Linda Atayde: Lessons Learned from an Unexpected Journey

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“Thank God, she got in touch with me!”

Linda Atayde with students

Those were the words uttered by Linda as she expressed her joy on the day SM Foundation turned over a new two-storey, four classroom building to the Manuel L. Quezon Elementary School in Baguio City late last year.

It’s been almost 15 years now since Carmen Linda Atayde was invited by SM Investments Corporation’s Vice-Chairman, Ms. Tessie Sy-Coson, to join SM Foundation as Executive Director for Education Programs.

“Tatang always believed that education was the best defense against poverty,” shared Linda. “He always said that if we could just help one child finish college, he or she then can uplift their family out of poverty.”

SM Foundation gives college and technical-vocational scholarship grants to deserving but underprivileged youth. It also helps provide access to quality public education by building and donating fully-furnished public school buildings.

Linda recalled, “Even then, Mrs. Coson knew that I filled my weekends and free time doing work for the community. I already had scholars of my own then.”

At that time, Linda felt that she wasn’t ready to assume the post. But little by little, she realized that heading the education program of SM Foundation was simply like being a second mother to the thousands of youth who have hopes and dreams yet to be fulfilled.

“I simply knew it was another path I had to take,” declared Linda with much conviction.

THE BEGINNING OF AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

A life of community service is a world away from what Linda thought life’s path would take her.

A graduate of Chemical Engineering, she felt like a square peg in a round hole when she first joined the banking industry.

“I met someone who happened to work for a bank but was supposed to give me an endorsement letter so I can apply in a petroleum company. I found myself filling in application forms for the bank instead,” narrated Linda, still feeling amused of what transpired then. “It was my first job and I stayed on for many years.”

In her years in banking, Linda was fortunate to have learned from the best people who had generous hearts in mentoring her. But Linda’s flourishing career was temporarily put on hold when the bank she worked for closed down. It was such a devastating experience for her that led her to believe that she would never work for the bank industry again.

During those trying times, she then tried working for the government as the Executive Director for the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board. But in just 2 years of service, she knew that government service was not her cup of tea.

Her banking career was revived through an unexpected opportunity. Linda was invited to join BDO Unibank where she spent ten very productive years until she retired as Senior Vice President.

“I had to retire because my husband had a foreign posting and I wanted to support him,” recounted Linda. “After a year, we went home and it was then I received the invitation from Mrs. Coson to join SM Foundation.”

And from there, the rest is history.

Linda Atayde, 3rd from right at a ground breaking ceremony of an SM school building project
Linda Atayde, 3rd from right at a ground breaking ceremony of an SM school building project

LESSONS LEARNED ALONG THE WAY

In today’s world where there is a big buzz on envisioning one’s future to get ahead, Linda shares a rather different experience on how her destiny was revealed to her.

“One lesson I learned is that there are a lot of things you can learn from the books but there are more things you can learn from people.”

Throughout her journey, Linda paid close attention to people – how they thought, how they moved and how they felt. She always wanted to understand what it was like to be in someone else’s shoes.

“The second lesson I learned is the value of hard work.”

Linda never had a grand plan or any big ambition. She was simply very diligent in everything God placed on her lap. Through the ups and downs of life, Linda never asked God, ‘why?’ This leads to her third lesson learned which is “learning to trust and earning the trust of others.”

While others may put heavy emphasis on planning, Linda revealed that she never really planned her life with great detail. “All my steps are guided by God,” exclaimed Linda with full conviction.

By simply being committed, Linda continually found herself being entrusted to care for what others consider valuable in their lives. In the bank, she was entrusted with people’s hard earned money so that it would grow. Now, she is entrusted by the Sy family for their investment in the lives of the youth, helping them achieve their dreams for a better future.

Lastly, Linda realizes that success cannot be measured by material gains alone. “If you use the material gains to help uplift others, then it makes you successful,” she declared.

Linda Atayde, sharing a light moment with the students
Linda Atayde, sharing a light moment with the students

PASSING ON THE BATON

Today, Linda lives every day with such fullness in her heart.

“I did not foresee this to be my future!” exclaimed Linda.

As a second mother to thousands of youth, Linda believes that SM’s scholars are wonderfully endowed with academic excellence and the right opportunities to succeed in their careers. But what remains to be most inspiring for her is when she sees these young people serve as channels of blessings to their own families. And one day, even to their communities as well.

In passing on the most important lesson in her unexpected but fulfilling journey, Linda spelled it out so simply,

“I PRAY A LOT.”

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