Perhaps a Filipino “Prodigal Son” May Return to Kansas?

by Bobby Reyes

Transport Logistics | Photo by Rab, Driver of P300NJB @Grampian Continental via Wikimedia Commons

Part XXXI: “Looking for the State of the Future” Series

In 1988, this journalism graduate started writing a column — as a sideline job — for the two Filipino-American (Fil-Am) sister publications that were based in the City of Los Angeles, CA. Part of his job was to interview top Filipino officials that were visiting Southern California. After a few months, the copy editor, Fred Burce Bunao, suggested that all staff writers and editors should help him compile data about the top community leaders in the Filipino-American communities in Southern California and the United States. Mr. Bunao’s idea was for the twin Fil-Am publications to create for the first time in the Filipino Overseas Fourth Estate a “morgue.” He also required that all the writers in the twin publications provide him with a brief description of their career in the field of journalism and their special experience in any other industry or business field. He joked that should any of the writers or editors under him goes to the Great Beyond, he could immediately release a eulogy for the deceased. And publish it in the twin newspapers before its weekly deadline.

A “Newspaper Morgue” is a collection of files of paper records of old information of criminal investigations, article clippings, and past issues kept by newspaper reporters. The “morgue files” serve as reference information. Such records give newspaper firms and media companies a competitive advantage over peers who do not have the said “morgue files.”

In this age of the Internet, most of them are stored on computers. In a few minutes, for instance, after a community leader or celebrity perishes for any reason and such passing is confirmed, the publication or other medium can immediately broadcast, or publish, a eulogy for the departed person.

Mr. Bunao won in 1969 a Palanca Award, the Filipino equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. He retired as chief copy editor of The Manila Times after martial law was declared in 1972 and migrated to the United States. The Times was one of the most prestigious newspapers in the Philippines and Asia at that time.

This columnist submitted a short bio to Mr. Bunao. It highlighted in the brief backgrounder that after finishing journalism in a Benedictine-run college, this writer went to study law at a Jesuit university in the City of Manila. But after his freshman year at the College of Law, he had to stop because he had to find a job and become a working student. He landed as a salesman in the Manila office of Dean Van Lines of Long Beach, CA, in August 1967. But after a probation period of three months, he was fired for not bringing in sufficient business. But in less than two weeks, the firm requested him to return as several accounts assigned to him kept calling. But they were asking for him and not any other salesman. And so he returned in November 1967 and prospered that he was accounting for more than half of the company’s business in due time. He also returned to the Jesuit-run college of law and re-enrolled.

In early January 1970, the top management of the Dean Philippine office was pirated by another American moving company. All of its Filipino employees were offered employment in the new outfit. But his loyalty was to the company and not to his bosses. And so this worker sent a cable (no e-mail at that time existed) and advised the Dean world headquarters of the plan to close its Philippine operations. The next week, a cable was received by the resident Dean general manager in Manila. It said, “Turn over the company to Reyes.” Ninety percent of the rank-and-file employees decided not to leave the company for they liked the idea that a young co-worker (at age 24) was now in charge of the Manila branch. Within a month, the head office sent a top corporate officer to Manila to reorganize it and confirm his appointment as the interim general manager.

Then he represented Dean Van Lines in the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ACCP), as the firm was its member since it was organized in 1965. Then he was also made as Dean Van Lines’ Southeast Asia regional manager, also in an acting capacity. He traveled extensively to visit and work with their Dean International offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Yokohama (Japan) and agents in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, and Okinawa. He had to drop out of law school.,

But then Dean Van Lines was sold. The new owners wanted to put in their own man. And so he accepted an offer to become the North American Van Lines (NAVL) marketing manager in Manila (as detailed with its agent in Manila). he was also asked to join the ACCP as its representative. But in six months, he had to quit working for the NAVL, as a friend wanted him to manage his moving-and-storage company in Guam. When martial law was declared in September 1972 in the Philippines, he decided to return to the Philippines, as his wife was to deliver in January 1973 their first son. But he and his wife traveled back via Okinawa, Taipei, and Hong Kong on their way home, as he was setting up a new moving company in Manila.

