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Centenarian: Jaime Chavez Jimenez (JCJ), founder of Mariners

On April 30, our father, Jaime Chavez Jimenez, would have turned 100 – a centenarian. RA 10868 (HB No 10647), which the Lower House amended and approved on final reading last January, provides P1M for those who live until 101 years old. The bill is now with the Senate awaiting final version.

If it becomes a law, every Filipino adult would have a new cause to fight for: to live long and reach 101! Who wouldn’t want to live the age of 101 with the promise of a million pesos to enjoy or to leave behind our younger heirs?

Sayang, had our father continued to live, he would be 100 on Saturday and 101 the following year. He would be richer by a million pesos! It’s a pity he was not lucky enough to see the light of the day in the law known as the Centenarians Act of 2016. Our father and founder of the Mariners Polytechnic Colleges Foundation in Bicol, died on March 20, 1992, at 69, a long shot to 100!

A dreamer

Celebrating his 100th birthday provides us with a recurring memorial for the sharing of good happy memories about him. The Centennial on April 30 is a milestone for Mariners. It would be an occasion to remember and celebrate the life of one special person long gone, the founder of Mariners Polytechnic Colleges Foundation with its three campuses – in Legazpi City, Albay, Canaman and Naga City in Camarines Sur.

But how much do we know about him? Jaime, or Aming to the local community, was born to a poor farming couple in San Vicente, Libmanan, Camarines Sur. His parents, who bore storybook names – Juan and Maria-- lived long enough to see all their eight children secured with their future. Aming’s humble beginnings in this small village of less than a thousand farming people saw him struggling to survive by selling pandesal at the break of dawn each day and scrubbing floors at a rich uncle’s house for a few pennies more to go to San Vicente Elementary School. His story was a familiar narrative of a poor boy who lived with his parents and siblings at the social bottom. Yet, he was a dreamer, persistent, passionate about education, and daring even in the face of adversity.

In Juan and Maria’s household, going to school was traditionally reserved for the eldest sibling. But Aming persisted even if it meant defying his beloved Nanay Maria, walking barefoot to school and being exposed to risks. At an early age, Aming had started to dream big. He wanted to finish college and become a ship captain, ferrying people and goods from port to port. He already had his eyes fixed on what to do: be in command of a ship!

That dream started as a poor farmer’s son who would squat along the riverbank at the back of their nipa house to watch boats pass by the Libmanan River. He may not have a clear picture of what a big ship was but being in command, deciding on how and where best to steer the boat to reach the destination safe and fast was what he wanted.

A fighter

Aming also indulged in amateur boxing in the town center, typical among rural teens. Kuya Dolfo, the former three-term Mayor of Libmanan and eldest son of Aming’s eldest brother, Uncle Henry, recalled the story about “Tata Aming,” who would always find ways to finish school. Aming did not engage in boxing for love of it but for the urge to earn a few pesos so he could pay for his schooling. He fought with bare hands and, during fiestas, with borrowed pair of boxing gloves. One would remember the names of Pancho Villa and Gabriel Flash Elorde, but in Aming’s time, it was the financial reward to use for the school needs that inspired him to excel in boxing, popular local culture in the barrios then. Although boxing provided him quick money, win or lose, the sport exposed him to a high risk of head and face injuries. After finishing high school with honors, he went on to study at the Bicol College of Arts and Trade, then to Manila at FEATI University as a self-supporting student with a scholarship, where he finished Mechanical Engineering and became its faculty and outstanding Dean. After that, he joined the Philippine Navy until he retired during Martial Law.

World War II was a period of interruption when Aming served as a guerilla fighter among the brave men of Tangkong Vaca Unit that fought the Japanese invaders in the mountains of Libmanan. Sumaro Bicolnon, Inc. conferred him a posthumous award for his active participation in the guerilla movement several decades after. A Philippine Navy Captain when he retired, he was recognized for his exemplary service and earned the distinction of Commodore when he became a commander of the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA). An accomplished engineer, shipbuilder, navigator, educator, marine environmentalist, and deep-sea salvage rescue expert in the Philippine Navy’s first Flagship Destroyer D-66, Aming’s dream soared him to success. He co-founded and for years, led the Philippine Association of Maritime Institutions (PAMI), and helped government efforts to reorganize the maritime industry in 1988.

In founding the Mariners, he brought the cadet honor code, “Do not lie, cheat and steal,” words emblazoned proudly on the wall of the college building on its three campuses. Under his leadership, Mariners grew exponentially. His favorite pick-up line from a poem by Louisa May Alcott, “I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship,” has become the school’s famous tagline. For Aming, “every storm is a lesson in sailing one’s ship.”

On April 30, the family and the schools he founded are paying tribute to this great man in his 100th birth year. His passion and persistence for learning have made him a giant among his peers. The family and the schools he founded are putting up the Jaime Chavez Jimenez (JCJ) Foundation to serve and pay back to his native roots in San Vicente Elementary School, among the farmers’ children in the small village where he began to dream big and left no stones unturned to succeed.


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