Felipe “Philip” Dizon Pinpin


After finishing his elementary and secondary education in the Manila public school system, Philip entered UP in 1957 riding on a proverbial golden carpet. He won a P10,000-scholarship from the oil-rich Buckley (e.g., Senator James, Publisher William) family of New York after besting more than 50 other aspirants from all over the Philippines.

He graduated in 1961 and fulfilled his four-year commitment to work for a Buckley Philippine oil exploration company but in 1965, the Buckley group, not finding any oil after drilling a dozen dry wells, decided to shut down their Philippine operations. Philip was invited to work overseas (US and elsewhere) with them at a salary of $2,000 a month but he declined.

Instead, he negotiated for the purchase of their company’s office and field equipment at book value. This started him on a career as a businessman and an independent operator from age 27. After he realized a sizable windfall from selling the company surplus, he was emboldened to put up a geological consulting firm. He had Exxon, Mobil, Union Oil and the US government as his clients.

In 1969, oil exploration in the Philippines ground to a halt. All UP geology graduates migrated to the US and Canada except Philip and two other nationalists. One was a mestizo who had an American father and was a dual citizen until he chose Filipino at age 21 (what a man!).

With no geological consulting to do, in 1969 Philip tried an entirely different field. He went into door-to-door encyclopedia sales with a British company and was successful enough that after a year he was made head of the Manila branch. He quit in 1970 to supervise the building of their house in Sanville, Quezon City, while engaging in part-time geological consulting.

The year 1972 changed Philip’s life in more ways than one. That was the year when Marcos declared martial law, which initially proved to be a bonanza to Philip but eventually drove him and his family away from his beloved native land. But that is going too far ahead of the story.

As a UP freshman, Philip was chosen as the star reporter and assistant news editor of the Philippine Collegian by the only (until then) “barbarian” (that is, nonfrat) editor-in-chief, Homobono Adaza, after university-wide writing competitions. This barbarian editorial crew turned out to be a highly radical group and they, in tandem with UPSCA, organized the first ever student strike at UP when the Oblation was wrapped in black, remember? If you were a reader of the underground Collegian printed in red then, you were reading mostly Philip’s writings.

In his regular Collegian writings, he pointed out that the country was mired in poverty because of politics as usual, only the names and faces changed but the corruption and bad government remained constant. In one article, he mused, maybe what the government needed to get the Philippines out of the morass it was in was a strongman, a dictator—but one who will be patriotic and altruistic.

Philip’s idea turned out to be not just wishful thinking when two dictators burst on the world scene simultaneously in 1972. Unfortunately for the Philippines, the dictator that Philip had in mind emerged in a neighboring country, Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore. You all know how he has elevated the tiny island nation into a world class economic power and has eliminated lawlessness, homelessness and joblessness—things we cannot aspire for even in our wildest dreams for the Philippines.

In the Philippines, meanwhile, martial law burned like ningas kogon, our well-known national malady of short-lived enthusiasm. Philip, who espoused the idea way back in college, was an early believer and supporter. The slogan then was patriotic, “Sa ika-uunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan. (For the nation to progress, discipline is needed.) And for a while, the police smiled and there was courtesy at the four-way intersections. But national progress through clean and honest government? It was only an empty slogan to justify suppression of personal liberties and press freedom.

But in the midst of the chaos Philip saw an economic opportunity. With a friend who was one of the sons of the owners of Manila’s National Book Store, he cooked up an ambitious and unprecedented publishing venture that will enable him to make his first million.

It helped that one of his neighbors then (would you believe that Vilma Santos was one, too?) was a certain Francisco “Kit” Tatad, Marcos’ press secretary. Philip broached to him the idea of giving him the private sector publishing rights to everything about martial law that came out of Malacanang. Kit readily signed him the permit and to his credit never asked Philip for a centavo in return.

Thus was “Proclamation No. 1081 and Related Documents” born and the rest is history. If you were a student or an office worker in the Philippines in the first seven years of martial law, you used one of the books “Compiled and Edited by F.D. Pinpin” published by National Book Store. Because the name “Pinpin” was such an unknown and mysterious quantity in legal circles, people kept asking who’s he? They where told to answer, “He’s a judge” and if pressed further, whisper “of beauty contests!”

Outside of textbooks, Philip’s martial law series is considered the most successful private publishing venture in the Philippines. Millions of books were printed and were used by all including, presumably, the Supreme Court because, other than the original documents, there was no alternative. The National Media Production Center then was running a parallel project but they were told to stop by President Marcos himself, as Philip was told by a cabinet member who was also a neighbor at that time.

