Rebecca Bustamante could be described as a modern-day Cinderella, and not because she had a fairy godmother and a prince to save her from a cruel stepmother.
Rather, like Cinderella, Bustamante was able to rise above her circumstances and live happily ever after.
Bustamante’s grit and determination helped her become a leading business leader in Asia.
“I am where I am now because I knew my goals and I had the passion to achieve my goals,” said Bustamante, 51, president of Chalre Associates, one of the leading recruiters of managers and executives for multinational companies in Asia and the Pacific.
She is also president of the Asia CEO Forum, a regular business event in the Philippines.
Bustamante, who grew up in the coastal town of Dasol in Pangasinan, was the guest of honor during the recent 437th Agew na Pangasinan (Pangasinan Day) celebration here.
As a young girl, Bustamante said she sold “pan de sal” each morning so she could buy a kilogram of rice.
“We were 11 [siblings], and I’m the seventh [in the brood]. My elder brothers did not have proper jobs. They drank, they smoked, they fought. That’s what they used to do every day,” Bustamante said in her speech during the commemorative program.
“This was what I saw when I was a child. But it did not matter because I wanted to help my family, especially my younger siblings, who were very young. We never complained, even if our father was a drunkard,” she said.
While in Grade 5 at Dasol Central School, Bustamante said she worked as a maid for a family.
“I cleaned the house and worked as saleslady in their store. I learned many things about business from them,” she related.
After completing high school at the Don Marcelo Jimenez Memorial High School in Dasol, she worked at a factory in Bataan, where she attended classes at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines there.
She was forced to quit and go back home when her mother fell ill.
“This was the first turning point in my life. My mother was sick and we didn’t have money,” she said.
With the help of Dr. Edgar Espinosa, Bustamante’s mother was taken to a hospital in Dagupan City. But a doctor soon told Bustamante that her mother did not have much time left.
“I ran to the [hospital’s] chapel. That was all I could do at that time. And I asked help from God Almighty. I cried for an hour. Then I went back to the room and told her: ‘Mommy, the doctor said you’re now okay. Let’s go home,’” Bustamante said.
It was a grueling 90-kilometer tricycle ride from Dagupan City to Dasol.
On her death bed, Bustamante’s mother made her daughter promise to look after her younger siblings.
“I told her, ‘Mommy, I will do everything to take care of them.’ When I said that, she rested in peace,” Bustamante said.
After her mother’s burial, Bustamante worked at the Rural Bank of Dasol as a janitress. She also became both mother and father to her younger siblings aged 15, 14, 9 and 6.
“Then I found out that our house was mortgaged for P25,000, with interests already reaching more than P100,000 at that time. And I was only making P800 a month,” Bustamante said.
“But what should I do? Am I going to complain or am I going to find solutions? That’s when I decided to work in Singapore as a domestic helper,” she said.
She would leave for Singapore a year later, spending money she borrowed from her boss at the bank.
While in Singapore, Bustamante decided she wanted to be the best domestic helper.
“I worked hard. It was tough, but it was okay because I had a target: To be a domestic helper [in Singapore] for four years,” she said.
She then attended college at the Open University of Singapore Institute of Management and finished a course in accounting.
Bustamante moved to Canada after three and a half years to work as a nanny. “When I reached Toronto, I had a goal again: To be a nanny for two years. It’s because you need to work for two years before you get your permanent residence or open permit,” she said.
Because she was allowed to do part-time jobs, Bustamante said she sold kitchenware, among other things. She also pursued graduate studies in accounting and marketing at the Ryeson University in Toronto.
Bustamante was 27 when she married Robert Mills, with whom she has two sons.
“At that time, I already had a business, my siblings were already in Canada, and I had paid off all our debts. I was also able to build a seven-bedroom house in Dasol,” Bustamante said.
She said she and her husband decided to establish their company in the Philippines because she wanted to help the country attract more investors.
“We started the Asia CEO Forum. We had two goals: The short-term goal is to make the Philippines a business hub in Asia. And as you can see now, the Philippines is No. 1 in business process outsourcing in the world,” she said.
The long-term goal is to make the Philippines a first world country before 2030.
“We can start this by doing what needs to be done to be successful. Do it for yourself, do it for your family, do it for your town. If all of us are successful, the Philippines will be a first-world country even before 2030,” Bustamante said.
Rebecca Bustamate, former domestic worker and now CEO of her own company, shares how keeping her focus, maximizing her time and taking action helped her achieve a lifelong dream to provide for her family and serve as an inspiration to poor Filipinos, especially women.
Rebecca Bustamante recognized for her outstanding contributions in entrepreneurship at ASNA Awards 2015. The award is often called the Pride of Pangasinan and given to the top leaders in respective fields.
Governor Amado T. Espino, Jr. (center) and Vice Gov. Jose Ferdinand Z. Calimlim, Jr. (5th from left) and the members of the Provincial Board accord the ASNA award to Rebecca Bustamante (6th from left) for her outstanding contributions in entrepreneurship during the ASNA awards night and grand ball at the Sison Auditorium in Lingayen, capital city of Pangasinance, the home province of Rebecca Bustamante.
THE STORY OF THE FILIPINO
Rebecca Bustamante turned her life around from being former domestic helper to being the chief executive officer of her own company. Now, she has helped set up computers in schools in the province to open the doors of opportunity for children.
Once, she worked as a maid in Singapore, cooking, cleaning and buying groceries.
Today, Ms Rebecca Bustamante is the founder, president and chief executive of a recruitment firm in the Philippines, with operations in Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore.
