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  • The First Lady of Bohol IT

    With Loy M. Palapos
    August 31, 2014

    The First Lady of Bohol IT

    There are now thousands of Boholanos who have certificates and diplomas in the various curricula for Computer Science, either for a full Bachelor’s degree, or short-term training. Yet, only a few stand out as Computer luminaries, if by it we mean not only exposure to Information Technology but actual application of what is imbibed. To these few belongs the popular Leah Tirol-Magno (LTM), although only those close to her know her real name (Dalia Melda).
    It is worthy to note that, unlike many before her, learned the rudiments of Computer technology very early in their educational endeavors, Information Technology was not her vocabulary from elementary to tertiary school. It was only when she worked in Metro Manila, at one time as an Administrative Staff of Congressman David B. Tirol, did she become aware of the significance of computerization. As fate would have it, she met Arturo Carlos Garcia Magno of Quezon City, who opened her eyes to the universal marvel of IT. Simultaneously, he opened his heart to her, and she to him, that ended in their exchange of marital vows on July 31, 1988.
    It is a union blessed with three children, and committed to IT. Even though she had her hands full with varied responsibilities to her husband and children, her career as a CPA, Real Estate Broker, and later as the Registrar of the University of Bohol, her passion for IT never waned. In the IT Summit held in the Province she was on top form. Earlier she was elected Chairperson of the Bohol ICT (Information and Communications Technology) Council. To date, the Council has given scholarship grants to hundreds of Boholanos in Computer knowhow.
    This interview took place at her Office (Registrar) in the University of Bohol.

