How many Cebu-based businesses can say that they’re 48 years old? Centurion Security Agency, Inc. will turn 50 in 2015. Very few establishments can proudly announce that they’re nearing their Golden Anniversary. Here’s the amazing story (first published in the sports section) of my wife Jasmin’s dad…
He is my coach. My mentor. My Sunday-lunch drinking buddy. He is funny. Wise. Has street-smarts. He’s rich, was poor, is God-loving and forever generous. He’s a family man, a Rotarian, a disciplinarian.
Jacinto Mariano “Jack” Villarosa Mendez was born on August 17, 1931.
The life story of Jack Mendez is amazing. He wasn’t supposed to succeed. Born poor, he was raised poor. In high school during World War II, he endured kilometers of walking on dirt roads to attend school in Ubay, Bohol. In college at the USC, he could barely afford to buy textbooks. When he stepped inside the library, he wore borrowed pants and, to support his studies, he mopped floors in exchange for free lodging.
Manny Pacquiao? Jack Mendez was the same: he lifted wood at the pier as kargador. And, on his final year at the USC law school, his father, a firewood dealer, decided that his brothers and sisters would stop school to allow him to graduate.
After passing the bar exams, he did what no other brand-new lawyer has possibly ever done: he became a security guard. While assigned at a shellcraft company in Manila where snakes crawled the premises at night, he squatted on table tops.
Yet, he endured. He persevered. He did not let his sorry state bruise his fate.
Jack’s first job was with the SSS. Despite a stable job and lofty position as division head of the Claims and Benefits branch, he dreamed beyond the Social Security System. He longed to become an entrepreneur and daydreamed of establishing his own security business.
March 4, 1965. That was the moment. He named the business “Centurion.” As he envisioned, the start-up prospered. And the reason is simple: The owner was a former security guard. Who better to train and manage blue guards than a former security man himself? He understood the guard’s suffering of sleepless nights and the loneliness of working everyday, seven days from Thursdays to Wednesdays, including Christmas and Holy Week.
In those mid-1960s, guards were perceived to be “notorious” and “shady.” He aimed to change that stereotype into one where people would respect security personnel who were courteous, qualified and well-trained. He did that.
From one solitary guard when he started nearly half a century ago, the firm reached a peak of 1,500-strong men and women, back when Centurion also operated a second agency, Mensa (or Mendez Security Agency).
The company motto? It remains as enduring today as it was in 1965: “The Best Pay from the Best of Companies through the Best Service.”
True enough, Centurion became the best: Ten times it was adjudged the “Best Security Agency for Region 7” and, three times, the “Most Outstanding Private Security Agency of the Philippines.”
The story of Jack is motivating. Difficulties? Challenges? Adversity? Are these not present in our daily lives? His example proclaims one of the most powerful teachings in this whole universe: You. Can. Do. It.
For here’s the formula of life employed by the 81-year-old Jack Mendez: “Hardships are not meant to make us bitter.… but better.”
One other lesson he imparts? Laugh. Very often. (He’s one of the funniest men I know.) For life is a constant struggle. But if you laugh at your own foibles and chuckle when problems arise, you’ll often succeed.
Finally, a devout Catholic who now does a lot of “apostolic” work (being with his “apos” or grandkids), he believes that we should both work hard and entrust everything to the Lord. He’d often say, “God helps those who help themselves.”
And so, to the original Centurion, to my inspiration, to my father-in-law: Sir, I salute you.