From: ben_manzano@hotmail.com
To: tatang_up@hotmail.com
Date: Wed, 1 May 2013 20:28:56 -0400

Brod Willy,

Oscar Ofiana, my batch, contemporary, and my best friend now in the Philippines sent me a draft of his memoir which my daughter Lauren typed for me. I asked if I can submit it for publication which he agreed. The memoir is very comprehensive and detailed about his experience as a neophyte. I believe it could be a model for us to reminisce our determination to belong to one of the best university fraternities in U.P. then and now.

I am sending you a copy of the memoir for consideration for publication in our international website. Here is the memoir and pictures.


Bening, your kababayan
Benedicto B. Manzano



*Web note: Brod Ben also has his story ("The Life and Times of a Beta Sigman") in Chapters>Central>Updates>2013 Feb 4




My Life Story
Oscar Ofiana
U.P. Beta Sigma Fraternity
Diliman 1957

     I hail my ancestry to the Ilocos region. My mother, a fair-skinned Ilocano, traced her roots to Tagudin, Ilocos Sur. She told me that maybe there were some traces of Spanish and Chinese blood in her forebears. She was born and raised in Agoo, La Union, like my father. Both came from poor families. Through hard work and perseverance, my father graduated from the Manila South High School (now Araullo High School) at age 27 because his schooling was interrupted by odd jobs he did while studying. He went on to earn a law degree from the Philippine Law School at 32 years of age. He was a national oratorical champion. He would use his oratorical proficiency when he ran for governor of La Union in 1951. Unfortunately, he did not win. My mother earned a degree in education. She fared better in politics than my father. After becoming a councilor for two terms, she became the vice mayor of our town.

     I was born in Manila together with three siblings (one died in infancy). When the Second World War broke out, we moved to Agoo, La Union, where four more siblings were born. I spent 13 years in Agoo for my elementary and secondary education. When the time came for college education, I enrolled at the UP Diliman as two of my siblings were studying there. I remember tuition fee was P107 for the first semester. Today this is barely enough for transportation fare from Para
ñaque to Diliman and back. I enrolled in the College of Engineering as a preparation for entrance to the Philippine Military Academy. I wanted to become a soldier. This ambition was formed in my last years in high school when I saw a town mate and two friends from a neighboring town come home for vacation. They were cadets in the PMA. I was impressed by their good grooming and gentlemanly manners and by the fact that their education was free. And they also received a monthly stipend. I salivated when I saw their pictures in cadet uniforms.

     But to get into the PMA, one had to go through a preliminary physical exam, then a written exam and a final physical exam. I failed to pass the preliminary physical exam due to my sub-standard vision and condition of my denture. It was a big letdown for me. I wrote my mother, “Where do I go from here?”. She wrote back that it was my call and that they would support me through whatever course I took. As I had finished one year in electrical engineering already, I decided to continue with my engineering course. I shifted to chemical engineering after two years in electrical engineering.

     In my 5th semester in college, I joined the Beta Sigma Fraternity. As a “slave” of the fraternity while being initiated, I was made to do things I never thought of doing on my own – like singing along the sidewalk of crowded Avenida Rizal and begging for alms near the Quiapo Church. At first I thought it was dehumanizing, but when I talked with fellow neophytes and some kind “masters” who told me they had been through the same or worse conditions, this strengthened my resolve to go on as a “slave”. Life in the North Men’s Dorm where I stayed was unbearable with “masters” waking you up or interrupting your studies so they could command you to do their whims. Almost always you get slapped, kicked or punched every time you see one or especially a group of “masters”. Due to this condition, I hid in my brother’s boarding house in Malate near the College of Medicine where my brother was enrolled.

     To my misfortune, he had as one of his roommates, a law student of the Ateneo Law School who was a Beta Sigma member. He joined the fraternity when he was studying at the UP. Out of respect for my brother, he did not haze me. But what he did was worse. He brought me to the UP College of Medicine where there were many members of the Beta Sigma and introduced me as their neophyte. Right after the introduction, the medicine men of the Beta Sigma feasted on me with slaps on the face and nape, punches on the stomach and kicks on the legs. There was Marcelo Domingo who made me squat, put my hands on my hips and he jumped with his leather shoes on and landed on my thighs. At the same time his clenched fists landed on both sides of my jaws. I was dragging my feet and spitting blood when I went back to my brother’s boarding house. Out of pity, my brother gave me analgesic to ease the pain. I stayed there for a few more days and then I returned to my dorm. I was caught there by a “master” -- Ismael de Leon Santos. He hit my knuckles repeatedly with a big nail for every syllable of his name that he commanded me to utter. I had to wrap my left hand with a handkerchief to cover the swelling. I got a zero in many of the tests in the subjects I was enrolled in. Approaching girls to get their names and later bringing those roses, at first unnerving, became a welcome respite from the physical hazing. The “finals” finally came and after being hit in various parts of my body with various ways and means, we were blindfolded. When we heard the scream, “Let there be light”, we neophytes took off our blindfolds and became Beta Sigmans there and then for life.

