HE ARRIVED in Manila with only a handful of centavos and dreams of making it big in the city.

Now, Carlos “Charlie” Agatep is one of the pillars of Philippine Public Relations.

But the road to success was never easy for young Charlie, who occasionally settled with peanuts for dinner and a makeshift bed to get through the night.

The son of a soldier, he left the province in the hope that life would be better in the city. It was tough, he soon found out, when he had to do odd jobs to help finance his studies. He was a “mess boy” for American soldier at one point, and a waiter in another.

His interest in public relations began while he was taking up journalism at the old UST Faculty of Philosophy and Letters where he finished the course after three years in 1950. He also wrote for the Varsitarian.

Rise to the top

With his two children, he put up his company, Agatep and Associates, in 1988 .

“I only had a secretary as a consultant from 1983 to 1988. But eventually, dumami na yung clients ko. I needed help,” Agatep said.

“So I asked my daughter Monique, a PR manager at Holiday Inn, and Norman, an English teacher in Ateneo, to form Agatep and Associates.”

The firm bagged 71 Anvil awards, with three Grand Anvils and thus considered the PR consultancy company with the most Anvils in the Philippines.

The Anvil Awards is held annually by the Public Relations Society of the Philippines, often dubbed as the “Oscars,” the most prized award in the PR industry.

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From this, Agatep learned perseverance in his career, particularly in communicating and interacting with other people.

“Communication is the ultimate tool in public relations. And it is through this that we, PR practitioners, must try and protect our honorable profession, clients and assets from being violated,” he said.

But before all his accomplishments, Agatep admitted that he went through various hurdles in his pursuit of success.

From TV to PR

Agatep was part of a team which jumpstarted television viewing in the Philippines.

“Back then there were only 200 TV sets at most all over the country. It was a great opportunity for establishing a TV-based module of media,” said Agatep.

After being a news reporter for the Manila Times in 1951, Agatep shifted to the defunct DZAQ-TV of the Alto Broadcasting Company (ABS), the first television commercial station in the country, as the first program director.

“We decided to set up the first TV station in the country. I was in charge of programming. It was the first job I ever got after graduating from Boston University.”

Being the only staffer who had a degree in broadcasting in ABS, he was tasked to make sure ABS had complete equipment kept in tip top shape.

In 1954, he focused his discipline on advertising when he joined Sterling-Winthrop as an advertising director. It was here that he acquired his interest in PR.

Amid all the assorted positions he took, Agatep became a faculty member at the Faculty of Arts and Letters, teaching public relations, photography and advertising to Journalism students.

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“I got a call from Alfredo Panizo, the dean at the time, asking me to teach public relations courses in UST. It was not my expertise, sabi ko sa kanya. However, it rooted as the start of my interest in PR,” said Agatep, who also taught at St. Paul University.

Agatep taught at UST for 20 years, and through his passion and efforts, photojournalism was then included in the Journalism curriculum.

“I introduced the subject to Santo Tomas by convincing the dean back then to have a room of my own for laboratory equipment. I donated my image enlarger and printing equipment. From there it developed and was adapted into the program.”

After juggling professions in UST and the Sterling-Winthrop company, Agatep made his next step in PR by joining Esso Standard Fertilizer, a fertilizer company.

Agatep decided to take PR for developing rural areas in Ilocos, a much closer and more personal locale to him.

For the Thomasian businessman, the transfer from Sterling to Esso was his transition from being an employee to a true professional.

It proved difficult at first for Agatep to transform from a educator into a corporate executive, but he eventually learned more about socially responsible media management through Esso.

As their PR consultant, Agatep has to educate farmers in the proper ways of tilling and farming the land with the help of fertilization.

Agatep helped many Ilocano farmers through corporate PR and properly informing farmers. This yielded significant increases in the number of harvest of rice in Ilocos.

“We communicated with comics as well, depicting the proper usage of fertilizers for farmers.”

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‘Family’ business as usual

It seems like PR also runs in the family. Currently, Charlie works with his children Monique, Norman and Audrey as the administrators of Agatep and Associates also known as HAVAS PR Agatep.

For the family, the most difficult part in building their PR empire is gaining credibility and establishing a good reputation. Starting from scratch, they eventually garnered a string of loyal clients.

Charlie observed that being a PR consultant is sometimes overlooked when compared to other more esteemed professions.

“A PR consultant does not enjoy the same respect accorded to a lawyer or a medical doctor, or engineer or architect for that matter because there are no educational requirements or licensing boards to regulate PR practice,” said Agatep.

But dealing with the market and its communications is a demanding discipline.

he said. “Indeed, the proper use of marketing PR has been proven to be very cost-effective giving marketers a great advantage over the competition.”

It has now become imperative for public relation firms to protect corporate image and ensure that products of good quality in every sector are delivered.

Charlie has made Agatep and Associates the premier corporate communications, marketing and advertising firm in a fast and capital-based country. He, along with his family, can definitely sit back and relax now with their laurels of success. Not bad for a start-up capital of 10 centavos. Alfredo N. Mendoza V

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