift giving in various places, and next time, I will share my recent gift giving in Mt. Banahaw and in Nueva Ecija, not to announce to the world I do this but to encourage others to do their share of sharing their blessings with the less fortunate in life, my Ninong Alex, did that on a personal level for he shared that with me too.
To my Ninong Alex, this one is for you, Merry Christmas and I am sure you will still be watching your animated Christmas displays this year and the years to come, happy that little kids are happy just to be able to watch the show.
By the way, my congratulations to the Foton team for its back to back victories in the Philippine Super Liga, defending and retaining their title last Sunday. Unfortunately for me, I was in Mt. Banahaw last weekend for my annual gift giving and I missed the finals.