     When I applied for a job at the Unilab (short for United Laboratories Co., Inc.), only Orlando Nicdao, a Beta Sigman was already a medical representative there. He gave me pointers on how to dress for the interview, what questions were asked and how to answer them. With his advice and the insight on the medical representative’s job he gave me, I was one of the seven who was accepted out of 350 applicants. Despite not having any medical background, I finished the training course as number one in our class. Ironically, a member of our class, a 4th year medical student failed to pass the training course.

     Unilab was the biggest pharmaceutical firm in the Philippines then as now. Back in 1962, my year of admission, the company had started its business in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. In about 15 years, Unilab’s share was the largest in Southeast Asia’s pharmaceutical business. It was only in the 90’s when mergers and acquisitions among pharmaceutical companies in Europe and the US that consolidated sales of their Southeast Asian branches overtook Unilab’s sales.

     As a medical rep for three years – two years in Manila and one year in the province – I promoted the products of Biomedics, Inc., one of the manufacturing divisions of Unilab. Some three months in the field, I developed sufficient skills and confidence in talking to physicians and members of allied professions – pharmacists, dentists, nurses, midwives, hospital administrators. After coaching the districts of Quiapo, Sampaloc and San Miguel for two years, I was assigned to the provinces of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, Palawan and Marinduque. I had to hop from island to island to cover my territory. I made twelve flights per month. In one of the towns of Oriental Mindoro, I was introduced to a young teacher, Enfa Gaba, who later became my wife. It was thrilling to be courting someone amidst the hardships of covering a rugged territory.

     My provincial assignment lasted for only one year. In April of 1965, our company offered scholarships through a competitive examination. Three were chosen one to study in the US and two to study in the Philippines are both Beta Sigmans and were both medical reps – Renato Lirio and I. Rene Lirio was my batchmate in the Beta Sigma.

     The school we went to was the Ateneo Graduate School of Business and Economics. The special courses were a full-time course that led to a degree of Master of Business Management in contrast to the part-time course that led to an MBA degree. This special two-year course was under the auspices of big companies like San Miguel, PLDT and Unilab. This was a joint undertaking of the Harvard Business School and the Ateneo Graduate School of Business and Economics. Most of the faculty members were graduates of Harvard Graduate School of Business, the rest from MIT, Wharton and Stanford and the Carnegie Institute of Technology. Seven years from its start in 1964, the school became the Asian Institute of Management (AIM). By design, it was intended to be the AIM, an institution separate from the Ateneo but during its formative years, it needed a campus and administrative staff. Ateneo was ready, willing and able to offer these at that time.

     I found studying again difficult. I had grown rusty and business subjects like accounting, economics and marketing were new to me. Rene Lirio, who finished business administration at the UP, was familiar with the subjects. Like in the Harvard Graduate School, the method used was the case method of study. It was an argumentative type and did not suit me, except the subject of Quantitative Analysis which was an engineering subject. In practically all the subjects except Quantitative Analyses, the ones who talked the loudest and most frequently seemed to have an advantage. Reading assignments in the first year were voluminous. Classes were from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. daily. It was only in our second year when there were no classes on Saturdays so we could attend to the preparation of our master’s thesis. My thesis was about Virginia tobacco farming, a subject I chose because tobacco was the main crop of the Ilocos region and my father was the finance department head of the Philippine Virginia Tobacco Administration. My preparation and defense of my master’s thesis was easy. In April 1967, our batch, the second batch to graduate, finished the course with MBM degrees. About 4 of 5 of our original class did not finish the course.

     While studying I found time in my second year to visit the girl I was courting in Oriental Mindoro. My compensation as a med representative, except for my per diem, continued during my graduate course study and since my schooling expenses were all paid for by Unilab, I had ample funds to go to the province and back by planes – plane fare from Manila to Oriental Mindoro was P15 then, now a jeepney fare for a 5-kilometer ride.

