by Mafelou C. Leagogo-Agriam
(CREAM, October-November 2016)
Oh yes, this you ought to know. According to Dr. Ronald Raymond Lacson Sebastian, Ph.D. and current CEO of the John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University (JBLFMU), a big portion of people sailing overseas in the different international maritime fleets comes from the Philippines. What’s more, if 30% of these international seafarers are native Filipinos, 14% of them are from JBLFMU while the rest are distributed to the numerous maritime institutions in the country.
Cover Photo by Peter T. Jaena
That is according to a 2006 survey of Filipino Association of Mariner’s Employment, In.. There is, however, no current data available in recent years. In short therefore, JBLFMU of Iloilo City produces world-class professional human resources widely in demand in the international and domestic shipping industries.
Seating nearly seven years now as chief executive officer of the first maritime school in the city, Dr. Ronald proudly attributes the exponential growth and rise of the maritime institution to his mother, Dr. Mary Lou Lacson Arcelo, Ph.D. The charismatic and dynamic lady is the former university president and now President Emeritus, a position that gives her inestimable influence.
Starting as a single campus called Iloilo Maritime Academy established many years ago by Capt. John B. Lacson, late father of Dr. Marylou, JBLFMU has fast evolved into a bustling university with four large campus sites: two in Iloilo City, one in Bacolod City, and another in the nearby province of Guimaras.
Since then, the university has earned the high-regard of its international counterparts. During Dr. Mary Lou’s presidency for instance, Dr. Ronald relates, the school was accorded international recognition for its quality education and training through membership in the prestigious International Association of Maritime Universities (IAMU) in 2006.
The august body, established in 1999, is the global network of leading maritime universities providing Maritime Education and Training of seafarers for the global shipping industry. Membership is by invitation. So far 58 universities/academies/faculties are in the IAMU’s roster of members.
To further affirm the strength and leadership of JBLFMU, it is the only maritime university from the Philippines that sits on the IAMU Executive Board. For eight years since 2006, it was the only maritime school from the Philippines listed in the IAMU roster of global members. Only recently was another Filipino maritime institution given membership into the IAMU.
Dr. Ronald with mom Dr. Mary Lou Arcelo, and sister Dr. Terry Sebastian-Sarabia
Now more than ever, Dr. Ronald acknowledges his mother’s invaluable role in the continuous advancement of the university. “My mother chairs the JBLFMU Board. I still get guidance from her. I consult her if I need a second opinion. Her insights are strongly valued in shipping companies that know her.”
Viz-a-viz his mother’s firmly-established legacy that propelled the maritime school towards a global recognition. Dr. Ronald is heavily challenge to maintain if not surpass the university’s present position in the maritime sector. Foremost in his mind is to guide and direct JBLFMU into becoming the country’s flagship in the global maritime industry. “It’s my dream that the university will be in the forefront of the maritime sector in the international scene.”
A very tall order, you may say, but Dr. Ronald is nonetheless adequately equipped to see this dream to reality. He is a college degree holder in computer programming from the San Francisco State University in San Francisco, California, USA. He earned his MBA from Ateneo de Manila University, a Master’s Degree in Maritime Management and a Ph.D. in Maritime Education both from JBLFMU. His numerous exposures to and involvement in the domestic and international conferences and foras as participant, speaker or resource person have considerably built up his professional expertise, reputation, and network.
Over the years since he assumed as university head in 2009, the 40-year-old goodlooking CEO has added his own inputs to upgrade JBLFMU’s competitiveness and competencies. He brings with him contemporary ideologies and current broad views to keep pace with the modern world.
“I am an Information Technology (IT) person so I introduced IT into the system, among other innovations. We have to keep abreast with all the changes going on around us and adopt new trends and technologies. We have to consistently improve ourselves to get ahead in the global competitiveness. Of course we always get the best person to do the job. I am secure with the fact that I have the right people passionate enough in working together to attain the university’s vision and mission.”
Still and all, he also allots time for his own personal pursuits. The other side of Dr. Ronald is a health buff. Unlike his contemporaries who do it exclusively for physical appearance sake, he, however, attaches a community-based advocacy alongside the athletic preoccupation. He is an ardent cyclist and a strong adherent of the health, safety and environmental benefits of cycling. Thus the birth of the Iloilo Bicycle Council which he heads.
Adventurous to the core, Dr. Ronald prefers the rough and tougher dimensions of cycling. Hurdling the circuitous and less-traveled trails of a mountain is his idea of a bold quest.. As such, he joined a number of cycling competitions, particularly those held in the jagged and rugged terrains of hilly Guimaras. In one of these rough and tough hurdles, he finished fifth among hundreds of hopefuls.
Guimaras is the favorite spot for his group’s cycling exploits. An off-shoot of their high-adrenalin escapades is the creation of Guimaras Bike Paradise of The Philippines, a public-private partnership of JBLFMU and the Province of Guimaras that aims to turn the island province into the biking capital of the country. He sits in this organization’s board.
His other interest lies in jet-skiing. It is not only a sport but likewise a springboard for community outreach activities. A typical water sporting adventure would jump-start at Anhawan Beach in Oton, moving toward the high seas and into Palawan or Leyte. Not a few times he and his group of skiers brought along a number of medical doctors. Wherever their skis and speedboats would take them — perhaps to an impoverished coastline village — an improvised medical mission would be set-up for the disadvantaged community folks.
Not withstanding his manly expeditions that he takes pleasure in, nothing beats his bonding time with his family. He has a 19-year-old step son and four young ones who relish his undivided attention. Unless more important engagements beg for his presence, everyday at 6pm he goes straight home to sit down and banter with the younger ones whose ages range from four to 12-years-old. The moment his professional and other fancy hats are relegated to the hat rack, he acquiesces to the gentle pull of quiet domesticity alongside his wife, the former Venus Bernardo of Manila, and their children.
Doc Ronald with children Jander, John Znonn, Jazleen Joiu, Jannine and Johnna May.
“I am already content with what I do (in life),” he says in quiet resignation. “I know my priorities.”
Ronald and Nicole