By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City — The newest additional feather to the cap of Filipino-American leader Ismael Jampayas is his appointment as Ambassador for Peace by the global organization Universal Peace Foundation in March this year.
Alongside with Ambassador Mario de Leon Jr., the Philippine Consul General to New York, he accepted his new task, based on trust, as a peace advocate in New York City.
Jampayas, a businessman and a retired professor of Microbiology at Columbia University, opined that peace, the presence of harmony among people and the absence of violence, is hardly seen these days.
In his short acceptance speech during the inauguration of the UPF – Office of Asian Affairs, Jampayas said that peace building is foremost a personal conviction and undertaking, before it gets global.
“We need peace as a basic requirement to achieve progress and development. If we do not have a common understanding of our goals as a nation or as one humanity, we will not in any way progress. That is what’s happening in the world today.
To me, being an ambassador for peace means being able to achieve my own personal peace and harmony. I live a life of kindness and understanding within myself, my wife, family, neighbors, and work environment.
Being an ambassador for peace means also being facilitative in open dialogue in community of organizations in order to create a more supportive environment for our youth and older citizens.”
Jampayas came to New York in 1961, upon the invitation of his aunt, who offered to support him in his medical studies. He had to discontinue his studies at the Far Eastern University when his parents asked him due to financial burden of sending four children in college.
Jampayas is the 5th of seven children of of steadfastly religious and persevering parents. His father, Delfin Jampayas Sr., after surviving as a prisoner of war during WW II, became a town mayor of Mawab in Davao. His sons later succeeded him in his political duties while Ismael Jampayas led an equally challenging life in the Big Apple.
Then at the young age of 20, Jampayas sailed the oceans for a month to reach San Francisco on board an ocean liner of the American President Lines.
He traveled by train for another seven days to reach New York. At the Grand Central, he saw homeless people sleeping at the terminal. He was surprised to see poverty in America which was known as the land of milk and honey.
In the later years, Jampayas, living with his aunt Asuncion Parenas Koenig, on the upper west side of Manhattan, realized that America was the land of opportunity if you worked hard.
Work hard, he did, indeed.
He sent himself to school while earning as a working student, finishing two bachelor’s courses and two Master’s degrees in the field of biology, medical technology, microbiology, and public health.
He later found a family upon marrying Leticia (now deceased), his co-worker at the St. Luke’s Hospital. They have a son, James, a pharmacist in North Carolina. These days, Jampayas, now 78, enjoys his retirement life with second wife Josie and the occasional company of his grandchildren Jaden and Ashten.
In retrospect, Jampayas said that in his striving years, the American economy was robust. “You can live comfortably with one dollar. I spent fifteen cents for lunch. Medical practitioners earned about $10,000 annually,” he described.
He admitted that it is much more difficult for the young generation to survive, as the economy is in bad shape. Still, the values on hard work and integrity remains necessary, Jampayas said, as government and business leaders must be principled enough to make the economy float again.
Jampayas was involved in different community organizations such as the Philippine Charities of America and the Empire City Medical Lions Club. He co-founded and was president of the Philippine Association of Medical Technologists USA in 1984 and published a weekly tabloid, New York Balita.
Jampayas said that many Filipinos are natural leaders. “We excel because we work hard. That is our work ethic. But we also have to do away with crab mentality where we pull each other down, instead of supporting each other,” he quipped.
He remembered his share of racial discrimination too, which he said, like crab mentality, is best dealt with one’s integrity.
He remembered that he should have graduated top of his class at the Long Island University, but for some discriminatory reason, was placed third. Jampayas opted not to insist on his scholastic position and accepted his award upon graduation.
Later, the school administration realized it did make a mistake in discriminating against him, upon finding out that his foster parents, his aunt and her husband, held respectable positions in their places of work.
He was easily ushered into the labor force, after being offered a job at the St. Luke’s Hospital after graduation. He became unstoppable since then, carving a career in science and education for himself, and engaging in business and community outreach as well.
In this world, all you need to do is work hard, be honest, have faith, and try as much as you can to make peace with everyone. Jampayas said that integrity will speak for itself.
Bedtime reading for little troublemakers!
Meet Manny, a good-natured boy who cannot understand why the owner of his Miami apartment building won’t let the children pick the luscious mangoes from the tree in the courtyard that they lovingly watered and fed.
With the parents scared the owner will call immigration if they protest, Manny and his friends organize a protest march that raises one hullabaloo.
“A wonderful lesson about not giving up the fight for justice, regardless of your age or occupation.”