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  • Writer's pictureBalibago Waterworks

Water firm sets bold, lofty dreams

Cristino L. Panlilio is first and foremost a professional businessman, but he could also be remembered as the most passionate salesman of the Board of Investments (BOI), the government’s premier investment promotion agency, having served as Trade and Industry Undersecretary and BOI managing head during the time of President Benigno Aquino III.

“One cannot get away from not admiring Henry Sy Sr. and the younger Andrew Tan and of course Manny Pangilinan, the Zobels, the Aboitiz siblings led by Moncho who have shown exemplary managerial competence,” adds Panlilio, who finished economics and MBA at Ateneo and advance management program at Wharton School of Finance.

The 67-year-old Panlilio is not really a bookworm but he reads one that interests him the most. He was raving about the “Edge of Eternity”, “Winds of War” and “War and Remembrance”.


Business as it relates to money makes most businessmen insensitive. But Panlilio uses his sensitivity to make his business more successful and himself as a more effective leader.

“A good businessman has to be sensitive on what has been happening on the ground, knows how to reach out and attends to matters even how trivial they maybe,” says Panlilio.

In fact, he said, five of Balibago’s successful franchise branches came from simple folks who do not get to talk or be granted an audience by big corporate leaders.

Panlilio adheres to a beautiful line from Desiderata: “Listen to others, even the dull and ignorant, they too have their story.”

“Give them a chance and check them out you might find out something that will prove to be successful ventures in the future,” adds Panlilio, who once dabbled as college instructor on economics and business at his alma mater.

“I am patient, I don’t have a cordon sanitaire because I am very spontaneous which has its own rewards as information gets to you unfiltered because you have direct link to people. I talk to plumbers and billers and ask their experiences and pick up things that I throw to the highest management,” adds Panlilio, a proud father of five children.

Even as managing head of the BOI, Panlilio disdained being surrounded by a cordon sanitaire. He prefers spontaneity, and delivers his speeches extemporaneously.

His parents may have provided him a good education and some comforts in life, but Panlilio said he is no different from any other ordinary Filipinos.

“We grew up like most other Filipinos, we rode buses, jeeps and walked when we run out of transportation allowance. We used the school campus as our playground because we are not members of country clubs, we are above average but not rich. We stay grounded,” says Panlilio.

At Balibago, where Panlilio cited the leadership of Chairman Escaler, they are also challenged and intrigued by George Bernard Shaw’s, “ Some people see things as they are and ask why, I dream things that never were and say, why not?”

All of these factors have contributed to where his water company now.

“It made us bold and lofty dreamers and eventually, enablers!”

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