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Alumni in the Spotlight: Lourdes Ortiz-Luis (GS 1962, HS 1966, COL 1970)

After years of building a successful career in the private sector, Lot is now leading meaningful projects in civil society. From livelihood projects that rehabilitate communities devastated by natural calamities to supporting the nutrition and education of children during the pandemic, Lot demonstrates leadership and compassion in uplifting the lives of the poor.

 

What life/career accomplishments make you most proud?

 

I have been successful in breaking new grounds with no models to follow. I started what then was called Personnel Department of 2 companies that became highly successful industry leaders at the time (in semiconductor and investment banking.) I shifted careers from Personnel/HR in the Philippines to sales and marketing in the US spurring the set up by my family of a new Philippine company in frozen food processing/export that continues to exist today (without me!) – spanning 40 years – still providing Filipinos and other ethnic groups in North America specialty food items while providing employment in the Philippines..

 

Returning to the country after an absence of 17 years was another opportunity to do something new - this time in corporate management consulting and training and the field of OD (Organization Development) – going from Consultant to Managing Consultant to President of a local consulting company.  This return to the corporate world was also the key that opened a whole new landscape – an exposure to corporate social responsibility (CSR) of companies – and the intertwined issues of good governance and poverty which became the underlying reasons for my later engagements in civil society.  I found myself in the Board of small foundations helping families and communities in need.  

 

Eight years ago I made a decision to give up the leadership position in a regional consulting company to have the flexibility to do things I wanted to spend time and energy on. Soon after that a US non-profit funding organization found me just before the super typhoon Yolanda hit.  I was asked to quickly find ways to help in the rehabilitation and recovery of Leyte – becoming a part of the Tabang Visayas campaign. With a Benedictine nun we went into agri projects that would put crops back quickly on the destroyed farmlands around Tacloban so families would have food to eat. At the same time, we helped the farmers grow coconut seedlings to replenish the thousands of felled coconut trees.  My non-profit partnered with the Diocese of Palo and Couples for Christ ANCOP to build homes on church land at a time when clean land titles were hard to come by.  Along with these and to help generate livelihood we graduated 80 girls in a 2-year midwifery course in St. Scholastica’s in Tacloban.  For 3 years I was proud and happy to have been a part of the rise of Tacloban and surrounding municipalities from the devastation of the super typhoon.

 

I realized that my later engagement in civil society was rooted in my heart’s response to the call of the poor.  I hate politics. But we need to be able to call out leaders who are not doing the jobs they committed to do. We should also be able to participate in choosing the right leaders who will work together to give our people a better life, leaders who truly love our country sand people.  I work too close to the urban poor not to see how the pandemic has put an even greater burden on them.  The little I am able to do now in terms of helping to put food on the table of those who cannot, of directly feeding the children and supporting the education of these, are but a drop in the bucket. But I am comforted by the thought that I do what I can where I can – and perhaps it will make a difference.

 

I am affiliated with the following:

  • Country Representative/ Philippine Projects Coordinator of Cross Catholic Outreach
  • President of Soroptimist International of Mandaluyong
  • Secretary-General of PPVR (People Power Volunteers for Reform)
  • Member of EveryWoman Convenors Council
  • Founding Member of SPEAR 

    

To what would you attribute your achievement/s?

 

I have always been very curious and eager to discover/ experience new things, new places, new people. I have lived on 3 continents without fear.  My father said among all his children I, the youngest, was imbued with “wanderlust”.  I also believe I have pretty good networking and influencing skills which have been valuable to me. People see I work hard and that am able to see both the big picture and the small picture in an undertaking so it makes me credible and coordination comes easy.  These are essential in working with teams and taking charge of projects.

 

In what ways did your Maryknoll/Miriam education impact your life and profession?

 

My Maryknoll education has taught me so much. Where do I even begin? I believe that first it gave me a strong sense of self. I graduated from college carrying this big bag of self-confidence that assured me I could face anything and anyone whether in my country or in another.  My liberal arts education gave me an open mind and flexibility in my life explorations.  My faith formation, humanities orientation and major (English) gave me depth in my view of life and others, as well as excellent communication skills.

I developed strong people skills possible only because I was allowed to learn both on and off campus. My Maryknoll education empowered me as a values-based woman.  I always felt that I could be whatever I wanted to be as long as it also included the well-being of others.  

 

Can you share a memorable experience during your years in Maryknoll/Miriam College?

 

My mother was an intern at PWU (Philippine Women’s University) and stayed as faculty after graduation. She always dreamt of her 2 daughters experiencing dorm life which she must have really found of value to her formation.  My sister lived in the dorms at St. Scholastica’s College Manila.

 

*I went to Maryknoll and stayed at St. Joseph’s Villa – which was a dorm like no other. That was where I started to learn how to be responsible for myself. There was structure, there were rules, but these were meant to guide, not to suffocate young women trying to grow up. Those were years of intense diversity experience because we came from all over the Philippines.  I was the only Maryknoller from High School (and Grade School) in my class of more than 20 girls. But those were 4 of the most wonderful years of my school life.  The  Class ’70 friends I made there have become my close lifelong friends as well as our American Moderator, then Sr. Mary Jean O’Brien, MM.  My life in the Villa was a precious part of my transition into adulthood. My mother was right.

 

*My most memorable experiences in college were really all about people and learning how to live and work with them in different situations. I was with the Nationalism Committee and participated in student conferences and politics  (NUSP in Dumaguete, Iloilo), and experienced street demonstrations because of our suspicion that martial law was in the works (in fact it was but was not declared until after I graduated from college).  We lived through the violent First Quarterstom.  I was a member of the Workcamp Committee too and as a Freshman went on immersion in Bo. Balaybay, Zambales with the DLSU engineering students. We did joint cooking and made do with the limited culinary skills of the leaders. The lock on our door was a baseball bat! During another summer I stayed a month in a Tagbanua barrio off Coron, Palawan upon the invitation of the UE Civic Action Group. They brought all the initial provisions of canned goods, red eggs, rice. When we ran out of food we bartered our clothes, one shirt at a time, for fish or lobster or a part of a wild pig. We bathed in an algae-filled swamp and rubbed ourselves furiously with alcohol after.  We were treated once in a while with a clean shower that ran through bamboo pipes at a missionary family’s Robinson Crusoe -like hut. We came home dark, malnourished and full of “nik-nik” bites. But we were changed by the experience.       

 

What advice would you give our students who wish to pursue the same path?

 

I don’t know if there is any specific advice I can give to students now. I lived my life the way I saw fit. It was never one straight path. I did not stay with one company until retirement or kept one definite career path, or raise a family.  I liked variety and exploration and excelled in the things I set out to do.  But I also always wanted a life with purpose and meaning – one that makes a difference for others.  As a septuagenarian and 51 years after college I praise and thank God that I am still allowed to live my life this way…… wearing my different hats in civil society and civic organization…. with the end of helping those who have less to live better, decent lives in a democracy that follows the rule of law and allows its citizens to live with peace and security and one that gives all the opportunity to prosper if they are willing to work for it. 

 

In one sentence, how would you describe a Maryknoll/Miriam graduate?

 

A Maryknoll Alumna is a woman of substance with a strong value system rooted in her faith and love of God, country, family and community, who tries to make the world a little better than how she found it.

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