    LMP: There are only a few people in Bohol whom we can consider as well-versed in Information Technology, considering it is something new. In your case, how come you became affiliated with IT?
    LTM: First of all, I never knew about computers until I got married with my husband who is into computer hardware. When I was introduced to using the computer, I fell in love with it. Until Internet came, I got sort of addicted to it. It started with my curiosity… and eventually I learned how to earn money from it. Years back, I taught the basics on how to use the internet to thousands of students all over Bohol.
    LMP: Here in UB?
    LTM: Yes, we invited high school students from the different schools of the Province, and I did lectures on how to use the Internet for free.
    LMP: What year was this?
    LTM: It was late 90s and I also had the same project with the Rotary for about 5 years.
    LMP: The two of them dovetailed?
    LTM: Yeah, the Rotary, University of Bohol, as well as the Internet. I really wanted to share with everyone the wonderful things about the Internet.
    LMP: You said you didn’t know about computers when you were single and still studying. You learned about it through your husband. What’s really is his occupation?
    LTM: Right now, he is the Systems/Network Administrator of the University of Bohol. He is more into hardware.
    LMP: Is he a Boholano?
    LTM: No, he is from Quezon City.
    LMP: How did you meet him?
    LTM: When my father was still a Congressman, I was the one who stayed with him in our house in Quezon City. At the same time, I was doing my review for the CPA Board Exam and studied at De La Salle University for my MBA. There was no Internet then, only the CV Radio. We were neighbors and because of this the signal of his CV Radio would always jam the signal of mine. So, eventually we met and that was the beginning of our love story. (Laughs)
    LMP: What is it in IT that you like most?
    LTM: I can do a lot of things using the computer. I can discover many wonderful things using the Internet like; I can go into a different world just by being in my bedroom, and I can talk with people from different places. Right now, I’m into online shopping and it is fun. I can buy a lot of things from the different stores in US, Australia, Japan or anywhere in the world without going there.
    LMP: I remember one time, I met George Lao, and he mentioned that, he had some lots somewhere at Riverside Songculan and you were the one he contacted to sell his lots, and you were very successful. How did you do it?
    LTM: I was already fascinated with the Internet at that time. I think, I was the second Boholano way back in mid-nineties to be able to build a website about Bohol. I made Bohol visible to the world through Internet.
    LMP: What was that website?
    LTM: bohol-island.com, and the other one was initiated by somebody based in the US. Mine was different because I am living in Bohol so, I can give different information from home.
    LMP: Are you still doing that to the outside world through your website?
    LTM: Yeah, and I am also maintaining newspaper websites for Bohol?
    LMP: What do you mean?
    LTM: I am doing it for Bohol Chronicle and Sunday Post for free. I was so fascinated with the internet that I can connect with different people from all over the world. One way or the other, I wanted to share this fascination, the wonderful things about the Internet by teaching the young people how to use it.
    LMP: Are you still at it now?
    LTM: Right now, I am not doing it anymore since, there are already Internet Cafés in the different towns of Bohol.
    LMP: If you are going to make an assessment as to how successful you are in this venture in trying to advocate Information Technology to others, are you on top of it?
    LTM: It’s fulfilling on my part knowing that this is just one of my hobbies and through it I was able to help others learn its importance in today’s very highly competitive world. At this time, I am already in a different level of being involved in the IT sector since GMA’s project to organize ICT Council in every province. Then Commissioner Mon Ibrahim came to Bohol for the said project, and I was one of the people who were invited to attend that meeting together with the other representatives from the Provincial Government of Bohol and other sectors of society. I was elected right there and then as the Chairperson.
    LMP: Are all of these people in that group computer literate?
    LTM: Of course, they are. We call ourselves the ICT Champions of Bohol.
    LMP: Was there one representative for each municipality or sector?
    LTM: No, not exactly like that. The Bohol ICT Council was already set although it was initiated by then President GMA. We have representatives from different sectors, like the City Government of Tagbilaran, Provincial Government of Bohol, Telecoms (Globe, PLDT, etc.) or any sector that would be working with the ICT Industry.
    LMP: How many belong to this group as of now?
    LTM: We are 30 in the group but very few are active.
    LMP: Is it still the advocacy to propagate IT knowledge?
    LTM: It’s a different level already. ICT involves the Call Center Industry, Medical Transcription, etc.
    LMP: How does Medical Transcription relate to this?
    LTM: In the US, Europe, or in other countries the Doctors will just hold a tape recorder or something to describe the condition of the patient. Related to medical reports in audio, this will be sent to companies here in the Philippines. The recording is transcribed and made into documents. These are few of the sectors that belong to the ICT Industry. Another thing, the ICT Industry is the second largest dollar contributor to the Philippine economy next to the OFW remittances. The Philippines is also the number one preferred destination for BPO (Business Processing Outsourcing).
    LMP: Can you explain further the ICT Industry for us to understand more?
    LTM: ICT Industry is the second biggest sector next to the Philippine Government, and one of the biggest employers of the country. In just one Call Center, they can hire 5,000 people. Like in Cebu, when I attended a meeting with other ICT Presidents, their current number of employees employed in the ICT Industry is 50,000. In Bohol, we only have about 50. These people employed in the ICT Industry are the ones who are better paid…P12,000 at least. We can see Cebu now is booming, with lots of businesses sprouting and that’s because of the ICT Industry.
    LMP: What’s the function of a Call Center Agent?
    LTM: Let’s make an example – in the US their inquiry number is 1-800 wherein you can ask for information about a certain product and the services offered by a certain company. When you call this number, this is being answered by someone here in the Philippines. Like, if you want to order flowers online, when you dial the number mentioned earlier, you are being answered by a Call Center Agent based in the Philippines. They attend to your needs like, what kind of flower arrangement you want, where it will be delivered, and so on.
    LMP: Does it follow that a Call Center Agent should know the basics?
