It’s summer! Time to bike out, not sit in

I was scouring through my past Sun.Star articles when I stumbled upon this March 18, 2007 piece (which I slightly edited) that’s as relevant today as it was eight summers ago:

When I grew up as a young boy in Bacolod City in the 1970s, our family owned one 14-inch black-and-white TV set. Voltes V was my favorite show. I also loved how Popeye gobbled up that can of spinach, turned muscular, punched Brutus, then won over Olive. How often did I sit fronting the boob tube? Once a week. For 30 minutes. Maybe less.

The PlayStation 4 did not exist. The XBox 360 wasn’t produced by Bill Gates. Instagram wasn’t invented. (Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t even born yet!) The iPod was a thick box with a cassette tape twirling inside named Walkman. The Internet? It was decades away and the only “surfing” people understood was on the beach above a surfboard.

That was the 1970s. Today, young ones clasp with 10 fingers the iPhone. Cable channels boast of thousands of TV shows. Today, six-year-olds do “txtng” with their eyes closed.

What has this made the world? It has made our children fat. Lazy. It has made them think less. Sweat less. Do less. It has made them crawl to the computer to chat with their friend instead of calling and talking over a landline for two hours. It has made our children reclusive. Introverts. Like turtles, they turn inside their shells, inside their rooms, inside their computers, inside their Facebook accounts. Take this example: Instead of going out to join a karate class, today’s children would rather play a martial arts video game.

Sad? Very, very sad. So here we are, once more, back in this season called Summer. The question is asked of every parent, “What do I let my children do?”

My advice? Go out. During the next 60 days, when the sun is burning and the skies are light blue and it’s 36 degrees outside and the clouds are puffy and white — take your child out. Literally. Take her out.

Enroll your son on an aikido program. Buy him those white martial arts overalls, let him kick, jump, block and punch. Let him do all those acts in front of a teacher, beside other children — and not on some Android game.

Go out. Enroll her in a swimming program. Basketball? Badminton? Tennis? Football? Bowling? Every sport that has a field or a pool or a court or an alley will have a summer program. What to join? It’s all up to you. It’s all up to your child.

Not interested in sports? No problem. There are other choices available: classes for painting, cooking, dancing, acting. The point is obvious: Before June arrives and the next thing you realize is your daughter has memorized all the TV shows, do something. Plan out her summer today.

Go out. I know, I know. Very often, the words “summer” and “expensive” are synonyms. That’s true. But you can also be creative.

When I was no older than 9, my dad Bunny and mom Allen did the wisest move any parent can do: They bought me an inexpensive bike. And so I biked. Each morning, I pedaled. Each afternoon, I pedaled. Together with my brother Charlie and our neighbors, we drove our BMX bikes, cycled nonstop, raced the asphalted roads, scouted for “damang” (or “kaka,” as  spiders are called in Ilonggo) crawling the electric lines; we shot hoops at the village court and pulled our “tiradors” (slingshots) to target birds. We weren’t inside. We were out.

Finally, here’s one last tip: Summer’s the perfect time to bond with your child. Buy a plastic kite and drive to the Family Park. Throw the kite up in the air while your son maneuvers it upward.

You play golf? And want your daughter to learn the game? Enroll her in a JunGolf program. Drop her at the morning’s start. Pick her up. Compliment her swing. And when she’s good enough to play a few holes, be her partner. Or her caddy. By summer’s end, guess what: Your daughter will be all-smiles, tanned, tired. And she’d have found a new best friend named Dad.

Categorized as Family

Salute to The Centurion

It was 50 golden years ago today, on March 5, 1965, when one man, who started with the humblest of beginnings as a security guard, founded what would become one of the country’s most outstanding security providers.

That man was Jacinto Mariano Natividad Villarosa Mendez and that company is Centurion Security Agency, Inc.

Few companies reach 50 years. Few men were like Jack. He worked as a kargador. He’d ride a rickety boat with his father from Bohol to Cebu to transport wood. While in law school at USC, he borrowed books to study. After passing the bar, he survived the hardships of little money by wearing a blue uniform with a gun tucked in his side pocket.

He started as a guard. Then, years later and armed with that first-hand experience, he founded Centurion Security Agency, Inc. with a vow to transform the then-rugged and scary image of a “sikyo” into that of a true “security professional.”

