Fly High with Rey Baja: Overcoming Turbulence Through Faith and Action

Job interview. This was how I was, thankfully, introduced to Rey Baja. As many of you probably know, an interview is a two way communication where both interviewee and interviewer ask questions and share stories.

This was one of such interviews that did not, at all, feel like an interrogation rather a healthy exchange of ideas and personal values and experiences. The conversation was so inspiring and moving that it stayed with me and I still remember a good part of it a year or so after.

I am sharing pieces of our conversation with you, of course with approval from and in collaboration with Rey, himself.

Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight!

Rey Baja with his adorable familyRey Baja with his adorable family

Renato Baja is the President and General Manager of the Holcim Mining and Development Corporation and all its subsidiaries. While he may look intimidating, when he starts to talk, you will feel his sincerity and how much he cares for his employees.

Who is Rey Baja? What brought him to where he is today? What are his teachable points of view?

The Man Behind The President

Renato “Rey” Baja is Married to Fay Chariza Baja and they are blessed with 3 Children – Francine, Trixie and Juan Carlos.

He finished BS Aeronautical Technology from Cebu Aeronautical Technical School in 1994 and taught for one semester at the Northern Mindanao Polytechnic School in Cagayan De Oro. He took the board and passed the licensure exam. However, he did not pursue this yet.

He went back to Iligan City and worked as a DJ in one of the local FM stations for 2 years, then as a medical representative in one of the leading pharma Companies for 2 years, then as an industrial product representative for another 2 years. He went back to being a DJ and this time a production supervisor in another FM station for 2 more years. Started a business that lasted 2 years and went to Dubai as Safety Engineer for a period of close to 2 years.

At some point in between the 2-year stints, he ran for public office and lost the election but was appointed in 1999 under the Office of the City Mayor of Iligan.

Every 2 years I change job because I get bored doing the same thing. During this time, I was asked by my Father… “what do you want for your life?”

“That’s when I realized that I have not done something for myself and my family. That my time wasn’t spent wisely and felt that I was running out of it.

While you now see Rey as a man who embodies success, it certainly wasn’t a smooth flight for him to get to the privileges that he and his family enjoy now.

The Turbulent Years

Both my parents came from a below average family. Both of them weren’t able to finish College. My Dad was only up to 3rd year high school and worked his way up to become a Senior Manager in the corporate sector. He was able to send us to school and was able to save enough for us.

They owned fish ponds, Industrial Fabrication business and a KTV bar. However in 1994, their finances was hit along with the Philippine Economy by the so-called Asian crisis. They started selling everything to the point where their only possessions were a goodfire gas stove and a couple of kitchen utensils. Everything else were sold including the TV and radio.

WALL CLOCK was the last piece I sold just to buy instant noodles to survive. Many times we were kicked out of the apartment due to rental issues. So we have to move from one apartment to another. It wasn’t difficult to transfer, but the heartache and the shame of being kicked out again and again was the thing that we needed to endure while most of our friends were hiding, afraid that we might ask for UTANG (loan) again. I got married in 1996 and one of the reasons was to escape from taking responsibility for my siblings and my parents and just wanted to take care of myself, my wife and kids. But this did not happen because my conscience didn’t allow it to.

Despite these, they still always believed in their father’s ability to provide and to find ways. Always believed that it will be resolved next week, then next week again then next month then months again and realized that years had passed and all were still the same.

How God Used Failure As A Turning Point

He had 3 jobs in a day to help the family. How was that possible? Here’s what his schedule looked like – 8am to 5pm MedRep, 6pm to 10pm DJ, 10pm to 2am DJ in a bar. Plus a few more sidelines.

He sure poured out all the best he could to help uplift their situation but felt that he always fell short and started blaming GOD.

As if juggling 3 jobs wasn’t challenging enough, to top it off, he started to see failure as a normal result. That was a dreadful mindset and a mental trap that once you fell in, would be very difficult to escape from. He started to think that that’s just who he was meant to be – a failure!

He started forgetting about his ambitions in life, for himself and his family. He was just about ready, at this point, to accept that mentality – that he was a failure.

One afternoon, during the lowest moment in my life, I was in my room praying on my knees. It was an experience that I cannot forget when it was so clear to me that I NEEDED GOD. Realizing that no matter how hard I worked and whatever I do, it will not be good without him. I laid on the floor and surrendered everything to GOD. Absolutely surrendered my LIFE to HIM and asked HIM to take over my life. My tears poured out like never before and told HIM that I cannot do it alone. There was inner peace after I prayed. I felt like GOD embraced me. HE was there that moment. Amen to HIM.

The Ascend

Rey changed career and took up special trainings on Occupational Health and Safety. In 2007 he was given a chance to work in Dubai as Safety Engineer for a construction project. He took that opportunity to hone his skills and knowledge on the ground.

This marked the starting point of their recovery – both financially and in matters of self-respect. He began to trust myself again. He started sending money to his parents and his own family.

But success did not come so quickly…

I thought that it was already the break that I was looking for but in December of 2008, I was one of the first groups that were sent home because of the economic slowdown in Dubai.

“This time I asked GOD, why is this happening again. But I was confident that HE will not abandon me anymore.”