Thanks to her hard work and determination, the 48-year-old Filipina now heads Chalre Associates, a Manila-based firm that screens candidates for positions as managers and directors in multinational companies.
Its clients have included Fortune 500 companies in the fields of technology, financial services, engineering, hospitality and manufacturing.
Ms Bustamante and her husband also started the Asia CEO Forum, a monthly business event, in 2009.
This has grown to become the largest regular business event in the Philippines, with big-name sponsors such as insurance and financial services giant American International Group, and real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle.
For her inspiring story, the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), a migrant worker group here, has invited Ms Bustamante to give a talk to domestic workers, scheduled for next month.
Home's executive director Jolovan Wham, 34, says: "Many migrant domestic workers encounter tremendous difficulty working and living in Singapore.
"Rebecca's story is one of many among such struggles and it is extraordinary how she was able to overcome those challenges. Her story has inspired many of us and we would learn a great deal from her."
Ms Bustamante worked here as a maid from 1986 to 1989, for a Singaporean family in a four-room HDB flat in Woodlands.
Aged 20 then, the high school graduate had just moved here from her hometown in the province of Pangasinan in the Philippines. Her mother died in 1985 from lung cancer.
The seventh of 11 children says: "My late father didn't have a steady job, so we had to fend for ourselves. I knew I could earn more money working in Singapore. So I came."
She worked for aircraft technician Chin Fook Yean, his wife and their two young daughters, and her duties included taking the children to school, buying groceries, preparing meals and cleaning the house.
She says: "My life here was simple and happy. But I felt my circumstances could be improved further. I wanted to be more educated so I could accomplish more in life."
While working here, she enrolled in several distance-learning accounting courses at the Singapore Institute of Management.
From 11pm to 1am every night, she would study in her room while the Chin family slept.
During her monthly day off, she would visit her professor to get the next month's worth of homework.
"For three years, I slept only four hours a night," she recalls. "Even though I didn't graduate in the end, it was worth it. I learnt many concepts which later helped me in my business."
She did not have enough credits to graduate during her time in Singapore, she says.
Her former employer, Mr Chin, now 62, describes Ms Bustamante as "efficient, responsible, honest and hardworking".
He says: "Rebecca has always wanted to improve her family's life in the Philippines. I'm glad that with her resourceful character, she has achieved what she aimed for."
Adds his younger daughter, now a 28-year-old doctorate student: "My memory of Rebecca has always been that of a big sister taking care of me and taking me to McDonald's whenever possible.
"My family and I are very proud of what she has achieved."
In 1989, Ms Bustamante left for Canada to work as a nanny. There, she enrolled in graduate courses in accounting and marketing at Ryerson University.
From 1993 to 2002, she also worked with Mary Kay Cosmetics, a direct-sales skincare and cosmetics company.
During the time there, she earned awards such as Top Rookie Sales Director for North America, Top 10 Unit Sales Award (Canada) and Top 10 Personal Sales Award (Canada).
She also provided regular training presentations for up to 500 people at national company functions, and her most senior role was that of senior sales director.
She also met her husband, Mr Richard Mills, a Canadian businessman, through a mutual friend.
Mr Mills, now 51, says: "Rebecca's work ethic has always impressed me. Once she sets her mind on something, she won't stop working until she gets it. Even today, she's still working 12 hours a day, even though we are doing okay financially."
They married in Canada in 1996 and settled in the Philippines four years later. They have two sons, aged 16 and 15.
In 2005, the couple pooled their resources - a sum she declines to reveal - to set up Chalre Associates together. Four years later, they set up the Asia CEO Forum to promote the Philippines as a premier business destination.
About 250 to 350 people - mainly senior management representatives in the Philippines and Asia - attend its networking events and talks every month.
One of Ms Bustamante's business partners, Ms Sheila Lobien, 36, a director at Jones Lang LaSalle Philippines, says she was surprised when she learnt about Ms Bustamante's past 15 years ago.
She says: "She is so successful, I never thought she came from such a humble background. She has really come very far and it shows you can achieve anything as long as you believe and work hard for it."
Ms Bustamante says: "I don't regret working hard. But I have also been very fortunate in life.
"For that, I'm thankful."
FROM MAID TO MADE: REBECCA BUSTAMANTE SHARE HER STORY
At the formal opening of the nomination process for the 2014 Asia CEO Awards, an annual event that recognizes top-performing Filipino business leaders across Asia, founder Rebecca Bustamante-Mills brimmed with excitement.
“This is a very exciting time for the Philippines. Our country is the emerging business hub in Asia,” she said to GMA News Online in an interview.
As the founder and president of Chalré Associates, a multinational recruitment firm for senior management executive positions, a typical day for Bustamante involves dealing with foreign companies and coordinating with local and foreign business leaders and economists for lectures and seminars.
For the last five years, Bustamante has also been at the forefront of organizing monthly forums for the non-profit organization Asia CEO Forum, which operates as Chalré's Corporate Social Responsibility project.
But life was not always like this for the 48-year-old.
Young blue-collar worker
The seventh of 11 siblings, Bustamante grew up in poverty. She was 18 when her mother died, forcing her to leave her hometown of Dasol, Pangasinan and work in a factory in Bataan to put her younger brothers and sisters through school. Their father had no steady job.
Even when she was in high school, Bustamante worked to earn money for her schooling.
“I used to work as a helper with different families in my hometown. I also worked for a mayor as a saleslady in their store,” she said.
“As a kid, I sold pandesal, ice buko, ice candy. I also helped my mother sell fish in the market...I enjoyed doing it,” she said. “I think I loved sales even as a kid.”
