Unmasked: A Man Called Toto


The late basketball great Kobe Bryant once said, “Heroes come and go but legends are forever.”

I believe that I have already lived half of my life and during that period, I met different kinds of people who have been part of who I am now today. While some may have just come and go, others have made a lasting impact in my journey which serves as light to the path that I continue to trek.

One of the most inspiring people I have the privilege of getting to know is a man called Toto. He is not a rockstar but is tough as a rock. He is not a CEO but many business leaders know and respect him. He is not a captain of a ship but he has been in hundreds of travels to almost every part of the country from Luzon to Mindanao. He is not even an actor but he portrays a major role to his family and for the people around him.

Meet Sir Toto

His name is Marcial Roldan who will turn 65 this coming October. He is a member of the professional staff of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP) since 1978. PMAP, established in 1956, is considered as the largest human resource and industrial relations membership association in the Philippines, with more than 1,800 member companies and individual members and 29 chapters nationwide.  

Sir Toto, as he is known to his colleagues and the members of the association, retired in 2019 but he decided to continue to work in PMAP as an admin consultant thus extending his service to the association to 45 years and counting.

“Dito sa PMAP naramdaman ko na hindi ako itinuting na iba ng mga officers. Pantay ang turing sa mga tao at ang mga members natin ang turing sa akin ay kaibigan kahit gaano na kataas ang posisyon nila o malaki man ang kumpanya nila,” Toto proudly shares

(“Here at PMAP, I felt that the officers did not consider me different. People are treated equally and our members treat me as a friend no matter how high their position is or how big their company is,” Toto proudly shares)

PMAP, an NGO that promotes diversity, equality and inclusion in the workplace among its members, helps institutions mold an enlightened, competent, socially responsible, and influential sector of people managers who can effectively participate in nation-building.

The Journey of Toto

Like any voyage, it is not always a sunny day. There were stormy days from time to time.

After earning an Associate Degree in Electrical Technology, the 19-year old fresh graduate Toto was hired by a company he preferred not to mention with a minimum daily income of 10 pesos. After almost a year, he decided to leave the said company which led his way to PMAP in October 1978. After five years, he married his childhood sweetheart Nene and started a family of their own. They now have two sons and four grandchildren in their home in Taguig City.

In the 80s, the country experienced an economic nosedive, a people revolution, transition to new a leadership and other disruptions which tested the stability of various industries and greatly affected the working class. Those who are not able to pivot to changes were the first casualties.

Toto still remembers those times as if it was just yesterday. There was only one typewriter that all of them in the office share. When personal computers were introduced in the latter part of the decade, Toto was one of the first employees to be trained in using software like COBOL, Wordstar and other business-related applications.

“May mga panahon hindi nagtatagal ang mga kasamahan ko sa office, Taon-taon iba katrabaho ko at officers kaya minsan papalit-palit ang diresyon ng trabaho,” he laments.

(“There are times when my colleagues don’t stay long in the office. Every year, my coworkers and officers are different, so sometimes the direction of work will change,” he laments.)

To this day, Toto still does his daily commute to our office in Mandaluyong which has been his ritual for more than four decades. He was able to buy a family car but he prefers to let his sons and grandchildren to use it so they won’t be able to experience the hassles and risks of commuting which he was able to endure and survived all his life.

Stuff of Legend

Personally, Sir Toto is my everyday hero. I am now on my 15th year in PMAP and I can say that he is one of the reasons why I decided to stay despite of the temptation of better offers from other companies. He inspires everyone at work with just his mere presence. When we face a challenging task, he has words of assurance and experience to share that will change how we see the situation.

If I will be asked what is the first word that comes to mind to describe Sir Toto, its dependable. If he says he will do it, consider it done whether it will rain or shine. Because of his age, he may be slowest to move physically but his cleverness can make him accomplish tasks the fastest. He can’t hear clearly that he needed to use a hearing aid but he is the most attentive when instructions are given. He is the oldest in our group but his heart is the youngest and full of enthusiasm. During events, he is the first to come to the venue and the last one to leave. I have never met someone who loves his work so much than Sir Toto does.

There are good stories told about him by different people but there is one that stuck to me and served as an inspiration ‘till this day. It happened some years ago when I was not yet even part of PMAP. It was during the annual conference in Baguio City and biggest event of PMAP where members from different parts of the country converge. This grand 3-day event features international speakers, top leaders from both the public and private industry and a showcase of industry best practices.

Just before the event started, Toto received the unfortunate news that his father passed away. Normally, anyone in that situation will drop everything and head down back to Manila and everyone will understand you. However, Toto decided to stay because he wants to personally handle all the tasks given to him during the conference.

