Don't blame the government if you are poor

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

Bill Gates, the richest man in the world for so many years once said: It was not your fault if you were born poor, but it is your fault if you die poor. I agree. It was not within your control when your parents did not have millions to send you to good schools. But nobody prevents you from being a working student, to work your way and find your destiny through hard work and perseverance. In these times of the pandemic, don’t blame anyone for your poverty. Stand on your own and accept full responsibility.

I was born very poor in a small mountain village in Langin, Ronda, Cebu. I plowed the corn fields at age seven, I pastured goats, carabaos, and cows even before I wore shorts. I was climbing coconuts to earn twenty centavos for every 100 nuts. I had to walk barefoot two kilometers one way to fetch water from a spring and carry it in bamboo tubes and had to gather firewood in the forests to help my parents feed 18 children. My father loved my mother so much that he fathered so many children with her. When I challenged him for bringing into this world too many children, he told me: "Josephus, when you see a child, don't look at the mouth to be fed. Look at the hands that will help build the nation." My father never gave me tuition money. He left me alone to become a janitor in Southwestern University, as a working student at 12. I struggled to finish high school, without the help of my parents, except to give me food each day. I finished AB in SWU as an academic scholar.

I worked even as I studied Law. The late judge Jesus Narvios of Cebu City, my professor in UV Gullas Law School, helped me get an appointment as court interpreter. I was getting P240 a month in 1970 to 1974 and had to work every 5 p.m. from the city court to UV and had to run because our class started at 5:30 p.m. up to 9:30 p.m. I passed the Bar without having to take a review because I couldn’t afford it. When the results came out, Secretary Blas Ople of DOLE was happy with the ratings I got in Labor Law, I was offered to join DOLE and become a part of young lawyers who were former student activists, who served as legal think tanks. Ople was not a lawyer or even a college graduate. But he was very brilliant and articulate. He always brought me to Switzerland, Australia, and the US when he travelled and I was one of his speechwriters.

When the private sector saw me in the company of Ople, I was later offered a job by Petron. Then San Miguel Corp. invited me to become director for labor relations. I am from UV but my subordinate lawyers were from UP, Ateneo, and my other staff were from La Salle, St. Scholastica, and Assumption. I also recruited two of my students in the UV College of Law; Atty. Mike Carillo from Argao where I was born, and Atty. Amic Llenos-Alfafara from Ronda and Alcantara. Mike became my assistant in SMC and I deployed him to Magnolia. We were the lawyers of San Miguel in the turbulent post-EDSA days of union activism. In SMC, I was allowed to travel the world each year with all expenses paid. I visited no less than 39 countries in 12 years. SMC named me board secretary in some joint ventures with Japanese companies, and so, I was flying to and from Japan every other month for board meetings.

And so, I transformed my life from a barefoot boy plowing fields and pasturing goats to a corporate executive. I was appointed DOLE undersecretary after I was named vice president for HR and Legal and Corporate Affairs of Pepsi. I sent all my five children to Ateneo, La Salle, UP, Assumption, and UST. I am happy with the fruits of my struggles. I don’t blame the government for all the hardships. I did it all and did it on my own with the help of the Lord and with many kind people like the Gullases, the Aznars, Judge Jesus Narvios, Blas Ople, SMC, Pepsi, Petron, and DOLE executives. I never blame anyone for my poor beginnings. I worked my way to where I am now.

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