Your Character is your Destiny

The Commencement Speech of BAVI President Ronald Mascariñas at UP Los Baños

On 7 August 2021, Bounty Agro Ventures, Inc. (BAVI) President Ronald Mascariñas shared his inspiring story in his Commencement Address to the graduating class of the University of the Philippines Los Baños. Mr Mascariñas is an alumnus of the University, which he credits to have formed his Puso Para sa Pinas, a character trait he now challenges graduates to cultivate.

Members of the Board of Regents, headed by Chairman Prospero de Vera III, UP President Danilo Concepcion, UP Los Baños Chancellor Dr. Jose Camacho, Vice Chancellors, Deans, Faculty and staff, mga ginagalang naming mga magulang, mga minamahal kong Isko at Iska ng Bayan, a bountiful day to all of you.

I am truly grateful and it is my greatest honor to speak before you today. I never imagined that one day I will be on stage of this great institution of higher learning. Kagaya ng karamihan sa inyo, gumapang din ako sa hirap bago nakapagtapos. At kagaya din ng ilan sa inyo, nagkaroon din ako ng hindi makakalimutang love life dito sa UPLB. Saksi ang makasaysayang mga gusali at naglalakihang mga puno dito sa campus sa aking pang-“Maalaala Mo Kayang” pag-ibig. Kaya lamang, hindi mapalad na maging forever.

My dear graduates, I speak to you in interesting times.

This is actually an old Chinese curse. To wish someone to live in “interesting times” is to invoke the visitation of war, famine and plagues on people’s lives.

We are in the midst of a pandemic that has claimed and maimed millions of lives and destroyed livelihoods as many–circumstances that indeed fall under interesting times.

I found that more important than spotting and seizing great opportunities, is actually keeping hope alive and sustaining it through perseverance.

But there is also the often-discussed character in the Chinese lexicon that stands for crisis. It also means opportunity. They are one and the same. In other words, there is hope. After all, the story of mankind has always been a story of survival and progress. There is always hope, and history shall not end with the generation alive today.

This is what I want to emphasize to you, today – hope and perseverance. I speak only from experience. After all, it is really the only thing worth sharing. You see, it was every major debacle in my life that guided me to success. I found that more important than spotting and seizing great opportunities, is actually keeping hope alive and sustaining it through perseverance. Let me share with you my story.


I came from a family of five children. We lost our father when I was eight. For years after his death, life was dark and desolate for all of us. We lost our main breadwinner, and guide. Suddenly, we all had to live off my mother’s salary as a schoolteacher. It was wrenching, not just economically, but in all aspects of life. We had to work through such a sudden change of fortune.

My mother was a strong woman. With five kids to take care of, she had to be. She started to supplement her income selling rice and printing shirts, among others. She had no prior experience in business, she learned as she went along–a valuable lesson for me later.

For my mother, there was only one important thing that she sat out to accomplish – get all of us a good education. So, when I passed the UPCAT as a COCOFED scholar in UPLB, she was not happy, she was very happy, at siyempre ako rin, pero hindi masyado. Agriculture was not my original choice, but it was required by the scholarship grant, and it was my only ticket to UP. So, I went on, and later, was glad for it. It was my first major blessing.


At UPLB, I also took a part-time job as student assistant to help support myself. I did all sorts of stuff–naging janitor ako, all-around utusan, habang tinatapos ko ang aking pagaaral. That was my next major blessing, because one day, Purefoods came along looking for a manager for their new poultry venture. The professors in the Department of Animal Science where I worked recommended iyong magaling kung kaklase. But Purefoods chose iyong pinakamagaling — to-its.

But there was a big problem. It was a senior position, and I had absolutely no experience for the job. Gets kaagad ng HR and rejected me. Taking a leaf from my own mother’s courageous example, I forcefully argued I was ready. A difficult life has made me strong. Humaba ang interview at palagay ko, napagod ko yung HR. Dogged persistence won the day. I was hired.


At Purefoods poultry, I worked hard and asked nothing from those under me that I wasn’t willing to do myself. And that included unloading truck loads of feeds when no one was available. Although I was demanding, I took care of my people sampo ng mga pamilya nila. I rose to become the youngest Senior Vice President, just a rank below the President, doing a job I have come to love and know so well. I was elected President of the industry association of broiler integrators. I felt on top of the world. Pero sa isang iglap, ang aking mundo ay gumuho. Nabili ng San Miguel ang pinaglilingkuran kong Purefoods.

