Taking the road less traveled


As they say, life is a journey, especially when one chooses to travel the road less taken.

It was like two roads diverging in wood for Dr. Gabriel Lagamayo, the current chief of the National Dairy Authority.

Being in the field of dairy and public services wasn’t in his blueprint, for he was target-locked for being a physician after graduating with a degree in psychology, but since his father couldn’t afford to get him into medicine school, he pushed to pursue a career in veterinary medicine, saying that their “science is the same.”

Upon waiting for the result of his board exams, Lagamayo applied to several companies and was eventually led to the Philippine Carabao Center, where he worked for a year before transferring to the NDA, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture.

From carabao to cow

Lagamayo grabbed the opportunity when he heard of reorganization in the NDA in 1995, where he was eventually accepted and soon to flourish.

In the dairy agency, Lagamayo said he was put in charge of information tasks, given his background in campus journalism back in college. According to him, adjusting to public service wasn’t that hard for him, saying that his background in seminary helped him a lot.

“My background in religion seems to have helped. Because the way you serve, Jesus Christ serves, doesn’t seem to have been difficult,” Lagamayo told the DAILY TRIBUNE.

Meanwhile, he noted that the culture in government offices was different.

“But if you’re talking about how I fit into the bureaucracy, that’s a different thing; of course, you have a culture to catch up with. I have adjusted a lot; even with the work ethics, especially the one I was caught up with, they will not stop unless the job is not done.”

Calling, not a vocation

On top of this, he said he did not regret his career choices, for he perceived his profession today as a calling and not a vocation.

“My family went through that; we had to save because the salary wasn’t that big, but looking at it right now, it’s better that my children didn’t have to go through that.”

Lagamayo has three kids in different fields, whom he maximizes for the NDA’s improvement.

“But now, my challenge to them is, ‘How can you help me given that you are in different disciplines?’” he said, adding that his eldest child, who’s into marketing, assists him with thinking of more effective marketing strategies on grassroots farms. His youngest, a computer sciences student, aids him in making the NDA’s website better.

Gov’t challenges

Lagamayo shared that among the provocations he was confronted with in public service was when policymakers would be political rather than addressing the pressing issues in the local dairy industry.

“Policymakers would rather play it political, rather than [focus] on what should be achieved for the development of the industry. That’s the annoying thing,” he said.

There even came a point when he wanted to quit but was persuaded not to, due to a scholarship from Ateneo under the DA, which was an expanded human resource development program.

“What saved me was the scholarship that I got. I was annoyed with the boss then; he played politics with everyone. I even thought of migrating, either to Australia or Canada, where my [profession] could be used. I passed the interview. I was really there.”

“The only thing that saved me was when the scholarship came. I said, ‘Maybe this is the break I’ve been waiting for… to go back to studying again.’”

Outside the NDA, Lagamayo isn’t only fond of doing dairy work; he also likes to capture moments through photography, woodworking, and gardening.

Aimed legacy

In making his legacy as he plans to retire at 60, which marks his 32nd year in dairy service, he also aims to leave a mark not only on his office but on the workforce he’s with especially the younger generation.

Lagamayo stressed that consistency is crucial to his employees’ motivation and passion for work.

“Sometimes the employee lacks because he doesn’t really understand why he does that. Of course, they would understand that I have to do this because this is the requirement, but the background behind it — maybe that’s what I’m adding to the story so they can understand.”

Meanwhile, he expressed his hope of leaving the NDA with the image of being easily reached out to by the public, especially the farmers.

“Well, number one, the image of the NDA — when you say NDA, that would be your first choice to ask for help when it comes to dairy,” he said, saying that this goal can be achieved in five years.

“Of course, there are sub-difficulties, especially with young people coming in who sometimes don’t think like that. That being said, the old goats who are left behind are very few; [they say that] it’s difficult to get the kids to follow; they want something else to happen.’”

“I said maybe we have to bring this culture of not stopping until the job is done. And of course, sometimes you think you have to work smart, but you have to be very consummate in how you work. It’s like they can’t be together. That needs to be resolved on how to bridge that.”

Life lesson

In his entire journey, Lagamayo learned that one must learn to surf the waves.

He lamented that one can be idealistic and principled, but reality changes that.

“You have to learn how to ride on anything. I struggled there; that was my first struggle. You were very idealistic at first, very principled, but reality changes it,” saying that one can strive to survive while upholding their principles and not forgetting them.

“You have missed opportunities because you were stuck with what you believed in. It seems like it won’t hurt your principles if you try to ride it just to survive. The thinking used to be, ‘I have to stick with my principles; otherwise, I’m not me anymore.’ So it’s okay that I just rode now to survive so I can have my principles later on,” he said, stressing the importance of choosing what battles to fight and when.

“It is good to have principles; you will have a healthy life, and you will live with your sanity intact.”

What makes public service rewarding?

The whole nation’s benefit is what makes working in government fulfilling, he said.

He explains that, even though working under the government is not “financially rewarding” with the amount of stress, public servants are tasked with finding solutions to problems that benefit the whole country and what the public will do them well.

“Because when I was in the private sector, I was on a case-by-case basis, which benefits only you. But in the government, once you solve it, you will know that you have so many people to help.”

“At the end of the day, you were able to help, and there are many other people who were happy with what I did.”

As the NDA administrator, Lagamayo aims to expand local dairy production by five percent and further enhance government services to Filipino dairy farmers.