Louis Berger has worked in the Philippines for nearly 30 years, supporting the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other development agencies on programs designed to avert political crisis, build peace, spur economic development, build sustainable infrastructure and respond to natural disasters. Through the decades, a cadre of devoted local staff have teamed on a variety of projects, building meaningful careers and raising families as they helped develop their communities and their country. This is their story.
In a meeting with local staff in Davao, Mindanao, Charlie Bell, senior vice president for economic and institutional development, was reminiscing with Charlie Feibel, technical vice president and former leader of the highly acclaimed USAID Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) program, about the good and lasting work that the Louis Berger team had done there over the years. Marveling at how long some of the employees had been with the company, Charlie asked for a show of hands regarding who had been with the company for 20+, 15+ and 10+ years. According to Charlie, “All but two people had been with the company at least 10 years, with the majority being 15 or more years.”
This revelation sparked a series of interviews with long-term employees in the Philippines about their history with Louis Berger, their proudest moments and the impact of their work on communities. In the process, they shared insights about the rewards of teamwork, overcoming challenges and achieving success for themselves and their communities.
Their stories resonate with consistent themes: appreciation of teamwork and working together toward a common goal; having a positive impact on communities; joy in being of service – to visiting VIPs, to project beneficiaries and to each other; and willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done. These long-term employees see Louis Berger as an extended family that builds trust not just with employees but also with local counterparts. Most of all, they are proud to be part of a global organization that provides Solutions for a better world.
Meet below some of Louis Berger’s long-term heroes in the Philippines. There are many more! We tallied 15 employees with 20+ years, 25 with 15+ years, 29 with 10+ years and 37 with 5+ years at Louis Berger, for a whopping total of 618 years of shared experience in the Philippines. That’s quite a record!
Apolonio Domingo | Driver | 29 years
Apolonio Domingo has been responsible for delivering Louis Berger project staff and materials to where they need to be, safely and on time, since May of 1989. He takes pride in contributing to the incredible success of the USAID GEM program from beginning to end (1995-2013) along with subsequent projects, all while providing for his family’s needs. According to Domingo, “In my life, it has been a great honor to be part of the Louis Berger team and to help with delivering basic services to local communities in Mindanao.”
Mike Ross | Program Manager, Team Leader, Senior Environmental and Social Safeguards Advisor | 28 years
Mike Ross has served in many roles on many projects since joining Louis Berger in 1990, including the USAID Livelihood Enhancement and Peace (LEAP) program, the AustralianAID Provincial Road Management Facility (PRMF) project and the USAID Rebuild project. He noted with pride that, “Louis Berger’s work in the Philippines is important to me because I consider the country my home. Over the years, Louis Berger has embarked on so many projects designed to provide better lives to Filipino communities, especially those who are vulnerable and marginalized. Our disaster response and recovery projects have helped affected residents get back on their feet and build disaster-resilient communities.”
Celso (“Caloi”) Enriquez | Team Leader | 23 years
Caloi Enriquez joined Louis Berger in 1995 to work on the USAID GEM program, which he continued to support through all three phases, followed by the USAID Rebuild Project in 2013. He currently leads the Rural/Urban Connectivity component of the USAID Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity (SURGE) program.
When asked to share his proudest moment, Enriquez recalled leading the livelihood recovery team under the USAID Rebuild Project to rehabilitate communities affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Eastern Visayas region of the Philippines. “Through the Rebuild Project, the livelihood team helped more than 10,000 farmers, fisherfolk and micro-entrepreneurs regain their livelihoods in the aftermath of the most destructive typhoon ever to make landfall in the Philippines,” said Enriquez. “Being involved in the Rebuild Project gave me the opportunity to witness the Filipinos' strong faith and sense of resilience in the midst of a devastating crisis. I consider this the proudest moment of my development career.”
Ruscillie Rivera | Accountant/Budget Officer | 23 years
From 1995 to 2013, Ruscillie Rivera supported the USAID GEM 1, 2 and 3 programs as accountant and budget officer. She also supported the Szopad Accelerated Economic Development (SZAED) Program (1998-2001), the USAID Emergency Livelihood and Assistance Program (ELAP) 1 and 2 (1997-2005), the USAID Livelihood Enhancement and Peace (LEAP) Program 1 and 2 (2002 to 2007) and the USAID Logistics Support for Mindanao Activity (2014-present).
When asked how Louis Berger’s work has had an impact on communities in Mindanao and why it’s important to her, Ruscillie responded, “Local communities here have always felt neglected. Mindanao remains poor despite so many resources because it is far from the nation’s capital. Feeling abandoned, some resort to insurgency. In partnership with the Philippine government, Louis Berger’s projects on behalf of USAID, such as market buildings and boat landing facilities, not only improved economic activities, but more importantly demonstrated needed attention and restored local communities’ trust in institutions.”
Carlos ("Caloy") Canda Tan | Project Manager | 23 years
During his tenure with Louis Berger, Carlos Tan worked on the USAID GEM 1, 2 and 3 programs from 1995 to 2013, the USAID Rebuild project from 2014 to 2017, and currently, on the USAID Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity (SURGE) program. Reflecting on some of his proudest moments since joining the USAID-funded GEM program when it began in 1995, Tan recalled briefing and accompanying Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2005 to see the USAID-GEM assisted Sitio Sarmiento Bridge in the former Moro Islamic Liberation Front-controlled area of Camp Abubakar. A year later, he briefed and accompanied then U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney as she turned over the completed Cabcaban Bridge in Basilan Province to local officials led by former Basilan Governor Akbar.
