Before I went to hear her talk about her life during the recently concluded Asia CEO Forum 2014 at Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City, I thought I already knew the milestones in her road to success. After all, Rebecca Bustamante had been featured in Channel 7’s Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho as the “Yaya Bossing” in early 2014, which pretty much chronicled her rise from a child market vendor to domestic helper in Manila and in Singapore, to senior sales director of a global cosmetics company, and now to president of her own executive search company in the Asia Pacific region.
I thought I already knew what there was to know about this exemplary Filipino.
I was wrong. Seeing and hearing her talk first hand about her personal struggles, and how she tenaciously worked to complete her education in Accountancy—while working as a domestic worker in Singapore, invoked a feeling of pride in ordinary Filipinos out there who succeeded despite the barriers posed by their family circumstances.
I was also glad that finally, there is a Pinay willing to share her personal success story with her kababayans. Come to think of it, I can count with both hands all the names of known male motivational speakers in the Philippines, but cannot bring to mind the name of speaker of the female species.
It is also an added bonus that Rebecca Bustamante undoubtedly talks, walks and looks every inch a Filipino. With doe eyes, dusky skin, petite and slim silhouette and long black hair, not even once can you mistake her for one of mixed blood. But that is actually her advantage. Finally, we have one who many Filipinos can relate to—much like an old friend from high school whom one can talk to and giggle with. Despite her success (she now lives in a house that comes with a swimming pool) and her spiffy corporate attire, her simplicity still comes through in the way she carries herself.
Her two-hour talk was of course peppered with tips on how to be successful and rich. I will, however, share some observations on her narrations that give clues on how she walked the talk.
- Her will to succeed had a higher motive: The need to help her siblings. Her mother died when she was 18. To be able to send the younger of her 10 siblings to school, she worked in a myriad of jobs, including as factory worker in Bataan. How Filipino can that get? Hers is the story of a family struggle that many OFWs share.
- She worked hard. As a domestic helper in Singapore, her mantra was to be the “best domestic helper there is”. She figured that that was the only way she could get the trust of her foreign employer.
- More important than #2 above, she worked smart. There were the foregone day offs, the studying beyond midnight just to complete her education while working full time. Sure, she was the best domestic helper there was but that was not her end goal. She had no plans of being a domestic helper for the rest of her life. So, she willed herself to complete her college degree while working.
- She saved a lot back then—and still does to this day. For someone who can already afford many conveniences in life, she still shuns the P130 coffee (because it costs P130). And get this: She revealed that she raised her two kids sans any house help.
- Her work ethics is apparent. She rises early, exercises, tries to finish as much work as early as she can, and still devotes some time for her family.
- She did not believe in her OFW friends’ mentality of hooking a rich husband as the way to get out of their dire straits. On the contrary, she was already a successful business person even before she met her husband.
- She is generous in celebrating other people’s achievements. During her talk, Rebecca was quick to call out successful peers from among the audience and acknowledge their contributions in their respective fields. Crab mentality is obviously not in her vocabulary!
Most important of all, apparent in her life story is that need to pay it forward to Filipinos. In fact, the Asia CEO Organization and the Asia CEO Awards came about as byproducts of her, as well as her husband’s, will to acknowledge Filipinos’ successes. This is her way of celebrating Filipinos’ capability to overcome mediocrity and passivity. For her, poverty is not a life sentence. Her story is proof that hope comes in the form of oneself.