He succeeded. From one guard, Centurion reached a peak of 1,500 security professionals. Today, it has a thousand. On numerous times, CSAI was awarded by the police as one of the nation’s top agencies.

Speaking of longevity, the company has established long relations not only with clients and companies but also with their dutiful and devoted employees. One guard has been with Centurion for over 34 years. There are several fathers-and-sons working for Centurion; a father would start as a guard in his early twenties, he’d got married, raise children — and one or two of those boys would go on to follow their dad, saluting customers and ensuring an establishment’s safety.


Today, fifty years since Centurion’s founding, is both a happy and sad day for the family I’ve come to call my own: the Mendez family — which includes my wife Jasmin, the second of four children.

Happy because fifty years, as explained by ace business writer Mia Aznar in her piece yesterday, is “half-century” old.

Fifty years is fifty years. That’s a long time ago. We weren’t even born that year when movies Dr. Zhivago and The Sound of Music were shown. Happy because when you look back at how the company has helped tens of thousands of people through the years, through employment or because establishments have become safer due to Centurion’s front-line security, you smile and feel fulfilled.

Today is also a somber day. It’s bittersweet for the Mendez family — which include my mother-in-law Malu and Jasmin’s siblings, Michelle, Jake and Monette — because the founder and CEO himself, the funnyman Jack Mendez whom everybody loved, passed away just eight months ago.

For years, he longed to see his baby turn 50. He had grand plans with Centurion joining a hundred-force squadron of Centurions, marching and saluting the crowd during the Sinulog. If only he’d be with us today… His sudden passing last July 15, on a beautiful morning that transformed into the darkest of evenings for the family that night, was painful.

Though he was already 82 and had lived the fullest of lives — from being Rotary president to being Ubay, Bohol’s benefactor to being a devout Catholic and a generous and caring dad to his four children — his passing stunned the family.

But today we celebrate as he wants us to celebrate. For Jack was a man who laughed. He laughed a lot. He made people laugh. And his legacy lives on with the company he founded whose motto reads, “The best of pay to the best of companies offering the best service — The best service wins!”

Dad, The Centurion, happy golden anniversary.

Categorized as Family

Jack Mendez

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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.

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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.

Categorized as Family

The secret to reaching the age of 100

Ernie Delco watched Wimbledon—live! The Rafa Nadal fan, who just landed in Cebu, called his trip last week “A dream come true” and added, “I may not have seen Nadal but was lucky to watch Federer at Center Court. I witnessed how fast yet graceful he moved his feet to get to every ball. I bet he will win this year.”

Ernie, together with friends Astro and Jeff, queued with 8,000 others for as long as two miles. “Venus and Serena were so elusive,” said Ernie, who also witnessed the 2009 Australian Open. “But I chanced upon their controversial father outside Court 2 where Serena was struggling in the first set. The guy was imposing but sounded soft-spoken.”

Maria Sharapova was also hard to find but one player whom Ernie stared at was Ms. Ana. “I got close to Ivanovic after her game against Daniilidou. We shook hands to the protest of her multiple guards. She’s more beauteous than on TV!”

JOEL GARGANERA. Minutes before boarding time at Singapore’s Changi Airport last Friday, I was with Steve Benitez. We walked towards E3, where our plane was parked. We saw Gino and Carmel Salvador and Joel Garganera.

Joel joined the 100-km. Sundown Ultramarathon. In his Facebook page, he said: “17th Century, My 17th Ultra/Marathon is a Hundred. 13:04:41.” Amazing. Congrats!

HOOPS DOME. The 7,000-seater Hoops Dome of Lapu-Lapu City will be open to the public. I’ve visited the facility (that’s located just minutes away from the old Mactan Bridge) and it’s Cebu’s best-kept surprise. The seats are multi-colored with backrests. The basketball boards are NBA-like. This is our mini-Araneta Coliseum.

“We are launching the Hoops Dome on July 2,” said Councilor Harry Radaza. “Lapu Lapu City is home to the first Filipino hero. And who better person to launch it than our very own modern-day Filipino hero, Manny Pacquiao. Of course, he will not be fighting, but instead singing with his MP Band featuring Lito Camo.”