Mary Lisa Margaret C. ("Lisa") Apostal | Logistics Specialist | 22 years
In her role as Logistics Specialist, Lisa Apostol has supported the USAID mission in the Philippines on USAID’s GEM 1, 2 and 3, ELAP 1 and 2, LEAP 1 and 2, SZAED and Logistics projects.
To Apostol, the most rewarding part of her job has been seeing tangible project results. Impactful results range from construction of a farm-to-market road, a footbridge, a boat landing, or a water system in a remote part of Mindanao to providing computers and internet connectivity to far-flung schools to giving former combatants the proper training and materials for aquaculture, then linking them to potential buyers and opening up new markets.
“This is just a small part of the work that was done,” said Apostol. “Even though these efforts were undertaken several years ago, the beneficial use and impact are being felt up to this day, so much so that when we transport USAID visitors to the areas and they see these projects, we continue to receive commendations.”
Juan Mejia, Jr. | Motorpool Supervisor | 22 years
Juan Mejia has faced many challenges over 22 years as driver and then motor pool supervisor supporting USAID projects in Mindanao, ensuring that Louis project staff and U.S. government officials were transported efficiently and safely to their destinations. He has supported the USAID GEM 1, 2 and 3, ELAP 1 and 2, LEAP 1 and 2, SZAED and Logistics projects. Mejia is proud of his career advancement with Louis Berger and the opportunity to lead, noting that his greatest reward is seeing a happy workplace and a well-performing team. He sees the people he works with as part of his extended family.
Reflecting on challenges confronted during his years of service, Mejia recalls dealing with armed guard checkpoints and the challenge of winning their trust. “I remember being part of a convoy of three cars in the early 2000s when, while on the way to the conflict-stricken municipality of Butig in Lanao del Sur, we were stopped at a checkpoint conducted by the rebel group known as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” recalled Mejia. “On top of that, we had USAID personnel on board one of the vehicles. Through fast thinking and teamwork, we were able to convince the armed group to let us safely pass through the area.”
Maria Luisa (“Marilou”) M. Sian | Chief of Party, USAID Logistics Support for Mindanao Activity | LB Mindanao Coordinator | 20 years
Building on years of increasing responsibility on the USAID GEM 1, 2 and 3 and Rebuild programs, Marilou Sian now leads the USAID Logistics Support for Mindanao activity, which provides logistical and security support, information management services and monitoring assistance for USAID/Philippines and broader U.S. Embassy activities in Mindanao.
“My job is so fulfilling,” said Sian. “It makes me feel great when I see the faces of the students affected by a devastating typhoon so happy to move in to their new classrooms or when we celebrate the construction of a new footbridge that will provide easier access to schools, health facilities, markets and other basic services. It is rewarding to be part of a team that made this happen.”
Echoing the comments of her colleagues, Sian said she is proud of Louis Berger’s work in the Philippines and across the globe. “It feels good to know that I am part of a much larger Berger family that builds long-lasting, durable, safe and beautiful infrastructure and helps improve the lives of people around the world.”
Aristeo (“Dondon”) A. Nacion II | Contracts Manager | 15 years
Dondon Nacion is a contracts manager for Louis Berger projects in the Philippines. He is proud of the fact that his contracting, procurement and accounting work on the USAID GEM 2 and 3 programs supported the development of small infrastructure along with educational and business opportunities for underserved communities in Mindanao. He also supported the USAID Rebuild Project to help devastated communities build back with calamity-resistant structures.
Like his colleagues, Nacion appreciates the opportunities and sense of pride that come with being part of a global organization. He has seized opportunities to support Louis Berger’s work in Afghanistan and South Sudan, noting that, “Louis Berger’s ability to implement projects in those areas despite threats to life and limited resources attests to staff teamwork, resiliency and determination to help build communities and create a better world.”
Our colleagues in the Philippines shared many more stories about the challenges presented by civil conflict and natural disasters and the teamwork that allowed them to overcome those challenges. Click here to learn more about the powerful and long-lasting impact their work has had on the communities they serve.
Many thanks to our Philippines heroes for their years of service. In order of tenure, with years indicated: Apolino Domingo (29), Mike Ross (28), Salve Cariño (27), Carlos (Caloy) Tan (23), Celso (Caloi) Enriquez (23), Ruscillie Rivera (23), Reynaldo Obelidon (23), Mary Lisa Margaret (Lisa) Apostol (22), Pepe Buca, Jr. (22), Jimmy Hermonio (22), Juan (Jun) Mejia, Jr. (22), Vicky Mondoñedo (21), Nasil Tawasil (21), Maria Luisa (Marilou) Sian (20), Danilo Garcia (20), Raul Sumagaysay (19), Sorayda Buca (16), Mars Lumantas (16), Aristeo (Dondon) Nacion (15), Proceso Arbado, Jr. (15), Rona Paquera (15), Walter Rondez (15), Glenda Tiongco (15), Allen Roy C. Acebedo (15), Tito Ilagan (14), Jenifer Mana-ay (14), Allan Rojas (12), Jonathan Ian Pansacala (10), Arnold Abarrientos (9), Junar Kasim (9), Jerry Baldoza (9), Augustus Talagtag (8), Argie Bayawa (8), Grace Acosta (7), Gypsy Obaob (7), Lady Leslie Francisco (5).