Lady sea captain rides the storm

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.




Magsaysay scholar gives back

Lawyer Zharmai Garcia sees herself still volunteering for the program while fighting  courtroom battles in years to come.

Whether she’s in a courtroom litigating or on the ground doing the leg work for her cases, feisty yet soft-spoken lawyer Zharmai Garcia  seizes every opportunity to give back to the marginalized.

This fellow at the Center for International Law (CENTERLAW), a firm that handles public interest cases and libel defense, among others, has the brains and the heart of someone who identifies with the needy.  Continue reading “Magsaysay scholar gives back”

The Gruta Rules: My Thoughts on Lifelong Learning

As I sat through my graduation at Annapolis, I could not wait for the ceremony to end on that bright May morning despite the pomp of the occasion and the prestige of the guest speaker, Admiral William Crowe, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I was eager to throw my hat up in the air as tradition dictated with my 1,012 classmates signifying the end of four years of grueling academics, sports, and military training which I can describe as living on a “war footing.” One of the few things I remember from Admiral Crowe was when he quoted Newton Baker who said, “The man who graduates today and stops learning tomorrow is an uneducated man the day after.”

If anything had an impact on me that day, it was probably that statement. While the US Navy has no shortage of schools to send you to prepare you for a job, I had made it a practice to take advantage of schools while in the government and industry, especially when tuition is covered by the employer. To be competitive, I saw going to class as “rearming and retooling” to possess the initiative when opportunities knock at my door. In fact my youngest daughter asked my wife, “Mom, why don’t you go to school in your spare time like Dad.” As a joke (I hope), my wife answered, “That’s because your Dad is still trying to figure things out…while Mommy already knows everything.”

As after hours education sometimes exacted a heavy toll on life experiences, I have placed a new emphasis on maximizing learning from the best school, experience, whether it’s your own or someone else’s. Books and the classroom are not ends to themselves, but rather supplements to what we learn from our environment, whether it be personal or professional. I often use them in counseling sessions and for self-examination. The following principles are some pearls of wisdom that I list today and will expound upon in future postings. I refer to them as the Gruta Rules:

  1.  It’s all about the execution.
  2.  A great Filipino Party or any party is a source of making  friends with someone.
  3.  Who’s you Daddy, Padrino, etc.
  4.  By all means, use your culture’s strengths to take you to your destination, but neither should you let its weaknesses keep you from it.
  5.  You may not change a situation or some one to favor you, but don’t pass up the opportunity to change your tactics.
  6.  Don’t let induced emotions dominate you. Get ahead.
  7.  Don’t pass up the opportunities to learn from your setbacks, as long as you live.
  8. Evaluate your plans and actions from the perspective of ends, ways and means.

My thanks to the Asian Lifelong Learner for this opportunity to share my thoughts! Meanwhile until my next post, keep your eyes open and your ears to the ground! There’s a lot to gain out there!

– Image by Ash Carter