Joel Trinidad Catague
WIT BSME 1982, PBE Batch XIX
I am Joel Trinidad Catague, I was born in Manila on June 3, 1961. The eldest of seven (7) siblings. My father, Jose Villalobos Catague is from Negros Occidental and my mother, Rosalina Romero Trinidad hails from Manila (though her parents is from Pangasinan and Nueva Ecija).
Traces of my roots and ancestry reveal that I am a “Visoy” (or Visayang Tisoy). Life was not easy for me since I was a small kid, being the eldest son of the family, I have always helped my parents do the everyday chores including helping them earn a living since my father didn’t have a fixed job.
I studied my elementary (from Grade 1 to Grade 5) in Makati, during that period, life was also full of hardship and sometimes misery. We moved and rented houses from different places at different times, in Guadalupe, Caloocan and Mayapis. At the beginning of my parents’ marriage, they were occupying one unit of my grandparents’ apartment in Makati.
By early 1972 life in Manila became more difficult that my father decided to bring us all in Jaro, Iloilo were his elder brother lived and earned good living at that time. At first we have to live in my Uncle’s rice warehouse (kamalig), which was made of iron sheets from wall to roof. Everyday and night was always summer, like you were inside the oven, because of the extreme heat surrounding us.
I completed my elementary studies at Jaro Elementary School, and then took the entrance examinations at University of the Philippines, Iloilo for secondary school. However, due to the location of the school I did not proceed there and end up at Central Philippine University. I transferred to Jaro High School in my 3rd year due to financial problems and completed high school there.
Growing up in Iloilo, life again was not easy for me. During high school I have to help my parents earn a living. Again, my father did not find a fixed job. If my father cannot sell any appliances, he cannot earn a commission, so we ended up living “hand-to-mouth” or “isang kahig, isang tuka”. From time to time we have to depend on our relatives just to survive a day.
My mother and I have to help my father earn a living, we learned to make candies out of coconut milk and raw sugar (butong-butong), where I have to wake up at 3:00am in the morning to prepare the coconut milk and assist my mother in preparing the candy. The job was dangerous and very hot. In one instance, my mother was accidentally scalded on her hands by the boiling coconut milk and sugar. I formed the candy all by myself using the trunk of a guava tree as my tool.
Sometimes I sold our backyard vegetables at the market like talbos ng alukbate, balunggay, patola, etc. On Saturday, I sold ice candy at the school where there was a Citizen Army Training (CAT) class or boiled bananas or sweet potatoes (kamote) around the neighborhood. When my father ventured to be a painting contractor, I worked alongside him as painter of steel fences, steel gates and windows.
To work for a living at a young age, I learned the meaning of survival through perseverance, hardship, patience and determination - key ingredients in facing the challenges in life! Since I was not born with a “golden spoon” in my mouth, the hardship lived on.
My grandmother (mother side) pledged to support me for college. I was supposed to take up Nautical Engineering, because I admired men in white uniforms like my two uncles who were working as seamen. Due to my height, which was only 4’9” when I graduated in high school, Iloilo Maritime Academy rejected me. I ended up taking BS Mechanical Engineering at Western Institute of Technology.
We had the same life situation during my college days. I still have to help my parents earn a living, though it’s not new to me and I got used to our life conditions from the very beginning. There was only one thing in my mind that I got focused - to pursue my career and to succeed!
I studied very hard with the ambition of having a good job in the future so that I might help my parents as well as my younger brother and sister. I concentrated with my studies from 1st year to 4th year, with no extra-curricular activities. By second semester of my 4th year, my classmates, Edmund Miraflor, Rock Bolinas, Jose Guanga and Ric Sudario encouraged me to join their fraternity, the Phi Beta Epsilon.
Knowing that most of the Betans in WIT were amongst the best or “cream of the crop” engineering students, I joined. Perhaps I considered myself lucky to be recruited in such a prestigious organization. Further, I encouraged Augusto Longno to join with me and he agreed to be my buddy.
Among the 32 aspirants or neophytes, only 5 of us survived. The situation added another milestone in my life, another determination that I have succeeded. I became a full-fledged Betans in 1981, WIT Batch XIX.
I graduated in 1982 with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. After graduation, I moved back to Manila to find my future but it was not easy too. I passed most companies’ examination but when it came to interview, they were looking for someone with experience. At one point in my frustration, I told the interviewer, “How can I get work experience if you would not hire me?”
Before the end of 1982, I got my first job at Atlantic, Gulf & Pacific Co. of Manila (AG&P). I was assigned to different projects in different parts of the Philippines from Northern Luzon to Southern Mindanao.
I met my wife, the former Ms. Rosana Bundoc Dela Cruz, when I had my project assignment in San Mateo, Isabela in February 1985. We got married on June 2, 1985 (don’t ask me why it’s too quick) and blessed with 2 sons - Jade Roy & Jim Ray.
I got my first overseas assignment in Kuwait on March 1986 when my wife was 8 months pregnant with our eldest child. I worked there for 18 months straight. When I returned back to the Philippines in September 1987, I decided not to work overseas again. However, in October 1990, opportunity came knocking on my door and this time it was not so far from the Philippines. I grabbed the opportunity and left my family including my just delivered second son (just 2-months old) to work in Guangdong, China, from November 1990 until September 1994. Then I decided to find a job in Hong Kong where the “pasteur is greener” and a better opportunity for my family and myself. Luckily for us, we are now Hong Kong Permanent Residents.
At present I am the QA/QC Manager (Projects) for Bauer Hong Kong Limited. A German based International Foundation Specialist Company.
Here the summary of my Job Experiences:
1982-1986 Atlantic, Gulf & Pacific Co. of Manila (Local Projects)
1986-1987 Atlantic, Gulf & Pacific Co. of Manila (State of Kuwait)
1987-1988 Grandspan Development Corporation (Local Project)
1988-1990 Atlantic, Gulf & Pacific Co. of Manila (Local Project)
1990-1994 Framatome/ Spie Batignolles (Guangdong Nuclear Power Plant, China)
1994-present Clough Engineering/ Bells Technology JV (Hong Kong Gas Facilities)
Airport Authority Hong Kong (New Airport at Chek Lap Kok)
Far East Structural Steelworks Engineering Ltd. (Various Steelworks Projects)
Bauer Hong Kong Limited (Various Foundation-Bored Pile Works)
I wrote this very long story to encourage the younger generation of Brother Betans to be more hardworking, never give up, and never surrender like when you joined our Fraternity. You must face the challenge and you must have the strong determination and will to succeed. Do not forget to seek the help from our Creator, our God Almighty, for He is the only one who can tell our future!
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