Members of SPCM HS'86 – the last graduating batch of Saint Paul College of Manila High School – are enjoined to join their online discussion group at For more info, please email Oakland CA’s Beverly Bueno Johnson (left) at

The following inspiring stories on Arlene Aran Amarante SPCM HS HS’86, country manager of Motorola Philippines Personal Communications Sector, were scooped by Bev. Thanks!

Challenge-driven widow never agrees 'it can't be done'

Business Top Stories, Inquirer News Service (Posted: 9:44 PM | May 29, 2004)


SHE can be a poster child of rebels who championed a worthy cause.

In the case of Arlene Aran-Amarante, it was to fend for herself and get out of the clutches of a father who tended to be overprotective.

Looking back, she could only thank her father for being the way he was.

If not, she would not have discovered her stubborn streak of independence and burning desire to face up to the most difficult of challenges that eventually earned her the top position at Motorola Philippines.

She first showcased her independence on her sophomore year at the University of the Philippines when this fourth of six children moved out of the family home and lived on her own. She fed herself and took care of all her expenses for school.

Amarante earned her own money from flipping hamburgers and counting change at McDonald's, where she applied with in response to a dare from her classmates. She got 15 pesos an hour for her troubles.

McDonald's management quickly realized, however, that the petite lady who crackled with energy was not meant to just stay behind the counter.

In three months, she was given a managerial position and her pay jumped to P6,000 a month, quite a sum for somebody not yet finished with her Journalism studies.

She stayed on at McDonald's for five years before moving on to Dunkin' Donuts as part of the marketing group.

Her position enabled her to put the marketing theories she was learning in school to immediate practice.

"At first they were giving me the donut line but I told them that I wanted the growth areas, so I did the non-donut line like the bunwich. Even then, I wanted to reach what people said was unreachable," Amarante says in an interview.

From there she moved on to Philippine Cocoa Corp., which produced the Goya line of chocolates. It was her first crack at branding and she learned as much as she could for the close to three years that she stayed with the company.

Among her achievements in the company was the successful launch of the highly popular Knick Knacks snack.

When the Metro Pacific group bought the company, she moved on to Colgate-Palmolive Phils., which she described as her dream company to work for.

"I lived in Makati for over 15 years so I would always pass by the Colgate-Palmolive office. I told myself that I would work there one day and I did," she says.

Amarante loved her work and was able to juggle her responsibilities with being a wife and a mother to a baby boy. Tragedy struck, however, in 1998 when her husband met an accident that left her a widow.

She would have wanted to stay on with Colgate-Palmolive but she was being asked to move to New York. She passed on the chance as she felt that it would mean too radical an adjustment for her and her son who were just recovering from the death of a husband and a father.

But she did grab the chance to join the local arm of giant cosmetics firm L'Oreal.

"I was attracted to the company because of the growth potential. It was small here at that time but it was one of the biggest abroad. I was a big fish in a small pond," she says.

The people who interviewed her for the job did not realize from the way she came across that Amarante had no previous experience with the sales group. She was so convincing that she was tasked to head the national sales group.

"In my mind I was convincing myself that I can meet the challenge and I discovered that the more that people tell me that it cannot be done, the more I am challenged to prove them wrong," she says.

She came to the company when it was earning about P120 million a year. By the end of her almost four-year stint, the company doubled its revenue base due to her hands-on approach to sales, innovative marketing practices, cost management and direct contact with key accounts.

"It was a rewarding experience but after three and a half years I wanted a change and I realized that I was becoming too busy. All that time I did not go on leave. I told my boss that it was time that I had a life," she says.

She had a short stint with Sara Lee before she took on the job at Motorola Philippines in October 2003.

"I did not really expect that I would get the job because the person interviewing me said that I was the 51st candidate for the job. He also said that he talked to the last candidate for 20 minutes. When my interview extended to four hours, I knew that I had a good chance of getting the job," she says.

She got the job because, like in L'Oreal, Motorola was big abroad but was relatively small in the Philippines. She relished the challenge to grow the brand in the decidedly Nokia-centric country.

