April 23, 2024

I can’t afford to let go of GM Gerry that easily. There’s just too many things to say about him. His kind of person is so immense that I had to cry as news of his untimely death came through.
I learned a lot from him; and I admit I am one of those whose lives he touched.
But how is sir Gerry as a general manager?
It takes a tank of guts to be the GM of an electric cooperative whose business is highly technical. Put one who is uninitiated and the system will surely go kaput.
GM Gerardo Verzosa fitted his role to a tee. He was a rare breed and proved he was a class by himself. He had this kind of spunk that awed other GMs in the country. He too had this kind of grit steeled by experience, one which he used to steer Beneco from the brink of collapse in the 1990s to the national consciousness of the country’s electric cooperatives in the last decade.
A Business Administration graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), Verzosa had his humble beginnings. He first worked as a detail man of the United Laboratories, Inc., then as a marketing management trainee of Pfizer Phil., and later on as a product manager of Johnson and Johnson Phil., Inc. Many may not be aware of it but he too dabbled in politics when he was named as OIC vice mayor of his hometown in Gattaran, Cagayan.
Verzosa first came to Beneco in 1988 as project manager, courtesy of the National Electrification Administration. Although he is not new to Baguio City having hurdled his secondary classes at St. Louis Boys High School, he admitted having butterflies in his stomach when he took the helm of the electric cooperative, no thanks to being a newbie in the power industry and not being a native son of the city known for its indigenous peoples. What he had in tow was his guts, a degree from ADMU and a master’s degree from the Fordham University at the Lincoln Center in New York.
What a timing, he mused. Beneco then has been flagged for the ebb – double digit system loss, unpaid debts, low collection efficiency, and a system wanting of dire improvement. Then came the 1990 earthquake that dealt the EC to its knees. Beneco’s infrastructure got walloped and for months, the EC was buried underneath the ruins.
Verzosa then appeared like a wild card. There were members of the board of directors who dissented his entry. The GM he was ordered to replace also resisted. But NEA stood its ground and insisted Verzosa as its man. In 1990, the NEA officially designated him as Beneco GM.
Verzosa, spring chicken in his 30s that time, wasted no time and unleashed the stuff he was made of. Braving what he then called as quite a hostile environment, he started to get the pieces together and raise the electric cooperative from being in nil. He burned candles to learn what an electric cooperative is all about and how to run it efficiently. He solicited the help of industry experts to gain insights on the technical parameters of electric distribution. On the sides, he minced no words in firing underperforming employees and dared lawsuits filed by employees whose employment had to be compromised due to the infusion of technology aimed at improving the internal systems of Beneco. He vividly recalled those days when he had to ride those decrepit samurai vehicles to inspect where the poles and meters will be installed. He, too, had his share of mounting complaints from consumers which he has learned to take in stride. Not that he would ignore them; but he knew that as a GM, his breakfast would be riddled by consumers who would gripe when their electricity gets off.
As the years progressed, Verzosa cannot be denied his time.
His business acumen catapulted Beneco to past industry norms. Suddenly, the books of the EC became debt free, the double digit system loss became single, the collection efficiency reached the 100 percent mark, and the technical side got a big boost in terms of capital infusion and technology acquisition. Today, not only is the EC recognized for the leaps it took. The Triple A rating it got from NEA is miniscule compared to what the EC is all about today – engaging in other businesses, pioneer in the use of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, the first EC to ink an agreement with the Department of Information and Communication Technology for the provision of Internet services and erecting its own mini hydro power plant, among other accomplishments.
The GM, however, was also human. I saw him misty eyed when he addressed the accident that befell Joel Esteban, a lineman who lost a limb when his teammates skipped protocols on power restoration. He also laughs boisterously, rocking the Beneco office then at Alapang, La Trinidad and the left wing of South Drive headquarters in Baguio City when one could tell him stories to his liking. He, too, could not conceal his displeasure and would really get mad. When he asks for a smoke or starts beating the table with his cigarette, beware for that’s the lull before the storm. Not that we detested that. But it is him, his being human.
He is gone now; and we will miss him more than 10 times.
In January, upon my prodding, he joined the other birthday celebrators on stage to dance the “Sissiwit,” a chart topping local composition. He gamely swayed and did the native twist. I would rather remember him that day than think he is now away.
Sir Gerry, I will forever be grateful to you. You are our man, our GM. — Delmar O. Cariño