Its Humble Beginnings

The Iloilo Maritime Academy, now the John B Lacson Foundation Maritime University, is a pioneering private maritime education and training institution in the Philippines and the first maritime school in the Visayas and Mindanao area. It was founded by the late Captain Juan Bautista Lacson, a well-known, well-respected and brilliant seafarer himself who unselfishly shared what heknows in his field. He first assisted  seafarers in preparation for the licensure examinations for the Marine Deck and Engine Officers in May 1931. To his surprise the review sessions grew. This made Capt. Lacson decide to open up his review classes to seafarers from other companies. This gave birth to an unstructured organization of review classes for marine officers who wanted to upgrade their licenses to higher grades. The first class was composed of about forty candidates; ninety-five percent of them passed their respective examinations.  When World War II broke out, the review school closed. Captain Lacson went back to the US at that time to serve as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard.

When the war ended in the 1942, there were difficult adjustments. Just as the world is trying  to build from ashes, Capt. Lacson saw the potential of the marine profession being the fastest and the least expensive to join.  He then retired from the US Coast Guard service and returned to the Philippines. He sought his brother Frank, a pilot and a US government disability pensioner, to create a maritime academy. Together, they drew out plans and made preparations.

Captain Lacson drew up a 2-year nautical curriculum. He looked for a suitable place to hold classes and settled for a nipa building in Muelle Loney street near the Customs house at the waterfront. Captain Lacson, with a couple of Bowditch books, parallel rulers, several sets of triangles, a nautical chart and his sextant, opened his nautical school which offered a course leading to the acquisition of a 3rd mate license for merchant marine officers as well as reserved naval officers for the Philippine Navy.

In November  1948, sixty cadets enrolled.

The following year, the school was granted permit to operate. This time 150 juniors enrolled.  Of the 60 cadets who enrolled the previous year, 54 went back to     re-enroll. Because of the increase of enrollment, the academy transferred to a 3-storey building in Rizal Street, Iloilo City.

Captain Lacson was granted a permit to construct a building at the exact location where the Rotary Park is located  now.  However, the  local government saw the potential of the place  as a good spot for a park and thus requested Captain Lacson to donate the area to the city government. He agreed and demolished his building but the parade ground was left for the city.

He then transferred his school to Luna Street, in La Paz district. In 1950, the school was granted government recognition and was registered as a non-stock corporation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The first incorporators were composed of the members of the Lacson family; Capt. Juan B Lacson, his father Jose Lacson, Francisco Lacson, Corazon Lacson, and Adelaida Lacson.

In early 1953, the academy returned to Muelle Loney Street facing the dock of most inter-island vessels. The building was a modest two-story wooden structure. It became a beacon to sailors-to-be and a second home to many full-fledged mariners.

 Enrollment increased year after year. In 1954, seeing the many street children at Muelle, Captain Lacson opened a vocational course for high school graduates. It started then the Lacson Vocational Institute.The curriculum included practical livelihood skills that could provide employment after high school graduation. It flourished until 1956 when the institute had to be abolished to give way to the marine engineering program that was badly needed by the maritime industry. The automotive mechanics and diesel mechanics were added to maximize the use of the equipment.

As the school progressed, Captain Lacson decided to convert it to a stock corporation.  In 1957, he registered the Iloilo Maritime Academy as a stock corporation with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  The stockholders then were  Captain Juan Lacson, Francisco Lacson, Corazon Lacson, Adelaida Lacson, and Clara Asuncion Penaflor, Rosario L. Brillantes, Ramona L. Lopez, Juan Lacson Jr, Jose Job Lacson and Mary Lou L. Sebastian. Eliseo Jamolo, the trusted administrative staff of Capt. Lacson served as Secretary of the new Board.

In 1958, Iloilo Maritime Academy was granted permit to conduct Naval ROTC training with LT. Pedro Velasco as the first commandant.

In 1966, student activism was beginning to gain grounds in the campuses brought about by the left-wing indoctrination. Despite the restlessness of the student leaders, Captain Lacson, true to his commitment to give quality education, bought a training ship, which was name M/B John B. Lacson. It served as a floating laboratory which brought the cadets on their weekend practical instructions plying the waters between the island of Panay and Guimaras.

