A promise to keep dreaming better

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Former secretary of tourism Ramon “Mon” Jimenez Jr. was a titan of the Philippine advertising industry, a highly esteemed and successful Cabinet secretary, and a great friend and colleague to many. Above all, he was a loving and faithful husband to Abby whom he now joins in heaven, and a doting father to his daughters Nina and Sassa, as well as to his dogs.

I first met Mon at Better Dog, a behavioral school for dogs. Mon was an absolute joy to be around; he had a way with people (and dogs) that showed how a heart could be filled with so much love for others.

I then had the great honor of serving alongside Mon for five years in the Cabinet. In those years, I saw in sharp relief Mon’s magnetic charisma, unquestionable integrity, and unique ingenuity in serving our country. To anyone and everyone he worked with, he was warm, humorous, and gracious.

I was fortunate to have found a steadfast partner in Mon in many of our shared goals and initiatives, such as when we pushed for the upgrading of airport facilities. He was also invaluable when we hosted the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Economic Forum (WEF) meetings, where we showcased the best of Philippine hospitality to world leaders. We even had the pleasure of being seated with French actress Marion Cotillard during President François Hollande’s visit—where he of course proved to be the better conversationalist and entertainer.

Mon was a master wordsmith—the most incredible one I’ve seen up close in my lifetime. He had a knack for communicating and a talent for creativity: I always asked my team to consult and defer to him in seeing how best to present the story of the Philippine economy. Mon’s analytical mind was indispensable in Cabinet meetings; he had a unique and creative way of looking at things and never suffered from a shortage of imagination.

At the end of his tenure, tourist arrivals and revenues had almost doubled, with the Philippines improving 20 places in the WEF Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index. Mon’s tireless contributions to put the Philippines on the world map resulted in millions of Filipinos benefiting from the third leg of our economy.

Even then, he never rested on comforts of his accomplishments but challenged everyone—especially himself—to dream and do better. His former chief of staff Euge Kaw quoted him best when he related Mon’s belief in the business of eternal beginnings: that “no matter how far you think you have come,” our job in government and in life is to build something “worth continuing, a vision worth completing, and a dream worth fulfilling.”

Mon was first and foremost a great storyteller. The slogan conceptualized with his leadership, “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” has achieved global prominence and lasting success. It is also a truth about the Philippines well told. Now, as Mon departs, I hope we get to celebrate the beautiful story he was able to weave with his life.

Mon always told everyone—his colleagues and staffers alike—that when we communicate, we ought to only throw one coin. Without one, the message does not get across; any more and the message gets lost. “What’s the coin today?” became his catchphrase. If Mon left us one coin to remember him by, it is that we can always imagine better: better solutions to our wicked problems, better ways to communicate hard truths, and a better world for us all to live in. In uncertain and difficult times like this, there is no better way to keep his memory alive than to keep imagining forward.

We have lost one of our country’s best storytellers, and we will, for a very long time, miss the color and luster his presence brought to our world.

Cesar V. Purisima is a former finance secretary of the Philippines. He is an Asia fellow at Milken Institute and founding partner at Ikhlas Capital, a pan-Asean private equity firm.

Business Matters is a project of the Makati Business Club (makatibusinessclub@mbc.com.ph).

Posted on 2 May 2020 under Business Matters section of The Philippine Daily Inquirer