In 1986, when she was 19, Bustamante began working as a domestic helper in Singapore. During her three years in the job, she also studied Accounting at the Open University of Singapore Institute of Management. She was even able to finish the undergraduate program without her employers knowing it.
“I did my studying during the evenings when everyone was asleep. From 11 in the evening to 1 a.m. [I would] start my job at 5 a.m. I was only given a day off. That one day off I would go to school to talk to my professors and get my whole month's worth of homework,” she said.
“It was very hard, but I was determined to pursue my education to help my brothers and sisters back home.”
To earn more money for her family, Bustamante then decided to work as a nanny in Canada for almost four years while pursuing her graduate studies in Accounting and Marketing at Ryerson University in Ontario.
“Learning is very important to me,” she said. “If you want to be successful, it's important to continue learning, continue developing your skills. That's the reason why I never stopped studying.”
The man who qualified
Bustamante was 27, and almost done with fulfilling her promise to her mother to send her younger siblings to school, when the idea of entering into a serious relationship hit her.
“When I went to Canada, I was so focused on helping my brothers and sisters. I didn't really like to go on dates; I tried once and it did not work out,” she recalled.
“But when I reached 27, I thought I was getting too old and I wanted to get married and have my own family. That's when I got serious about finding a right man.”
And find the right man she did—after she read books about dating and wrote down the qualifications she was looking for in a man.
“I said to myself, ‘In case I’m ready to settle down, I don’t like to just date anybody. I should have qualifications’,” Bustamante said.
When a friend pressed her to go on a date with a businessman named Richard Mills, Bustamante checked his profile first on the internet. She admitted she was not playing fair, as she lied to him about her family background and financial status.
However, after a few weeks of dating, Mills wanted to introduce her to his parents.
“I said, 'Oh my gosh, I have to tell him the truth!’...That's when I said who am I, my background and why I did not give him my real story. And he said, ‘I'm still really interested to meet you’...so that's when the relationship blossomed,” Bustamante said.
She brought Mills to the Philippines and introduced him to her family. When she was 31, she and Mills got married. They now have two sons, ages 15 and 16.
“I guess the relationship developed because we both believed that love can be developed, instead of being so in love right away...Now we are like, best friends, husband and wife, and best partners,” Bustamante said.
Bustamante, Mills and their children Alex and Chris. Photo courtesy of Richard Mills
After finishing her master’s degree, Bustamante began making a name for herself in Canada. She worked as a marketing executive and also founded her own recruitment firm, High-Q Personnel.
In December 2000, after spending Christmas in the Philippines, the Mills couple decided to stay in the country for good.
“[Richard] fell in love with the Filipino people and with our culture and values. And we also wanted our children to grow up here,” Bustamante said.
In the Philippines, Bustamante worked for Mary Kay Cosmetics and then the Canadian Embassy. In 2005, she and her husband decided to put up their own company.
Chalré now has operations in the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Canada, doing the screening for senior managerial and directorial positions for multinational companies.
Marketing the Philippines
But despite her success, Bustamante felt she needed to do more.
“I always wanted to contribute to the Philippines...You know, I came from nothing and was able to develop my future. I wanted to give back to where I came from,” she said. Her plan is to attract more foreign investments to the Philippines.
“More foreign investments mean more jobs, especially in the countryside,” Bustamante said.
So, in 2009, the Mills couple inaugurated the Asia CEO Forum, in which Filipino or foreign business leaders share their experience of doing business in the country. The Asia CEO Awards, an offshoot of the forum, will be held on November 12 with the theme “Emerging Asia” in synch with the ASEAN economic integration in 2015.
“Filipinos are achievers but they are very humble, very quiet. So this is about making noise—that Filipino businessmen excel not only in the Philippines but also abroad, especially in Asia,” Bustamante said.
More women to lead
Bustamante hopes her story can inspire other women, especially Filipinas, to aim higher.
“If you check many websites, you can see that a lot of multinational companies are impressed with their Filipino employees, especially Filipina CEOs...but a lot of women, especially the mothers usually don’t aspire for the highest positions," she said.
Bustamante said some women still think that men are better in heading a company, or that being a head of the company will rob them time for their families. She said setting priorities, time management and open communication with one’s partner are keys to achieving a rewarding career and having a happy family.
“You worked so hard for that long, why don’t you go for it? What’s stopping you?" she said. "As long as you have a healthy relationship with your husband you can do anything. Believe in him, support him and share with him what you want, what’s your goal in life, and let him also share with you his goals. With that, you meet in the middle."
“And also, share your dreams with your children. That way they can understand that you are doing it for them." — BM/VC, GMA News
REBECCA BUSTAMANTE: THE MAID WHO MADE IT
She was born poor. But for Rebecca Bustamante, it was the beginning of a journey that was to be inspired by a promise she made to her late mother: To improve herself so that she can provide education and the life her siblings deserved.
Before becoming president of Charle Associates and Asia CEO Forum, Bustamante, born the seventh of 11 children in Pangasinan, spent her childhood living in homes of families as an unpaid servant in exchange for food and money to pay for school fees.
She went to Bataan where her aunt promised to send her to high school. While there, her mother was diagnosed with cancer.
She recalled how they were discriminated against whenever they would bring their mother to the hospital where the doctor, oftentimes, would not immediately attend her because they did not have means to pay for her medical needs.
Seeing the plight of her family fueled her determination to change their life. But even before she could start, her mother passed away.
No option but to leave
Months after, Bustamante left the Philippines at the age of 19 to work as a domestic helper in Singapore.
“I was so determined to improve myself to be able to help my brothers and sisters because I promise my mom to give the education and the life my brothers and sisters deserved,” she said.