     Re-entry into Unilab was challenging and many times disappointing. Assigned as a methods-and-systems analysis in my first re-entry job, I found out that the expectations of my co-employees were very high. Many of the managers and other key personnel felt threatened and cooperated sparingly. My second job was as a staff assistant in Product Planning in the office of the President. In this position, I worked on projects assigned by the president. I revived and reorganized the Midway Division of Unilab. This used to be a division to carry 8hftfparinternal products of Unilab but this was discontinued due to some quality control considerations. I reorganized it to cater to the dispensing physicians market. I recruited personnel from within Unilab and from the outside. I designed field territories and set sales quotas for there. When the division was organized I turned it over to a marketing manager who would later become the division manager.

     Next, I was assigned to do the marketing analysis for Unilab’s antibiotic project. Unilab wanted to put up an antibiotic plant to make available life-saving antibiotics at a low price. I studied the size and growth of the antibiotic market in the Philippines. My work formed part of the antibiotic project of Unilab submitted to a government think tank group screening vital projects.

     After two years in the office of the president, the Executive Vice President of Unilab requested me to move to a position of product planning manager/product manager of the biggest marketing division of Unilab – the United American Pharmaceutical, Inc. (UAP). At that time product management was just starting to be privatized in Unilab. The general managers of the different divisions of Unilab did not appreciate the value of product management. The general manager of the UAP regarded me and my understudy as a threat to his position. He deemphasized our role in managing the products of the division.

     On one occasion, my understudy and I worked hard and long to prepare a presentation. He did not monitor the preparation. Neither did he ask for a preliminary presentation. In the morning before the afternoon presentation, he wanted to see what we had done. He said that we should revise our presentation to include his ideas. This changed the form and substance of the presentation. We hurriedly did so and painstakingly finished the revision. When we made the presentation, I and my understudy were the laughing stock. Our general manager did not support us when his anachronistic ideas were being laughed at. Deeply hurt by this, I went to our Executive VP and requested transfer to any work unit in the company. My understudy opted to stay in the UAP. A year later, he resigned from Unilab because he could not work with the general manager of the UAP.

     Our Executive VP transferred me to Westmont Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the second biggest marketing division. I told him my unpleasant experience in the UAP and he assured me that he would support me. I fared better in my work in the Westmont Pharm. After two and a half years in this division, I was assigned to the Consumer Product Division (CPI-Myra) as operations manager.

     Together with another operations manager and a general manager, we ran a division with about 120 lady representatives and 20 male field representatives. Our lady representatives were stationed in drugstores and they pushed over the counter the products of Myra as well as the other marketing divisions’ products. The pharmaceutical business in the Philippines is 75% over the counter and 25% prescriptions sales. Thus, our lady representatives contributed substantially to the sales of the CPI-Myra division as well as to Unilab’s other marketing divisions.

     I managed lady representatives of all sorts. There were some who were bright, sexy, industrious and skilled at charming customers in the drugstores. There were some who were sexy and nothing more. This last type, generally, did not last long with the division.

     Five years from the day I entered the CPI-Myra division, I was offered the position of marketing manager of Thailand. I had three young children and one infant at the time. After discussing the matter with my wife and considering the pros and cons, I rejected the offer.

     Instead, I accepted an offer to be with the Distribution Division, a corporate division of Unilab. The divisions – UAP, Westmont, Therapharma, Biomedics, Medichem and LRI (the last two were new divisions) were marketing companies. These did promotions work to generate demand for their products. These did not have a sales force. The selling and management of inventory-related activities were done by the Distribution. This division had 18 sales offices and warehouses in the different regions of the country. It maintained a sales force of 120 salesmen and a marketing services support group of 300.

     I worked my way up in this division handling various jobs. My entry position was one in charge of preparing the budget which gave me a bird’s eye view of the operations. Then I was assigned to an Arca Sales Manager’s position in Manila and then to the Ilocos Region and to the Central Luzon region. After this I was assigned as Sales Director of Mindanao. All the sales and marketing services personnel in Mindanao reported to me. In three years time, my job as head of regional sales was expanded to include practically all the provincial regions (except Bicol and Cagayan Valley) of the country. I was holding them the position of Assistant Vice President of the Distribution Division. From this, I was elevated to the position of Vice-President of the division, which position I held until I retired in December 2000.

     Unilab is the only company I worked for from college graduation to retirement. I grew up with the company. From sales of P22M in 1962 when I entered as a medical representative, the sales grew to P10B in 2000 when I retired. My employment was, by and large, fulfilling. I met my wife in my work, raised five children, all of whom except the youngest are married.

