Capt. Arsenio Padilla Jr. is a man of few words. Behind this mien is a strong man whose fortitude helped him overcome the adversities in life. Padilla is currently the President of the Philippine Association of Maritime Training Centers, Inc. (PAMTCI), representing an important maritime industry stakeholder. He is also the president of Golden Success Training and Educational Institute (GSTEI) and the vice president of Excellence and Competency Training Center (ECTC). A merchant marine officer by profession who charted his trail to success, Padilla has become one of the most respected and well-liked maritime executives.
His is a life molded in poverty yet Padilla was able to rise above the status of deprivation through sheer determination and industry to become one good model for young men and women. Born in San Nicolas, Pangasinan, to a farmer tenant and his wife, the young Padilla, the second of six children, had to help her mother eke out a living after the family moved to Manila in 1964. As his father was unable to find a stable work in the city, his mother became the family’s main provider by taking the job of a laundry woman.
A newsboy when he was in Grade 3, Padilla would wake up at 4 a.m. to pick up the newspapers he would peddle until around 11 a.m. and would rush to school in the afternoon. His commitment to help augment the family’s income and support himself to school was fraught with many dangers such as falling victim to criminals.
Undaunted, Padilla continued to sell newspapers until his sophomore high school when he was hired as janitor on weekends at the now defunct San Lazaro Racing Club. His work entailed cleaning horse stables from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
In his desire to focus on his studies at the Arellano High School in Santa Cruz, Manila, Padilla resigned as janitor and took a summer job as gardener in the racing club and later as a construction worker at the Central Bank and flood control projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways in 1976 and 1977. Despite the physical exertion his work required, Padilla took on various extra-curricular activities in school such as corps commander of the Citizen’s Army Training and president of the student council.
His determination earned him the second honorable mention among the graduating class in 1978 on top of receiving the two most distinguished awards: the Juan dela Cruz Award as the Most Outstanding Student; and the Gerry Roxas Leadership Award as the Most Outstanding Student Leader. In fact, the commencement speaker, then Budget Commissioner Jaime Laya, was so impressed with Padilla’s rare feat despite his dire economic situation. Laya then offered him scholarship in college and gave him work as clerk at the Commission of Budget. He left the commission when he entered the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy (PMMA) where he finished his BS Marine Transportation degree in 1982.
Padilla’s shipboard job as marine officer was a short 11 years from 1982 to 1993. After retiring, he taught at PMMA and eventually worked as instructor in review centers. At the time, he noted the dearth of review materials for seafarers who were to take the board examinations, which prompted him to write his first book Review Notes for Deck Officers. The book became a much-sought after review material for aspiring deck officers.
A man for others
Padilla says he is forever indebted to Laya who believed in his ability to face challenges in life. Being himself at the receiving end of a generous act, Padilla is a dedicated man of charity. He financed his siblings’ studies, and extended the same support to nephews and nieces. His generosity is unlimited, helping not only relatives in the province but also poor students who wish to pursue their studies, a cycle which started when Laya extended to him a helping hand. Now a self-made man, Padilla is devoting more time to socio-civic activities. He wrote and published in 2011 an inspirational book titled Simpleng solusyon sa kumplikadong problema ng buhay [Simple solution to complicated problems in life].
A man of integrity, Padilla parried attempts of bribery and opted to quit teaching at review centers and worked full time for Golden Success Review Center, founded by Rene Sangalang, a friend since high school and college. The two forged a strong partnership that continues until today. As Golden Success expanded in the late 1990s to offer refresher courses nationwide, other businesses were opened. The former newsboy-turned -merchant marine officer-turned educator and author is inching his way to become an entrepreneur. To prepare himself for the next stage of his life, the captain returned to school to pursue his Master’s degree in Business Administration at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business in 2009.
Aside from leading GSTEI and ECTC, Padilla is actively engaged in promoting the maritime industry, specifically in the field of maritime education and training. He served in various capacities in different groups within and outside the industry such as participating in Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers meetings at the International Maritime Organization headquarters in London in 2012, 2016 and 2017. He is representing PAMTCI as one of the convenors of the Movement for Maritime Philippines and, together with Felix Oca of the Philippine Association of the Maritime Institutes, is leading the formulation of the roadmap of the Martitime Education and Training. He also just completed his term as president of the Arellano High School Alumni Association.
Padilla willingly shares his rags-to-riches life story to serve as inspiration for many other young men and women who are facing life challenges. Looking back, he says with all humility “everyone can create the opportunity to succeed: with industry, perseverance and trust in the Divine Providence. Never be ashamed of your roots, humble it may be; rather, take pride you survived unscathed, despite destitution and poverty.”