Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Filipino American Story: MARISSA DE LUNA, A Trusted Notary

Marissa De Luna, official notary public, The Filipino American Expo 2014
      Tell us what is A Trusted Notary and what kind of services do you provide.
I am a commissioned California Mobile Notary Public registered in San Diego County. My background is screened and I am fingerprinted through the Department of Justice. I can notarize documents statewide anywhere in California.  As a mobile notary, I travel to the client's location for their convenience. My service is available literally 24/7.

While I cannot actually notarize documents outside of California, I have notary connections throughout the 50 United States and DC allowing me to refer people to notaries nationwide.
2013 Notary of the Year Special Honoree 
Why did you choose this field and tell us how did you get started.
I am intrigued with the law but I do not want to be a lawyer.  Because living isn't always easy, I am always thinking of ways to give back or pay it forward.
While living in New York City, I enrolled in a paralegal course where I met 2 Filipinas who were Notaries Public in my class. They told me that it was easy to become one - just find a class and then take and pass the test. As the paralegal classes went on, it just dawned on me how much time I will have to spend at work should I become a paralegal. The time to research cases alone could take me all night and not allow me to be with my disabled son.  That was a non-starter, so I did not pursue the paralegal course.  I read up on being a Notary Public and realized it was a job that could fit my life-schedule.  I got side-tracked, though when I stumbled upon a job in track and field while volunteering for the New York City Marathon. I met the person who ran the local office for the national governing body of track and field (now called USA Track & Field or USATF) and I went to work for him. After a couple of years, he moved to CA and a month later he contacted me and asked if I was interested in working for his partner.  My son and I moved to CA in 1998 for this new job in sports marketing and event management in the sport of road racing. 
 Marissa is passionate about running marathons.
After a few years with lots of working hours, I realized I was neglecting my disabled son -- the reason I didn't become a paralegal, so I asked my boss to help find me another job where I could have more time at home.  One happened to be available, being the Office Manager for the San Diego Chapter of the American Jewish Committee.  After the long days and weekends of putting on running events, I found I had so much free time available with this new job that I was able to go back to school with my sister and get my MBA.  At the same time, the thought of being a Notary Public resurfaced and in June of 2002, I started the process. I received my commission in August 2002, and I became a self-employed, full-time Notary Public in 2006. In 2013, I was one of five out of over thousands of nominees to be named the National Notary of the Year Special Honoree.
Who are your clients right now?
I am found online so I get calls from virtually anybody who needs notary services in my area -- including from the local women's prison!! Being a document loan signer also, title and escrow companies are the usual companies that call me, though. In the past, borrowers usually traveled to the lender's office to get their paperwork signed and notarized. Today, mobile notaries like me, who took the extra education and passed the exam to be signing agents, travel to the borrower's home or other location at all times of the day and night that better fit their schedules to get their real estate papers signed and notarized.
I get calls regarding power of attorney forms from relatives who have family members that are incarcerated; parents who allow their minor children to travel outside of the US, giving the children or non-parent who is traveling with the child, a notarized consent document to avoid the possibility of the child being considered kidnapped or a runaway. I also go to nursing homes and assisted living facilities to service seniors or families who are caring for a senior or a challenged family member or relative.
I understand that what sets you apart from your competitors is that you travel to meet with clients, tell us how it benefits your business and your clients?
Mobile notaries are convenient for clients who are elderly, handicapped, have trouble traveling or have unique schedules or time constraints. Simply put, we just try to make it more convenient for people to have their documents notarized by going to them, instead of the other way around ... And I personally take that to an extreme. I believe what further sets me apart is that my primary goal is customer satisfaction. My service doesn’t end after I get paid. It ends when I’m told everything is ok.  I am open literally 24/7.  If you called me at 2am I will answer your call.  During times when many businesses are closed, I am there for my clients. Weekends and holidays do not make a difference. If I'm available I will be there to fulfill the notary work. 
