A STEP into his vintage-themed office gives any visitor a quick look on the material manifestations of his success: scores of gleaming trophies in black, gold, and yellow lined-up on a long wooden table on the left; and next to it, another table adorned by a pile of magazines featuring the younger version of the man now sitting cozily in his office chair.
Wearing a navy blue sweater over his collared polo, Jeffrey Tarayao proceeds to tell the story of how he rose from becoming a Thomasian Young Achiever in 2008 to being sort of a superhero bringing light to people’s homes—literally.
The Odds and Ends
“It was a struggling life.”
This is how Tarayao defines his younger years, where he had spent 28 years staying at the maid’s quarters of his dad’s employers, whom he looked up to as grandparents. His dad worked as a family driver while his mother was a handicraft saleslady.
While not exactly born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Tarayao was able to attend his dream school, the University of Santo Tomas – Faculty of Arts and Letters.
“I guess I hit a good choice in AB Communication Arts because the things that I really wanted to do (are here),” he reveals, adding he enjoyed the program as it exposed him to the beauties and difficulties of strategic communication.
Tarayao spent his college years holding major positions in different organizations, starting as a treasurer of the freshmen society and serving as vice president in his junior year. He never hesitated running for society president during his senior year, but he failed to clinch the position. Losing in the elections hit Tarayao hard until he realized that “It was a sign from heavens na ‘Oh, mag aral ka na lang ng mabuti (at) baka mapakinabangan mo (pa).”
The Stepping Stone
Molded by the Ayala Young Leader’s (AYLC) program, Tarayao crossed the threshold of corporate affairs when he got his first job at Globe Telecommunications.
Being appointed as an Internal Communications Associate felt “limiting,” he shares, but when he was transferred to the human resource department, he started to enjoy what he was doing.
On his tenth year in telecommunications, Tarayao grabbed an opening in the press relations division, and after six months was promoted to head the community relations department. This made him the youngest VP in the company.
But doubts on whether or not he should stay on the same career path still bugged Tarayao that once he almost moved out of the country. Until Manny V. Pangilinan came into the picture.
The business tycoon offered him a new environment through MERALCO Corporation’s Chief Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) sector, which he now heads as the president of ONE MERALCO Foundation. “Hindi ko alam na ang Chief CSR pala ay President din,” he says with a modest smile.
The Game Changer
The challenge now for Tarayao is how to make people understand that MERALCO is beyond its electric bills. He believes his real mission is not to become a boss but to be a facilitator of growth as he helps provide electrical power to remote areas. “I make sure that my own fulfillment and satisfaction is to see them grow,” he adds.
Last July, Meralco Foundation provided electricity to its 100th school for their past three years of service. “We are energizing 4 in a month so every week, may ine-energize kami,” the Chief CSR proudly shares, revealing that the foundation will reach the 150th mark as a year-ender.
Tarayao initiated household and school electrification, giving not only light to low-income families near islands and mountains but also hope to those who have always been used to living in darkness every night.
“We thought if we energized the school, everything gets empowered,” he says. An advocate of education, Tarayao believes that the children should be given proper opportunities for them to become future game changers of the country.
He doesn’t mind visiting 100 schools regularly for evaluation and travelling 5 hours through rough waters or sometimes staying overnight to get in touch with partner communities. “It is an extreme physical and emotional exhaustion, but when you see the glow on their faces, it feels different,” Tarayao warmly shares. A total of 39,122 families are already directly benefitting from their programs.
Tarayao recounts one instance in South Cotabato where a father told him, “Sir, alam mo ba, 52 years old na ako, pero nakakita lang ako ng kuryente nung 51 na ako.” He replied with gratitude and a hint of surprise on how his job has already created an impact to other people’s lives. “Masaya ako kasi my job is really giving hope.”
This mission proved to be a blessing for the CSR president, but in the end, he claims that the real blessing is keeping a good relationship with others. Being able to provide a good life not only to his parents but also to the beneficiaries of the foundation is his greatest achievement. “You always have to improve yourself even when you are at the top. It is all about humility,” he says. F – Maria Katrina F. Guzman