To say that Victoria “Vicky” Garchitorena is a paragon of achievement does no justice to the enormity of her accomplishments in the realms of politics, business, and social responsibility. Few other people can say that they have experienced the gamut of what these fields have to offer – from a consummate business professional who defined
corporate social responsibility in the Philippines, a voice of a people crying out for freedom, a presidential adviser, and ever a champion for the poor.
Even as a student, Vicky became well-versed in the machinations of politics through
her membership in the College Editors Guild, the Group for the Increase of Vocations, and
the National Union of Students. Graduating with a degree in BS Physics in 1964, she spent
six years involved in scientific work before joining the accounting firm SGV and Co. as
communications department head. From the 70s onwards, she immersed herself in
business and commerce, joining companies such as the Philippine Shares Corporation,
Himalayang Pilipino, Sunburst Trading, Burger King, Bagong Pilipino Insurance, and PSC
Finance. Wanting to expand her skillset, Vicky signed up for an 8-week management
program in AIM, which greatly improved her mastery over business, and which she regards
as a major turning point in life.
The assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983 rekindled a fire within her, and she
became politically involved once again – most prominently as a leader of the Alliance of
Women for Action towards Reform, or AWARE, who were the very first group to write an
open letter opposing the Marcos dictatorship, and in a brazen gesture, printed the names of
the signatories at the end of the letter. With encouragement from former president Cory
Aquino, Vicky ran for congress in 1987. In spite of her loss, she found that, in her own
words, “I could not turn back on the faces of poverty that stared back at me.”
It was this thought that spearheaded her drive to fight the good fight for those who
could not find a voice. Among her numerous accomplishments are the establishment of the
Samahang Pangkabuhayan ng San Juan at Mandaluyong for women empowerment, ABS-
CBN’s “Bahay Kalinga”, a daily show which assisted children in need of medical assistance,
and “Tangahaling Tapatan”, a radio show where she discussed socio-political issues. This
drive to help others would culminate in the changes she introduced to the Ayala Group as
Executive Director of the Filipinas Foundation. Under her guidance, corporate social
responsibility flourished as business units began to seek win-win situations for themselves
and for the urban poor – which are still used as groundwork for modern CSR programs.
The turn of the millennium would see Vicky once again rise to fight another corrupt
presidency, and she was appointed as Chief of Presidential Management staff in 2001.
When doubts about the administration’s intent to serve the people became unclear, Vicky
left her position and returned to Ayala Foundation Inc. to continue doing what she did best
for several more years, creating a network of programs that work together and create
larger change, such as GILAS, which provides computer equipment to public high schools
and affects 1.5 million schoolchildren yearly. When Vicky retired from the Ayala
Foundation, she left behind a legacy of helping the least, the last, and the lost, growing an
annual budget of P3 million for CSR to P300-P350 million a year.
Leaving the corporate world behind did not mean the end of her mission, however.
She continues to be active today – participating in the Gerry Roxas Foundation to help
outstanding cooperatives win support from USAID, establishing SPARK, a non-profit
organization for women entrepreneurship, and more recently, as one of the figureheads of
TindigPilipinas, a coalition that challenges the current administration on several fronts.
For Vicky, those who can speak up, must. And she has certainly proven that she is
one who can. With a unique talent for making things happen, Vicky Garchitorena is a
blazing torch that challenges today’s youth and tomorrow’s future leaders to make their
own way, and bring their visions to fruition.