"I really wanted to become an artist, a painter because I had a talent in drawing. I was not inclined to doing technical works. My first two months of training made me hesitant. Without me knowing it, each day I went to Dualtech in Mantrade, I was learning things, very simple things that kept me going everyday. I told myself, what the heck with my drawing skills. The new things that I was learning and the training that Dualtech was giving was immeasurable. It etched in me, Tatak Dualtech. It changed my mind, I pursued Dualtech." -- Joel "Bronx" Labatete is currently the General Manager of Knight Auto Phils.
I graduated in 1987 and now I am 42 years young. Mr. Morfe is my "Kuya" by hair.
When I graduated in high school (we were 8 in the family), my father retired as geologist. I was second to the youngest, at that time the golden age of mining was declining already. So no more job for my father and it was a big challenge for me. How am I going to pursue college? It was really a challenge because our family resources were used up. It was really tough, so I headed to Manila because I was from Marinduque. From there, I took odd jobs. I even worked, cutting hair in a beauty parlor even if I am not gay. I tried to earn my own money and I did not want to be a burden to my brother. As I waited for an opportunity to continue studies, one night, my sister-in-law arrived from the office. She was working somewhere in Pasong Tamo and Dualtech at that time was still in Mantrade, she brought this newspaper, cut a clipping and showed it to me that same night. She said, I think you should try this one, they are offering scholarship somewhere in Mantrade. Maybe you should come with me tomorrow. And then the following morning I went with my sister-in-law. I went to Dualtech, got interviewed and took the exam. From there, it was a complete turn for me because after passing the entrance exam, it was like a big puzzle, with pieces taking its place. I passed and started the training. My first two months at Dualtech was really a struggle. The C-Clamp was the most popular project at Dualtech. It was the product of sweat and blood. Sometimes your finger would get cuts.
In my case, I aspired to be an architect. I really wanted to become an artist, a painter because I had a talent in drawing. I was not inclined to doing technical works. My first two months of training made me hesitant. Without me knowing it, each day I went to Dualtech in Mantrade, I was learning things, very simple things that kept me going everyday. I told myself, what the heck with my drawing skills. The new things that I was learning and the training that Dualtech was giving was immeasurable. It etched in me, Tatak Dualtech. It changed my mind, I pursued Dualtech. I was very happy after attending the first 6 months of training. I attended my in-plant training in Telefunken, which became Temic then became Vishay, then after the spin-off, became four different companies.
So I started at Telefunken that time and Telefunken was a very solid supporter of Dualtech being a German company, and our GM there was Ludz. He got a very soft heart for Dualtech.
The things I learned from Dualtech were further enhanced inside the plant. I was like a diesel engine, everyday I was learning new things. I was unstoppable. Since I had this inclination of doing design, I was assigned in the PM group and my boss was a Spaniard, Felix Rodriguez, he was at the HQ in Germany. We were doing simple R&D and he was surprised I could do design. That time, I was doing it manually using T-square, triangle, and everything. I was surprised when he asked me, How come you know Autocad?. I did not know Autocad, he was thinking I was doing it in Cad. No Sir, I just did it manually. He was really surprised, Really? Did you do it? From then on, most likely he got interested in me doing design so he pulled me from the PM group, put me in another group, with the R&D team.
At that time, most of the designs were coming from Germany. We were fighting against our own HQ to do the design because our product line was opto devices which are unique in itself, not the same on ICs and strip devices. For every machine that would come up for opto device is a unique machine for that specific brand. In our case, the R&D team did the designs.
As I was already working and earning, I had initially thought of going to college because some of my classmates, my friends pursued engineering. But I got obsessed with computer aided design (CAD). I poured out all my energy. From there, Manila would have its own R&D. Germany recognized the group and they announced that Manila would have its own R&D. Then in 2000, I was hired by an American company, RVSI (Robotic Vision System, Inc.). They have four (4) divisions and I belonged to the Packaging group. Industry was down and we were pulling out the package from the US, offshore. In 2004, we needed to pull out projects as mentioned thus I needed to apply for a Visa to the US.
During the Visa interview, I was asked about my application and credentials. At the back of my mind, there would be a pop-up question and I was anticipating. She then asked me, How come you are the engineering manager? You are just a vocational graduate.
So I moved close to the counter. Yes I am, do you have time to listen. I told her my story and she was really surprised. She told me, Okay your Visa is approved! It was my first trip to the US. RVSI was struggling and decided to shut down the project.
In 2005, a Singaporean company pulled me out from the American group then I worked in Singapore. We were doing designs and I was handling mixed groups, Indian, Chinese, and Singaporean. I am strict when I am strict. Pagdating sa trabaho, the discipline that we learned from Dualtech is solid. Work is work. Play is Play, so very clear distinction. I think among the bad experiences I had being a vocational graduate, they would try to intimidate me which I think was natural especially among engineers. But I stood my ground as head of the design team. I would challenge them.
And now I am the General Manager here in Knight Auto Philippines. I challenge my people. If and only if I graduated in engineering or pursued my studies in engineering, then most likely we will never meet. I will never have the chance to be here in front of everyone. My staff would ask why. I would continue, If I were an engineer, I would perhaps be working in NASA. But I am Dualtech, I am here. I graduated at Dualtech and I am really proud of it. For the partners, thank you very much for the support that you are giving to Dualtech. From the bottom of my heart, I am a product of Dualtech through the effort of Dualtech and partners.
Maraming maraming salamat po.
Note: Message was delivered originally in Tagalog during the Alumni Homecoming at Dualtech Center, Canlubang, Oct 17, 2012.