We were supposed to travel together this November. A lifelong boxing fan, he followed Manny Pacquiao’s every jab and uppercut. We planned to fly to Hong Kong, hop on the fast ferry to the gambling island then set-up camp inside one of the suites of The Venetian Macao.
Jacinto Mariano Natividad Villarosa Mendez, or “Jack” to the tens of thousands of people who know him, won’t make the trip to watch Pacman. No worries. Instead of a seat inside the Cotai Arena, he’ll have unobstructed front-row seats from high above, seated alongside his buddies like Kits Borromeo, Dito Bugarin, Toto Gallego and his brother Tony — with an unlimited supply of Carlos Uno on his side.
Jack Mendez, my beloved father-in-law, the man I’ve known for over half my life, passed away Tuesday last week. He was to turn 83 years old this August 17.
He left us, to those who’ve met him and laughed with him and heard his impromptu speeches that were always the most applauded — he left us all better people.
Jack’s story is amazing. Born poor, he struggled to study. In college and in law school at the USC, his pants were often torn and he borrowed books. The dean of the USC Law School disallowed him from taking the Bar Exam for fear that he’d fail and would lower the school’s passing rate. He stormed Dean Pelaez’s office and slammed a hand grenade on the table.
He took the test, passed it, became Atty. Jacinto V. Mendez. But still poor, he worked as a security guard. One of his assignments in Manila was to guard a furniture factory where he had to scoot on top of a table to avoid the crawling snakes that wandered all night.
On March 1965, he founded the Centurion Security Agency, Inc. and it went on to become one of the biggest agencies (with over 2,000 guards) in Vis-Min. Counting the years, this March would have been Centurion’s 50th anniversary.
How dad, whom we were ready to nickname, “The Man With the Golden Gun,” longed to attend his baby’s golden celebration. But, no, God has better plans. He wanted his son Jack beside Him early — to be with Him for eternity.
I consider Jack not only as a role model and mentor — but as a best friend. We had the best of times together. Each Saturday dinner that we enjoyed, each trip that we took as a family, each trek to Dumaguete or Iloilo or Bohol that we took so he could watch his granddaughter’s tennis matches — each moment we savored.
As every Rotarian or lawyer-friend or SSS co-employee would attest, he was jolly. He’d make jokes all night. He was witty and articulate. He loved to hold the microphone and tell the funniest of stories.
He was loved. By his family, above all, led by my mother-in-law Malu, and the children, Michelle, Jasmin, Jake and Monette. By his Centurion family. As example, the day after he passed away, the Head Guards group were so shocked and moved by his sudden passing that, never mind their limited resources, they donated a substantial amount of their hard-earned salary to the Mendez family. This is love. Jack’s love returning because of his kindness.
One of dad’s mottos is GOLF: “Growing Old, Living Fine.” He lived a fine and fulfilling life. Another saying that he held dear was the 5Fs. In life, he said, we must follow these 5Fs… First, faith. God above everything else. Next, family. Third F: finances. Fourth, friends. And last, Fun.
Faith. Family. Finances. Friends. Fun. “It should be according to sequence,” he’d say. “Never, for example, finances over family or fun over friends.”
I add a sixth F in his honor: Father. He was an always-present, very thoughtful, and giving father.
This morning at 10, a mass will be celebrated at the San Isidro Parish Church in Talamban with the interment to follow at Cempark. We will lay to rest a man who loved to the fullest, laughed every problem away, rose from rags to riches with humility; a man who could make the most serious of frowns smile, who commandeered a squadron of centurions.
Jack The Centurion, we salute you. Dad, we’ll miss you.