LEBRON. Dr. Antonio Gestosani, the uncle of my wife Jasmin, wore an Ohio State T-shirt last weekend. I asked him about LeBron.

“He’s a traitor,” said Dr. Gestosani. “After Dallas won, Ohio celebrated like we won the championship. LeBron got greedy. The fame and money got to his head. He also thought he was Michael Jordan. He’s not. With Jordan, when he drove down the lane, players didn’t want to hurt him. Not with LeBron. They wanted to hurt him.

“Also, it wasn’t about him leaving the Cavaliers. That happens. We know that. What we despised the most was ‘The Decision.’ In Cleveland, a family of four pays $300 to watch LeBron. That’s expensive. But we all loved him. We all did. Not anymore.”

100. I was in Iloilo City last weekend. The occasion was the 100th birthday of Jasmin’s grandmother, Corazon Gayanilo.

Though riding on a wheelchair, Lola ‘Zon can still think and speak well. At the grand celebration last Saturday at the Sarabia Manor Hotel, what was amazing was that there were two birthday parties held at nearby function rooms: one was for our lola, at 100, and another was for a 95-year-old!

What’s the secret to becoming a “Century-old Chick,” as my daughter Jana jokingly referred to her lola?

Laughter. As family members spoke, including my mother-in-law, Malu Mendez, it was unanimous that Lola Zon was forever smiling and laughing. She’s a joker. (Days before her party, attended by family members who flew-in from the U.S., she joked: “Te, sin-o ma bayad sine tanan?” (Who will pay for all of this?)

I’m reminded of a similar party I attended a few months ago at the Casino Español. The celebrant was Mrs. Bebe Alcoseba. The auntie of my dad (and the mom of Councilor Yayoy Alcoseba), Lola Bebe turned 90 years old. Yet, she looks as youthful as 70; always giggling, her face radiates and glows. She is forever cheerful. She jokes a lot, laughs aplenty.

As one proverb reads, “A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” And, as NFL’s Michael Pritchard said: “We don’t stop laughing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop laughing.”

Dear Dads: Give Presence not Presents

Dad (center, standing) with the family during Jana’s graduation

Dad with the first Filipino on Mt. Everest, Leo Oracion, and my daughter Jana

Of all the blessings that the Lord has gifted me and my three brothers (Michael, Randy, Charlie) and one sister (Mary Cheryl Anne), the most important was giving us extraordinary parents. My mom, Maria Elena “Allen,” and my dad, Manuel “Bunny,” were always there for us.

My dad taught me about sports. He biked, pedaling a “racer” (road-bike). He jogged. He walloped that pelota racket. He exchanged tennis volleys with Monico Puentevella at the Negros Occidental Tennis Association (NOTA) courts in Bacolod City.

He showed me the importance of a daily sweat. He lived it. He practiced the age-old adage: “A healthy body equals a healthy mind.”

Bunny Pages played basketball. No, he wasn’t in the PBA. That was his younger brother, Ray, who wore the Crispa Redmanizers jersey. My dad joined the Bacolod Professionals (BAPRO), a gathering of executives and businessmen—all united by the same love of sport as Moses Malone and Paul Westhphal. This was in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. As the eldest child, I’d tag along. A tall, 6-footer forward, my dad scored 23+ points, his jump-shot from the side was unstoppable, like George Gervin’s.

My brother Charlie and I played basketball. We joined the La Salle Bacolod varsity team.

One of my life’s most unforgettable moments was in our Intramurals. Facing a team in the Finals composed of the best in our Grade 7 batch, our underdog team fought. It came down to the last few seconds. I was fouled. Make both free throws and we win the championship; miss one attempt and we lose. The La Salle Gymnasium was packed. Cheering engulfed the indoor arena. At 13 years old, it was unbearable pressure.

Swish. Swish. We won.

The reason for all this? My dad. He recognized early-on our passion for basketball and he built, right at our backyard in Mountain View Subdivision, a half-court so that all-afternoon-long, after school, we’d dribble and practice lay-ups. Each night, after Charlie and I would rush to finish our homework, we’d turn on the spotlights and play until our elbows ached and our necks stiffened.

