Lawyer Chesna Cokaliong helps steer family business with focus and purpose
By Deneb Batucan
A WOMAN on top of her game, lawyer Chesna Cokaliong is always ready for a challenge. With perfection in her mind, she sails through life focused and determined. Having passed the last bar exams, she now plays a more essential role in helping steer the family business right on course.
And when it comes to the family business, Chesna has years of experience under her belt. She started helping out in their family business at the age of 7, where she would count coins and bundles of money under her mom’s supervision. At 10, she was assigned to a freight teller where she would give out change for the passengers.
“My mom told me I could use a calculator, but my own little challenge for myself was not to use it and just use my head to compute.
Thankfully, wala na short ang teller!” Chesna remembers fondly. “I think because of that my problem solving and mental computation were trained. I always loved math because of that.”
Chesna’s childhood was a busy blur of activities that she fondly recalls as a training ground to who she is today. She says that her parents are hard on her and her siblings, even until today, because they want much more for them.
“More than what they had growing up, more opportunities and more experiences than what they had. I understand that it comes with the best of intentions and I have always appreciated that they live by example,” she said.
Law in her mind
Law school was never in Chesna’s plan. But a visit from her godfather, Major General Vicente Vinarao, changed her mindset. He was the first person who sparked her interest in taking up law.
Chesna was keen on working for their company, Cokaliong Shipping Lines Inc., after having graduated from Ateneo de Manila with a degree in legal management. But after talking to her godfather, the seed that was law school was planted in her mind.
At first, Chesna’s dad didn’t want her to take up law because he wanted her to focus on working for the business. But he told her to really think about her decision. He will let her go to law school but she still had to work. “Ultimately, I told myself, what is four to five years for a lifetime achievement? Now when I look back, it was so fast. And now I’m a lawyer. Who would have thought, right? It was worth it,” she said.
Juggling work and school gave Chesna a full schedule. But all in all, she made it through with time management and prioritizing. “What you can’t fit into the normal 24 hours, you have to prioritize and do what’s most important. For me, it was work, school, going out and sleep,” she said. “I never wanted work to be an excuse not to work hard in school. If I could get a better grade, why not work hard and get that higher grade? You can’t just breeze through and get 75 when you can get 85.”
What motivated her to do well in both work and school was that for her, failure was never an option. “I never want to bring shame for my family. I wasn’t raised that way,” she said.
Passing the bar was a group effort for Chesna. She couldn’t have done it without her strong support system composed of her family. Without them, she wouldn’t have the strength and focus to pass such a long and arduous test that many fear. “Because of them, I was able to focus during review,” Chesna said.
Today, Chesna is the chief of staff of the founder, CEO and COO of Cokaliong Shipping Lines Inc. She is also part of the legal team of their company where she prepares and reviews contracts, complaints and other types of pleadings for the company.
But aside from her work, Chesna also has the interest to teach law. She thinks that teaching will keep her abreast with the updates of the law.
Chesna is also looking into doing something to help solve poverty. “I know that problem can’t be solved anytime soon, but maybe if I can’t make a dent, at least I can make a scratch in solving that problem,” she said.
She’s already working with World Vision where she is sponsoring three children, two in Cebu and one in Bohol, through giving school supplies and other things that could help the children be more active with their education. “Education is something permanent and you can’t take away from them. It can really change their lives,” she said. She hopes to be able to do more work for her advocacy in the future.
Strong-willed, confident and never one to pass up a challenge, Chesna is sailing through her own course at a steady speed, always optimistic of what lies ahead.
Photos: Alfred Gregory E. Bartolome
Make-up Artist: Jay Failanga
Hair Stylist: Noelle Gestopa
Locale: Bayfront Hotel