Describe/outline your typical day.
I work out of my home where I have a lot of filing and follow-up paperwork to do on personal family business transactions, but I drop everything when a notary call comes in.
I am also a Servsafe Food Safety Instructor/Proctor. I give instruction and/or proctor those who work in the food industry. In California, before being able to work in the food industry, you have to take and pass the food handler exam. To own or work as a manager in a food industry you have to take and pass a food safety course. Just like my notary business, I am on call.
Marissa with The Filipino Business and Professional Network (FBPN) team
I added a gopher business. This provides at a fair price an urgent need, a want or just a desire with satisfaction guaranteed.
I got rid of the cleaning lady so I could clean the house as part of my workout instead of paying for a gym membership.  I am also busy looking for speakers for The Filipino Business and Professional Network (FBPN).  Finally, I have recently become a member of Vapor Trails and Poway Black Mountain Toastmasters in an effort to overcome my fear of public speaking or even one-on-one conversations.  It is a great self-improvement vehicle especially dealing with difficult people. Our meetings are held once a week and Toastmasters has already helped me with both formal presentations and impromptu speaking. It has also assisted me in responding to smart a$$es we meet every day, by teaching me how to do it in a professional manner!
Where do you see yourself and your business next year and in 5 years from now?
Due to the recent creation of the “The League of Notaries Public” I hope to be a resource for Notaries Public who are self-employed. Just like is a resource for the Filipino community. “The League of Notaries Public” was created to bind together all notaries public and as one to help deter fraud and to protect the public for whom we serve. It's mission is to provide mentorship to newly appointed Notaries Public and be a true public service by educating the public on what a Notary Public's role is all about.
I am working to have "The League of Notaries Public" be recognized by each of the Secretary of State's Notary Public Offices as an added resource to aid the SOS offices in disseminating pertinent information to notaries especially the newly appointed ones.
What’s the major difference between running your own business and working for someone else?
Running my own business since 2002 gives me the freedom to adjust my services to the needs of my clients without asking someone else’s approval.  I create my own hours convenient for my clients, my family and myself.  It gives me time to take care of family. and most of all, the time to take care of my clients’ needs without worrying if I’m working overtime.
Having your own business is no joke. Some people say that they're better off having their own business. Some prefer working for someone else because when they walk out of the office at the end of the day they are no longer dealing with anything work related. A lot more time is needed when you work for yourself. You have to be ready for sleepless nights when you have to worry where and when your next client is coming from. Your income will vary. You are working all the time. It may not be literally working 24/7 but if your brain is thinking about how to grow your business then you are still working on your business.
Some ideas come to business owners while they are on vacation. I was checked-in at a hotel in Virginia Beach browsing the in-room services guide on what to order for in-room dining and happened to see that they offer notary service. I inquired about it and when I came back to California I visited the concierge at the local hotels leaving my business card. I even hit the bars and restaurants near the hotels because where else would a bar patron be asking for advise aside from the hotel concierge but the local bartender! 
As much as it seemed like a great idea the concierges and bartenders works for tips, so I need to go back to them and let them know they will get a commission on all referrals. I should also pursue it further by going straight to the top and ask that in their next printing of their in-house guide book they include notary service.
What is your favorite success quote? Why?
“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done” -Thomas Jefferson
This emphasizes the idea of trying new things and taking advantage of the unknown. This quote also reflects my recent adventure of completing 57 half-marathons in under a year running in all 50 US states, Washington DC and on all 7 continents. This on-a-whim adventure exposed me to the mental and physical power running has in aiding the soul.
Who has been your greatest inspiration in life? Why?
My original boss.  He was not your typical boss.  While he had his flaws, I loved how hands-on he was -- and still is towards his work. No job was beneath him. Is your boss ok doing trash duty? It's a dirty, yucky job but someone's got to do it. Does it always have to be the peons?

