There is a government institution that seems to be invisible but whose footprint is almost everywhere. It celebrated it golden anniversary this month, and this is the trailblazing Development Academy of the Philippines or DAP. It was formed, first of all, to train managers and officers of government, following the concept of career executives in civil service. It expanded into designing programs and projects that touched the mindsets, if not the lives, of rural bankers, farmers, fishermen, diplomats, teachers, small and medium entrepreneurs, informal settlers, and so many more.
It was here where I had my first job in 1973. I had just gotten married a little over a week before when I serendipitously found work here. Our office’s job was to take care of the Academy’s corporate image. So we did everything, from the logo of DAP itself; the logos of its various programs; it annual reports, internal newsletter and publications; audiovisuals, and so forth. I started out as an artist and left after three years and after six salary adjustments and a promotion to project officer.
Even after I have left the Academy, I was still hired to do other jobs for it, such as books, audiovisuals, and marketing campaigns. I was later able to make arrangements in the DAP where, with colleagues in multimedia, I established my own school for film, television, and communications professionals. It was a learning entity within a larger learning entity.
I was also commissioned to create a coffee-table book for it a few years back. I recall, with sweetness how it started and put it down on the book:
“There is something electrifying when men feel like crusaders, believing that in their hands lay the destiny of their nation. That must have been how the so-called Fellows of the Development Academy of the Philippines felt every time they gathered in one of the tiered conference rooms of its Tagaytay facilities. That was in the latter part of 1973, a few months after President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared Martial Law and drew a picture of a Promised Land.
The President enunciated his grand vision for a New Society and, latched on this, the group of young and middle-aged men assumed the task of charting battle plans that today’s government managers routinely call road maps. With the DAP Conference Center usually shrouded in fog, they moved along its halls like conspirators for change. But instead of arms, in the era before laptops, they bore bulky leather briefcases laden with reams of program concepts and project profiles. In many a cold nippy night, there was much fire in their eyes.
The ellipse desks in the tiered conference room formed what looked like a round table. Dr. Onofre D. Corpuz, also known as OD, clearly stood as the head knight. On his right was his protegé, seventeen years younger, Horacio ‘Boy’ R. Morales.
OD and Boy were a studyin contrast. While OD spoke in soft, almost diffident voice, his right hand man gave suggestions that sounded, with his baritone voice, like commands. OD was rapier, while Boy was saber. In the University of the Philippines where they went to college, OD was with Upsilon Sigma Phi and Boy with Beta Sigma -rival fraternities.
Amidst the exuberance, OD remained the calm steward, reminding his chosen few that DAP must take its cue from the national leadership and that DAP was there to support the government and its other institutions. He kept on telling them: whatever program proposals they could unsheathe from their bright minds, these must be innovative and, most of all, be elegant.
The idea for the DAP started perhaps over a jigger of scotch. In February 1973, Leonides “Leo” S. Virata, then Chairman of the Development Bank of the Philippines, invited his friend OD to take a look at the training facility that the DBP was about to finish constructing in Tagaytay, a sleepy agricultural town. When the facility was being built, bandits sporadically roamed the routes to it and thus, soldiers had to secure the construction premises.
DBP intended the sprawling, contiguous edifice to be the training center for its people, but Virata mused that maybe that was too narrow a task for it. He challenged OD, a kindred calculated risk-taker, to whip up ideas by which the center could be of wider reach and better use. With the winds of Bagong Lipunan buffeting the air, the two agreed that the facilities could be the training center for a new breed of civil servants. Marcos’ very first Presidential Decree, after all, sought the complete overhaul of the executive branch, calling for a phalanx of professional managers to run the bureaucracy. That meant a massive retooling of government people. Thus, the idea of an Academy.
Back in Manila, the two plunged into their separate tasks with frenetic speed. OD to craft the Big Plan and recruit the right people, Virata to put together financial support to see the big plan through.
OD relished intellectual jousting. This was opportune time for him to test the mettle of the bright boys he had met in the course of his many career engagements. It was also time to challenge them to join a new voyage. Over beer and games of poker in his office in Mirasol building on Taft Avenue, there transpired unstructured auditions of ideas for the Academy.
Meanwhile, Virata was able to put together a generous financing support for the DAP, from what was to be known as its founding institutions: the Central Bank of the Philippines, the Development Bank of the Philippines, the Government Service Insurance System, the National Economic and Development Authority, the Philippine National Bank, and the Social Security System.
June 23, 1973 became the target inauguration day of the Academy and, under the Marcos regime, no important date was set at random; it must be divined. That date marked the seventy-first anniversary of theproclamation of the revolutionary government of General Emilio Aguinaldo.