top of page

Mariners: urulayan sa kasaysayan

On March 4, the Mariners Polytechnic Colleges, Inc (MPCI), a business and technology school offering trailblazing course programs in Hotel, Restaurant, Tourism, Customs Management, and Communication Arts, will mark its Golden Foundation anniversary, a milestone for an educational institution that began as a maritime, vocational, technical and secretarial school 50 years ago. The Mariners is one oneiric story of resilience and passionate struggle to live and triumph amidst poverty and formidable challenges. I want to pay tribute by writing about its phenomenal growth, considering the extraordinary historical circumstances that required grit and surrender to overcome.

It was a whirlwind of activity from 1974 to 1983 around Naga City, where the Founder rented small rooms to hold his first classes, including at a congested slum area until Mariners settled in Panganiban, which soon became a campus at the heart of the city. He established two other schools specializing in Maritime courses in marine engineering and maritime transportation with campuses in Canaman, Camarines Sur, in 1984 and Legazpi City, Albay, in 1985.

By the 1990s, the three schools bloomed where they were planted, undeterred by episodes of marginalization (going to Mariners to become a seaman or HRM was then looked down upon) in their early years. However, with its unique learning and strong community extension services orientation, Mariners grew with more institutional partners and successful graduates who set high tourism, food, hotel, and restaurant management standards. Known for their tall and beautiful Majorettes, the Mariners in Naga opened the first Mariners Tourism Hotel Institute (MTHI) in 2012, which set the trend for actual in-house training in a mock hotel. It has consistently garnered awards in culinary arts and hospitality services. Its maritime affiliation and orientation have put its graduates on top and an edge higher than most of their caliber because they can be suitable on land or sea. Some graduates have successfully landed airline jobs, which makes the tourism and HRM courses at MPCI doubly engaging. Meanwhile, the two maritime schools boast the only accredited maritime degrees and port customs courses in the region with ISO and PACUCOA accreditation.

One realizes that to write about the school is to write about its Founder – Jaime Chavez Jimenez- who began to build the Mariners’ story almost singlehandedly. He was a poor landless farmer’s son who dreamt of making his future free from the onerous bondage of farmland, not their own. His family of eight lived by the salog or riverbanks in Barangay Bigajo Sur in Libmanan. Every morning and late afternoon, he witnessed the daily passage of bankers-driven banks plying passengers and goods to and from poor coastal barangays to Naga along the long stretch of the Bicol River in Camarines Sur. He wished and imagined that someday he would be steering his boat and becoming the captain of his life.

That was 1935 when he was in grade school hustling with his Tatay Juan, a tenant to wealthy landed families. He juggled various odd manual jobs to pay for high school and college. Dinand Osio, a more senior cousin, happily recalled, “With Tata Aming, everything was possible.” He toiled the land, paddled wooden bancas, and coached horse-driven calesa (as cochero in Spanish). He built and worked onboard ships on deck as a deep-sea rescue diver. He taught Physics, Engineering, and Math and served as the college dean of marine engineering. An old Manila Chronicle news clipping called him “the engineer who launched a ship from the mountains” at Calatagan, Batangas shipyard, where he managed the Engineering Equipment. He was president of various maritime organizations and chaired the Philippine Commission to Reorganize the Maritime Industry. His life story of toil, sweat, and tears is inextricably tied to the school’s most humble beginnings and development.

Urulayan sa Kasaysayan

I was just out of high school when I became increasingly aware of the Founder’s dogged efforts to establish not just a school but a big college, first in Manila and then in Bicol, to educate and train young men and women to become seafaring professionals like him. I witnessed the ambitious trek towards greatness, not for self but for Bicol, the land of many landless poor like him and his siblings. He embarked on his journey for Mariners with his beloved wife, Eliza, his children, and trusted relatives and friends. He once said, “Mariners will serve the poor youth in every barangay to be able to go abroad for free aboard ships.” Soon enough, “Sarong Marinero, sa kada Pamilyang Bicolano” became a famous mantra on Buhay Marinero on the radio. To help unravel bits and pieces of the rest of the Mariner’s story, organizing face-to-face storytelling sessions among veterans and old-time surviving employees and officials began last month.

As the name suggests, storytelling is a data collection tool that relies heavily on stories that provide varied perspectives of knowledge from specific tales told. With Doc Cely Binoya, I hosted three Kwentuhan sa Kasaysayan ng Mariners face-to-face, three to four hours each time, and two individual phone kwentuhan that lasted two hours. Veterans Nap Mangente and Elmer Abad led the storytelling with Armie, Beth, Letty, Nary, Daisy, Wilma, Mayette, Marilyn, Nilo, Daisy, then with Ely, Nimpa, Doc Gabby, and Doc Ampuan connecting the dots of many happenings, and vividly recollecting many joyful, sad, and even funny accounts of the events at Mariners in the past years. As the Urulayan progressed, the personal exchanges became more reflective about discovering the school’s history of pain, loss, failures, and mostly of success and triumphs. I thoroughly enjoyed the group storytelling as a powerful data provider where each participant reconnected with each other and collaborated with archives.

With the Urulayan, we affirmed the Mariners’ success story reflecting the Founder’s resiliency lessons. I counted 10: 1. Poverty is never a hindrance; 2. Commitment to a clear goal; 3. Fast action, no time for procrastination; 4. Strong self-belief; 5. Fearless and courageous; 6. Open to change; 7. Discipline; 8. Positivity; 8. Accepting responsibility and risks; 9. Hands-on; 10. Family love and prayers.

bottom of page