by Coca H. Strobar
From the waiting area, one can feel the efficiency: callers are advised who will receive them. While waiting, a tv monitor displays Vega Manila Crewmanagement (VMCI) as a company and its activities, all relevant information and requirements for seafarers. Time is maximized, data impressed instead of the non-productive wait of applicants.
Vega Manila is medium-sized with global operations. It has 1,000 officers (about 20 land-based) and ratings in 40 owned-and-managed ships of a German principal, Vega Reederei of Hamburg, Germany. But in range, it is huge and honored by regional peers, proudly all-Filipino in a struggling industry forced to hire the cheapest instead of the best.
Capt. Vicente E. Fedelicio, received the Asia Pacific and Entrepreneurship Awards (APEA) at Shangri-La Makati City December 07, 2017 for his contribution to the professional and business services industry.
APEA is a world-class, honoring business leaders of outstanding tenacity in developing successful businesses within the region. Other awardees are moguls like Dr. Andrew Tan (Megaworld), Benjamin Liuson (Generics Pharmacy), Dennis Uy (Chelsea Logistics); and Henry Sy, Sr. (SM Investment) and Edgar Sia (Mang Inasal/Jollibee Foods Corp.) in 2016.
Earlier on December 1st, Vega Manila bagged the 2017 Intl. Innovation Awards (IIA), with ceremonies at the Hyatt on Bund Hotel, Shanghai, China.
It was among the three companies that won in the Organization and Culture Category with its Sailing Innovatively through the Challenges of the Maritime Industry. The honors carried the InnoMark Certification for innovative products, designs, and organizations on a proprietary 8-dimension system: The InnoMark DimensionsTM.
IIA is the most coveted regional recognition program, the largest innovation program in the region by spearheading the 5th Industrial Revolution.
APEA and IIA are both organized by Enterprise Asia and supported by local governments and businesses to spur greater innovation, fair practices and growth in entrepreneurship.
The elemental factor in all these: Capt. Fedelicio, Pres. and CEO — a man of hurt and heart, taking life and challenges with steel nerves and zest; serious because he can laugh at himself.
His seafaring is of the European tradition, his management is for an all-Filipino crew from the very start. Perhaps, a way of leveling the prejudice against Filipino skills and culture.
He recollects funny incidents with lessons in put-downs yet standing tall:
- A white Dutch Chief Mate could not accept Fedelicio as the ship captain being physically dark. The Caucasian has the gall to question who Capt. Fedelicio is, himself already 25 years in the company yet still a chief mate. The Filipino challenged the Dutch to trade places if he has a problem with that, sobering the guy to meekly follow the chain of command.
- In Birmingham, England, on a well-provided huge brand-new vessel, a Briton asked him where’s the captain. Fedelicio was on his way to do his laundry, carrying a pail with dirty linen wearing a khaki uniform without shoulder boards. The guy even spoke haltingly, presuming Fedelicio would not understand the Queen’s language. “I am the Captain, Sir,” he responds. But the guy ignored him and repeated the inane question.
Fedelicio put down the pail, took his hand and guided the guy to his office. On a huge ship crewed by Caucasians, the Briton could not believe, even exclaiming what’s wrong with the world? Capt. Fedelicio needled him, “yes, it turned upside-down.”
The incident graphically illustrates the low esteem on non-white ratings and officers, the distrust on their sailing abilities.
Born on November 25, 1959, Capt. Fedelicio is the third of the five children of farmer Primitivo Flores Fedelicio, and housewife Amparo Gentica Elisterio, of Barangay Malandog, Hamtic, Antique. He worked in the farm, helping his parents to make both ends meet.
His first love is law, a course the family can ill-afford. He took to civil engineering but shifted to maritime on prodding of his mother (in turn, influenced by a Second Mate cousin with a photo album of rich food, bubbling drinks and pretty blondes).
A born leader, “Vic” at 15 was the commander of the cadet corps of 10,000 students in two campuses. He started as visitor in school at 4-1/2 year, passed to Grade 1, aided by gifts to the teachers of crabs, shrimps and fish from the family fishpond. (Hence, while younger than his future wife, he was already Grade 3 when she was in Grade 1. But she graduated valedictorian of her batch; heck, because “Vic” was not there. Sour grape!).