I asked him about this and his immediate reply was, “Habang nasa Baguio ako noon, tumatawag naman ako sa bahay at kinukumusta ko kung ano na ng sitwasyon. Sinasabi ko naman na kapag okay na ang AC (annual conference) ay uuwi na ako.”

(“While I was in Baguio, I called home and asked how the situation was. I told them that when the situation in the AC (annual conference) is okay, I will go home.”)

When I asked about how he was able to cope with the emotional pain and still manage to do his job properly, he took a pause and a deep breath. He did not respond.

A former colleague told me that during breaks, he would see Sir Toto in tears at the backstage, maybe trying to hide his emotions from others. When he is called for his assignments, its business as usual for him. At the end of the second day of the conference, when the remaining work to be done in the closing 3rd day were properly delegated, he took a bus and went straight to his dad’s funeral.

This is just one of the many stories about the man called Toto that made him to be recognized as one of the 60 Greatest People in PMAP’s history during the organization’s 60th anniversary in 2016. The same honor was given to the likes of Former Senate President Franklin Drilon; former Communications Secretary and now Manila Bulletin Publisher Sonny Coloma; current President and CEO of Makati Medical Center Atty. Pilar Almira; former DOLE Undersecretary and top labor lawyer Atty. Josephus Jimenez and other business leaders and innovators. Toto is the only staff member in the elite list.

What lies ahead

At age 64 and working for PMAP for more than 44 years, Toto gave his all and is always at his best. His age was never an issue. In the middle of the pandemic, we would still go to the office at least once a week to check our facilities and bring food and basic necessities for our staff members who needs to be present at work as we continue to give services to our members. Prior to this, we even travelled to remote areas in Batangas to bring help when the effect of Taal Volcano’s eruption left many homeless in February 2020.

My wife once asked me why I like to volunteer for these activities. I would just say, “Well, somebody got to do it.”

If she continues to frown because she worries for my safety, I’ll just say, “Kasama ko naman si Sir Toto.” (I am with Sir Toto)

End of discussion.

Just last Friday, after we have finally set up all our displays for our summit in Quezon City, we sat down to rest. I asked him out of curiosity, ”Tingin mo sir hanggang kailan ka pa magwo-work sa PMAP?” (Sir how long will you work at PMAP?”)

Here is his response as how I remember it: “Masaya ako sa ginagawa ko kaya hindi ko maiwan ang PMAP. Parte na ng araw-araw ko ang trabaho pati na rin kayo na mga nasa office. Hangga’t kaya ko at kailangan nýo ako, hindi ko kayo iiwan.”

(“I’m happy with what I’m doing so I can’t leave PMAP just yet. Work is part of my daily life as well as as everyone of you in the office. As long as I can properly perform my duties and you still need me, I will not leave you.”)

I took a pause and a deep breath. I did not respond.

In Case You Missed It (ICYMI):

  • According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) 2022 4Q report, workers aged 65 and above increased to 38.2% in June 2022 with a total of 2,538,000 workers aged 65 and above were recorded.
  • There is a proposed House Bill 3220 in the Congress that aims to repeal the compulsory retirement age of 65 years to allow employees to continue working if they want and are able to. It also states “…a progression from the Anti-Age Discrimination Law which has enabled many seniors to continue working because they can apply for jobs now that there is no age ceiling on hiring.”

This story is an entry to COMCO Mundo’s “UNMASKED: The COMCO Mundo Write to Ignite Season 3”.  The initiative aims to pull and collate powerful stories from the Philippine blogging communities. “UNMASKED” aims to explore how each mask is a person brimming with hope and wonders to share with others, as well as why it is important to tell their inspiring journeys in life. The “Write to Ignite” Season 3 is made possible by COMCO Mundo League of Enterprises, with airasia, Babyflo, PHILUSA Corporation, Century Tuna, Licealiz, Lamoiyan Corporation, Rémy Martin, and Uratex Monoblock as brand partners.

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  1. Bakit naiyak ako. Kahit mahaba tinapos ko. Bihira na lang ang kagaya ni Sir Toto sa work, yung passion at dedication… hands down po!

    Tapos ang usapan isang pangalan lang ang babanggitin kay Ms. Leah. Hehe.

    Same lang kayo ni Sir Toto, Sir Richard. Salute!

  2. How very inspiring ang story niya. Hopefully madami pa siyang ma inspire and magtutuloy ng legacy niya po.

  3. What an inspiring story, Sir Toto! This made me realize and appreciate a lot of good things in life.