Woman On Top: Chaye Cabal-Revilla Redefines the Modern Woman

  • May 8, 2018

PLDT and Smart executive Chaye Cabal-Revilla redefines the modern woman with a high-stakes finance job, an eye towards social responsibility, a devoted wife and mother

Chaye Cabal-Revilla is a busy woman. The SVP and Controller of PLDT Inc. and Chief Financial Officer of Smart Communications, Chaye finds balance by focusing on her work, philantrophic efforts and her role as a mother.

As a top executive in PLDT, its subsidiaries and affiliate companies, she didn’t limit her knowledge to just her role in finance but expanded her horizon in the other facets of the organization. “One of the things that really helped me in this business was that I didn’t let myself just stay in the parameters of finance. I got involved in all parts of the operations as a business partner to HR, IT, network, marketing, sales,” she says. “I had to make sure I understood all facets of the business, from top to bottom. Because everything is interconnected.”

Chaye has been in PLDT for 18 years, a time she says has gone by like a blink of the eye.  There were challenges to be met, one of the biggest being a woman in such a male-dominated field.  “It was challenging. Engineers are mostly men, and a lot of people connected to telco are men,” she says, adding that “Even in finance, if you look at our annual report for the last 20 years, the female key executive officers are only 25% of the population.”

In response, Chaye put in the grunt work. “I had to learn all areas of  the business to be a value creator and consequently, to be respected. While I am in the finance department, I work with people who are not just part of finance. I had to really understand the day-to-day operations to make an impact.”

When it comes to the daily stresses and frustrations of such a high-stakes job, she believes in keeping a clear head. “It’s always about perspective. I cannot control the situation around me. I can only control what I feel about the situation. I wouldn’t want to burden myself otherwise.”

As a veteran and a woman in the finance industry,  Chaye has seen it all. Is it possible to have it all, or do you still have to choose between career and family? “To me, there’s no choice. You are one whole person. You have to be whole, because you have to be consistent in your life. You can’t be empowered at work if you’re battered at home, or vice versa.”

Chaye Cabal-Revilla (Photograph by Floyd Jhocson for Studio 100)
Chaye Cabal-Revilla (Photograph by Floyd Jhocson for Studio 100)

A Great Equalizer

To offset her hard work at PLDT, Chaye’s greatest passion is her advocacies. Gabay Guro is the education arm and flagship program of PLDT-Smart Foundation, and was formed in 2007 with the aim of building the nation one teacher at a time. A passion project that initially started among friends, Chaye says the focus is on teachers because “The support of a good country is education. Where does that start? The teachers.” She notes that “The formative years of a person’s life is with the teachers. You’re with your teachers from 8 to 5, Monday to Friday. ”

To wit, Gabay Guro has changed the face of education advocacy, with a fresh approach on the pillars of learning for teachers: scholarships for over 52 partner schools for teaching degrees, housing and educational facilities, trainings, livelihood programs, broadband computerization and teacher’s tributes. There are over 1,500 scholars accross the countries and an extremely high graduation rate.

“Education is a great equalizer. There’s no sense of mayaman and mahirap if you’re educated,” says Chaye.  She herself has not stopped learning. “I’m going to Stanford Graduate School of Business for their Executive Education Program this year. I always want to invest in myself,” she says. “If you invest in yourself through education, it’s not something anyone can take away from you. Education will always stay with you.”

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Knowing One’s Purpose

In recognition of her labors, Chaye was the only Filipina awarded as one of the Woman Super Achievers at the 5th World Women Leadership Congress in Mumbai, India. The Congress highlights the role of various woman leaders in the development of modern economy, technological breakthroughs and nation-building.

When told of the accolade, Chaye wasn’t sure what to think. “They e-mailed our PR office, and when I heard, I thought, ‘how did I get it?’ So I emailed them back to ask who nominated me and they said that their team did a research on all the empowered women around the world who are worth recognizing and who will, in turn, inspire people.”

Ever mindful of displaying a good example to colleagues, Chaye and her husband Strike flew in only for one day in order to not miss any day off work. “I prepared a speech but I couldn’t even read it because the podium was too high for me. No one could see me!” she says, laughing. “So I just started walking around on stage and talking extemporaneusly and pointing at my presentation.”

Chaye & Strike Revilla
Chaye & Strike Revilla

What she said was a pretty succinct description of what it means to be a woman in the modern age: “Being an empowered woman, to me, has always been a confident, positive feeling that one gets. And just like anything else, empowerment starts from somewhere. To me, it should start from within. Empowerment lives inside all of us women. Just like a fire, we need to know how to ignite the flame and start the spark from within. After all, a step made today will definitely shape tomorrow.”

After her speech, she was able to listen in and speak with her fellow honorees. “The women were so inspiring and had different perspectives in life,” she remembers. “It was great to be in a room with other accomplished women. After my talk, they said they were so touched with my story.”

A multi-awarded executive, Chaye was recently named as Asia’s CFO of the Year at the prestigious Golden Globe Tigers Awards, an international body that recognizes Asia’s “tigers” – individuals and organizations – who play strategic and influencial role in nation-building and shaping the future of the region. The event was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

In 2015, Chaye was the only female and Filipina awarded CFO of the Year by the CFO Innovations Forum held in Singapore.

Having It All

Away from work and her community endeavors, Chaye is a devoted wife to Strike and mother to their two children, Rob and Chayeli (the name is taken from Chaye-liit, as in, “little Chaye.”)

Chaye Cabal Revilla with her family: Rob, Chayeli & Strike Revilla
Chaye Cabal Revilla with her family: Rob, Chayeli & Strike Revilla

Chaye met Strike through Gabay Guro in 2009, when he was the mayor of Bacoor. “I think he liked me because we shared the same passion for helping others,” she says. When they got married, everyone was shocked, but today their partnership is one built on love and mutual respect: “I don’t think he’d ever ask me to give up my work, because then I’ll focus on him,” she says, jokingly. “We have a very good respect for each other’s work.”

Rob and Chayeli have a big age gap, and Chaye can see the differences of raising children from different generations.  “When I was working and Rob was doing his assignments, he would send it to me on fax machine to be checked.  But now there’s video, so Chayeli will call me with video call.”

When her kids were growing up, she would sometimes take them with her to PLDT. She recalls a funny anecdote: “When I started in PLDT, my son was a toddler. One day, he stumbled across MVP [PLDT Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan],  who said, ‘Oh, who are you?’ Sabi niya, ‘I’m Rob, and who are you?”

Chaye is a very big believer of a purposeful life. “People ask me how I manage my time, being married to a politician, and having kids, and having work. I don’t give the credit to myself. It’s all God’s grace. If I have a purpose, then God will let me reach that purpose.” She adds,  “My life right now is a testimony of what you can do as a person. You are only as good as what you think you are capable of. There is no barrier. There is no one stopping you from running at the speed you want. Whether you turn left or right, it’s your choice.”

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