Blessings come aplenty to the deserving
TO THE QUICK - Jerry S. Tundag (The Freeman) - December 6, 2019 - 12:00am

This Sunday, December 8, at the Radisson Blu in Cebu, homegrown Cokaliong Shipping Lines will be celebrating 30 years of service to country and people. Officially, this birthday of the company will be the only milestone to be celebrated on that day by the family that owns it, by the employees and officials who keep it going daily, and by the community that has learned to appreciate the principles by which it serves its industry.

Unofficially, there will be many milestones to be celebrated. There is, for example, Cokaliong Shipping's enviable impeccable record of operational safety, of 30 continuous years without a single life lost at sea. Such a record wouldn't have been possible if company founder, CEO, and COO Chester Cokaliong had not chosen to put safety always over and above profit.

For Chester, losses incurred by choosing not to take risks and thereby endangering lives and property can always be recovered in due time. But the staggering cost of lost lives, property, and reputation are irrecoverable and will forever weigh heavily on the conscience of a man who, unknown to many, has a lust for life and loves it even in others, maybe even more in others than his own.

There, too, is the record, and the reputation that comes with it, of being among the cleanest, if not the cleanest, of all domestic shipping operators in the Visayas and Mindanao. The numerous awards for cleanliness the company has won year after year are formal testimonials to a known fact. But go try a trip on a Cokaliong ship and you will agree with the thousands who need no testimonials to know cleanliness when they experience it.

Then there is the continued growth of the company, from a single ship in 1989 to a fleet of 15, including two tugboats, and counting as of today. Not only is the fleet now among the largest in the country, it is also among the youngest, if not the youngest. Age is not only a factor in safety, it also is in avoiding down time and its consequent losses.

If it shows in the company he runs and the continued success it has reaped, it can only be because Chester is a hands-on, hard-driving man. Uncompromising and a perfectionist, he is not one to sacrifice comfort for order, or vice-versa. If he can have both, he will go for it. And for 30 years he has gone for it. Chester is the exception to having one's cake and eating it too.

But Chester, possessed as he is with great managerial skills, is still human. He could not have done all the things he gets the credit for without the people in the background --his employees, and the Cokaliong family members, from the matriarch Gregoria, to wife Anna Lynn, sister-in-law Leslie, children Chase, attorney Chesna, and Chanel, nephews and nieces Chad, Charmaine, and Chelsea, as well as siblings Christopher and Charlton.

Chester has this formidable retinue of talent from whom he draws wisdom, courage, and inspiration. But more than anything else, Chester is a good man. Underneath his uncompromising facade is a man with a heart that knows its place, in his family, in the workplace, in the community, and most important of all, in the presence of God. To be so blessed by God is the greatest celebration of all.

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