“It makes a difference if you have been able to do things for the people. This is the ultimate test I can tell you. I am not rich and I certainly never aspired to be, as one of my ambitions to be rich, I think I am rich with my friends and I am rich when the family that I have. I have five kids and eight grandchildren and I would like to think that I have lots and lots of friends.”
Born in Baguio City on December 18, 1929, Buenaventura graduated from UP with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering as a Fulbright scholar. He received his master’s degree in civil engineering majoring in structures from Lehigh University in Bethlehem PA in 1954.
“People like me were idealist. I went to UP, got a Fulbright grant, then I studied in the USA and came back here. I had ideas about setting the world on fire as an engineer.” He started his career in Shell in 1956, rising to become the first Filipino CEO and chairman of the Shell group of companies in the Philippines in 1975, positions he continued to occupy until his retirement in 1990. He stayed on a non-executive chairman until 1992 and remained director of Philippine shell Petroleum Corporation.
He was appointed member of the Monetary Board of the Central Bank of the Philippines representing the private sector, a position he held up to in 1987. He is the founding chairman of the Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc., president of the Benigno Aquino Foundation and founding member of the Makati Business Club.
He is the recipient of many awards, among which are: Most Distinguished Alumnus, UP College of Engineering in 1977; the Management Man of the Year award from the Management Association of the Philippines in 1985; Outstanding Professional Engineering award from the Professional Regulatory Commission in 1997; and Outstanding Fulbrighter in the field of Business award from the Philippines Fulbright Association in 2008. In 1991, he was made honorary officer of the Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Not only as Buenaventura reaped many awards and headed various companies as well as projects but his work with the Shell Foundation has also seen him at the forefront of the fight against malaria. As a boy, he had thought of becoming a doctor, and although that dream was not pursued, he has made his contribution through the foundation. He says, “At the end of the day, you should ask yourself - Did I make a difference in improving the lives of my countrymen? Therein lies your true worth as a UP engineer and Filipino.”