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Life is a race (and these brothers hit the ground running)

By JOANNE RAE M. RAMIREZ, The Philippine STAR Published Apr 20, 2021 5:00 am

These brothers always run the extra mile. And look how far they’ve gone.

Track and field stalwarts of the ’80s, brothers Jomari, Rene and Greg Banzon, who will be inducted on April 22 into the De La Salle University Sports Hall of Fame  (the first time that three brothers will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the same time) are winners in the corporate race as well.

“We’ve always drawn on our athletic experiences in facing the challenges at work or life in general. That’s why we are very competitive and we never give up,” explains Jomari, the eldest.

All three brothers were captains of the La Salle athletics Team and MVPs in succession, thus establishing what was known then as the “Banzon dynasty” in track and field.

Jomari is the CEO of SMDC, the property arm of the SM group. Rene is a key executive in the aviation company of the Gokongwei family while Greg is COO of food giant Century Pacific Food Inc. of the Po family.

Jomari rose through the ranks in the banking and property industry to become one of the top executives of the SM Group till he became CEO of SMDC. He continues to compete in running events and has done the Tokyo and New York City marathons.

  Jomari Banzon and cousin Radito.

After college, Rene pursued a career in the aviation industry and distinguished himself in various roles at Philippine Airlines, Asiana and is now a senior executive of the Gokongwei group’s airline company focused on aircraft maintenance. Rene continues to be very active in running events.

Greg is the youngest of the three former track athletes. Though Greg was always in the shadow of his two older brothers in high school and college, his achievements after DLSU have given sustained pride to his alma mater.

He continues to compete in triathlons and marathons and has won various gold medals in his age group. He has run the New York and Singapore marathons. He has also done full Ironman triathlons, completing the grueling 3.8-km swim, 180-km bike and 42-km run distance of the race abroad.  Twice.

The brothers credit the discipline and the endurance they mastered and mustered as varsity athletes for their winning forms today.

What is remarkable about them is that as they competed for the gold in the corporate world, they never stopped competing with themselves. Now well into their fifties, they continue to participate in running and sports events while pursuing their careers.

  Greg Banzon

“Top corporate executives of today are expected to deliver sustained high performance in the face of unending challenges and aggressive competition,” says Greg.

“To achieve this, management experts have lately posited that the best executive talents should be like world-class athletes who are driven by a deep sense of purpose, and are able to balance cognitive capacity, emotional intelligence and physical abilities in pursuit of their short- and long-term goals. Harvard calls them ‘Corporate Athletes’',” he added.

Friends and colleagues of the Banzon brothers attest to the boys’ being goal-oriented, sharply focused, intensely competitive and possessing boundless energy at work. These traits they also picked up as varsity track-and-field athletes from their grade school years all the way to college.

But the brothers weren’t just athletes. They were winners. In the ’80s, they brought home a total of 58 medals, 33 of which were gold to De La Salle; nine MVP Awards in track and field, one “Athlete of the Year” Award for Jomari; six NCAA championships (De La Salle was not yet in the UAAP then); several league records, one of which took several years to break — the 1,500-m of Jomari in the NCAA Juniors that established him as truly one of the running greats.

  Rene Banzon

All three were captains of the La Salle athletics Team and MVPs in succession, thus establishing what was known then as the “Banzon dynasty” in track and field.

They continue to run to this day, doing marathons, with Greg even completing full Ironman races.

The brothers say humbly that they were blessed with good genes. Their first cousins Marcel and Rene Banzon are in the Sports Hall of Fame of the Ateneo de Manila University for running and basketball.

There would have also been a third Banzon in the Ateneo Sports Hall of Fame but the medals of their other cousin, Radito, were reportedly lost in a fire in the ’90s, thus leaving no evidence of his athletic achievements. Radito Banzon passed away while competing in a marathon qualifier in the early ’80s.

The Banzon brothers had an unbeatable cheerleader.

“We dedicate this recognition to our mother, Merced Banzon, who was our biggest cheerleader in sports — and in life,” says Greg gratefully.