Amarante immediately got out her brass tacks and went down to business. Employing a similar combination of moves she did in L'Oreal, she was able to expand the distribution network in just a few months.

Market share rose to 17 percent so far this year from just 5 percent last year. Amarante expressed confidence that Motorola was well on its way to being a strong number two in the handset business.

"I want to reach out to the young market and to also build the organization. I want Motorola to be a strong number two in the market," she says.

Observers may turn up their nose and say that Motorola has no chance of competing against Nokia and Ericsson that have long lorded it over the local market. But then again, Amarante has never run away from a challenge.

Motorola names new country head

Infotech By Erwin Lemuel G. Oliva,  Nov. 23, 2003

AMERICAN handset manufacturer Motorola has named Arlene Aran Amarante as the new country head for the Personal Communications Sector, as the company makes its bid to regain its leadership position in the Philippines, an official said.

Amarante will be in charge of the company's operations in the Philippines.

Prior to joining Motorola, she was national sales manager of Sara Lee brand apparel.

She also has served as the national sales manager of L'Oreal Philippines, Inc.

Amarante has also been with Colgate-Palmolive Philippines Inc., Goya Kean's and Hershey's of Philippine Cocoa Corp, a subsidiary of Metro Pacific Corp.

"We are extremely pleased to have Arlene as the new country manager of Motorola. She brings a broad base of sales, marketing and management experience to the position and is ideally suited to successfully lead the Motorola operations in the Philippines," said Scott Durchslag, corporate vice president of strategy and business development for PCS and general manager for PCS Southeast Asia of Motorola.

The business of starting over


The Philippine STAR 07/12/2004


Back in my elementary days there was one thing I feared in school. Not the bullies. (I was a very good politician back then, so I befriended most of them). Not the teachers either. (I had mastered the art of kissing ass by the age of eight, so I was OK with the faculty). You know what I really feared? It was that dreaded six-letter word – repeat.

I used to get nightmares about repeating – that is, of having to go through the same grade level all over again. I feared the embarrassment and the overall hassles. And I feared getting left behind and being talked about behind my back – "Oh, there goes Rod. He repeated Grade 4!"

Yes sir, I am Mr. Get-On-With-Your-Life-And-Move-Forward guy. I hate being stagnant and bringing up the rear. I don’t particularly enjoy having to dwell in something. In a big way, this fear in me was the main driving force why I studied so hard. And this fear remains with me to this day.

So, if I have to do a presentation, or perhaps a project, I try to make sure I do it really well – not so much for the sake of doing it well (which is the right attitude really), but in order to avoid the drudgery of having to do it all over again. In one sense, this is a good thing. But it could also be a disadvantage, too. Because in life, unexpected and unfortunate things do happen and when they do, whether we like it or not, we just have to stop on our tracks, and we just have to start all over again. When these things happen, I have to admit that I get a bit thrown off. It’s a pet peeve that I struggle with. That’s why I admire people who are able to master this art – the art of starting over.

Recently, I had lunch with Arlene Amarante, country manager of Motorola Philippines. MTV and Motorola have an extensive worldwide partnership so Arlene and I meet quite often these days to discuss business. One of the great pleasures in life is when you get to deal business with people you genuinely like on a personal level, and Arlene is one of those people. The moment she came on board Motorola, we hit it off immediately. Whenever we have meetings, we get to talk about other things besides business. And in my casual conversations with her, I realized that Arlene is one of those people I admire – one of those rare individuals who have mastered the art of starting over.

Arlene is fairly young (only in her 30s) but she has gone through so much in life already. A number of years ago, fate dealt a heartrending blow to this young lady’s life. Her husband Don was tragically shot to death.

"I had no inkling whatsoever," said Arlene. "We used to talk about death jokingly. Then, in the blink of an eye, it happened. I suddenly found myself in the morgue, dealing with all the details that come with death. Funny thing is, I was always so squeamish about death. But for some reason, on that day, I was fine. I had unexpected strength – it was so surreal." Arlene, surprisingly, is not uncomfortable talking about this dreadful chapter in her life. Most people I know would say, "Can we change the topic, please?" But Arlene is not like most people. And that’s why she stands out.

