Bernardo M. Villegas
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The Legacy of David Consunji

           Last September 14, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Archbishop Ramon C. Arguelles of Lipa made the Solemn Declaration of the Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Padre Pio as a National Shrine in my hometown of Sto. Tomas, Batangas.  That was the culmination of at least three years of construction works facilitated by the generous donations of numerous persons as well as the constant flow of pilgrims to the unfinished shrine from all over the country and even from foreign lands.  I have been a personal witness to this process because my siblings and I made a very modest donation of land as a right of way to the Shrine in the barrio of San Pedro, where my paternal grandfather was born.  This Shrine, that in the future will be visited by hundreds of thousands of devotees to one of the most famous saints of modern times, received a significant contribution from the philanthropist par excellence, David M. Consunji.  As a grateful Batangueno, I would like to pay tribute to this admirable engineer, technocrat, public servant and above all, a model Christian gentleman and family man.

          I am sure the contemplative nuns of the many Carmelite monasteries from all over the country (Iloilo, Infanta, Angeles, Cebu, Laoag, La Union, Ozamiz, etc.) will gladly join me in this testimonial to his unstinting generosity.  Personally and through his leading construction company, DMCI, he has helped build Carmelite monasteries and thus has been instrumental in obtaining for the whole country the graces that are poured abundantly on us through the unceasing prayers of these holy nuns.  Most recently, it was DMCI that reconstructed the Manila Cathedral.  Also thanks to the organization he founded, the entire Filipino nation could offer to Pope Francis the Pope Francis Complex in Palo, Leyte which His Holiness visited last January 17, 2015.  These buildings dedicated to the worship of God and the care of souls both spiritually and materially are the most lasting legacies that David Consunji will leave to future generations of Filipinos.

          Having known him since the late 1960s, I can add to the reasons why we must raise him up to be a role model that young Filipinos can emulate today.  As an outstanding civil engineer (U.P BSCE 1946), DMC has few equals. He gives the lie to the unfair generalization that Filipinos do not pay attention to details in their professional work.  From the very beginning of his practice of the profession of a civil engineer, he already lived the dictum that if anything is worth doing, it is worth doing well.  He never took short cuts and was always striving for perfection in his work, reminding me of what the Second Vatican Council said about the Catholic laity:  that people in the middle of the world sanctify themselves through their work first and foremost.  Barely in his early thirties, he was named Contractor of the Year by the Business Writers Association of the Philippines in 1958.  The awards he has received for the excellence of his work and that of his construction company are literally countless.  Over and above his accomplishments as a civil engineer, he has also been recognized as an exemplary Christian (Papal Awardee of the Noble Knighthood of Saint Sylvester, 1988); as an effective top manager (Management Man of the Year Awardee by the Management Association of the Philippines, 1996); and as an outstanding Filipino (The Outstanding Filipino Awardee (TOFIL), Philippine Jaycee, 2002.  There are other awards too many to mention.

          Shortly after Jess Estanislao and I founded the Center for Research and Communication as an economic policy think tank for both the private and public sectors, we had the opportunity to work closely with Dave Consunji when he was Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Public Works, Transportation and Communications during 1971 to 1975.  Together with other excellent and honest technocrats  (e.g. Cesar Virata, Armand Fabella, Placido Mapa Jr., Vicente Paterno, Gerardo Sicat, etc) that the late President Marcos recruited to his government before and during the initial years of Martial Law, we saw at close range the outstanding leadership that DMC exercised in that very strategic department.   If the first years of martial law were generally considered a golden period in the growth process of the country, a considerable part of the accomplishments could be attributed to the well built roads and other infrastructures (especially in Mindanao) that DPTC supervised during DMC’s tenure.  In fact, political commentators are agreed that the summary dismissal of DMC by President Marcos (together with other honest government officials) in 1975 marked the beginning of the increasing influence of the cronies and rent seekers that  brought down the Philippine economy in the second half of the seventies and early 1980s.  To the credit of DMC, the cadre of young engineers that he formed and trained during  his short stint were among those whose honesty, integrity and competence allowed them to combat and limit the increasing corruption that prevailed in that department after DMC left.  I personally know some of these exemplary disciples of DMC because I worked closely with them in some research projects involving infrastructures.

          I pray that God give David M. Consunji even longer life so that he can see his grandchildren and great grandchildren follow his example of personal integrity, professional competence, and Christian charity.  As the next decades or so have to be dedicated by the Philippines to infrastructures, infrastructures and infrastructures, we need to produce many more civil engineers in the mould of DMC.  This is also an appeal to many graduating high school graduates (especially after the full implementation of the K to 12) to take up civil engineering.   There will be a large demand for them, not only in the Philippines but all over the ASEAN Economic Community.  I hear from his children and grandchildren, that even in his wheel chair, DMC still visits some of the construction sites.  That is an image I would like all the aspiring engineers to see.  The example of attention to the smallest details in one’s professional work  would be a great part of the legacy that future generations will receive from this outstanding Filipino leader.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.