    LTM: Yeah, they are being trained by the company hiring them. In a Call Center, they have different accounts like, 20 Call Center Agents serve this Company A, 30 for Company B, so not all these Call Center Agents are focusing in one company only. Each of them has their accounts to attend to. But the ICT Industry is not only about Call Centers.
    LMP: What more aside from Medical Transcriptions and all that?
    LTM: We also have animations.
    LMP: What do mean by that?
    LTM: I’m sure you have seen Alladin, Avatar, etc.; what you see on the movie is done by animators. The artists have each his own assignment and later on they will be combined when all is done.
    LMP: So, it would turn out that what you see is a product of many people combining all their works.
    LTM: Aside from animation, we also have drafting and designs. Engineers from other countries send their requirements in the Philippines and when the design is done, it will be sent back through Internet. We are also working on the employment of Nurses here in the Philippines since; we have so many unemployed Registered Nurses. We have visited a company in Manila; they call it HIM (Health Information Management) Sector. This is another sector of the ICT Industry. Employees employed in this company are Registered Nurses, Doctors, or anything related to medical course. They are taking care of patients but at a distance. Like, a patient is in US, Europe, or Australia but there Nurses are here in the Philippines. They call it Home Health Care, wherein a Doctor will just tell the patient to have his blood pressure or Nurses reminding them to take their medicines. They are being monitored by the Insurance Company also if their health is improving so that, they don’t have to spend more for hospitalization.
    LMP: Is it happening in the Philippines?
    LTM: Yes, it is. HIM Sector is really growing also. This is an alternative employment opportunity for our unemployed Nurses.
    LMP: I read on the papers the news that Obama is having this program not to outsource these things anymore.
    LTM: Actually, this is just a proposed bill of Obama, it was being pushed several times but it did not succeed because the biggest oppositors of this bill are the big companies in the US. Outsourcing can make them save a lot. Like for example, one staff to take care of calls to give information about their services and they will only pay 4,000 to 5,000 dollars.
    LMP: But the move is for the jobs to be for Americans.
    LTM: Outsourcing the services here in the Philippines or elsewhere outside America would save a lot for the big companies in the US. If that bill will really be enforced, lots of companies would fall.
    LMP: That will also be a setback to their own economy. Let’s talk about IT in Bohol. You have mentioning about Call Centers, its progress in Dumaguete and Cebu. How about here in Tagbilaran City?
    LTM: That is what we are pushing right now. We the ICT Champions of Bohol are working on it. We are doing our best to inform people about it, to be open-minded about this option because some Boholanos go outside Bohol to look for employment. We cannot blame them because we don’t have much employment opportunities here. With Call Centers or companies engaged in ICT willing to invest in Bohol, there would be better employment opportunities for everyone.
    LMP: If in case that happens, say in the near future, are we ready for the manpower needs?
    LTM: That’s what we are working on. For the manpower, we are targeting the HIM sector because we have so many unemployed Nurses in Bohol. They are just working as casuals, volunteers, and even promodisers. We are doing our best to invite HIM companies to put up their centers here. What we are planning to do is, we would like to work with the Philippines Nurses Association in Bohol to open this idea and inform all Nurses that this would be an alternative job. We want them to attend trainings, so that they will be ready when the opportunity comes. In the ICT Industry, for every ICT employee created, three additional indirect employees or employment are also created. For example, there is a certain company that will set up here and they will hire 300 employees. These 300 employees would need a better place to live in if they are coming from other places. Since, they are receiving high salary; they can already afford to eat in better places. So, we have to put up restaurants, apartments. They can send their brothers and sisters to school, they can buy their needs and life would be better.
    LMP: When will it happen in Bohol? Any time-table for that?
    LTM: We are always courting investors everywhere we go. Right now, we are courting the Association of all the BPOs in the Philippines. We want them to come to Bohol, to see how nice our place is, and how ready we are for the big opportunities. As we go along, we work on the preparation of Bohol and the City of Tagbilaran to be ready for these companies.
    LMP: That should need a change in the curriculum. Like in your case, you are involved with the University of Bohol.
    LTM: Not totally a change in curriculum, we will just enhance. One of the problems we noticed, especially when they apply in Call Center Companies, is speaking the English language. Aside from that, there are also accounting jobs through internet.
    LMP: Let’s talk about your personal life; you are a part of the clan of educators. Now, you are branching out to Information Technology. Where do you belong, really?
    LTM: I am happy with what I am doing right now. What we are working on is for the Boholanos for them to have better employment opportunities in the future.
    LMP: If you are going to decide, which would you be? Would you be an educator or somebody affiliated with Information Technology?
    LTM: I could be anywhere, where God wants me to provide service to the people. (Laughs)
    LMP: Where are you most happy?
    LTM: I am happy in everything that I am doing now because I am able to help others.
    LMP: You mentioned like, your IT thing is only a sideline?
    LTM: Money-wise, I mean, the income through the Internet is just a sort of a sideline.
    LMP: Would it not happen one day, when it will be reversed and it will become so progressive?
    LTM: There was a time that, I was really earning more than what I am receiving in this office.
    LMP: Why not pursue it?
    LTM: I don’t know, maybe it’s some sort of being here in the University, a commitment to the family, an obligation to fulfill and to continue the legacy of our grandfather.
    LMP: Who is Leah Tirol-Magno five or ten years from now?
    LTM: The same Leah, but with more time to serve the Lord in everything that He wants me to do for Him.

    The altruism of Leah T. Magno, especially in advocating Information Technology among Boholanos, is ultimate and boundless. The confidence she exudes when elaborating on this passion rubs off on anybody she associates with. This dynamism generates enthusiasm on her colleagues of the Computer generation, as no other woman has ever done.
    The thousands of Boholanos who learned the use of the Internet through her tutelage are grateful, not only because the training was “free-of-charge,” but because until today they have made use of what they learned from the First Lady of Bohol IT.

    Filed under: 2014, August | Permalink