In Singapore, Bustamante worked as a nanny. She said she only had one day off per month and usually slept late at night.
She said she sent her earnings to her siblings in the Philippines but left 20 percent of her salary as her savings.
Bustamante said she wanted to study but her employer told her that she was there to work and not to study.
She, however, found a way to resume her schooling without the knowledge of her employer.
“Working as a domestic helper and studying, giving up never came to me,” she said.
A Singaporean teacher agreed to support her while she studied accounting at the Open University of Singapore Institute of Management.
Undeterred by challenges, Bustamante said she remained focused and was inspired by her Singaporean teacher who assured her that “someday she will be successful.”
Bustamante said she was able to read Dale Carnegie’s “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.”
She said the book influenced her a lot.
Migrating to Canada
After she finished college in Singapore, she decided to migrate to Canada where she also worked as a nanny.
She pursued her graduate studies in Accounting and Marketing at the Ryeson University.
While working and studying, she found out that there were a lot of other job opportunities like selling cookware in Toronto.
Her hardworking attitude was criticized by friends who questioned her second job when there was one “that provides for your family in the Philippines”.
But her promise to her mother to change her family’s fortune kept her on course.
While her girlfriends went to discos looking for rich husbands, Bustamante continued her work as a nanny until she was able to secure a permanent residency and with her savings established a recruitment agency to help fellow Filipino workers.
Love of her life
At the age of 27, Bustamante thought it was time to think of herself especially since her brothers and sisters have finished college.
She wanted to marry but did not have any experience with men so she asked her friends to help her find a suitable husband.
One of her friends introduced her to Richard Mills who after going out on a date passed her strict criteria of what her husband should be.
And after a year of being together, the two got married and have since been blessed with two sons – Chris and Alex.
Having been poor, Bustamante wanted to share her success with others who were as less fortunate as she was years ago.
As part of giving back, Bustamante started to buy computers and distribute it to schools in her province.
“When these children are able to learn more, to be educated more, imagine the outcome from our country,” she said.
“Basically the purpose is to increase the education in the province,” she added.
She said she would also buy books and distribute them to schools in the province and have plans of setting up mobile schools for a wider coverage of her education program.
Going through many challenges as a child and as an OFW, she had this advice to fellow OFWs and those who were born poor.
“You have to really ask yourself. What do you really want? Find out what you want. Whatever you want, follow that,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter who you are if you want to be successful,” she added.
She shared a quote from Hillary Clinton saying, “In life, no matter how good you are, there will always be people who don’t like you. Never mind. Don’t think about them. Ignore them.”
Bustamante also shared a most important principle to her financial success:
“Know how to save. Don’t borrow money if not necessary.”
Bustamante hopes that her story will help OFWs strive for a better life for themselves and those they left behind. Her book, “Rebecca Bustamante: Maid to Made”, was launched September 17 at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City.
Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/111569/rebecca-bustamante-the-maid-who-made-it/#ixzz3M96Iy7XE
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MAIDS HAVE DREAMS, DON'T DESTROY THEM
Rebecca Bustamante was 19 when she came to Singapore. Her story started like those of the domestic helpers featured in The Sunday Times last week.
They worked as maids in Singapore, while taking up courses during their days off.
But she was exceptional. Today, turning 48 years old, she is the CEO of a multinational company based in Canada and Philippines, and her aim is to make life better for her people back home.
She had lived a life of poverty in Philippines.
As a child, she sold candies to make a living. Or fish in the market with her mother. She treasured those days.
For it was not long before her mother passed away. She had 11 siblings to feed. Her father never got a steady job.
Bustamante came to Singapore to be a domestic helper in 1986, mainly to support her siblings.
“I took an accounting course at the Open University of the Singapore Institute of Management.
“Among the maids at that time, I was the only one who chose to study on my day off. Most of my friends were having fun on their days off. They went dancing.
“But not me. I wanted to be successful, for my brothers and sisters in Philippines,” she said.
“I told myself. How are we, Filipinos, going to compete with everyone else? I would always be like them [domestic helpers]. But I was determined to change things.
“So I studied at night when everyone went to sleep. I would get only one day off every month. On those days, I rushed to my university to submit a month’s worth of homework.”
She said her employers knew what she was doing. They tried talking her out at one point.
“My employers said to me, ‘Rebecca, you don’t need to do this. Just focus on yourself. You will be fine. Forget the past at home.’
“But they respected my choice eventually.”
Bustamante stayed in Singapore for three years. She went on to finish her graduate study in Canada, while working as a nanny.
When she married Richard Mills in Canada, they returned to Philippines and set up her current company. Chalre Associates is a management recruitment firms that partners with multinational corporations throughout the Asia Pacific.
She said most world-class recruitment firms are not available in developing countries. Her goal is to provide such services in places like Philippines.
Bustamante said: “I always wanted to contribute to the Philippines…You know, I started with nothing and now I am able to develop my future. I want to give back to where I have come from.
“So with my firm, I hope to draw more foreign investment into my country. More investment, more jobs for Filipinos.”
Like Bustamante, many Filipino maids in Singapore share a similar background and aspiration for a better life.
Ellen Vieres, 34, is a mother of two. “People laugh at you when you are poor. I want something better for my children than that, you know.”
She takes a bookkeeping class offered by the Philippines embassy now. She wants to start a business when she gets home.
But Vieres said not all employers are receptive to a maid who also studies.
“I have a lot of friends who study with me, but many of their employers have complained about them taking classes. My friends said their employers would like them home if there happens to be a party on those Sundays.”
Her friend, Mila Diston, said most of the Filipinos taking up courses in Singapore pay their own fee.