California State Games 2014 Athlete of the Year: Bowling 
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work times?
I enjoy bowling. I am a USBC Bronze Coach. I bowl in leagues year-round and have competed in various tournaments both here in the US and the Philippines. I also appreciate running, I am a USATF Level 1 Coach, and I am currently training to run my first full marathon this November 2nd in the New York City Marathon. I am hoping to raise funds for the National Notary Association (NNA) because they donate to the Philippines. The NNA helps our veterans by allowing them to attend the NNA conference for free. Veterans receive notary education, which they can use as a source of income.

Were you born in the Philippines?
Yes I was born and raised in the Philippines. I came to the US in the late 80’s
What part of the Philippines are you from?
My father is Ilocano and my mother is from Malabon. When they married they moved to the south, to Cotabato City, Mindanao.  My parents, both in the medical field, established themselves there. I was born and grew up there but spent my summers in Manila with my aunt, my father's eldest sister.  Due to the internal trouble between the Muslims and Catholics, my family and I had to move to Manila and from a house to an apartment. Years went by, and family dynamics changed. I then met friends of friends who invited me to come to the US to find medical attention for my son who has Cerebral Palsy. It is said that things happen for a reason.
When is your last visit to our country?
Medical and Dental mission in Tagaytay, Philippines, with sister, Dra. Star de luna
Walde, Rotary Club of Bagong Bayan President, Sir Virgilio "Vir" Sia and Sir Eddie Chao.
In 2010, I began going back to the Philippines each year. When I lived there, I was not able to do any sight-seeing; therefore that is what I do now when I go home every year. You have to swim with the whale sharks (locally called Butanding) in either Sorsogon or Oslob, outside of Cebu!
I go with my sister, who is a dentist doing missionary work through Rotary International and the Lions. Club.  It is heartbreaking what we see. We cannot help everybody all at once, but one person at a time will do the trick and make a difference.
What is the one thing that you love the most about being Filipino?
Food. As much as our starchy foods make us gain weight, they really are good! Living here in the US and seeing how Filipino restaurant owners have modified our authentic dishes has been quite interesting. Some have come out great like taco sisig but others should stay original like broccoli with nilaga!
As a Filipino community member, what are some things we could do more to help each other?
Education. I want any Filipino who didn't have a chance to be properly and fully educated and is interested in being so, to do it. There is no excuse to be illiterate or uneducated. Resources abound. It is up to each person to take advantage of it. As they say, you can lead the horse to the water but you cannot make the horse drink it. There's a rumor in North County about a Filipino school in its early stage being established.
Tell us your plans for your participation at the Filam expo.
I would like the Notaries Public to be recognized for what they do. We may just take a 4-6 hour course to be a Notary Public but it takes good judgment and experience to properly notarize documents.  We, as Notaries Public, need to be able to judge that what we have in our hands are not fabricated identification cards.  I went to Bangkok, Thailand to run my 7th continent and saw all the fake ID’s and diplomas sold on the streets.  I tried to compare them with my California driver’s license and one can’t tell if it is fake if you don’t know what a real one looks like. We also need to be able to tell that the signer is not being coerced to sign the document(s), that signing the document was done of their own free will.

I plan to round up all the Filipino Notaries Public so we get to know each other. After all, the people that you know, like and trust are the people you want to associate and do business with. It is part of the foundation for a sound, stable business.

I would like to see more participation of Filipino business owners. In making my presence, I hope to help other Filipinos who are business owners and self employed like I am, come out and network to strengthen and give back to the Filipino community. All it takes is a conscious effort from within our own selves, making a step forward, to make a difference in someone else's life. 

I plan to do this by introducing the Filipino Business and Professional Network (FBPN) group that meets every 2nd Tuesday in Chula Vista and every 4th Tuesday in North County and help increase the visibility of as a way to promote their businesses and as a resource for all Filipinos and others who want to learn about Filipinos. I also hope that these helps increase tourism in the Philippines.--JC



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  2. This was really an interesting topic and I kinda agree with what you have mentioned here! provider