On April 24 at 2pm a good friend and a great man passed away at the age of 90.
Captain Roberto “Bobby” H. Lim is my mentor and my friend.
I rejoice in the opportunity to learn from Capt Lim and I bless him for the friendship we shared.

Captain Lim, my mentor, my friend
Captain Lim, my mentor, my friend

Meeting Captain Lim, my teacher

I first met Captain Lim in 2005 when I was a student in his elective class in AIM. The class was called Sources and Uses of Power or SUPR.

He sent a preparation e-mail with a set of questions for us to answer before our first meeting. From that email alone, I could tell that this professor means business. I was expecting to meet a middle aged military man with a matikas built and a stern face.

I was surprised to find a very old man coming into the class. He was dressed in a colorful barong tagalog, had white hair, thick eyeglasses, a wrinkled face with a prominent cheekbone and jaw and he walked with a fragile but determined stride. Then he spoke with a quivering voice and his face lit up with a smile. 

This was far from what I was expecting and wondered what it is I could learn from this man. The surprises didn’t stop there. He whipped up his digital camera and started taking photos of his students. He explained it’s his way of remembering our groupings and our faces and names.

Wow, an 85 year-old professor making use of a digital camera in class. This guy’s way beyond his peers who, I’d think, would be now tired of learning new things. We will get along just fine :-) .Captain Lim, was a learner. I was too and I was ready to learn from him.

Captain Lim’s classes were extremely powerful and engaging. He brought into the classroom the kinds of insights that are gained only through a lifetime of experiences. He challenged our way of thinking, asked us questions that increased our awareness of other points of view.

One way he conducted his classes was to bring in a resource person for the class to “dissect”. One time we had Solita Monsod. He presented to the class Ms. Monsod, described to us what she does, her expertise, her background. Then he would tell us to “use” this resource – Ms. Monsod. To pick her brains and to gain something that specifically benefits our own individual interests and agendas. That was exciting having such a strong personality for us to dissect, a powerful learning experience.

Another way Captain Lim conducted our class was to engage us in an intellectual team effort. He would give us a case to study a few nights before. And when we came into the class, he would ask us to write down on a piece of paper our answer to this question: “What do you want to learn about the case today?” And by this question, we students would become more focused on what learnings are truly important to us. The more interesting part of the discussion is yet to come.

After each of us writes down our learning objective, he would ask for a volunteer, say Mr. X, to share to the class what he wants to learn. After clarifying with the class whether we understood what Mr. X wanted to learn, Captain Lim would address the class saying: “Okay class, our job now is to help Mr. X gain answers to his questions.”

What would ensue would be a highly charged discussion. It was a team effort. The way I describe it is: it was as if I was in an action movie, in the middle of the action and slugging it out, not just a spectator in a movie. We were learning from each other trying out each other’s opinions and discerning them against our own. This was team learning at its best.

Captain Lim, my mentor

My relationship with Captain Lim gained ground the first time I had lunch at his Tagaytay residence. He gathered our group of around 12 students, we had a sumptuous meal at his Tagaytay home.

Towards the end of the term, I was called in by Beth to meet Capt. Lim. Capt. Lim told me that he’d like to continue meeting with me over lunch or coffee every few months or so. I was delighted by the idea. Here was a man who enthralled me with our class discussions and he was inviting me to spend more time in a mentoring relationship. What an honor!

In the span of 5 years between 2005 to 2010, we would hook up with each other every few months. Sometimes he would call me, sometimes I would call him. I was working at Cavite for three years and there were times when I was invited to sleep over at Tagaytay on a weekend.

He usually would get some help from me in learning something about his computer or the Internet. We’d spend an hour on his computer learning something new like Google Earth. He had fun browsing the satellite views of his Pasay or Tagaytay home and other significant places of his life. Perhaps it was a familiar feeling for him having seen things from above as a pilot. To me, it was utterly amazing how a man of his age maintained the innocent delight of learning new things and growing from it.

We had animated and engaging conversations over dinner and maybe some scotch after. We covered a wide variety of subjects. We would talk about life in general, plans, dreams, learning and teaching, our travels, managing work and people, setting goals, real estate, finances, remittances, OFWs, the Philippines, politics, kids, family life and even love life.

Captain Lim, my friend

Yes, Capt. Lim was a friend and confidante as well in a time when I was down, depressed, discouraged. He was there as a steady friend and mentor who listened. He gave me advise and I knew it was precious coming for a man who had lived a full life. I always came off from those conversations inspired and renewed. I felt reassured. Oftentimes he believed in me and what I can achieve more than I believed in myself.

Captain Lim, my mentor, my friend,

for your kindness, the insightful conversations, the mischievous or reassuring smile,
for the life lessons you shared over a bottle of scotch,
for your instrumental contributions to the building of our beloved country,
for helping me discover, by your example, the many great things we can do in this life,
for believing in me more than I believed in myself,
for the friendship,
and for all the love that you shared through your wonderful family, your wonderful work and your wonderful life,

I honor and thank you, Captain Lim!

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