Diston said: “Courses are not cheap. But I am saving up now. I want to be a caregiver in Canada, because I want to finance my children’s education.
“My employers… they don’t interfere with my days off. But then, many caregiving courses are not offered on Sundays. I am still looking around for other ways.”
Will their dreams come true like that of Bustamante?
Bustamante commented: “Employers should be happy that their domestic helpers are increasing their skills. I think if the domestic helpers want to make a difference in their lives, give them the freedom to do so, as long as they complete their duties.
“Don’t see them as competition. There is no one better than another. We learn so much from the Singaporeans.”
REBECCA BUSTAMANTE'S STORY OF HARD WORK
However different rags to riches stories may be from one another, there is a common denominator that cuts through all, if not most, of them. Hard work.
For 48-year-old Rebecca Bustamante, this is what turned her life around from selling fish in the public market of Dasol, Pangasinan to heading a successful Asia Pacific-wide management recruitment corporation today.
She is an inspiring Filipina, and here now is her very singular story.
Bustamante’s current state of life as founder and president of Chalré Associates—a management recruitment partner to multinational corporations throughout the region—is truly a far cry from her impoverished youth.
Nevertheless, one of the most admired and successful CEOs in the country today has never been ashamed to share her difficult journey to the top.
“I want to inspire our countrymen and give them hope through my story,” she told The Sunday Times Magazine during a visit to The Manila Times offices in Intramuros, Manila this month.
Bustamante related that a compelling desire to give her family a better life fueled her dreams. She did not mince her words—she wanted to be rich so she could help her parents and 10 siblings.
“We were so poor that I had to sell pan de sal, iced candy and iced buko during my elementary years to help my mother earn money for my younger brothers and sisters. I also helped her sell fish in the public market.
“I was never ashamed to accept any job available to me because I had a goal to be rich, for myself and more importantly for my family,” she simply explained.
Bustamante recalled her endless hours selling merienda items in Dasol as enjoyable as they were difficult. More importantly, she credited her vending experience as her ticket to landing a saleslady’s job in high school, albeit in a sari-sari store.
“I also worked as a helper for different families in our hometown. Like I said, I took on any job available,” she reiterated.
Even as she realized she could help her family with odd jobs, what set Bustamante apart from other less fortunate girls in her youth was that she knew education was very important.
She insisted on going to college even if her mother had said the family could not afford it by moving to Mariveles, Bataan where she found a job as a sewer.
“I realized that the only way to succeed is to have a good education so I became a working student through and through, and enrolled at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines to pursue Accountancy,” Bustamante continued.
A sewer by day and student by night, the determined college lass soon found out that life can still be unkind to the hardest of workers.
What Bustamante thought would be a surefire formula of work and study to get ahead crumbled down when her mother died unexpectedly.
Bustamante was only 18 years old then, and besides the unfathomable grief of her mother’s loss, she was faced with yet another tougher challenge of taking care of her younger siblings since their father was without a stable job.
“I promised my mother I would take care and help my younger siblings whatever it took, so I worked as a janitor at the Dasul Rural Bank for a year,” she recalled, adding she was forced to put her college studies on hold.
Looking back, the repercussions of her mother’s death were the most difficult times in her life, but she tried her best not to give up.
Neither ashamed to ask for help, Bustamante one day asked her bank manager to help her in her new plan. That is, to work as a domestic helper in Singapore.
It was in 1968 that Bustamante first arrived in Singapore as an overseas Filipino worker. She was hired as a yaya, or nanny, by a Singaporean family.
And despite the many challenges that came with her new job and new surroundings she strived to be nanny she could be.
“I always do my best because I believe that if my employer will like how I work, I would be assured of keeping my job,” she wisely said.
By the quality of her service for her Singaporean employers, as well as her fellow OFWs, Bustamante more importantly came to the realization that Filipinos are world-class workers.
“With that, I dreamt even bigger,” she smiled.
Given just one day of rest every month, Bustamante spent her time studying in one of Singapore’s open universities. Unable to attend regular classes, she ask her professor her entire month’s homework whenever she showed up.
“I studied at night when my employers were asleep from 11 o’clock until 1 a.m. Then I would start my job as early as five in the morning,” revealed the superwoman.
Soon enough, because of her highly efficient ways, Bustamante moved on to “greener pastures” as a domestic helper in Canada.
“My Singaporean employers tried to make me stay because they like me so much that at first, they refused to give me the job certificate I needed for Canada. But since I was good to them, they eventually recommended me and let me go.”
Bustamante found Canada to be brimming with opportunities. There, she was able to manage her time better in pursuit of her new goals.
While working as a nanny again, again enrolled in a nearby school and attended classes every Monday and Wednesday evening. Besides her job and schoolwork, however, she also sold pots and pans whenever she found the time.
“I needed to sell $5,000 worth of pots and pans every week so I could send the commission I earned straight to my family in the Philippines,” she exclaimed. “As for my salary as a nanny, I saved them all until I had enough money to apply for a Canadian citizenship.”
With a clear vision of where she wanted to be, Bustamante fulfilled all her responsibilities without fail until she completed her course in Accounting and Marketing at Ryerson University in Ontario.
“Education is very important to me,” she declared. “If you want to be successful, it’s important to continue learning and to continue developing your skills. So that’s exactly what I did—I never stopped studying.”
She also loved to read books especially motivational ones to help her achieve her life plans.
“I wrote all my goals on a piece of cartolina and placed it beside my bed so that every morning, I am reminded of the work I had to do in order to achieve them,” she added.
Besides finishing an undergraduate degree, Bustamante also secured her Canadian citizenship, which allowed her to work in various companies, including cosmetic corporation Mary Kay where she became senior sales director.