In 1968, unionism, labor strikes, demonstrations and pickets plagued almost every business establishment in the Philippines. The Iloilo Maritime Academy was not spared. Captain Lacson was growing old and because of hearing problems, he had difficulty in dealing with the multi-faceted problems of the school. He asked for assistance from her youngest daughter, Mary Lou who was then married to a lawyer, to help him with his labor problems and the increasing requirements of the Ministry of Labor.

The union during that time was undermining the legitimate power of the administrator. It was difficult for Capt. Lacson to fully grasp the rising union power and student activism, with their perceived rights. In March 1972, Mary Lou took off her father’s burden. She conducted dialogues and meetings with the union members. She was able to make the labor leaders cooperate with her and bring back peace to IMA.

The entry of the young president began the transformation of the Iloilo Maritime Academy into a more progressive institution. Her management style won the hearts of people under her. New campuses were acquired and structures were constructed. New programs were introduced and methods and standards of instructions were improved.  The institution batted for accreditation and recognition in the national and international arena. These had to happen if the institution was to become a leading institution in quality education. Her promise of giving the management of IMA a try for a year became a commitment for Mary Lou until the today.

While building its image, the Iloilo Maritime Academy, had assumed a new name John B Lacson Colleges in honor of the founder. In August 7, 1985, it became a foundation. The Lacson family donated to the foundation half of their ownership rights and henceforth all the financial resources are plowed back to the operations.

In 1990, the John B. Lacson Foundation offered the first maritime high school in the Philippines. Improvements continued in the form of new programs, constructions and acquisitions of more facilities and properties in Nueva Valencia, Guimaras.  The then JBLCF-Puerto del Mar, the practicum site of the trainings in Safety of Life at Sea and other aquatic laboratories was also put up.

The school began to attain national and international recognitions. This resulted to the interest of stakeholders from the industry, the ship owners, manning companies, shipping operators and other business partners. The trust and confidence given to the institution challenged it to pursue excellence. In 1995, JBLCF attained Level III accreditation from the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation, the first in the country under the association.

In 1991, the Norwegian Ambassador to the Philippines, His Excellency Lars Tangeraas, became the first Norwegian to visit the institution.  On his second visit, he brought with him The Director General of the Norwegian Maritime Directorate, Ivar Sandvik and the Executive Director of the Norwegian Shipowners Association (NSA) Rolf Haselgard. Together,  they  paved the way for the Norwegian’s assistance to JBLFC. The first NIS Class started June 1993. This opened greater opportunities for youths in Region VI who aspire to become competent Merchant Marine Officers.

In June 15, 1992, Capt. Lacson bade his school goodbye. The beloved founder passed away, but he left the Ilonggo community a legacy, the institution, which he built painstakingly and nurtured with care.


The expansion and the growth of the school made it difficult for one person to oversee and manage the different campuses. On September 18, 1993, during one of the regular monthly meetings, Dr. Mary Lou Arcelo recommended to the Board of Trustees the creation and establishment of the different units, as she would like to retire from operations, and she tendered her irrevocable resignation as president.

The members of the Board of Trustees accepted her resignation with the assurance that she will remain as consultant.  This gave birth to the creation of the John B. Lacson Foundation System.  Under the its umbrella is the John B Lacson Colleges Foundation (JBLCF) Arevalo which became the home of the deck cadets; JBLFC Molo offered the marine engineering program, customs administration, tourism, computer engineering, and cruise ship management;  JBLCF Bacolod offered programs in nautical studies, marine engineering, customs administration and hotel and restaurant management; and the Puerto del Mar which became the seat for aquatic sports and SOLAS courses.

The autonomy given to the different campuses under separate boards brought new personalities in the Board of Trustees, many of whom were from the industry. The first adminsitrators were Engr. Ralph L. Pador for JBLCF Arevalo, 3/M Estanislao Diaresco Jr for JBLCF Bacolod, and Dr. Wilfredo P. Ramos for JBLCF Molo.
One common vision, mission and objectives unify the units. All units are mandated to attain the same degree of compliance to the school’s criterion of excellence.



Today, the JBLFMU, as an institution for higher learning that has gained recognition as having pioneered in undertakings for the development of maritime education and training, propelled by a strong, dynamic and proactive leadership, has become a premier maritime institution in the country. Its innovativeness in many ways distinguishes it from the rest of the maritime institutions. It has made remarkable strides as an educational institution particularly in the maritime field through the years, most of which were achieved during the last four decades. Having pioneered maritime education in the Visayas and Mindanao, it has constantly led the way by consistently providing competent seafarers since 1948, becoming a major supplier of Filipino marine officers, with a contribution of about 12% annually. The highlights may be seen in 2001 when JBLFMU supplied 12.47% of the deck and 12.35% of the engine officers of the Philippines, and in 2005 with 12% of the new entrants to the profession.