Sariwa pa sa aking alaala ang mapait na mga pangyayari sa mga panahon na ‘yon. When San Miguel reorganized the business, marami sa aking mga kasamahan ang nawalan ng trabaho due to redundancy. A lifetime of security went down the drain and many did not know what to do. Paano na ang pag-aaral ng kanilang mga anak? Paano na ang hinuhulugan nilang mga bahay? May kabuhayan pa kaya silang matatagpuan? I was offered a position by the new owners, but I would no longer be in control. My over-riding concern at that time was to protect the livelihood of my people.

Given another chance, ang mga gabi ay ginawa naming araw para masigurado na kami ay maging matagumpay sa aming panibagong kabuhayan.

I left San Miguel-Purefoods and considered my options. Among several, I took on the generous offer of financial backing and a free hand by the Cheng family. They wanted me to build a company and run it the way I ran Purefoods. I started BAVI with my people who lost their jobs from San Miguel-Purefoods.

This debacle turned out to be my biggest break.

Leading my own company, me and my team were consumed by work. Given another chance, ang mga gabi ay ginawa naming araw para masigurado na kami ay maging matagumpay sa aming panibagong kabuhayan.

I was always on the road, building the business. I hardly saw my family. My wife, like my mother before her, gamely took on the job of raising our kids and holding our family together.

Among the successes I earned in life, I am most proud of having married the best woman, Lita, as wife and mother of my 4 children. And I probably did not earn it on my own merits but by dint of pure God’s grace. Saranghae, my sweetie pie.

We ventured from a traditional poultry integrator to a retailer of roasted chicken by rolling out Chooks-to-Go. That was purely a defensive move, but in Chooks, we found our true champion.

My new business as a poultry integrator went very well. We became the 2nd largest poultry integrator in three years–bigger than the poultry business we built in Purefoods for 19 years.

But it was also vulnerable. Disaster struck again with the adoption of the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement. The country was going to be awashed in lower-priced, imported chicken. Kinailangan naming makaisip ng paraan kung paano namin maisasalba ang aming naitayong kabuhayan.

This new threat provided the impetus for the greatest blessing of all. We ventured from a traditional poultry integrator to a retailer of roasted chicken by rolling out Chooks-to-Go. That was purely a defensive move, but in Chooks, we found our true champion. It became our flagship brand and cash cow.


After 20 years of leading BAVI, we have grown to become the largest roasted chicken company in the land with close to 2,000 retail outlets. We are bigger than our number 2 to 10 closest competitors put together.

We have grown from strength to strength since we started. And then, COVID struck.

Kagaya ng karamihan, we were not prepared to deal with the harsh quarantine measures. Within a week, our cash flow dried up. People just stopped buying our products. It was a matter of time, we were on the road to bankruptcy.

Every day since the Enhanced Community Quarantine started, I grappled with many fears — that live chicken in our farms do not eat, and that chicken in our processing plants could not be dressed, because feeds and personnel are getting stuck at some checkpoint somewhere. What kept me awake at night was the safety of our people during the crisis, and making sure that they have a business to return to, after. Their security and well-being, and that of their families, require that we win on both fronts.

We have faced many difficult challenges in our journey, and time and again, we have shown to ourselves that we not only survive, we thrive on them.

But I saw the boundless faith, uncommon courage and sterling commitment in the men and women in our ranks who went out to the streets daily and beyond the call of duty to peddle our chicken in communities on lockdown. Most of them didn’t have to do it. It was not in their job description. But they took to the streets to sell chicken, anyway, and with full knowledge of the personal risks to themselves of contracting the virus. I never imagined I would ever ask this kind of sacrifice from anyone and I would never demand it from anyone of my employees.

The crisis was unprecedented. But it is not the crisis, however daunting, that matters — it is strength of character.

Our company was forged by crisis starting from the time we lost our jobs. We have faced many difficult challenges in our journey, and time and again, we have shown to ourselves that we not only survive, we thrive on them. The crisis may be different today or in the future, but we are the same men and women of unflagging tenacity and boundless courage.

There is one lesson I learned from that crisis. That people are not our most valuable asset. Our most valuable asset ay ang mga empleyadong may malasakit.


My dear graduates, you will all be in the job market very soon. With your UPLB degree, you will have an edge over others. Your CVs will be picked up by headhunters ahead of others. And there is, so to say, a better price on your heads.

Sa pagtatapos, gusto kong mag-iwan ng ilang paalala bago kayo humayo upang hanapin ang nakatadhanang kapalaran para sa inyo.

Unang una, bakit nga ba binalikat ng sambayanang Pilipino ang inyong pagaaral sa UP gayung karamihan naman sa kanila ay mga mamamayang hirap din at payak ang pamumuhay?

