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Albert Gamatero: Marketing Professional; Teacher by Heart Part I

“Teaching is a job that I would do for free!” So says Albert Gamatero of the High School Class of 1988 and also recently college and graduate school professor of De La Salle Lipa. Said in jest, of course; and just as quickly followed by, “Please don’t tell anyone.”

Albert or ‘Abet’ – as he is called by many – is currently General Manager and Marketing Officer of Panaderia Pantoja, Inc. He reports directly to the President and all the Vice-Presidents report to him.

Being back in the corporate world has not made him forget one of the reasons why he returned to the Philippines after enjoying a lucrative marketing career in the United States.

“But I did; and I am thankful for the opportunity,” Albert says. “However, going back to corporate practice also made me realise that I am really a teacher by heart. When I landed a corporate job, the first thing that came to my mind was: I will one day be a better teacher because of this top management experience.”
“I really wanted to teach in the Philippines,” Abet explains. “I could have taught in the U.S.; but I really wanted to teach college in the Philippines. I felt like I could contribute more here.”

Then, he adds, “And I could not explain why; but my dream was very specific. I wanted to teach in the Philippines; I wanted to teach in La Salle. I felt at that time, that it was going to be a homecoming. Best decision I ever made in my life!”

Of course, Albert himself admits that such a homecoming to become a teacher in the alma mater was not at all part of the grand plan when he left the portals of the very same school roughly two decades earlier to take on these things called college and career.

“As a child, and even all the way up to high school, my dream was to become a doctor,” Albert confesses. Even as a teenager, however, he was a pragmatist; and knew that pursuing that dream was a tad on the impractical side.

“I was born to older parents and I wanted to finish college quicker than the length of time that it would have taken me to finish Medicine.” So, he enrolled in DLSU-Manila’s Liberal Arts-Commerce program. The double degree program allowed him to major in Political Science and Marketing.

Albert recalls college with fondness. “College was fun – especially when I reached my third trimester during my second year,” he beams. “Learning was fun! No sugar coating, seriously! I had great friends, some of whom had been my friends since high school in De La Salle Lipa. I also met a lot of good people from other schools. I am still in touch with them, thanks to Facebook.”

“I was really interested in studying Politics,” Albert explains the choice of Political Science. “I guess my political awakening in my sophomore year in high school – the whole Martial Law, Marcos-versus-Cory, People Power thing. I remember engaging in debates with my classmates and sometimes even teachers.”

And the choice of Marketing? “My original major for Commerce was Accountancy. In my third year, I realised that I didn’t want to be an Accountant. I chose to major in Marketing Management, instead. I have always enjoyed Marketing.”

It was a choice that Albert would not regret because Marketing offered an avenue for expressing his innate creativity.

“It’s not an exact Science,” he explains. “I can get creative. Your competition is yourself. Because even if I don’t have a multi-million budget, I can do the best with what I have and still get great results. Success is defined relative to competition. Very dynamic. And, I’d like to believe that this is the heart of a selling organisation. Marketing is what makes it happen.”

It was after graduating from college that Albert first realised that there was inside him this heretofore unknown desire to teach in college. First, he wanted to go abroad in pursuit of an MBA degree; except that he did not quite know how to go about it.

“After my dad’s first death anniversary in 1996, I decided to go back to the U.S.,” Albert explains how he finally got the chance to work for his MBA. “I was born an American Citizen, so going back and forth is not an issue.”

“My friend, Edwin Lopez – also an alumnus of DLSL – invited me to stay with him,” Albert continues with his story. “He was at that time based in Springfield, Missouri working as an Occupational Therapist. He is now married with two kids and based in Knoxville, Tennessee.”

“When I got to Springfield, Edwin right away mentioned to me that there was a state university in Springfield and that I could give it a shot. So I did.”

That decision turned out to be particularly fortuitous for Albert. “God was good! I was not only accepted at Missouri State University,” he recalls. “I was also granted a scholarship. On top of that, I was also offered a full-time job with benefits at the university.”

To get by before going back to school, however, Albert had to work for six months as a Nursing Assistant. “It was fulfilling,” he says of the experience, “because I was helping and taking care of people. But meeennn…!!! It was hard!”

Albert considers the time spent at Missouri State the best years of his life. “Every day, I woke up excited about what was lying ahead. Every step of the way was worth it. Literally, I’d walk around campus floating – I still could not believe that I was there, living my dream!”

“Studying in an American university was not much different from studying in DLSU,” Albert describes life in graduate school. “While studying in the U.S., I became prouder of my Lasallian education because I was able to compete with students from all over the world – Chinese, Vietnamese, Americans, Canadians, Indians, Japanese, French, Yugoslavs, etc.”

He also did exceedingly well with his academics. “There were many times when I even excelled and was a resource person for some of my classmates. I finished my MBA with a cumulative GPA of 4.0.”

After graduation, Albert was offered a job as Marketing Analyst by Southland Corporation, the company that owns the convenience story chain 7-11, Incorporated. Taking the job meant that he had to leave the quaint little town of Springfield – which he had fallen in love with and where he made many friends – and relocate to Dallas in Texas.

Ever the pragmatist, Albert bravely accepted the parting of ways as all part and parcel of moving on with one’s life. “That’s how the cookie crumbles,” he says, however, with a touch of irony. “You go where the opportunity is.”

One of the reasons why Albert also accepted the Southland offer was because he wanted to be closer to his half-sisters. Both are based in Houston, which is just four hours by car from Dallas.

It was while vacationing in Houston that opportunity came knocking again after a year and a half with Southland. “A hurricane hit and I got stranded for like a week,” Albert laughs. “After which, I saw an announcement that State Farm Insurance Companies was looking for a Risk Analyst. I got interested, applied, and luckily got the job. I stayed in Houston for about three years.”

He then transferred to California to take on another position with the same company. He stayed in the Golden State for just two years before making the decision to move back to the Philippines.

Looking back, Albert realises that eleven years of living in the United States has helped him to build his character. “It made me realise that I was capable of achieving things that I thought were impossible,” he says. “It also made me realise that nothing was really impossible if you put your heart and mind to it.”

“The opportunities in the U.S. are limitless,” he continues. “The only limit is the limit that you put upon yourself. I must say that I had a blast!”

When the time came to move back to the Philippines, being Albert, it was a decision that he made pragmatically and stuck with. “It was time to come home for a new chapter in my life. No regrets. I am what I am and where I am today because of the choices I made.”

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