The Grey Chronicles


If I Were A Rich Man

Receiving an email from a former student about an unemployed man applying for a janitorial job in Microsoft becoming rich after being refused because he had no email address, it triggered my memory of one of the lull times working as a Business Strategy analyst for a steel company in 2005. My expat colleague asked me that if I were rich, would I consider investing in National Steel Corporation?

That question brought to mind the song: “If I Were a Rich Man” from the 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof. Written by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock, the song is performed by Tevye, the main character in the musical, and reflects his dreams of glory. I really liked the version of Pavarotti, who sang it boisterously and comedically:

“Dear God, you made many, many poor people.
I realize, of course, that it’s no shame to be poor.
But it’s no great honor either!
So, what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?”

Courtesy of Yahoo Finance

Courtesy of Yahoo Finance

Well, back to the question; based on my personal and professional experience at NSC from 1989 to 2004, I answered affirmatively. Then went on to say that I even had bought Yahoo and Philippine National Bank shares. It would not matter much if the shares were minuscule compared to Jerry Yang or Lucio Tan, respectively, but I can definitely say I own a part of both companies.

I also explained that when NSC was privatized, there was a plan to offer its employees stock options as part of the deal. But the stock options did not pushed through after the company went bust! I was even saving a part of my NSC salary to take part of the stock plan. The pre-privatized NSC was a people-oriented corporation. It took care of its employees like a father takes care of his sons. It afforded a number of benefits, with strong backing from its labor union supported by the management council, no other company back then offered to its employees: from free hospitalization extended to immediate family members to even college scholarships. In terms of pay and salary, NSC offered the highest among all the industrial companies in Mindanao. It was even the envy of all others, bar none! It had an equal-work, equal pay policy that was commensurate to the level of qualifications, experience and training one possess; plus the fact that it offered a series of training and workshops to all its employees to further improve their on-the-job knowledge, skills, and abilities.

“If I were a rich man,” qualifying it that I own gazillion tons of money, “NSC was a good buy then in 2004 or when it went on Liquidation phase in 2000.” In retrospect, I believe this was why I made a thesis out of that experience.

Dubai World

Dubai World (NextNature)

The conversation then turned to what would I do for my children if I were a rich man? Without missing a beat, I answered, “I would buy each one an island in the Hundred Islands.” Probably unfamiliar with the scenic spots in the Philippines, he asked, “You mean in Dubai?” referring to the artificial group of islands replicating the world’s land mass. Or probably, he missed that in the cultural immersion seminar prior to his posting in the Philippines. Later, I pointed him to a site claiming that these group of islands have high environmental cost (Butler, 2005).

Hundred Islands, Pangasinan

Hundred Islands, Pangasinan (Phil. Tourism)

“No!” I explained that the Hundred Islands is located in Lucap, Alaminos City, Pangasinan about 250 kilometers from Manila. This National Park covers a land area of 1,884 hectares with 123 islands. However, only three (3) islands have been developed for tourists namely: Governor, Quezon, and Children’s Island. “The islands in Pangasinan are nature’s creation, unlike that of Dubai which is made of compacted sand. Each of my sons,” continuing my explanation, “would own one and they could do anything they please with it.”

I asked him what would he do if he were a rich man. He simply replied: “My family and I would emigrate to America!” Then he asked, “Don’t you have any plans of immigrating anywhere from here?”

I said, “Back in 1995, my wife and I wanted to emigrate to New Zealand, but with the precarious situation of NSC during the privatization then, that plan was put on hold and it became impossible after the Malaysians left NSC closed. Much of our savings were spent during the years when I was contracted to work for the Liquidator from 2000 to 2004. Back then, I only worked for about 15 days per month, and my housekeeper-wife tended the care of my sons. Maybe, with resurrection of NSC, I could revive the plan someday”

My expat colleague thanked me for the engaging conversation and bid his goodbye. A few years later, he wrote that they have arrived in the U.S. and applying for permanent residency.

Me . . . I’m still here . . . hoping, yet blogging! If only I were a rich man! Or maybe, just like the denied janitor, I should have not gotten myself an email address?


Butler, Tina (2005). Dubai’s artificial islands have high environmental cost, The Price of “The World”: Dubai’s Artificial Future. Online: Mongabay 23 August 2005. back to text

Picture of Dubai’s artificial island taken from Next Nature web site, posted by Rolf Coppens on Mar 12th, 2006.

Picture of Hundred Islands taken from the Philippine Tourism site.

Disclaimer: The posts on this site does not necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions; and unless otherwise expressly stated, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


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