USC honors PLDT, Smart president, CEO

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

EVEN as a student, PLDT and Smart Communications president and chief executive officer Napoleon Nazareno wanted to be at the top. Noted for his high grades and determination, his college professor, Engr. Ely Dimagiba, could only look on proudly as one of his “best” students is currently living that dream, running the country’s largest telecommunications company and getting recognized for it.

A graduate of mechanical engineering at the University of San Carlos in Talamban, Nazareno’s climb to the top has not surprised Dimagiba.

“He was the best in his class, both in academic ability and determination,” said Dimagiba, who taught thermodynamics and refrigeration and air conditioning. “Line of one gyud na iyang mga grado.”


The university conferred on Nazareno their first doctor of technology degree yesterday in recognition of his personal and professional achievements.

Dr. Ernesto Pernia, chairman of the USC board of directors, said Nazareno “strongly deserves” the honor and hoped that yesterday’s conferment rites served as a homecoming for him.

Nazareno’s classmate, USC engineering assistant professor Engr. Emeterio Cabilao, recalls Nazareno already having business ideas that he admits he sometimes could not relate to.
“We had our serious time and the non-serious time. Looking back, he was more on the serious side,” Cabilao.

Lighter side

While his work in transforming the telecommunications industry is well known, Cabilao said Nazareno, who is called Polly by his friends, may have skipped a class or two to spend time at the billiard halls in his college days, as no jeepneys were available to bring students to the campus and everyone had to take the school bus during that time.

“When I was here, it was just one building,” Nazareno said. He admitted he did not know the university grounds were so extensive and was surprised to see so many new buildings when he toured the campus yesterday. “When you wanted to socialize, you had to go to the main campus because there was a limited female population here,” he joked.

He is grateful to his professors and assured he has learned the basics of problem solving from the university. He added that Dimagiba accompanied him and fellow students to Manila to take their board examinations.

For Nazareno, solving problems and having a dream are components for innovation. He has fond memories of being a student from 1966 to 1970, saying the school was conducive to both studying and dreaming. “It was here where I first learned to solve problems, to dream and to do both at the expense of neither.”


After graduating in Cebu, he obtained a master in business management degree at the Asian Institute of Management in 1973 and took the Insead executive program at the European Institute of Business Administration in Fontainebleau, France in 1983.

Nazareno is credited for the completion of Philippine Telephone Corp.’s (Piltel) debt restructuring in 2001, considered the largest in the country and done on a consensual basis without the involvement of the Securities and Exchange Commission or the courts.

He has also led the transformation of PLDT from a voice-driven business to becoming a broadband, data-powered service and is setting his sights on getting the PLDT Group’s fixed line and mobile businesses to work closely together to better serve customers.

As president and CEO of Smart Communications, the company has become the leader in the Philippine mobile market and winning global recognition for innovative products like Smart Load, which allowed the electronic transfer of airtime in smaller amounts.

Nazareno has been recognized for individual and corporate performance, including being named corporate executive of the year in the Philippines for three straight years beginning 2004 by Asiamoney Magazine, Telecom CEO of the year at the Telecoms Asia Awards and outstanding mechanical engineer in management by the Philippine Society of Mechanical Engineers in 2007.

Asked how he felt about getting the degree, Nazareno said it was a “tremendous honor.”

“I’m not sure if I deserve it but I will accept it on behalf of all the engineers who are working very hard every day,” he told reporters at the press conference held before the ceremony.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 09, 2014.

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