Learning from whatever environment she found herself, she soon gathered the knowledge to put up her recruitment company in Canada called High-Q Personnel. She never forgot about the world class Filipino talent.
The right partner
Just as all her dreams came true and her promises to her mother fulfilled, Bustamante realized there was something missing in her life. A partner.
“When I reached 27, I began to think about marriage and family so I decided to find Mr. Right,” Bustamante giggled.
Ever the planner, she listed a set of qualifications she wanted in a husband and asked her friends to help her look for the right applicants.
“Before I dated Richard [Mills], I checked his profile first on the Internet. I also lied to him about my family background and financial status because I wanted to know him better.
But just after weeks of dating, he already wanted to introduce me to his parents.”
Taken aback, she realized that Mills, a businessman, was serious about her. Because of his genuine intentions she decided it was time to him the truth about her life and where she had come from, and why she had to lie to him about them.
Instead of leaving her as she expected, Mills stayed on and she knew he was the one.
“When I took him to my hometown, he fell in love not only with me but with the Philippines and its people. I was so happy that I found the man of my dreams,” the romantic in Bustamante beamed.
Bustamante was 31 years old when she married Mills, and their happy family now includes two sons aged 16 and 17.
“Richard is my best friend, my husband, the father of my children and my best partner in business,” Bustamante added.
Despite the tremendous success she achieved in Canada, Bustamante’s dream of helping her “kababayans” never wavered in her heart. So when she was offered by Mary Kay Cosmetics to put up a local counterpart of the company in the country, she readily accepted with her husband’s guidance.
More doors opened for her, including becoming vice president of the Canadian Club of the Philippines for a time.
With so much to do in the Philippines—not to mention the fun to be had—Mills soon joined in Manila, and in 2005, the couple established Chalré Associates. As she sees to the recruitment company’s operations, Mills serves as chairman.
“When I was working in Singapore, I used to hear a lot of negative things about Filipinos so I dreamt that someday I would do something to tell the world about the positive side of the Philippines and the Filipinos. This is where the inspiration of putting up Chalré Associates came from,” Bustamante related.
In 2009, the couple also launched the Asia CEO Forum, the largest annual business event in the country, which is also highly regarded in the Asia Pacific region.
“Our events are organized by an alliance of Filipino and international business people with a mission to promote the Philippines as a premier business destination to global decision makers,” she said of the endeavor.
An offshoot of Asia CEO Forum, Asia CEO Awards, the largest business awards event, was also launched in the Philippines within a year.
She said, “Filipinos are achievers but they are very humble. So the Asia CEO Awards is about making noise that Filipino businessmen excel not only in the Philippines but also abroad, especially in Asia.”
This year, the Asia CEO Awards carries the theme “Emerging Asia,” and its awards night will be held at the Solaire Resort and Casino on November 12.
Think smart and be positive
As she constantly shares her inspiring story, Bustamante’s message today is not just to work hard but to think smart and be positive. She believes that if every Filipino takes on these attitudes then the Philippine economy will indeed become the largest in South East Asia by 2050 as HSBC predicted.
“Everyone can be a CEO,” Bustamante guaranteed. “Go ahead and dream but work for it. Because it doesn’t matter where you came from; the important thing is where you want to go.”
FORMER MAID IN SINGAPORE NOW CEO
Once, she worked as a maid in Singapore, cooking, cleaning and buying groceries.Today, Ms Rebecca Bustamante is the founder, president and chief executive of a recruitment firm in the Philippines, with operations in Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore.Thanks to her hard work and determination, the 48-year-old Filipina now heads Chalre Associates, a Manila-based firm that screens candidates for positions as managers and directors in multinational companies.Its clients have included Fortune 500 companies in the fields of technology, financial services, engineering, hospitality and manufacturing.Ms Bustamante and her husband also started the Asia CEO Forum, a monthly business event, in 2009.This has grown to become the largest regular business event in the Philippines, with big-name sponsors such as insurance and financial services giant American International Group, and real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle.For her inspiring story, the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), a migrant worker group here, has invited Ms Bustamante to give a talk to domestic workers, scheduled for next month.Home's executive director Jolovan Wham, 34, says: "Many migrant domestic workers encounter tremendous difficulty working and living in Singapore."Rebecca's story is one of many among such struggles and it is extraordinary how she was able to overcome those challenges. Her story has inspired many of us and we would learn a great deal from her."Ms Bustamante worked here as a maid from 1986 to 1989, for a Singaporean family in a four-room HDB flat in Woodlands.Aged 20 then, the high school graduate had just moved here from her hometown in the province of Pangasinan in the Philippines. Her mother died in 1985 from lung cancer.The seventh of 11 children says: "My late father didn't have a steady job, so we had to fend for ourselves. I knew I could earn more money working in Singapore. So I came."She worked for aircraft technician Chin Fook Yean, his wife and their two young daughters, and her duties included taking the children to school, buying groceries, preparing meals and cleaning the house.She says: "My life here was simple and happy. But I felt my circumstances could be improved further. I wanted to be more educated so I could accomplish more in life."While working here, she enrolled in several distance-learning accounting courses at the Singapore Institute of Management.From 11pm to 1am every night, she would study in her room while the Chin family slept.During her monthly day off, she would visit her professor to get the next month's worth of homework."For three years, I slept only four hours a night," she recalls. "Even though I didn't graduate in the end, it was worth it. I learnt many concepts which later helped me in my business."She did not have enough credits to graduate during