Thanks to the green-painted basketball court, our skills improved. Our La Salle elementary team won the overall championship in Bacolod. I was the point guard and was adjudged the MVP.

I cite this example because it’s true. It’s personal. And, now as a father to my 12-year-old daughter Jana, I look back at what my dad did and apply the many learnings I’ve accumulated.

My dad and mom were always there. Always. Always. Always. Always. In basketball contests, tennis matches, declamation performances, PTA meetings—in anything and everything that had to do with their most-loved possessions, their children… they were present.

Be present. Remember that presence is more essential than gifts. Children spell love. . . T-I-M-E. Above all things, our life here on earth will be measured by how much time we spent with our children. I believe in this mathematical formula: the amount of time you spend with your children is commensurate to how good your children will become. Trust me on this. That’s what I’ve experienced with my own parents.

More time + attention = Better children.

Sports? Above all things, this is one activity where you and your child will bond best. Sport means playing. And don’t children love to play? Find the game that your child enjoys. Jog together. Swim. The more time you and your child spend playing, the healthier you become; the healthier your relationship.

To my dad… I love you. Thanks to your childhood present—that basketball court—and to your presence. Happy Father’s Day!

Me and dad in Seoul, Korea

During the Davis Cup with Treat Huey and Cecil Mamiit

A Shangri-La for the sun, swim and sports

If you type the word “shangri-la” in the online thesaurus, plenty of words appear. There’s “bliss,” “heaven” and “promised land.” There’s “seventh heaven,” “garden” and “paradise.”

Having recently stayed for two nights at the Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa, I’d conclude that, yes, those words are accurate. For here we have, in our very own Cebu, one of the most coveted resorts in the entire Philippines and around Asia.

Jasmin, Jana and myself—our family of three Js—booked a Friday noon to Sunday afternoon stay a month ago. School had not started yet and, what perfect way for a getaway. Plus, our top resort had a fantastic promotion: Book for two nights and, as reward, they’ll give the third night… for free.

There’s more. A free P1,000 voucher that’s consumable in any of their several restaurants—Tides, Acqua, Buko Bar & Grill, Cowrie Cove, and Tea of Spring. And here are two more that my 10-year-old daughter, Jana Marie, enjoyed the most: a 15-minute ride on their jet-ski (free!) and a two-hour access to a children’s paradise of stairs and slides called Adventure Zone. Daily buffet breakfast for two (plus two children) at either Tides or Acqua are all included in the package. (For those still interested, this “Local Residents Package,” which started in June 1, lasts until August 31, 2009.)

Categorized as Family

A message to all the fathers

Published in Nov. 13, 2007, this has to be my favorite of all the articles I’ve written…

One of my most fulfilling roles in life is being a dad. I love being a father. I love the moments when I hold my daughter’s hand and take her out to a date, when we sit on the floor and play Korean jackstones, when we have breakfast at 6:30 a.m. and I tell her stories about World War II. Yes, no misprint there: our topics range from her Grade 3 quiz on Math to her Bright Academy football practice to why Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

I love my daughter.

As a dad, Dr. Ronnie Medalle scores an ace

Among the hundreds of fathers I know, he is one of those I admire the most. Successful in his practice as a top ophthalmologist with ACES (Associated Cebu Eye Specialists), he is even more successful in his role as husband to his wife, Stephanie, and as a father.

Dr. Ronald Anthony Medalle, when I asked him how he finds time, despite his full load, to be with his children, said, “For important things in life, you MUST find time. I strive to be there for them in every important event. I ‘tutor’ Santi weekly on his piano lessons. Otherwise, through a simple board game or with a fun “Wii game” you can get that moment. But every so often I pull them out just to have a one-on-one chat.”


I’ve known Ronnie for several years now ever since I joined the Rotary Club of Cebu West (he was a former president) and can attest to the love and adulation he showers on his children and, yes, to their “sports bonding.”

The Role of the Father

Thanks to Dr. Vic Verallo, my mentor in running, for sharing this most profound and meaningful article about fatherhood. (These two stories are true.)


Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone wasn’t famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder.

Capone had a lawyer nicknamed “Easy Eddie.” He was Capone’s lawyer for a good reason. Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie’s skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time. To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money big, but Eddie got special dividends, as well. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of th e conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block.