In 1977, this transportation entrepreneur attended the Household Goods Forwarders Association (HHGFA) annual convention in San Francisco, CA. At that event, he met many executives of moving companies. They were amazed to know that he had published his first book, How to Move Successfully Without Really Trying. It led to his joining a freight forwarding company in New Jersey. Two partners owned it, and he was supposed to be the third partner for international operations. But the two partners soon quarreled and decided to close the firm. He was left out in the cold.

On his way back in 1979 to the Philippines to rejoin the moving business in Manila that he set up with friends, he dropped by in Wichita, Kansas, to visit an executive of KingPak Moving and Storage. He again met the KingPak executive at that year’s HHGFA convention in Orlando, Florida. He was then a member of the HHGFA Membership Committee (as the Asian representative). He was invited to visit its office in Wichita to discuss the firm’s planned expansion in Asia. He was hired to manage its regional office in Manila, which was to be set up the following year. The deal was to be finalized in three months. He got the authority to register KingPak with the ACCP and represented it.

Mr. Bunao said that he would call him the “Prodigal Son” because he always returned to the same line of work or returned to the same company of moving executives. But he said that the term was not the biblical one.

But alas, the Wichita-based company met financial difficulties and canceled the deal. And so he had to terminate its membership in the ACCP. Then he decided to rejoin his old buddies in Dean Van Lines, which organized themselves as Pan-American Van Lines. It was also headquartered in Long Beach (CA).

And that he told Mr. Bunao was his brief career with American moving and transportation companies. But he made history in the ACCP, as he was the only member representing three American transportation companies in a short span — one firm after another.

Mr. Bunao said he would call him the “Prodigal Son” because he always returned to the same line of work or the same company of moving executives. But he said that the term was not biblical. He said that it meant “being a prodigal employee that was giving his service on a lavish scale” to some firms that never fully reciprocated loyalty and performance.

Mr. Bunao said he had enough information to write his background in case he conked out, as he frequently traveled because of his work in the transportation business.

Then the unexpected happened. First, the two Filipino-American publications “died” and ceased operations. Then Mr. Bunao passed away in 2010. Chicago-based journalist Joseph G. Lariosa, the dean of Filipino correspondents in North America, wrote the announcement of Mr. Bunao’s voyage to the Great Beyond. Here is the link to Mr. Lariosa’s final tribute to the literary giant that was Fred Burce Bunao:

In case you noticed, the series has been renamed “Looking for the State of the Future.” It looks like my friends and new acquaintances in the Great State of Florida would be unable to launch any of the ideas that this journalist presented in this column.

I have a friend, whom I call my “Black-American sister,” who used to work in the City of Houston (TX). Now she is based in the State of Kansas. She says that perhaps she can persuade some state leaders in Kansas to look at the ideas. She likes the proposal of a U.S.-based Public-Private Partnership that will aid in the completion of the education of nursing students, have them Board certified, and assign them to fill up the vacancies of nurses in North America, Europe, and other developed or even developing nations. A worldwide shortage of 13 million nurses is projected to happen to start in 2030. The shortage could be bigger if the pandemic caused by the COVID-19 disease continues to torment unvaccinated people in more than 100 countries. Because more than two billion folks around the world are not, or refuse to be, vaccinated.

The state of Kansas has a population of less than three million. What if 3.5-million nurses from North America and other countries like the Philippines and India were to finish their education and Board certification in Kansas? And maintain their legal residence in that state? The number of individual taxpayers may be doubled in seven years (2024-to-2030), making Kansas a powerhouse in healthcare. Right?.

For the potential new readers in Kansas, here is a previous article about the expected 13 million nurses by 2030, as proposed to this writer’s friends and contacts in Florida. Here is its Intro Note and URL: Some of the socioeconomic proposals advanced in this column may be adopted by the entire slate of the Democratic Party of Florida in this year’s election — as part of its economic platform.

More details in this Sunday’s column.

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