She did not go through a mourning period right after Don’s passing. It took awhile for her to mourn – a couple of years, actually – and only after a friend-priest told her that she should mourn so she can have closure. But in a way, she was able to cope partly because of the strength given to her by the unwavering support of friends. And the other major factor why she was able to recover quickly was that she wanted her son to be spared from the pain and chaos. She had two choices: succumb to the whole situation or be strong. She chose the latter.

Listening to her story, I admire her for her being able to pick up the pieces of her life after a debilitating loss like that, and then get back on track. What amazes me even more though is that she has gone beyond just getting back on track. After her loss, she went full speed ahead, has overtaken most of her peers, has taken the yellow jersey, and is now leading the pack.

"I tried to be strong, not so much for myself but for our son," Arlene continued. "I had to give him the impression that even if Daddy was gone, we were going to be fine. There was just no other way. If I had delved on the pain of dealing with my husband’s death and the whole chore of starting over, it would be tragic for both of us. Instead of putting all my energies in sulking and feeling self-pity, I harnessed that energy in being more focused and determined in my work. I immersed myself in work. And this was the momentum I used in starting over, and moving on with my life. And it has worked for me. Work has become my emotional outlet – and it’s a more productive outlet."

In a lot of ways, Arlene epitomizes the brand that she represents. Not a lot of young people know this, but Motorola was actually the pioneer in the telecom and mobile industry. When man went to the moon for the first time, NASA used Motorola technology to communicate with the astronauts. Motorola has always been an innovator when it comes to telecommunication. I remember, the first mobile phones that came out were the ones that came with a big, black bag and weighed a ton. And then they gradually became smaller, and then there was this cool clamshell phone that was the size of a big pencil case. All of them were Motorola phones. They were the only cell phones back then. But then, in the mid-‘90s, Motorola got left behind, partly because of complacency and partly because they did not seriously consider the growing needs of the cell phone user.

But Motorola is changing all of that, and Arlene is in the forefront of all the changes.

"My life is all about change, and that’s why I am able to deal with all the ups and downs in my life," added Arlene. "I am always in a hurry. I got married at 23. But this is the way I like it. But in order to cope with the speed, I try to strike a balance by doing a lot of different things – that way everything’s fun. It’s pretty much like our mobile phones now. We are constantly innovating and offering something new to the market because whether we like it or not, preferences change.

She shared, "And we offer various phones to cater to different kinds of people because we know people are different. We will be introducing phones that work in different zones. We will have phones that cater to specific lifestyles. We will have phones that will become one-stop entertainment portals. And, since we know there are people who don’t want complications in their lives, we will also come up with easy-to-use, basic phones. We will be sensitive to the needs of the market. We are now listening to the market more closely."

I asked Arlene about where she thinks the mobile industry is headed. She said, "The market is slowly using the phone for other things. Initially, it was just a tool to talk. Now the market is demanding other ways to communicate and exchange information. They now demand that their phones have Blue Tooth and infrared features. And they will demand for more. That’s just how it’s going to be. The demand for more opportunities to communicate – like being able to call from a plane – will just grow and grow. The cell phone will be the most important possession of people. The phone will be a statement of personality, and an object of utility – from camera to games to entertainment."

Motorola will be launching its newest cell phone, the E398, on July 16 via a big MotoMansion Party in a house in Forbes Park. It’s going to be rock star-type of a party. In a way, this E398 launch party symbolizes the return of a great giant star – Motorola. "Moto" is definitely back in the mobile scene, and back with a vengeance. With features like an MP3 player and a ring tone mixer, it is the epitome of cool. Motorola has not just started over –it’s taking over. And Arlene is at the helm and leading us all.

In a way, Arlene has taught me a lot of lessons. First, always be ready for life’s tragedies because they will happen. Second, when life hits you like a brick wall, don’t stay down – stand up and hit it back. And when that wall crashes down, the opportunities will be endless.

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