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Ang probinsyano conquers the city

How a small-town boy made it to the big city and lorded over a tough profession


"I had the inferiority complex of a probinsyano versus those who live in the city. Through time, I realized everyone has his own strength, and as long as you are not afraid to ask for help, there are others who are very much willing to give you guidance."


Few people have managed to realize their childhood dream of what they want to achieve when they grow up. Romualdo Murcia 3rd had a simple dream. Born and raised in a sleepy town about 30 kilometers from Tagbilaran City in Bohol, with a fisherman father and a housewife for a mother, his goal was to step out of his island hometown and work in a decent company so he could support his parents, being the eldest of two children.


Being good at mathematics, Murcia saw himself becoming an accountant.


Murcia is a proud Boholano. He finished his studies, from elementary to college, in the island-province which is better known for its Chocolate Hills, tarsiers, powdery white beaches and rich dive spots.


Murcia lived away from home when he was in college. "In terms of really focusing on my studies, living in the city proved to be better for me," he said.


The first time Murcia came to Manila was when he enrolled in review classes for the licensure examination for Certified Public Accountants (CPA) in 1997 after he graduated magna cum laude from the Divine Word College (now Holy Name University) in Tagbilaran City.


He's grateful to his parents for agreeing to send him to Manila. "They provided for my lodging cost," Murcia disclosed. "All those incidentals while I was reviewing for the board exam. My parents even incurred some loans just so I could finish my board review." While there were review classes offered in Cebu which is just four hours away from Bohol by ferry boat or over an hour away by fast craft, he and most of his classmates opted to take their chances in Manila.


Just like many Boholanos who left the island, Murcia stayed in the big city after taking the CPA Board examination to try to find his fortune.


"My initial aim at that time was just to pass the CPA board exam but it was extremely difficult."


The then 21-year-old not only passed but also achieved the feat of topping the CPA board exam. He was immediately deluged with job offers from top accounting firms, but he opted to go to P&A Grant Thornton then known as Punongbayan & Araullo.


"I felt at that time that I could relate the most with P&A Grant Thornton in terms of where the firm originates," Murcia admitted. "The firm comes from a very humble beginning and it somehow resonated with my background and personality. Another consideration was, I also had some classmates who decided to start their career with Punongbayan & Araullo".


Evidently, that was the start of something big for Murcia.


"I came from a small town in Bohol," Murcia said. "Living in Tagbilaran when I went to college was a novel thing for me. My hometown is a small island which is part of the town of Loon, around 30 kilometers from Tagbilaran City." From the town proper, Murcia had to take a 25-minute boat ride to get home to the coastal village of Cabilao island.


Murcia has been with P&A Grant Thornton for 25 years.


"Most of the partners here are really homegrown. They started their careers at P&A."


He describes his stint with P&A Grant Thornton as "very fulfilling and enjoyable."


"The fulfillment comes from the ability to help my clients in resolving issues and giving recommendations. At the same time, I've been constantly learning new things - another factor why I joined the company. We value excellence and continuing professional education."


Even if he has been with P&A Grant Thornton for 25 years, Murcia admits he is constantly learning new things.


"My profession keeps on evolving, from the auditing practice itself, the standards, even the tax laws.


"The changes keep unfolding, even the people that we are meeting year on year have different engagement with the company. We learn how that company does its business, the strategies employed [and] interacting with different people.


"Some clients are nice and lenient, while some are demanding. Lessons on how you manage your interaction with different kinds of people is always a helpful reference in the future."

Since Murcia previously handled audits he made sure that they issued the right report and maintained the integrity as well as the quality of work.


"When creating an audit report, we make sure that we pour our heart into it and that we uphold our mission — to provide quality service," he explained.


"The effort and procedures that we complete before we issue the report, spells a lot of difference together with the value-added services that we do for our clients."


Murcia started as a junior auditor when he joined P&A Grant Thornton in 1997. Subsequently, he rose from the ranks. In July 2023, he was promoted to chairman and managing partner.


"I find a lot of satisfaction in what I'm doing," Murcia said. "One is the quality service that we deliver to our clients, giving them advice on how to enhance their processes and businesses.