When the interest in the Marcos books waned as the country came to grips with the real style and motives of the conjugal dictatorship, Philip abandoned the publishing business and put up a corporation to engage in oil exploration project consulting. At this time, too, he and his wife put up a restaurant and a commercial orchid nursery.

His main achievement during this period was to bring British Petroleum to spend $6,000,000 for the drilling projects of one of their clients. Needless to say, Philip (the ex-encyclopedia salesman and future life insurance agent) made a six-figure dollar commission for this transaction.

Economically, Philip and his family were doing well but things were turning for the worse in the streets, highlighted by the twin killings in 1983 of Edgar Jopson, the Ateneo-UP student leader, and Ninoy Aquino, who needs no introduction. Jopson was the idol of all Ateneans and was touted by the Jesuits as the second coming of Jose Rizal. Imagine, he was Ateneo high school valedictorian and a UP summa cum laude while busy leading the anti-Marcos student barricades!

After graduation from UP, he was forced to take to the hills on Mindanao where he was tracked town. His murder by Marcos’ henchmen fired up the Jesuits that they agitated all Ateneans to continue the revolt in the streets. The Makati demonstrations in yellow were a daily occurrence and Philip’s son (then at UP from Ateneo) did not want to go to school anymore because, he reasoned, it only takes one bullet to take one’s life anyway (bakit pa ako mag-aaral, isang bala lang naman ako tulad ni Jopson).

The peace and order situation deteriorated so bad that Connie (nee Maria Conchita Pasion), Philip’s wife of 45 years, made a decision that will change their lives forever. The dire situation was compounded when their own security guard was stabbed to death in front of their restaurant. The killers scampered away when Philip approached, thank God, afraid that he was carrying his Browning 8mm issued to him for being an accredited Constabulary anti-narcotics secret agent under a “paid” memorandum order.

Connie decided that they will move to the US for no other reason than to continue their two children’s education. Son James (now married to Judy) graduated from UCSD with a degree in computer science and is now the vice president of a computer consulting firm. They have a talented daughter, Natalia, who is 4.0 at school and excels in piano and ballet. Daughter Ness finished banking and finance at NU and is now the administrator of their newly-setup home care business.

Their reluctant move to America in 1984 was not as easy as most other immigrants from the Philippines. They entered with an L-1 visa and were allowed to stay only by establishing a business, not by working for others. So they set up their own office and became involved in the money and gift remittance, travel and insurance businesses.

As a life insurance agent, Philip has attained the highest level of achievement bestowed by his company, recognition in their Hall of Fame in 1997. He is the 23rd agent in mainstream America to get the award for the last 60 years.

He considers himself lucky to have traveled the five continents represented by the Olympic rings with his wife. Connie and Philip’s love of travel has taken them to all the islands and major cities of the Philippines. In the US, they have traversed by car 43 states as well as the four major Hawaiian Islands, Bermuda and the Caribbean.

For a while he was involved in Lionism but Philip considers himself retired and detached from the public scene in San Diego now. Earlier in 2000, he founded the Filipino Foundation, a 501(c)3 corporation that took him a year to establish, whose dedicated and ambitious objective was to put up a Filipino Center in San Diego similar to that one near Honolulu. But the idea received lukewarm public support and was swarmed by other competing projects that appeared to have gained no headway either. The project is now in mothballs under the new administration that succeeded him. The failure of this project to get off the ground greatly disillusioned Philip to the point that he shied away from further community involvement. (Maybe the UPAASD can come to the rescue of the project, after all).

An editor-in-chief of his elementary and high school newspapers in addition to his stint with the Philippine Collegian as a freshman, writing is in his blood but he remained an “amateur” all his life. He was discouraged by his high school paper adviser from pursuing a career in writing or journalism and instead was told to get into science or engineering. And that is how he became a geologist-encyclopedia salesman-orchid grower-restaurateur-insurance agent!

Philip may have studied geology but he considers he learned from UP far more than this. His UP experience taught him to be independent and resilient, thus he was able to live his life his way (with apologies to FS). In San Diego, he practiced his inborn talent by writing articles and columns for two San Diego Filipino newspapers. As a fitting culmination to his journalistic “career”, now he volunteered to come out of self-imposed retirement to be the Editor of the UPAASD Directory and Website projects.