Capt. Maria Kristina ‘Che’ Javellana has come a long way from the slums of Silay City to a place she can call her own in Cavite.
Water always played a big role in Capt. Maria Kristina ‘Che’ Javellana’s life. She grew up in a slum area in Silay City, Negros Occidental, which went underwater whenever a typhoon struck.
The family had to rescue the pigs and chicken they raised and hurriedly take them to the rooftop.
Even back then, the future captain saw opportunity in adversity.
She and her friends treated their flooded home as a swimming pool where they spent happy days frolicking and trading stories and jokes.
Little did she know that playing in that make-believe pool will teach her to look at the bright side when things go wrong.
She didn’t know that climbing their home’s rooftop amidst heavy rain will teach her grit.
Little did she know that playing with fellow squatters’ children – some of whom were drug addicts and petty thieves – will teach her to get along with anyone, even wayward ones.
Fortunately, her young misguided friends didn’t force Javellana to be one of them. They were happy just playing all sorts of games with her.
Most of these friends were boys whom she played baril-barilan with using found items like bamboo and old newspapers, out there in the wide open playground that is the streets.
Again, little did Javellana know that a happy childhood spent playing games in the streets prepared her to get along with anyone she meets on board. She grew up feeling comfortable in groups and blending with the crowd.
Mingling with boys and playing games with them made it easy for her to feel comfortable in a ship where males outnumber females.
“I don’t wear stilettos. I must come in men’s shoes,” she smiles.
This knack for getting along allowed her to oversee sea personnel, recruitment and training programs with the confidence of someone who loves interacting with all kinds of people.
Meanwhile, frequenting her neighbor’s homes to chat or share a meal made Javellana wise beyond her years. Javellana – the product of a broken home – found solace and guidance in her neighbors’ words of wisdom.
They encouraged her to pursue her dreams. And their colorful stories taught Javellana to smile even if she, like them, live in the not-so-comfortable part of town.
When she reached college age, it was time to bid her childhood home a temporary good-bye. Javellana studied at Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP) in Bataan from 2001 to 2005.
It was here where she developed the patience and the discipline of waiting to get what she wants. She learned to wait until the next vacation – like Christmas break – to reunite with her family.
Instead of whining, Javellana did the next best thing. She grabbed the chance to form a new, bigger family on board.
“It was such a great opportunity that I became a Kamaya Pointer (MAAP is located in Kamaya Point, Bgy. Alas-asin, Mariveles, Bataan). I had brothers and sisters while we are studying. The bond and camaraderie are way beyond that of friends,” she recalls.
Today, the 33-year-old master mariner treats each challenge, not as a burden, but a temporary bump on the road. She gladly took on the role of family breadwinner – sending her siblings and a niece to school – because a seafarer’s salary allows her to save.
Thanks to her, the family left the slums of Silay long ago and now live in a house they call their own in Imus, Cavite.
After all, family is everything to her.
“They’re my source of strength. When all else fails, – family will always be there,” Javellana explains.
For them, she can look fear in the eye and treat it as “something you inflict on your mind to make you insecure and less confident.”
Javellana can’t ask for more.
She’s blessed with a happy family. Her career allows her to provide for her loved ones. But it’s not all pesos and centavos.
Fulfillment is just as important. And for her, it comes “whenever you finish your contract safely.”
She’s happy when people and cargo entrusted under her care reach their destination in the best shape possible.
The journey may be tough, especially when Javellana signed on the dotted line as a Master for the first time. But she took the challenges as a learning experience, the way she did as a little girl who turned the flooded area around her home into a ‘swimming pool’ that spelled hours of fun for her and her playmates.
This never-say-die spirit is the stuff captains like her are made of – With Aido Sepeda.