A sudden, sustained heavy downpour in Port Area, Manila, where the former offices of The Philippine STAR were located, would mean instant flooding in the area. At the onset of the afternoon rain, the local lines in each section of the STAR would ring one by one. It was Myrna Serdena on the line, executive secretary of STAR president and CEO Miguel G. Belmonte, calling each section with this question: “MGB is asking, how many are you in your section today?” Then she totaled the head count in a jiffy.
In less than an hour, shortly before floodwaters conquered the Port Area, orders upon orders of one-piece or two-piece Jollibee Chicken Joy landed on each section from the first floor to the third floor of the building. They were a gift of love from MGB, who had the foresight that STAR employees would be stranded in the office because of the flooding outside—and they would go hungry because it would be hard if not impossible to order food delivery given the nasty weather.
MGB, the president and CEO of The Philippine STAR, is not just a boss but a compassionate leader whose generosity and genuine concern for his employees extend beyond the office, demonstrating kindness, humility, and a personal touch that goes beyond the professional realm, making him a boss, confidante, and friend all in one.
Such display of tender EQ also proves of the big boss’ kindness and generosity. And that example, repeated twice or thrice yearly, is just one of the many reasons we love MGB. The love we give him is not seen as a sipsip (bootlicking) mode by any STAR Trooper in the office. It is just the way it is when we deal with MGB, whose proclivity for memorizing all the names of the employees—from the janitors and security staff to the EIC and EVP—is keen kindness at its best.
Only if you have space
He is the boss, yes, but MGB does not impose when he gives press releases (a paki or favor asked by friends in the PR industry) to editors. Many times, he will be the one to personally give them to the respective editor, saying with a shy smile, “Only if you have space” or “Kung pwede lang.” Sometimes, he sends the materials to the section editor with a marginal note written in his signature small scribble—with the word “please.”
They say the strongest people are those who have humility in their hearts. In that department, MGB is tops. Like one time, long before Waze was a sit-in resident app on any smartphone, MGB momentarily lounged in the lobby of STAR in deep thought. His face was worried. He was on his way to visit his former driver in a hospital in Bulacan to say goodbye. He didn’t have a driver that day and he was figuring out how to navigate his way to the former employee who became his friend. He made it on time to his former driver’s deathbed.
Outside his former office on the second floor of STAR, employees observed a line (as they sat on a couch) if they wanted to consult with him. And whoever came first in line would be the first one to enter his office. No rank was observed. If it was Pedring, a trusted STAR janitor, to come first for consultation, MGB would attend to his concerns first; never mind if the next in line were STAR VP for operations Tammy Mendoza and EVP Lucien Dy Tioco.
MGB is also a prankster
Like other STAR Troopers, I have a personal relationship with MGB. Many times, I have been privy to his funny side.
One Friday afternoon, I answered the trunk line with a familiar voice on the phone. “Bum, this is ________ (my office crush). Can you follow me to the parking lot? I’ll show you something. Something big.”
My heart leapt out of my chest. I was blushing. My editor Joanne Rae Ramirez could feel my excitement but kept quiet in her corner as she was editing the pages. There was joy and anticipation in my tone. I was really ready to go to the parking lot. Until I heard a restrained snicker on the other end of the line. And the snicker turned into resounding laughter.
“It’s a prank! Happy April Fool’s Day,” said the man on the line said. It was Miguel. He aped the voice of my crush. He got me there.
“Crazy! Crazy! You’re crazy, Miguel!” I told him with a mixture of shame and laughter. His day was made. He made my day.
MGB, my confidante
Where can you find a boss who has a genuine concern for your welfare? MGB took my every consultation time with him seriously.
On Dec. 8, 2004, I started reporting to STAR. MGB even sent me a congratulatory SMS when my first column appeared on Dec. 12, 2004. I have never stopped writing my column since then, even if I availed myself of an early retirement in 2020, during the pandemic. MGB made sure I would still write my column, which now appears every Friday in the Newsmakers section of the STAR.
It was May 26, 2020 when I went to MGB’s office to tell him of my decision to retire after the office made early retirement available to its employees. He said an option for me was to work at the central desk but I pleaded to him that the pandemic made me realize that I had been away from home for far too long—and it was about time I celebrated with my family in Cabuyao, especially with my mother who was advancing in age already. She passed away recently and one of the first to condole was MGB.
A supportive boss
When I won my second CMMA, my Dayrit family threw me a party. MGB and Beautiful Milette (that’s how I call his wife because she’s really beautiful) came to celebrate with my joy. Truth is, MGB is always the first one to congratulate every time a journalist from the STAR wins an award. And he makes sure the story is appreciated all the more on the front page of the paper. In his silence, he emerges prouder than the award recipient.
Once or twice, he requested me to represent him at an event to get his award on his behalf. He would not stop there. He would make sure to give me all the details himself because he was asking a favor. He would even phone Motorpool or the Photo department to make sure I had a way of going to the event if I had no personal driver. He didn’t have to do that, but that’s MGB when he asked for a favor.
One of the awards he would always be happy to talk about yearly with me is the Best Tax Payer award of the Philippine STAR, given by the City of Manila. It means a lot to MGB to give back to the country. It means a lot to him to be honest, to have the dignity to give the government what it is due. After all, nation-building was the pretext for the STAR being born.
‘I can drop you home’
On many Fridays when I would come home late in the place where I stay in Makati, I would get a call from MGB.
“Pards, do you have sundo later? If none, I can drop you home,” he would tell me. We live near each other in Makati.
He would not only drop me home. He would wait for someone to open the gate before he sped off. When I would tell him I would be fine waiting for the gate to open, he would insist to wait until I have entered the house. He wanted to make sure I was home safe and sound.
That’s the MGB I know. Human. Humane.