When did your store open?
I opened my store back in April 1, 2011 as a money remittance business. I did it by acquiring the rights as the authorized agent of RCBC North America. A few months later, I also forged partnerships with other international companies such as Mango Tours, Globe Telecom Inc, Makati Express cargo and TFC, thus adding more services to my business, such as travel & tours, cargo forwarding, international telecommunication services, and TFC dealership.
Why did you choose Health Benefits among the many choices of business that you can add?
I wanted to make use of the front space of our new office by adding a retail business. When I was brainstorming on what type of retail business I should pursue, I first started with my target market. I figured, since I already have over a thousand customers under my database, half of whom make remittance transactions at least twice a month, why not start with them? I also found out from my research that the health and wellness industry is the next up and coming Trillion Dollar Industry in America.
What is it like to run different businesses in San Diego at the heart of National City, where all the FilAms are?
Sometimes it's very challenging because some FilAm customers are penny pinchers so they always try to find ways to save a few bucks on products and services. And with so many FilAm businesses that offer the same type of services as I do, I always have to create ways to give better value for my customers.
In contrast however, the moment you successfully turn your customers into loyal ones or "suki" as we call it in Tagalog, they stay very loyal to you and they would even go as far as marketing your business for you through word of mouth. The power of "chismis," I presume.
Are you born here in America?
No, I was born in Cagayan De Oro, Philippines but spent most of my childhood years in my father's province in Dumaguete city before my whole family migrated here in the States on November 1998. I was only 12 years old then.
Where are your family originally from in the Philippines?
My mother is from Cebu city & my father is originally from the provincial town of Sibulan, next town over from Dumaguete city.
Do you still speak the filipino language?
Our primary dialect is Bisayan or Cebuano. I only learned to speak Tagalog fluently when I arrived here in the States.
What is your favorite filipino food?
Ginisang Monggos with fried pork belly. yumm!
What is your favorite filipino restaurant here?
Zarlitos offers the best "silog" breakfast meal. Although, I wish there was a filipino restaurant that offers a SILOG buffet.
Do you still travel to the Philippines?
Between 2006-2010, I used to go at least once a year. Back in 2009, I stayed in Manila for 6 months so I can "re-enculturate" myself. I wanted to relearn what it is like being a true filipino so I figured what better way than to immerse myself in its culture?
Now, I'm planning to go back again this March 2013 to celebrate Holy Week there.
At home, do you mostly eat filipino dish and does the filipino culture run the house or is it more american?
Mostly filipino dish but my mom likes to cook whatever she sees on Food Network. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's back to the drawing board for her. Nevertheless, it's edible so I eat it anyway. Hindi ako maarte sa pagkain.
I'd say the filipino culture still runs in our house because we follow traditions during holiday seasons and such.
As a business owner and entrepreneur, what is the best advice you can give especially in this kind of economy for those who want to venture as well?
Expand your business into many different types of services. Don't just stick to one type of service and think you'll make it big that way. It helps to diversify your products and services because some are seasonal (such as the tax business) and some are easily affected by the state of the economy (ie. remittance business). If you have many services that generate income for you, at least you will have more than one safety net when one part of the business fails.
Is there anything about being FilAm or in our tradition and culture that you like the most?
The hospitality we show to others. Also, we are sincere and passionate about the things we do in life.
Is there anything that you think we FilAms in San Diego better or more of?
Sense of Family as a Filipino community. I believe we need to be more united and become a tight knit family rather than always trying to be better than the other. Everyone seems to think there's some sort of race or contest that they need to win or something. If only the Fil-am community support their kapwa kababayan more, then we can easily rise to the top in this society and the better off we will be as a whole community. We should initiate a "No Filipino Left Behind" Act in our local government to encourage unity within the community.
Please stay tuned for the website launch of theirn website: www.healthbenefits4me.com