By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – Jaena Hermosilla Valles maintains that quiet and humble demeanor despite material and family success. Since she left the portals of the University of San Carlos in Cebu City more than 30 years ago, she has proven to be a winner in life’s big and small challenges, and persists in her virtues of hard work and faith.
Born and raised in the northern city of Danao, Jaena graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Commerce in USC. She served as president of AFAA New York chapter and currently the auditor of the National Council of Philippine American Canadian Accountants.
She and her family live on Long Island since 1998 with three growing children in tow: Stephanie, Justin, and Jaeson. She runs her own accounting firm, the Valles Vendiola LLP, the largest Filipino-owned company of certified public accountants in the East coast of the US. While she maintains efficiency and accuracy in business, Jaena juggles the job of raising a family and keeping a loving relationship alive with life partner Nelson Valles.
Now her children are young adults. Stephanie, 26, works as speech pathologist after getting her degree at the New York University. Justin, 23, is pursuing a new degree in environmental science and Jaeson, 19, is studying Computer Science at the State University of New York in Stony Brooks on Long Island.
Excerpts of our interview:
- What made you decide to come to the US?
The first time I went to the US was in 1993 with my 1.5 year-old daughter Stephanie to join my husband in New York. I realized it was difficult to raise kids in the US – at that time I already had my second child Justin. It was a providential that Mr. Manuel B. Villar Jr. of Vista Land, my former employer, came to the USA and offered me back my job and a lot more so we decided to go back to the Philippines in 1994.
In 1998, then with my third child Jaeson, we finally decided that USA it is! Being in either country is a gift and the right choice at any time of our lives.
2. What is your mothering style?
My mothering style is how a typical Filipino mother would raise her children – the Catholic way. They grew up attending a yearly family week-long retreat in the Apostolate for Family Consecration in Bloomingdale, Ohio. Our daughter is a product of Catholic schools – Elizabeth Seton in Las Pinas preschool, St. Anne in Garden City for elementary and Kellenberg High School. The boys had a taste of education from Nazareth Montessori School in Manhattan and St. Anne for elementary and public school in Great Neck.
We inculcated in them the values of continuous learning, hard work and family. Kay wala may mobantay nila (since there was no one who can watch over them), I found it cheaper and more meaningful to bring them to the Philippines every summer to connect with their roots and bond with their grandparents, cousins and relatives instead of sending them to summer camps in New York.
3. About your husband, how do you keep the love alive?
My husband is a loving, supportive, and persistent person. He is fierce in protecting the family and could be funny at times. So how could I not reciprocate? But like anyone’s relationship, our relationship is always a work in progress, and putting God at the center of our family binds us more.
4. What are your best memories of USC where you graduated with the highest honors? How has the school impacted on your character or choices in life?
My best memory is meeting so many people of my kind – likes to learn stuff, dream to do great things, love their family, helpful and hardworking. We are the first batch in “block sections” which meant we were all classmates in all subjects for the first 2 years.
I remember I had 33 units in my first year, but it was a breeze with friends. The experience was like an extension of my high school days in Danao City. The friendships built lasted a lifetime.
Professional competence (scientia), nobility of character (virtus) and commitment to social transformation (devotio) – the principles taught by USC to its students, the lessons I learned from my parents, prior schools and church are my guideposts as I live my life and make choices.
5. As an accountant and business woman in the US, what are the factors that made you succeed in your profession and business?
Success is relative but persistence, continuous learning of trade, being helpful, “beyond fair” especially to employees, humility and a lot of prayers are the key.
6. Are you staying in the US for good or will you retire in the Philippines?
I don’t really believe in permanence as in life nothing is. It will be an ongoing journey as someone said, you will grow where God has planted you. (Photos by Jaena Valles and Elton Lugay)