Isagani De Castro

isagani 2When I was asked to give a tribute to our late colleague, Mr. Isagani de Castro, I first hesitated, not being used to doing this. But the request said to give just a few personal tidbits of the Gani I knew. Anne also promised that a write up on him would be prepared and I was just to read it. I prepared the tidbits as requested, so, this is a consolidation of the write-up and my tidbits.

Gani graduated from the Mapua Institute of Technology in 1953 with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree.  At that time, Mapua was THE engineering school to go to if you wanted to be a successful engineer.  He placed 3rd   in the 1954 Civil Engineering Board examinations. He worked with National Power Corporation and later joined GSIS as Associate Actuary from 1959 to 1966.  It was at this time when he was sent as Pensionado to the Universidad Central de Madrid where in 1961 he completed his Diplomate in Actuarial Science. He also earned a Certificate  in Social Security at the same time from Organizacion Ibero-Americana de Seguridad Social in the same country.  He worked with GSIS up to 1966 when he joined Filipinas Life (later named Ayala Life, now BPI-PhilAm Life Insurance Co.) as Vice President and Actuary.  He was VP and Actuary of Filipinas Life up to 1972 and from 1972 to 1974, he was VP and Actuary of Insular Life.

From 1974 to 1979, he was Managing Director for China Underwriters Life and General Insurance Company,  Hongkong.  He came back to the Philippines to become President, Chief Operating Officer and Board Member of Fiipinas Life.  It was at this time, in 1982,  that he completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University. In  1989, he became President and Chief Operating Officer and Board Member of Universal Life Reinsurance Corporation.

At first, I thought I did not know enough of Gani to write about him. I was wrong. I had worked with him much longer than the days we were together at then Filipinas Life which I joined in 1986, working with him until 1989 when he became President of Universal Reinsurance. When we were at Filipinas Life together, he was my boss. We worked several hours, together, not only on  Filipinas Life business, but also  on his  concerns with  the Actuarial Society of the  Philippines.

My early encounters with Gani, were at  meetings of the Actuarial Society which I joined in 1964, He was then already a Fellow of the Society. The Society was, at that time,  very concerned with the training and multiplication in numbers of local actuaries. It was then that Fellows worked together through committees to  spell out qualification requirements to be Fellows of the Society. Thus began the qualifying examinations for Associateship and Fellowship. The Fellows then were the first examiners. Later Professor Belleza introduced courses in Actuarial Science at the University of the Philippines to help the cause and this helped much in the Society’s concern. I must say that in all this, Gani was a very active contributor to everything that was later adopted by the Society.

It was when I joined the Insurance Commission in October 1973 when I got to know more about  Gani. We were then busy with the proposed Presidential Decree to update the Insurance Code. Each time I raised a question with Commissioner Arnaldo, she would tell me to call Gani and discuss it with him.  Gani was Mrs. Arnaldo’s most trusted actuary, after Mr. Exequiel Sevilla. She very much valued Gani’s advice and suggestions. She told me Gani was very objective despite the fact that he belonged to the supervised. He balanced his interest between the ‘freedom’ of the insurance industry to do as it pleases and the need for its supervision by the Insurance Commission to protect both the companies and the policyholders. I will not be surprised if Gani was instrumental in the inclusion of the Actuarial Society of the Philippines in the Insurance Code.

Gani invited me to join him at Filipinas Life in July of 1985. I was President of the Actuarial Society at that time, and, we were planning a despedida luncheon for Mrs. Arnaldo to honor her for having included the ASP in the Insurance Code. I called him up and asked him to prepare a program for that luncheon. Shortly after I asked him, he asked if we could meet at his office the following Monday. We did and with him then was Mr. Federico Roa, VP and Actuary of Insular Life. Gani then outlined the skit he planned us to do with the three of us in the cast.  We were to give Mrs. Arnaldo an Honorary Member designation with the ASP, Gani was to make the announcement, while Mr. Roa, at that time the oldest member of the Society,  would  present to her the  Certificate of Membership, in my presence. It was meant to be just a skit to entertain!  We were later questioned by some members why we did that since there was no such category of Honorary Member in the By Laws of the Society.  Be that as it may, the ASP decided to ‘legalize’ our action by amending the By Laws so that now, you find Honorary Member as one of the categories of Membership with only Mrs. Arnaldo in it.

After that meeting, Gani asked me if I could join him at Filipinas Life. I asked him about Mr. Nebrida who was then his VP and Actuary. He said he was in an expansion mode as 1986 was the start of the complete mutualisation of Insular Life, so Filipinas Life was going to be the flagship life insurance company of the Ayalas. I told him I may be ready to move by the beginning of the following year and he said that was just right for his timetable.  So I joined him on January 1, 1986.

