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Mister C-A-B.

A feisty and articulate member of Congress labeled him as Mr. C-A-B presumably because his name is not easy to remember. During a congressional hearing where issues of overbooking, fare pricing and fuel surcharge in the aviation industry were discussed, Chief Legal Officer of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) Wyrlou Samodio somehow earned the ire of one particular member of the House Committee on Transportation when he passionately shared his technical expertise on the issues.

In an International Air Transport Association (Iata)-sponsored event wherein experts in the field taught the basics of airline economics, one Iata lawyer said that overbooking is an industry practice to minimize empty seats during flights. Since seats as an airline product are perishable and that passenger no-show is always a possibility, the industry recognizes the value of overbooking. Interestingly, only 0.09 percent of passengers in the US are denied boarding due to overbooking. And since airlines are mandated to compensate those passengers who are denied boarding, airlines exercise prudence in resorting to such practice. In the country, there is a current proposal to have a percentage cap on overbooked seats. Despite these developments, there is an urgent need for all stakeholders to understand airline economics. In his eagerness to share what he has learned in the past 10 years with the CAB, Wyrlou audaciously explained different points of view as to why revenue management systems of airlines globally resort to dynamic pricing and the pros and cons of liberalization and deregulation during that hearing.

I have attended quite a few congressional hearings. One thing I learned is that participants should use respectful language. In the Bible, Colossians 4:6 says, 'Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.' Within those legislative session halls, representatives of the people are addressed as 'Your Honor' similar to how lawyers address judges in the courtroom. Respect is earned for the most part; but there are certain instances where respect is demanded.

It takes a great deal of courage to speak out, especially in public service. Some leaders, like Wyrlou, may be subject to ridicule and persecution every time they display tenacity to battle conformity, complacency and corruption in the government. In his book, A Good Laywer, Bobby Quitain narrated an incident where he publicly shared his ideas in a forum but felt alone when nobody supported his views. Quitain suggested that courageously standing alone is necessary for servant leaders to have maximum impact.

When Wyrlou was my student in law school, he tenaciously stood out from the rest, as he is never afraid to be different. He would sometimes share his out-of-the-box analysis of certain cases. At work, even his choice of wardrobe during casual Fridays does not conform to conservative government standards. During that congressional hearing, he fearlessly did not conform to the norms as he used the Filipino language for the most part of the interpellation. Wyrlou's mind-set would always remind me of the lesson in the story of David and Goliath, that is, nothing is impossible. It is that kind of courage that comes from God. In the Bible, Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us, 'Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.'

All of us are designed to have fear of whatever sort. At the same time, all of us are designed to have the tools to prevent fear from impeding our ability to fulfill our purpose in life. First, understanding our strengths is one way of conquering fear. Acting fearlessly often means heading into uncharted territory and challenging conventional paths. Wyrlou found the courage in his purpose in his calling when he entered public service. Indian philosopher Patanjali once said, 'When you are inspired by some great purpose, all your thoughts break their bonds.... Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.' Resiliency is another way of conquering fear. Acting fearlessly means we have to act like a bamboo; it bends but it never breaks. When things do not go our way, we have to adapt and let go. Near the end of that congressional hearing, Wyrlou managed to speak no further realizing that he, alone, cannot fully explain the global economics in the commercial aviation industry to all stakeholders. Finally, turning obstacles into opportunities is one way of conquering fear. Fearless people are at ease with frustrations. Instead of taking that berating incident as a setback, Wyrlou saw it as an opportunity to learn a valuable lesson, that is, it is not what we say, but how we say it. Effective communications will depend on the tone, gestures, facial expressions, body posture, volume, inflection, timing and, most important, the choice of words.

I do not know the spiritual inclinations of Atty. Wyrlou Samodio. But I do know that every time we end our spirited conversations, he would always tell me, 'God bless.' Yes, Wyrlou is truly Mister C-A-B for he exemplified 'Controlled Audacity as a Blessing.'
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Jun 3, 2018
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