WHEN the prospect of becoming an honorary officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) was first raised to him in December last year, former Philippine Finance Secretary Roberto “Bobby” de Ocampo’s initial reaction was one of awe and disbelief. After all, it’s not so often that Queen Elizabeth II would confer such honor to a non-British national. In fact, when he got the award in May, Dr. De Ocampo became only the third Filipino to have received such an honor.
Created during the first World War in 1917 by King George V, the Most Excellent OBE recognizes distinguished service to the arts and sciences, public services outside the Civil Service and work with charitable and welfare organizations of all kinds.
The multi-awarded Dr. De Ocampo was no stranger to an honor given by a foreign sovereign. In 2001, he was named Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor by the Republic of France. On top of that, he had been recipient of various awards from international institutions. But his latest fete held much significance both because of its rarity and his affection for the UK.
The Queen granted him the honorary OBE award in recognition of his significant contribution to the development of the Philippines-UK relations for more than four decades.
“This award is not only an immeasurably precious one to me for my lifetime but a treasure for my family to have and keep and to pass on to the next generations. The fact that this is all taking place during the Queen’s Jubilee Year, the London Olympics, and the 250th anniversary year of the first British presence in the Philippines makes the memory of this event more compellingly special to me,” said Dr. de Ocampo, whose association with the UK started when he was accepted to a post graduate program in Development Administration at the London School of Economics in 1970.
During the awarding ceremony, British Ambassador Stephen Lillie acknowledged Dr. de Ocampo as “a tireless and influential advocate for friendship, business and co-operation between our two island nations.” He also noted his “unstinting and unpaid service” as chairman of the British Alumni Association (BAA) in the Philippines. He has been leading the association for 12 years.
“In particular, under Bobby’s leadership, and with his very personal and hands-on involvement, the BAA has developed the annual UK-Philippines Friendship Day into an annual week-long celebration of the links between the UK and the Philippines… This has significantly raised the reputation and prestige of the UK in our host country. The Friendship Week also has a strong charitable component, involving annual fundraising and outreach to disadvantaged communities in the Philippines. Through these and other advocacies, Bobby has indeed been a high profile exponent of UK-Philippine friendship, and an eloquent advocate for a British education in a country which tends to look east more often than west,” said Ambassador Lillie.
In an interview with MoneySense, Dr. de Ocampo said he wants to raise the consciousness of Filipinos about British education opportunities. The BAA is looking at providing assistance to Filipino students in the UK who are short of means, he said.
Indeed, in a speech, the former finance chief recalled how he benefited from his education in the UK. “Looking back, I consider this a major turning point in my career as I was able later on to use the combination of private sector business tools learned via my MBA and economic development strategies and practices learned at the LSE throughout my service in the public sector… I benefitted from being there at a time of substantial historical significance for the UK as it was in the process of transitioning from a longstanding Welfare State System towards the Margaret Thatcher era. The experience was both an exciting one and a profound influence on me.”
Dr. de Ocampo served as Secretary of Finance during the presidency of Fidel V Ramos. He is a well-recognised authority in the field of global finance and economic development. He was president of the Asian Institute of Management before retiring from that position in May 2006 and being subsequently elected a member of the AIM Board of Trustees. Dr. de Ocampo is a product of both De La Salle and Ateneo Universities. He received his MBA from the University of Michigan, a post-graduate diploma from the London School of Economics and has been conferred four Doctorates (Honoris Causa) different universities in the Philippines. He is married to Maria Carolina la O’, with whom he has two sons and two daughters. Dr. de Ocampo is a Taekwondo blackbelt, an avid golfer, and a classical guitar player.
Full disclosure: Dr. Roberto de Ocampo is currently Chairman of the Board of MoneyTree Publishing Corp., publisher of MoneySense Magazine. This article is printed as an advertorial in MoneySense Magazine’s May – June 2012 Issue