I never had much difficulty working with him. He was very pleasant to work with. My work was initially confined to the hiring, training and supervising  the actuarial staff doing usual actuarial work: product development, valuation of liabilities, expense analysis and the like. Later, he added more responsibilities, like underwriting, etc. During staff or board meetings,  I did not have to make too many justifications and explanations as he understood only too well, everything we were doing or recommending. He was cool as a boss. He was generous with his time, and, I recall, he gave in to many of our requests as long as he believed in our justifications. I do not recall him ever losing his temper.

I was at the Insurance Commission before I joined him in 1986, when  Gani expressed his concern about certain practices of some ASP members with respect to Ethics .  He said, he missed the likes of Mr. Sevilla who gave a lot of advice and direction to the ASP. I then (just out of the blue) blurted, “But you should be the Mr. Sevilla now!”. That concern resulted in the creation of the present day PSRC, and, in order to continue to improve our education and examination processes, he recommended the creation of the Education and Examination Council, now the EEC. The present day structure of ASP, therefore, are all through the initiative of Gani. It was also Gani’s idea that the Associateship and Fellowship Admission Sessions be made  qualifying requirements to consolidate knowledge of subject matter which was covered by the exams, and the ethical applications thereof. We initially used the Case Method and many of the cases used were developed by Gani.   There was  plenty of work to do in the beginning:  the rules and regulations, procedures, etc. Later, to insure their continuity, the PSRC and EEC were incorporated into the By Laws.  Gani and I were in the first PSRC. How long we worked together in the first  years of  PSRC,  I do not know now, but I do recall that we were there for as long as we were qualified! We would get the mandatory one year rest after two terms, then we would be put back again!  In the early years of the PSRC we had to  craft a lot of the Guidelines and Procedures which you find today (with probably later revisions, or none?).

Sometime in 2001, SEC hired a group of retired actuaries to review Financial Statements of Pre Need Companies. Gani and I, along with Mr. Totoy Mercado, former VP and Actuary of Insular Life, the late  former Insurance Commissioner Vangie Escobillo and Leo Tan were in that group. Gani headed the team.  Our task was to particularly look into the actuarial work submitted by actuaries and how this affected the Pre Need Companies’ solvency.  As a result of this, SEC started accrediting Pre Need Actuaries. But that did not seem to be enough. The result, as you all know by now, is the failure of many of the Pre-Need companies, and the eventual transfer of their supervision to the Insurance Commission.  (I am not saying here the  actuaries had a hand in the failures, but could some negligence play a role here?)

Gani was also at one time Member of the Board of Directors of Bank of the Philippine Islands and the Crop Insurance Corporation of the Philippines. From 1992 to 2012, he was Secretary General of the Association of Insurers and Reinsurers of Developing Countries (AIRDC) and the Association of Insurance Supervisory Authorities of Developing Countries (AISADC). After his retirement from employment, he continued to practice the profession and founded the Present Value Managers, Inc.in 1994 when he also put up Taters Enterprises, Inc.

It is sad that Gani did not live long enough to once more have his influence felt in the Society he loved so much. Lately, he again expressed concerns in the ASP and its directions. You must have noticed that he had not been attending meetings and conventions. I reminded him of my comment that he should  now be the Mr. Sevilla in the ASP again, and I do believe that this year,  he would have been happy to spend more time with ASP.

My last encounter with Mr. De Castro was on December 30, 2016. This experience is very typical of him, He asked if we could have lunch at Chimara at the UP Town Center. I told him I was thinking of inviting him, Mr. Totoy Mercado and Ms. Ines Belleza together and  yes, we can meet at Chimara, so I can introduce Chimara to Mr. Mercado.  We did not go to Chimara, we met at Via Mare at the UP campus,  as that was the place more familiar to Mrs. Mercado who drove for Mr. Mercado.  He brought Christmas gifts for all of us. After the lunch, Gani insisted on paying the bill!  My text to him later read “Thank you very much for the lunch and the Christmas gifts.  I know you said let’s get together but when I asked Aster, Totoy and Ines to join us it was to be my treat”.  His reply, “The treat was your ‘commission’ for marketing Chimara UP Town Center.”  I texted back, “Commissions are paid for successful marketing.  In this case, treat is bonus, and not commission.”  I called him up again and thanked him once more for paying the bill on my invitation.  He responded in good humour  – you organized, so  I paid. Sadly, the next text in my cellphone from his cellphone was the message from Ellen, his daughter, re his passing away on January 19.

Gani’s life was punctuated with various accomplishments and achievements. His exceptional talent and intelligence impacted each of the organizations that were fortunate enough to have him, our Society included. His wisdom continues to live in his works. Aspiring actuaries  are familiar with the Study Notes on Taxation.

American surgeon and bioethicist Sherwin Nuland once said “the greatest dignity to be found in death is the dignity that preceded it.” There is dignity in the life that preceded the loss of a great actuary and we, in the Actuarial Society,  can only be grateful that we have been blessed to have been graced by such a man for the many years he was with us. Though his loss is a grief that continues to reverberate, his legacy continues to live on. God speed, Gani.

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