After graduating on a scholarship grant plus allowances, his mother pushed him to Manila, wary he may get married too early by boarding domestic vessels. With reason, for he is already lovey-dovey with Nelibeth who cried so much at the pier when he left for the big city.
In Manila, he was a befuddled promdi (innocent migrant), with luggage, sack of rice, confused by the urban hum. He took a cab for Pandacan, Manila but ended in Novaliches, Quezon City.
Alienated without help, Fedelicio told mother the unexpected: don’t send me anything anymore; instead, give all you have to the family there. At 19, he worked on odd jobs at the pier, 6 to 6 or till hands bleed, on a tiny wage to buy his luxury: pan-de-sal bread and corned beef he gobbles with the appetite of youth.
He worked on domestic ship, with no salary but food of chicken feet and heads. He persevered until on the tenth month, a Greek hired him as AB with wage higher than ITF rate.
His father offered to sell their land and animal for him to become a Third Mate like their neighbor. His ego was pricked, but realized he was just tramping for the money, not a career.
A new resolve formed and he resigned from cruise ships and dead-end jobs even if these earn more. He will sneak in studies within work to be a Ship Captain!
As said, the rest is history. He started at Vinnen to be an officer — at 28, a Ship Captain (30 years at sea, 14 years as Captain) of mostly Caucasian crew.
He has been working as shipboard hand, Ship Captain and/or Commissioning Master of newly built vessels for Fisser & v. Doornum and Vega Reederei.
Fedelicio was Master Mariner, in command of several reefer, bulk and container vessels of various sizes under IC Shipmanagement of Limassol, Cyprus. He was Crewing Manager of Blue Manila (1984 to 1996) where he learned the ropes of the crewing business.
He was offered to be the President of four big manning agencies but preferred to put up VMCI in 2006 with a German shipowner as partner and a principal, Vega Reederei – Hamburg. Some have knitted brows on the style but later years proved the success, even earning a 93% retention rate with straight-forward policies, humane and God-centered.
Capt. Fedelicio has received countless awards and recognition, chosen Distinguished Alumnus in all of his alma maters: Malandog Elementary, Antique Natl School, JBLFMU (IMA) where he is also a Trustee and earned a doctorate on Maritime Education (Maritime Management).
In 2016, he was given the Golden Globe Award for Business Excellence and the Philippine Top Choice Award for Outstanding Achievers; an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute (AFNI).
He established the “Vega Scholarship Program”, for poor and deserving college students with the ambition to be maritime professionals. There are hundreds of grantees, some are already Management Level Officers. Each grant costs the company of about P1.5-million.
True, this is in answer to the anticipated shortage on maritime officers. But this should not diminish the opportunities opened for those in need, living up on the VMCI tagline of “We are family”.
The scholarship program has an enviable tract, most graduating cum laude, at least, and leveling up in the job as officers. This is the result of critical choice of scholars, with the help of wife, Dr. Nelibeth, VP-University of Antique. Often, the life stories of applicants are heart wrenching: kids from foster homes, with borrowed clothes, barely fed, eyes pleading for a chance. Indeed, the Captain and wife are moved to tears.
He is a 2010 Awardee, Bugal Kang Antique; Chairman of the Sumakwelan Cultural Association, Chairman of the Antikenyo Busalian Association.
He spearheads financial literacy programs for people inside and outside of the company; promotes initiatives in agricultural livelihood. He is a staunch advocate of preserving cultural heritage of Antique, his home province.
Overarching all these is the couple’s belief, success is not self-fulfillment but satisfying others’ little needs; that giving more when you have less is more illustrious than giving nothing when one has more.
Fate did not give the couple kids of their own. Destiny must have asked the stars for a loving duo to comfort and care for the least of the children of God. The means, was through VMCI opportunities and fairness. The noblesse, in their quiet and humble acts of charity, unheralded by the cymbals of man but springs hope eternal for Man.
Here is a business vision to be the country’s premier provider of efficient and reliable seafarers, migrating to a mission of a sustainable supply of competent, fit-for-sea duty manpower.
Now ISO 9001:2015 certified, its’ Quality Management System (QMS) assessed and accredited by Bureau Veritas — mandatories that solidify VMCI among the best: be it for the body, more for the goodwill and the virtues.