5 takeaways from interviewing the head of the Philippine Navy

Reposting something I wrote about 3 years ago because I stumbled upon it. Interviewing government officials was always one of the highlights of my job and I learned a lot from those experiences. More than just information, I learned life skills I try to keep in mind.

August 2014

A few days ago, I had the privilege of interviewing the Flag Officer in Command of the Philippine Navy, Vice Admiral Jesus C. Millan. The experience was interesting to say the least. I was definitely nervous and worried about saying the wrong thing and offending him (and the entire Philippine Navy). Thank goodness nothing went horribly wrong!

If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are some tips you can use.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

The walls and gates of Naval Station Jose Andrada along Roxas Boulevard are enough to keep anyone out. People in uniform coming in and out of those gates don’t help make the place feel more welcoming. However, you’ll be surprised to find that beneath those stoic exteriors are polite, friendly, and accommodating officers who are dedicated to their jobs. With a sense of humor and endless stories about their days in the Academy, these Naval officers are easy to get along with. Just don’t make any funny moves or threaten our maritime security, or they’ll have to bust out their moves!

Unexpected situation? Improvise.

You may be pleased to know that Navy HQ has a small museum that guests can visit to learn more about the history of the Philippine Navy. Interesting artifacts line the walls, along with displays of Navy uniforms and equipment currently being used. However, the single entrance / exit makes it difficult to escape a potentially embarrassing situation. So what do you do when you are trapped in a museum with important guests from a foreign navy waiting to be ushered inside? Improvise. Stand up straight, put on your best smile, and pretend to be the welcoming committee. Make a quick escape once the guests move past you, and breathe a sigh of relief that you didn’t ruin an important diplomatic visit.

Don’t be intimidated.

Yes, you are interviewing the head of the Philippine Navy. All the officers you’ve met so far look up to this person and respect him as their leader. Say the wrong thing and you could end up swimming in Manila Bay! (I am completely joking) Yet you’ll be surprised to find that the highest ranking officer of the Philippine Navy is down to earth and approachable, while still managing to command the respect of his fellow officers. He’s new to the position, but has played an integral role in the transformation of the Navy in the past decade. A man of character and his word, you’ll find yourself impressed by his presence.

Be proud.

It is no secret that our country finds itself struggling to catch up to its international counterparts. This is something the Philippine Navy recognized back in 2006 when they decided to develop and implement their Strategic Sail Plan 2020. With the vision of becoming a strong and credible Navy that our maritime nation can be proud of, they have sought to improve their capacities and capabilities to reach their breakthrough goals. Though they struggle with constant changes in the governance landscape and other international threats, they have managed to maintain their progress and are well on their way to achieving their 2020 vision. They are no longer a ship with no direction. Our Navy knows where it is headed and what it takes to get there. There may be rough waters ahead, but rest assured that change and transformation is underway.

Don’t wear heels.

Just don’t. Walking in heels along Roxas Boulevard? Not a good idea. Walking up the countless number of stairs in the buildings of Navy HQ? Not a good idea. Walking across open ground to get to the other buildings? Not a good idea… especially if you enjoy the comfort of sneakers more than anything else. You’ll enjoy exploring the naval station much more if you could walk around comfortably. You want to be able to keep up. Sneakers for life!

Watch this video if you want to learn more about the Navy’s Strategic Sail Plan.