He found himself back in Manila and supported by his brother. For seven months he tried to apply for jobs abroad. His opportunity came thru his brother’s friend – a construction project in one of the cement plants of Lafarge in 2009 as a project-based Safety Manager.

“In March 2010 my father suffered a fatal incident (hemorrhagic stroke) and was hospitalized for a month before he was brought home. I decided to resign from my job just to make sure that I will be the one to look after him in the hospital. He passed on a week after. I didn’t ask GOD WHY. I only know that HE will provide only what is GOOD FOR US.”

May 2010, he called his boss in Lafarge to asked if he can work again. She said, “You did not resign and you can start again next week.” After 2 months Rey was regularized as Safety Manager for Lafarge Cement – Teresa Plant.

“It was the start of GOD’s promise to his loyal servants.”

Smooth Ride

Rey Baja in the Holcim MDC OfficeRey Baja in the Holcim MDC Office

That was the career opportunity, the big break where it all started.

Two years after regularization, in March 2012, he was promoted to Operation Manager of Lafarge Republic Aggregates Inc. Three years later, August 2015, he was promoted to Manufacturing Manager of Lafarge Republic Aggregates Inc. A year later saw him leading LafargeHolcim Aggregates Inc. (soon after the Lafarge-Holcim merger) as its President and General Manager. Yet, another year later, he was given a bigger, broader responsibility as President of Holcim Mining and Development Corp. AND ALL its subsidiary companies including Lafargeholcim Aggregates Inc.

These series of promotions speak volumes on the performance, values and commitment Rey has, both to the Company and to the people.

Just like an aircraft, taking off with such great speed! Definitely caught up with time. It was not too late, especially if you have God on your side.

“A lot of my friends have the same question every time they know what I am doing now.

“I always say, I REALLY DON’T KNOW WHAT I DID, IT WAS HIM! HE did it all for me. My only contributions to this blessings are: Faith and Trust in Him, doing the best I could with clean intentions, taking care of others. Indeed it’s TRUE, that HE will bless us beyond what we imagined. More than what we asked for. More than what we expected! That is why HE IS GOD!”

The Captain & His Crew

The Captain with his CrewThe Captain with his Crew

I look at my team as my engine, wings and landing gears that needs to be valued in the organization. My role as a captain is to feed them with fuel, maintaining their sharpness is an essential part, motivating them to work together as one.

“I look at attitude more than skills.

“They are my partners in this journey and I want them to enjoy flying with me.”

Message For The Millennials

One of the things we talked about during our conversation was the millennials in the workforce. I remember it was about someone who only recently graduated and was asking for a promotion too soon.

“We need to WALK before we start to RUN. Take your time learning your craft in the actual battle. Treat everyone with utmost respect. You might be better than your boss, but you cannot underestimate his experience and wisdom. Work with him and show RESPECT!

“Strategies may change and we need to adapt, but the objective remains the same – THAT IS TO WIN!”

Words Of Wisdom

“LIFE IS WHAT WE MAKE IT – Whatever happens to our lives remains our responsibility. Our lives now are the result of the things we did and the decisions we made before.

“When you’re at the bottom, there is no other way to go but UP. That is if you continue to move hard enough going up. It’s always hard to go UP!

“THERE IS GOD.”

Imperatives Of Employee Engagement

The value of each other, being mindful of others and trust (need verify, too).

flyingFlying

I hope this story moved and inspired you, too! Indeed, we can never go wrong with faith in God. Our actions should glorify Him – hard work, care for others and an unwavering desire to meet the ultimate goal – to win, as “winning” is defined by the team.

Thank you very much, Rey, for taking the time and sharing your story with us!


I’d like to thank you, all, for joining us on this ‘trip’ and I am looking forward to having you on board again.


Note: Thanks to Noel Elgincolin for reaching out for the interview. 🙂

For your questions, topic and feature suggestions, please do write to me – emiletherese@yahoo.com.

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About Emile Therese

Emile Therese is a graduate of the University of Philippines in Diliman with a degree in Psychology. She is happily married. She and her husband, Dennis, are blessed with one amazing daughter (and hopefully at least one more child). She believes that values and character ought to be taught as early as possible and that these are key to community and nation building. This was also how she and her siblings were brought up by their two awesome parents! She is a Certified HR Professional who advocates employee engagement in its entirety. Emile believes that true employee engagement rests on the pillars of basic human needs and in ensuring that process and leadership basics are in place - the employee engagement imperatives. She hopes to contribute to making this world a better place for all of us now and the next generation. She loves sipping tea, conversations, reading and writing. The latter gave birth to two blogs - Purposeful Parenting Journey (purposefulparentingjourney.com) and Engagement Imperative (engagementimperative.com).

5 Responses

  1. Unable to click ‘like’ button ? Techno probs Emile.
    Refreshing read Emile. Having a turbulent personality and overall pragmatist as part of Myers Briggs 16 personalities test I was drawn to this post.
    At a very difficult time in my career in Health Service in mid 1990’s when I seemed to be chasing my tail & burning myself out in the process I realise my ego was driving me rather than surrendering and leaving things in God’s hands.

    Like

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