Rebecca Bustamante: The maid who made it
MANILA, Philippines – 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.
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