her time in Singapore, she says.Her former employer, Mr Chin, now 62, describes Ms Bustamante as "efficient, responsible, honest and hardworking".He says: "Rebecca has always wanted to improve her family's life in the Philippines. I'm glad that with her resourceful character, she has achieved what she aimed for."Adds his younger daughter, now a 28-year-old doctorate student: "My memory of Rebecca has always been that of a big sister taking care of me and taking me to McDonald's whenever possible."My family and I are very proud of what she has achieved."In 1989, Ms Bustamante left for Canada to work as a nanny. There, she enrolled in graduate courses in accounting and marketing at Ryerson University.From 1993 to 2002, she also worked with Mary Kay Cosmetics, a direct-sales skincare and cosmetics company.During the time there, she earned awards such as Top Rookie Sales Director for North America, Top 10 Unit Sales Award (Canada) and Top 10 Personal Sales Award (Canada).She also provided regular training presentations for up to 500 people at national company functions, and her most senior role was that of senior sales director.She also met her husband, Mr Richard Mills, a Canadian businessman, through a mutual friend.Mr Mills, now 51, says: "Rebecca's work ethic has always impressed me. Once she sets her mind on something, she won't stop working until she gets it. Even today, she's still working 12 hours a day, even though we are doing okay financially."They married in Canada in 1996 and settled in the Philippines four years later. They have two sons, aged 16 and 15.In 2005, the couple pooled their resources - a sum she declines to reveal - to set up Chalre Associates together. Four years later, they set up the Asia CEO Forum to promote the Philippines as a premier business destination.About 250 to 350 people - mainly senior management representatives in the Philippines and Asia - attend its networking events and talks every month.One of Ms Bustamante's business partners, Ms Sheila Lobien, 36, a director at Jones Lang LaSalle Philippines, says she was surprised when she learnt about Ms Bustamante's past 15 years ago.She says: "She is so successful, I never thought she came from such a humble background. She has really come very far and it shows you can achieve anything as long as you believe and work hard for it."Ms Bustamante says: "I don't regret working hard. But I have also been very fortunate in life."For that, I'm thankful." -Asiaone
DOMESTIC HELPER TURNED CEO SHARES SECRETS OF SUCCESS
Rebecca Bustamante, founder and president of recruitment company Chalre Associates, has been hailed as one of the most successful CEOs in the country today. But she reveals that her current state of life is a far cry from her impoverished youth. Know her success story in today’s episode of Powerhouse, which airs after Dading, on GMA 7.
Even at a very young age, Rebecca knew hardship. Growing up in a big family, they were so poor that she would rather make a living than play and have fun like what the other children her age were doing. She would think about putting food on the table and selling things to help her parents earn money for her 10 younger siblings. She would also help her mother sell fish in the public market of Dasol, Pangasinan.
Her strong desire to give her family a better life compelled her to take any job that came her way. She worked as a helper to different families in her hometown. However, she didn’t receive any salary but instead, her employer sent her to school. She agreed with such arrangement because she wanted to finish her studies.
Fueled with strong faith and determination, Rebecca took her chance and decided to become a domestic helper in Singapore when she was 19. In her years of working there, she never had a day-off. She would spend her free days studying accountancy because she believes in the importance of education.
Using the money she had saved from her wages, she immigrated to Canada where she finished her graduate studies in accounting and established a recruitment agency. Later, she returned to the Philippines and founded Chalre Associates, a management recruitment partner to multinational corporations throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
Rebecca welcomes Powerhouse host Kara David in her home in Parañaque. The house that she bought in 2013 has a Mediterranean and tropical architectural theme.
TIPS ON BUSINESS AND LOVE FROM REBECCA BUSTAMANTE
Rebecca Bustamante didn't even want to write a book at first. While the CEO of Chalre Associates attributes most of her success to reading books, she is not one for talking outside of business partners and friends.
But upon persuasion, she teamed up with journalist former GMA News Online section editor Veronica Pulumbarit to write "Rebecca Bustamante: Maid to Made," where she shares her experiences to help overseas Filipino workers save money and manage their love life.
In a press launch for the book last September 17, the former nanny shares some tips on dealing with finances, families, and even romance.
Say "no" to family
Saving money was a long, arduous process for Bustamante, who fell into the same cycle as other OFWs by sending all her money home and never leaving anything for herself.
Had she continued this cycle, she said it would’ve been impossible to put all her siblings through school and build a family home in Pangasinan.
“They don’t teach (saving) in our schools. We never learned. Imagine if I didn’t read books — maybe until now I’m still broke,” she said.
While it was painful to say no to her family at first, her decision led her to becoming the success story she turned out to be.
Learn to invest
While reading financial books will certainly teach an OFW ways to save his/her money, Bustamante said families of OFWs must also learn how to make use of the money sent to them.
"Kung ano man yung perang ipinapadala, i-save nila, tapos magtrabaho sila. They need to work and make money for their expenses every day," she said.
"Kung anong pinapadala sa kanila, i-invest, ilagay nila sa bangko para at least hindi kawawa yung pamilya nila na trabaho nang trabaho, hingi sila ng hingi. Samantala kung may business sila, then of course the family's happy," she added.
Because of the length it takes for investments to pay off, most skip investments in favor of spending their money immediately.
However, Bustamante said families of OFWs should be "willing to pay the price upfront," no matter the price, to truly get what they want.
She also said that OFWs must bear the hard work, saying that if she wouldn't be in the position she's in now if she gave in to provocation at the start of her career.
"Karamihan sa kanila, nanny pa rin at nagtatrabaho sa mga hotel as a tagalinis. In short, the story is: kahit anuman, be willing to pay the price upfront," Bustamante advised.