Ang pangunahing dahilan dito ay dahil kayo ang mga pinakamatatalino sa buong Pilipinas na mapalad na nakapasok sa butas ng karayom ng UPCAT.

Inaasahan na kayo ay maging matagumpay sa anumang larangan na napupusuan niyo, at sa inyong tagumpay, ay pagsisilbihan ninyo ang bayan sa ano mang kaparaanan.

Dahil kayo ay may angking talino, inaasahan na kayo ang pag-asa ng bayan. Tumaya ang bayan na kayo ay maging tapat sa pagtaguyod ng kapakanan ng mamamayang Pilipino. Kaya kayo ay tinataguriang kong mga Manok ng Bayan. Inaasahan kayong magtagumpay dahil ang inyong tagumpay ay tagumpay din ng bawat Pilipino.

Pangalawa, at eto ay nais ko sanang maisapuso ninyo: Ano nga ba ang inaasahan ng sambayanan sa mga Iskolar ng bayan na kanyang tinustusan sa kabila ng kakapusan ng pondo ng gobyerno?

Inaasahan na kayo ay maging matagumpay sa anumang larangan na napupusuan niyo, at sa inyong tagumpay, ay pagsisilbihan ninyo ang bayan sa ano mang kaparaanan.

Minsan nakakalimot tayo na hindi lang ang ating sarili at ang ating pamilya ang may karapatan na magtamasa ng bunga ng ating tagumpay. Hindi man naniningil, umaasa ang ating sambayanan sa atin. Ipinapapaalala ko lang na may malaki tayong utang na loob sa bayang nagpaaral sa atin sa pag-asang lilingon at maaalala natin silang bitbitin sa ating pag-angat sa buhay.

Di maipagkakaila na lahat ng nakapagtapos sa UP ay maaring maging matagumpay sa anumang larangan na kanyang napupusuan. Dumaan kayo sa matinding pagsubok at hirap bago makamtan ang inyong diploma. Ang karanasang ito ang nagpanday ng tatag ng inyong pagkatao.

Mahalagang naiintindihan natin na nangunguna ang Honor sa Excellence.

This ability to adapt, make great sacrifices and commit to something bigger than yourselves is what distinguishes you as UP graduates. It is built into your character and is designed to make you thrive in adversity.

At ang panghuli kong paalala ay patungkol sa prinsipyo ng UP na ‘Honor and Excellence’.

Mahalagang naiintindihan natin na nangunguna ang Honor sa Excellence. Sinabi nga ng kapwa nating alumnus sa UP Diliman na si Elvin Cruz, “Sa UP hindi maaring makagraduate ka na hindi mo alam na nauuna ang HONOR sa EXCELLENCE, dahil kailanman, hindi maaring isakripisyo ang integridad sa pagkamit ng karangalan.”

Ano mang karangalan o kayamanan na inyong makamit, ay nawawalan ng kabuluhan kapag nadungisan ang respeto sa inyong pagkatao. Ang dungis na ito ay lalanit at hahawa sa inyong pamilya at sa mga susunod na saling-lahi ng inyong angkan. Ika nga nila, “Guard your reputation like a glass, because a glass that is broken cannot be mended.”

There is a new world out there that is being born as I speak today. It is not the world of your grandfathers, or even your father. This one is completely yours, to master and command, as generations past has mastered and commanded theirs. It will be fraught with great risks and challenges. But the rewards born of developing strength of character will eventually be your best bet as you stake your claim in this exciting new world waiting for you.

However difficult the task, you are lucky because of the chance to put the stamp of your character – your fondest dreams, your deepest devotions, your highest aspirations in a world that is waiting for you to own and master. In this volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world, your character is your destiny.

Mabuhay kayo! Kayo ang mga bagong Manok ng Bayan!

Written by Village Connect

In a world where free quarterly print and online publications rule, Concept and Beyond Publishing (formerly, Tesmarias Publishing) a publisher of Village Connect (VC) stands out as a pillar and a trailblazer, raising the bar for complimentary magazines with quality reads that are tailored to discriminating Filipino urbanites.

As a print and digital publication, VC strives to provide readers an insightful glimpse into the ever-changing business landscape through relevant dialogue and inclusive coverage of trending news, information, and lifestyle tidbits within (and outside) the metropolis.

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Since its founding in 2011, VC emerged as a household and business name, with a monthly circulation of 50,000 copies distributed FREE in Metro Manila, VC is targeted toward select villages, multi-dwelling outfits (condominiums, serviced apartments), banks, and lifestyle facilities including salons, wellness institutes, and beauty and fitness centers. It is also exclusively carried by Figaro Coffee Shops in Metro Manila – truly living up to its goal of connecting villages and businesses.

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