FEATURE: NU Alumnus is Bureau of Fire Protection Chief

Dream big.

This is what BFP Chief Leonard Ramos Bañago had in mind when he finished his studies in National University.

But it was not at all smooth as the San Quintin, Pangasinan-native did not really know what to do and which course to take. After his sister’s prodding, he decided to enroll in the Mechanical Engineering program in National U.

He realized living in the metro is way different from his province life, so he had to strive to keep afloat with all the demands of college life. “Naalala ko noon, hindi ko alam kung paano pagkakasyahin ang allowance ko. Ang ginagawa ko binabawasan ko ang lunch or tanghalian ko, minsan yung tanghalian at hapunan isa na lang para lang makatipid ako.”

It did not help that it was also a crazy time then as it was the height of fraternity wars in Manila. He recalled that one of the most unforgettable times in his college life was when the university temporarily closed sometime in 1983 due to the uncontrollable fraternity war situations.

But things went back to normal and he finished his course in 1986. Despite being discouraged to take the Mechanical Engineering board exam immediately because he was told it will be difficult to pass, he trusted his learnings from NU and proved his doubters wrong when he passed the board in 1987 as a first-time taker.

While he was lucky enough to immediately pass the board, he realized it was the opposite when he was looking for a job. So, he decided to volunteer in the Bureau of Fire Protection which was in Camp Crame. “I didn’t know before na kailangan pala talaga mga engineer sa BFP, akala ko kung sino lang gusto, pero nung napunta ako dito, talaga pala na technical, like sa design sa building so kailangan talaga mga engineer.”

In his 32 years with the BFP, he rose from the ranks as he was assigned to different stations and regions. From Station Staff to Station Commander, Fire Marshall to Provincial Commander to Regional Director. Now, he holds the bureau’s highest position as the Fire Chief.

He wants to give credit to National U who instilled in him the determination to succeed in life. “Sa NU kasi maganda naging challenges ko kasi madami akong nakasalamuhang ibat ibang tao. Mahirap ang buhay namin noon, so parang nakita ko rin yung hirap ng buhay at naging driving force ko yun para magpursige sa buhay.”

Being one of the country’s top officials, he has some pieces of advice to the young generation. “Ipagpatuloy nyo ang dream nyo, wag kayong magsawa lalo sa pag-aaral. Focus kayo sa studies, pangalagaan n’yo yung sacrifices ng inyong mga magulang kasi pinag-aral nila kayo dapat yan ang maging priority nyo ang maka-graduate kayo para mabigyan nyo rin ng magandang buhay ang future nyo.”

Truly, determination, patience and looking back to where you began are just some of the perfect ingredients of success.