Toastmaster — October 2012
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Johnny T.Uy

Country’s top crime fighters tout the benefits of communication.

On March 20 of this year, the District 75 governor, lieutenant governor marketing and 10 past district governors trooped into the Camp Crame national police headquarters in Metro Manila to visit Philippine National Police Chief Nicanor Bartolome. Some of the visitors flew in from other parts of the country, while some drove eight hours for the occasion.

The Philippine National Police Chief leads 145,000 officers and is responsible for maintaining peace and order in the Philippines. He is the civilian equivalent of the Philippine armed forces’ chief of staff and holds the title of Director General. To his visitors that day, Bartolome was, more importantly, a Toastmaster par excellence. They were there to present him with District 75’s Communication and Leadership Award.

If there is any doubt that Toastmasters builds leaders, the Philippine National Police will “arrest” those doubts. Since the mid-1990s, when Toastmasters was introduced to the organization, three members have risen to the rank of National Police Chief. In addition to Bartolome, they included Arturo Lomibao and Avelino Razon Jr. All three were members of the Philippine National Police Toastmasters club, at the organization’s police headquarters in Camp Crame.

Amid the jovial atmosphere of the March visit, Bartolome recalled his reason for originally joining Toastmasters: to develop the communication and leadership skills to inspire people to action.

“The life of a police officer involves not only the ability to handle a firearm to suppress crime, but also the skill to rally the people behind you — police officers and civilians alike — to fight criminality,” he said. “When I joined Toastmasters, I was a police chief inspector, which is equivalent to a major in the armed forces. It was during those years as a middle-grade officer that I formed the foundation of my long-standing relationship with the Filipino public.”

Reminiscing about earlier days, Bartolome jokingly said he used to recruit police officers to join Toastmasters “so that they could arrest criminals [while displaying] adequate vocal variety, body language, sincerity and conviction.”

Addressing the Public
Before he became police chief, Bartolome’s communication skills had led him to be the appointed spokesman for the Philippine National Police. “The true test for what I learned in Toastmasters was when I became chief of the Police Public Information Office and was the spokesman for the police organization for four years,” he said. “I was the instrument who delivered good and bad news. I addressed the Filipino public every day.

“I strongly believe that without my background as a Toastmaster, I would not be able to represent the Philippine National Police as well as I think I did.”

When Arturo Lomibao joined Toastmasters, he held that job — official spokesman for the Philippine National Police (this was before Bartolome held the position). He recalls the stress of public exposure. He conducted and attended press conferences and briefings in the Philippines and abroad. Additionally, the media asked him to respond to “ambush interviews.”

“I joined Toastmasters mainly because I wanted to gain more self-confidence to face my audience,” he said. “Believe it or not, I was shy and sometimes embarrassed when I spoke in public before I became a Toastmaster.”

When Lomibao and Bartolome transitioned from spokesman to chief (at different times), they needed listening skills as well. Bartolome recalled Toastmasters evaluation contests as a particularly beneficial activity for improving this skill. “I realized that before anyone can say anything, one must learn to listen, and listen well,” he said.

Forming Police Clubs
Past District Governor Baby Luat, DTM, formed the Philippine National Police’s first Toastmasters club in the mid-1990s — the aforementioned Philippine National Police club inside Camp Crame, in Metro Manila. Two of the most active members were Lomibao and Bartolome. As midlevel officers, they saw the potential of Toastmasters to help the force and their own career development. They traveled across the country organizing Toastmasters clubs in local police units. At its peak, 20 police clubs existed in District 75.

One of the clubs was in the largest police district in the Philippines — the Western Police District of Manila. The club was called Manila’s Finest Toastmasters club. Razon Jr., then a station commander, was elected as club president. Luat said Razon Jr. was “an achiever whose leadership skills were beyond comparison. He encouraged club members to be active in Toastmasters, join contests and reach their career goals with the help of skills learned in Toastmasters.”

To set an example, Razon Jr. never missed a weekly meeting, no matter how busy he was. Christine Temblique, DTM, Toastmasters Past International Director from Meycauayan, Philippines, recalls of Razon Jr., “He asked his assistant to send all important papers for him to sign to the Toastmasters meetings, so he wouldn’t miss any [meetings]. I saw him do this every time I visited their club.”

As for Lomibao and Bartolome, they continued to shine in Toastmasters and the promotions kept coming — to the point where they were so busy they could no longer be active club members. But, as is so often the case when personal or professional circumstances prevent continued membership, members leave grateful for gaining so much. And these two officers certainly benefited from Toastmasters, rapidly developing their leadership and communication skills. In 1997, Bartolome was first runner-up in District 75’s International Speech Contest and the Evaluation Contest. At one point during the March visit at Camp Crame, he glanced over at Past District Governor Mike Chua and said, “Mike, I still remember you beat me at the Evaluation Contest 15 years ago” — to which Chua replied, “If I had known you would become police chief, I would have just let you win.”

In addition, both Lomibao and Bartolome sponsored and mentored numerous new clubs. In 1997, Lomibao was named District 75 Toastmaster of the Year. He later served as area governor and division governor. In 1998, Bartolome was named District 75 Club President of the Year while the club he led was recognized as Club of the Year. In 1999, Bartolome was named Area Governor of the Year.

Open to Learning
When his visitors came to Camp Crame, Bartolome discussed his leadership insight with them. “It is one thing to read about leadership,” he said, “but practicing it is another matter. With Toastmasters, the members learn this principle by participating in club and district leadership roles. I know I have.”

Past International Director Temblique summed it up well. “The communication and leadership skills [Bartolome, Lomibao and Razon Jr.] developed in Toastmasters strengthened their sense of competence and helped them discover their inner talents,” she said. “The humility to partake in servant leadership roles, their openness to learn, and sharing the Toastmasters benefits with fellow officers brought them miles in their professional career and leadership journey.”

When asked what advice he would offer to police officers around the world, Lomibao answered: “Simple. Join Toastmasters, and join now. Opportunities come and go. If you want to make a difference in your life, go for it. I’m sure it will be the best thing that will happen to you for your professional advancement.”

However, despite all the success, pangs of regret still linger. Lomibao said his regret was never having the time to earn his Distinguished Toastmaster award. Also, he added, “I should have required Toastmasters membership for all middle- and top-level officers of the Philippine National Police. To become effective public servants, police officers should be effective communicators and leaders first and foremost.

“To be very candid about it,” he continued, “very few high-ranking policemen have the ability to express themselves well, because they are not really trained for that. So, in order to supplement this lack of training, we need more Philippine National Police in Toastmasters.”

Standing Ovation
On May 29, two months after the initial visit at Camp Crame, Police Chief Bartolome was formally honored with the Communication and Leadership Award at the District 75 Conference in Samal Island, Davao City, Philippines.

Bartolome was in Germany that day on official business, but he cut his trip short to return to the Philippines and accept the award. He cited his award as the best homecoming he has ever experienced. He then announced that he would direct all police regional offices to organize Toastmasters clubs, as well as revive the one at Camp Crame. This was met with loud cheers and a standing ovation.

Bartolome concluded his speech by saying, “The phrase ‘Where Leaders Are Made’ is a great way to encapsulate the essence of Toastmasters International. The accomplishments I achieved would not have been possible if not for the understanding I developed as a communicator and a leader in Toastmasters.”