In the process of producing qualified and competent manpower for the seafaring world, John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University  has achieved the following recognitions:

  • The first maritime institution to be accredited by the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation (PACU-COA).    (March 1986)
  • The first and the only maritime educational institution in the Philippines that has a Maritime High School. (1990)
  • The first maritime school in the Philippines that have formulated and adopted the Enriched CHED Curriculum incorporating the IMO Model Courses (June 1995)
  • The first maritime educational institution granted Level III accredited and re-accredited status, the distinction which it holds up to this day. (October 1995)
  • It is the first maritime educational institution in the Philippines to attain an international accreditation, the DNV Certification for its Quality Assurance System--- the first in the Philippines, second in Asia and third in the world to have such a distinction. (November 1997)
  • It belongs to the first cluster of 11 maritime educational institutions that have complied with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) requirements, for the inclusion of the Philippines in the “White List”. Of the 11 schools, JBLCF was counted 3 times for its 3 campuses. (1998)
  • The first maritime educational institution granted an Autonomous Status. (October 2001)
  • The first maritime institution whose graduate program was subjected to the PACUCOA preliminary visit for Level 1 accreditation. (2004)
  • The first maritime institution to be a recipient of the Philippine Quality Award (PQA). (2005)
  • The first maritime university in the Philippines. (2007)
  • The first maritime school with a second re-accredited status for level III by Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation (PACUCOA). (2007)
  • The first maritime school granted level IV accreditation by PACUCOA. (November 2008)
  • The first institution to be granted PACUCOA  Institutional Accredited Status in Region VI. ( December 2011 ) 

Other Accomplishments

The JBLFMU Training Center is accredited by the Panama Maritime Authority and recognized by the Norwegian Maritime Directorate (NMD), Maritime Training Council (MTC), Dept. of Trade (DOT), and Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA). It has produced two students in the roster of Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines (TOSP) in 1989 and 2002. It was endorsed by manning and shipping companies and by highly knowledgeable personages in the industry for the competence of its graduates. It was authorized by CHED as a provider of the Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (ETEEAP) for Engine and Deck, and the only one in the country.

It was declared by assessors from CHED to have established the best system for equivalency evaluation. It was nominated by CHED as having one of the best HEI Research Programs for 2006. Its responsiveness to community concerns is demonstrated in the assistance it gives to the economic growth of the province through eco-tourism by way of its extension service to the barangays of Nueva Valencia. Its dynamic research undertakings attest to this responsiveness, addressing such concerns as the barangay needs (by JBLFMU Arevalo), mangrove rehabilitation (by JBLFMU Bacolod), coral reefs (by JBLFMU Molo) and inland fisheries, particularly bulgan and tilapia (by JBLFMU) Its strong community outreach programs include literacy, coastal cleanup, blood donations and MT solar and oil spill cleanup. Its greatest achievement by far is its having been granted university status, making it the first maritime university in the country.
The University. As a university, the JBLFMU, more than ever, stands committed to sustaining its strong and dynamic culture of research with a pool of academic and non-academic researchers constantly demonstrating high-level research capabilities aided by the latest in technology in their conduct of research significant to academe, business and industry, the entire country and the world community.

All JBLFMU research endeavors are supportive of the University’s quality policy “to comply with national and international standards and strive to exceed stakeholders’ expectation.” With the three academic units in place, i.e., Arevalo, Molo and Bacolod, the JBLFMU continues not only to sustain its programs but to nurture and develop all aspects of the school’s facets and concerns , particularly the academics, students, faculty, facilities, focusing on its goal toward attaining and maintaining international standards, through internal and external monitoring, assessment and interventions, and linkages.
Its linkages include 165 shipping companies, both international and domestic. With a student population numbering 8,000, a faculty force consisting of 314 out of which 123 are deck and engine officers, and sustained by its flagship courses and the consistent adherence of its programs to international standards, the JBLFMU has indeed become a force in the maritime industry as a provider of excellent seafarers worldwide.