A Life of Artistic Pleasures
Mr. Laya started his career as a faculty member in the University of the Philippines after graduating with a degree in Accounting. He was an Assistant Instructor who taught elementary economics classes, before teaching major college courses in finance, economics, and accounting. Soon, he worked himself up to the position of Dean of the College of Business Administration. By 1974, he was appointed to various senior positions in the national government, including Minister of the Budget, Central Bank Governor, and Minister of Education, Culture and Sports. He also founded KPMG/Laya Mananghaya & Co., which quickly became the third largest auditing and accounting firm in the Philippines. After retirement, he joined Philtrust Bank as Vice Chairman.
Despite a career in finance, Mr. Laya’s true passions lay in the arts—an inclination he had surely inherited from his parents,celebrated author Juan Cabreros Laya, and educator Silvina del Carmen. “My father was a prize-winning novelist, playwright, producer, and director [of Dramatic Philippines],” he shares looking back. “That was a theater group active during the Japanese Occupation headquartered at the Manila Metropolitan Theater.” As a child, he remembers going into the family library to read books on the performing arts. During his teenage years, he would join his high school’s arts program, where he participated in folk dances, debates, and choral singing.
The young Mr. Laya saw to it that there was time carved out for the opera, ballet performances, and concerts, even if this meant watching them alone. Despite his youth, he was well-versed and held high appreciation for theater performances like Der Fledermaus(with Fides Asensio Cuyugan), and Carmen(in Tagalog with Salvacion Oppus Yniguez singing Micaela).
When he moved abroad as a scholar for graduate school, he saw Maya Plisetskaya and Bayanihan perform in San Francisco. Mr Laya also remembers watching Richard Burton play Hamlet on Broadway. The New York Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall were also regarded by the Chairman as special places to immerse in the arts. He admits that as a young scholar, he didn’t always have the funds to get the best seats in the theatre. So he found extra work as an usher, and saw his favorite shows while at work.