"I guess giving credibility to the client's financial statements for the users and market, that's the main fulfillment that I get. Also, working with successful people and learning from them.


In 2012, Murcia was honored as the Most Outstanding CPA in Public Practice by the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants.


When he was still a junior auditor, Murcia unabashedly admitted that he had the mindset of being a probinsyano.


"I had the inferiority complex of a probinsyano versus those who live in the city," he said.


"Through time, I realized everyone has his own strength, and as long as you are not afraid to ask for help, there are others who are very much willing to give you guidance."


The achievements that Murcia earned through the years, and the recognition that he received from business and professional organizations largely helped him.


"My active involvement in the professional organizations helped bolster my confidence as a leader," he beamed.


This year, he was elected as the national president of CPAs in public practice. The term is normally for one year, which he started last January.


"The respect that I get from my peers and the board members, is due to the image and recognition that I also received in the past."


During the pandemic, P&A Grant Thornton did not have a hard time transitioning to remote work because of the firm's previous investments in information and communications technology.


The other challenge was how to keep their people motivated, especially since they are working from home.


"Personally, there were other adjustments. I was careful not to be distracted while I was working from home. My [three] children were also studying at home.


"Constant communication with my staff, with my team and my company even if I was working from home was important. You need to invest time and effort even if the discussion is in a virtual situation."


As an auditor, Murcia was used to doing 50-page reports on paper. "I'm more comfortable with that," he said. "Nowadays, we do the review using the computer and other devices, a challenge I have to be comfortable with."


In the past, Murcia traveled to Cambodia to support the Grant Thornton affiliate company of P&A. That was one of his work travels before the pandemic. "We supported one of the member firms," he said.


This year, Murcia went to Europe (Spain) for the strategic planning of P&A. He also traveled to Switzerland.


His wife, Jonnalyn, who is also a CPA who hails from Bicol, is very supportive of him. They met at P&A Grant Thornton and they have been happily married for 17 years.


"She focuses on the family and the kids," Murcia offered. "My concentration is on my work. But if I have to attend to the family and do something, I also do it.


"She really understands the nature of my work because of our common profession."


He prefers to stay at home when there's no need to go out. On weekends, Murcia plays badminton or basketball with his two sons. "But I also play golf, so I have my me time, as well."


"During the pandemic, we prayed the rosary every day. We also managed to go on a short vacation in Camaya Coast in Bataan after the lockdown."


The late Lily Linsangan, a partner at P&A Grant Thornton who was fondly called "Mother Lily," was Murcia's role model.


"We both came from very humble beginnings," he shared. "I saw how she aspired to become successful. She was a mother figure and really pushed me to build my confidence."


* * *

QUICK QUESTIONS

What is your biggest fear?

Failing to sustain the growth of the firm after I was promoted as chairman and managing partner.


What really makes you angry?

When people are not responsive and when they intentionally ignore acknowledging or responding to an email.


What motivates you to work hard?

My family, definitely.


What makes you laugh the most?

Normally when I watch stand-up comedians, like Jokoy and Malaysian comedian Dr. Jason Leong on Netflix.


If you could share a meal with any individual living or dead, who would they be?

Recently, I watched this Podcast of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who succeeded Steve Ballmer in 2014. What Nadella did was change the culture of the company, and I feel that I could learn a lot from him.


What was the last book you read?

"The Quiet Leadership" by David Rock.


Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I hope that I'm still with P&A, leading and growing the firm, creating more opportunities for our people.


What celebrity would you like to meet for a cup of coffee?

I'm a golfer, so maybe Tiger Woods. He transformed from a brash guy to more of a family man, concerned about others.


What is the most daring thing you have ever done?

When I was 28, I went to the US for the first time as an exchange student after studying at Asian Institute of Management (AIM) on a scholarship for my MBA. As part of the exchange program of AIM, I studied the last term of my program at Amos Tuck School of Business in Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Upon arrival at the airport, I didn't know what number to call for the taxi, so I accepted the invitation of some college students who offered me a ride to my apartment.


What is the one thing you will never do again?

When I was seven, I climbed a tall coconut tree just to get a kite. I could have died from a bad fall, so never again.







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