"Invest" in love
Yet for all her achievements, she said her greatest accomplishment was building a family and fulfilling her promise to her mother.
“When my brothers and sisters finished university and [moved] to Canada, and I was able to build a family home in Pangasinan, it’s an achievement… [there’s] nothing else I could ask for except to get married and have my own family, and I have that, too,” said Bustamante.
But in building and raising a family, the CEO said it was important to be meticulous in choosing the right partner. She said the hardships her mother had to go through because of her husband and sons motivated her to research how to pick the right person.
She said singles looking for a partner should list down the qualities they want to have in the person, clarify what they want in the relationship, and make sure that whoever they meet was someone they were truly interested in.
Richard Mills, Bustamante's husband, said they kept their relationship strong by developing it beyond the initial infatuation.
Through trust, respect, and having the same goals and vision, as well as developing individually, couples can remain strong and loving, she said.
"If they decide to stay home, great, but maybe try to take some courses at school, develop a skill, maybe get a part-time job, get involved in charitable pursuits, just so your world's expanding and you got things to talk about," said Mills.
Raising their two sons also helped them bond, as they share everything with them, building trust within their family.
Because debt was such a common occurrence with OFWs, Bustamante hopes to tour schools in impoverished areas to teach kids about fiscal responsibility, as well as on how to save money.
Proceeds from the initial printing of her books will completely go into buying laptops for schools, something she already does with part of her profits.
Her husband was also part of a reason why they returned to the Philippines to "give back."
"I love Canada because of the equality. They don't judge you for who you are, they don't judge you for your position, they don't judge what you're wearing or driving. Everybody can eat steak if you like, you can go to restaurants, you can go for holidays," she started.
She continued, "But of course, Richard Mills, I believe in him that we need to be here to promote Philippines to encourage investors to invest here, to give jobs to many. Sabi ko, of course, why not?"
Be assertive, not aggressive
Mills said that what made Bustamante different was her security in her identity, saying she did not feel the need to "keep up" with the macho culture of high-level positions to succeed.
He said just because women are in senior positions doesn't mean they try to act like men.
“In some countries, you can hardly tell the women from the men. Women in the Philippines are feminine, they're very comfortable being women. They don't try to compete... In some countries, it's almost like they're trying to compete for who's more manly,” he said.
"Rebecca Bustamante: Maid to Made" will publicly launch at the Fully Booked branch in Bonifacio Global City in October. —KBK, GMA News
ASIA CEO AWARDS WINNERS INTERVIEWED ON ANC
ADEC Group Global Chief Executive Officer James M. Donovan was interviewed live on Mornings@ANC on Monday, November 25, after receiving the Asia CEO Awards leadership citation. Mr. Donovan was invited to the morning news and talk show after winning the KPMG Executive Leadership Team of the Year honor in the Asia CEO Awards 2013 along with ADEC Group's Global Chief Finance Officer Carol S. Esguerra.During the interview, he was asked what it took to achieve "great leadership" and steer the Group towards success. In his response, Mr. Donovan emphasized that the success of the group is founded on Philippine talent."It wasn't that tough, with the capabilities we have in the Philippines. We just needed to put a framework in which we could properly position Philippine talent to bring into the global marketplace."Mr. Donovan said that from 2 people, ADEC Group has now grown into an enterprise with 5,500 professionals. This expansion was achieved in a relatively short period, prompting him to quip that it was an "18-year overnight success".From its humble beginnings, ADEC Group now has operations in 5 continents "using Philippine talent to basically either acquire or build companies" in those markets.Mr. Donovan also stressed the importance of sustainable practices as part of corporate future during the interview. "We have to, as professionals, find out what matters and how to build sustainability and environment into people's business processes."Extending his thoughts and prayers towards the victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan which pummeled the Central Philippines and left more than 7,000 dead, Mr. Donovan said that the country is "at the forefront of climate change". Global and Philippine corporations should adopt practices that are environmentally-friendly and sustainable.He believes that climate resiliency will eventually become "more and more part of [today's] world" and the management of this adversity should be the goal of communities, governments and corporations, worldwide.True to this objective, ADEC Group Member Company, FirstCarbon Solutions (FCS), champions sustainability in business operations and was developed in the Philippines. It is now headquartered in California and ADEC Group aims to further its business globally by re-deploying Philippine talent to aid other countries attain such goals.Through Filipino professional capacity, Mr. Donovan aims to forward sustainability from the Philippines, into the global arena.
CREATING THEIR OWN LADDER
Like many of her compatriots, Rebecca Bustamante used to work overseas. But the 49-year-old has returned to her native country, where she now runs Chalre Associates, a company that screens managers for multinationals operating in the Philippines.
Born to a poor family in the province of Pangasinan, Bustamante was forced to start working at the age of 19, taking a job as a domestic helper in Singapore from 1986 to 1989 to pay off her family's debts following the death of her mother.
Believing there were more opportunities in Canada, Bustamante packed her bags and made the move. There, she worked during the week and spent her weekends studying.
"I studied accounting, marketing, sales -- practically all courses about business management. I was very focused and determined to learn. I had a dream," she said.
After securing permanent residence in Canada, Bustamante set up a staffing company to help Filipino expats to find jobs. When Canada began regulating the entry of foreign workers, she switched careers and began working at an insurance company.
In the mid-1990s, she returned to the Philippines with her husband to set up a local branch of an international cosmetics company.
In early 2000, the couple founded Chalre Associates.
"Filipinos working overseas should not only focus on work, they should use their time learning something else, they should take advantage of the opportunity in other countries," she said.
She advised Filipinos working abroad to save money, learn from their experiences and bring that knowledge back to the Philippines.