     My eldest child, Dimples, a graduate of Sta. Scholastica College, is a bank manager; my second child Sonny (Oscar Ofiana, Jr.), is a sales director of DMC1 (David M. Consunji, Inc.). DMC1 used to be the biggest construction company in the country. It has diversified into real estate, water distribution and power generation business. David Consunji is a civil engineering graduate of the UP. The third child in the family, April, a UP Los Baños graduate of nutrition, works with Pan Cake House as an operations manager. Pan Cake House is a chain of restaurants. Bryan, my fourth, is into private (printing) business. His wife bakes cakes and pastries. Bryan graduated from Letran and his wife, Kit from La Salle. My youngest and still a bachelor, Reginald, graduated from La Salle and works for the non-voice department of a call center company, SPI Global, a subsidiary of the PLDT.

     Sonny has a 1 ½ -year-old son, April has a 14-year-old son, and Bryan has two kids, a girl (7 years old) and a boy (4 years old). My eldest, Dimples, does not have a child yet. Almost every Sunday, all of them come to the house. With the food that they bring and the food that we prepare at home, we have a scrumptious lunch or supper. My wife and I and my children enjoy the sight of my grandchildren romping around or “resting” or dancing when I play the harmonica. It is blessing enough to have five children and four grandchildren. All my children are all in the Philippines – all residing in Parañaque – and only Bryan has a plan to go to Australia. The proximity of our residences makes it easy for us to get together regularly every week. This get-together adds light and joy to our twilight years.

     At my age, 74 last December 22, I consider my life well-loved. My wife and I thank Him daily for the blessings He has given us – especially her miraculous survival of kidney cancer that metastasized to her lungs and brain. This year will be the 6th year when her left kidney was removed and the 5th year after the metastases were detected and initially treated. Many of the CA patients we saw in our oncologist’s clinic have since died.

     The problems I face now are mostly those that old age brings – osteoarthritis, hypertension, elevated levels of cholesterol, nerve pains, chest pains, asthma, fast heartbeat and dimming vision. I face and accept all these with the understanding that that is where everybody is going and the only difference is in the time when these ailments occur. Amidst these problems, I consider myself blessed again. For as a retiree of Unilab, I am insured for life for P300, 000 per ailment. I get four brands of my maintenance medicines free from Unilab and up to P2,500. I can purchase Unilab products at employee price (about 35% to 40% lower than the prices in drugstores). Like a Unilab employee, I receive my Christmas basket before Christmas and a gift-check bonus during the first quarter of every year. I can also request medical assistance for diagnostic procedures done on me but not covered by our health insurance.

     That’s why every chance I have to get together with other retirees of Unilab, I do so. By the way, in a birthday party celebration for retirees with birthdays in the second semester of 2012 (sponsored by the Unilab Foundation) I talked to Arnulfo Balanga from Santa, Ilocos Sur. He knows the Manzanos from Mabilbila. He graduated from the Ilocos Sur High School, Class of 1952 – batch mate of Nellie Favies.

     I am sharing with you my life story in confidence but you can share it with Brod Franklin Rosario and other close brods. I hope that this letter will reach you in the best of health.

     Regards to all in your family and may God bless you all.

Your Brod,
Oscar    Sunday, May 01, 2013



                My Family: Oscar Ofiana, B. S. Chemical Engineering, University of the Philippines 1960

                                  UP Beta Sigma Fraternity 1956

My Children: Reginald, Oscar Jr., Bryan, Dimples, Oscar, Enfa, April.


The Whole Family - February 2013

                     Top row:      Bryan and his son Kalel; Patricia, Oscar Jr., & their son Carlos Edgardo.

                     Middle row:  Ramon Dacio & his wife Dimples; Me, Enfa, Kit (wife of Bryan).

                     Bottom row: Ari, husband of April, Adrian (son of Aris & April), April; Kalel (daughter of Bryan), Reginald.


My Grandchildren: Adrian, Kalea, Kalel, Carlos Edgardo.



Oscar Ofiana & his Fraternity Brod Ben Manzano

Oscar & Enfa Ofiana.   6.12.2004


Oscar, Enfa, Ben Manzano.   6.12.2004


                   Top row:      Gryselle Manzano (wife of Ben Manzano) and child Charlize, unnamed sitter and Marc Manzano.

                   Bottom row: Oscar & Enfa.  6.12.2004


Oscar, Enfa, Gryselle & child Charlize, unnamed sitter, Marc Manzano.  6.12.2004




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