We started Women’s Month strong, let’s end it strong, too.
Last Saturday (March 25), I attended the BDJ Women’s Summit 2017 in SM Aura and had the most inspiring afternoon ever! There was a great line-up of speakers and as per usual, I went home with my notebook full of scribbles and my bag packed with freebies. Let me take you back to that wonderful Saturday afternoon I had. Hopefully, you’ll get inspired as I did.
When I saw Danah’s post on the BDJ Women’s Summit on Facebook, I knew I wanted to be in, so I looked at the information and learned that it’s not free. I was on a budget so I was ready to accept the fact that I won’t be able to join the summit, but a few days later, the twins held an online raffle contest, so I joined and *drumroll please* I won a free pass! I felt over the moon as I would be seeing the Plump twins again and, this time, alongside other amazing women. I didn’t know all of the speakers, but I knew I was in for a treat. I love how women are stepping up their game and I get to join them in the process. It’s so timely, too, that March is Women’s Month, so yeah, let’s keep the ball rolling!
I kind of got lost going inside SM Aura because I wasn’t familiar with the place (it was my first time there!), so I was late for the event. But the Summit staff were very accommodating. I registered, got an ID pass and the loot bag, and was guided to my seat. It was hard to access my seat because there were already other people seated beside it, so I just stepped over the benches like a true tita would. I’m sure you’ve already done it once or twice in your life, too. HAHA.
PLENARY 1: UNLEASHING THE POWER WITHIN
When I got seated, the first plenary was almost done. Hidilyn Diaz, Jodi Sta. Maria, and Abbygale Arenas were seated and taking questions from the audience. I only caught some of their answers, but it was enough to hear from them.
Excluding the questions because I forgot to jot them down, these are the three women’s words of wisdom, non-verbatim:
Abbygale Arenas: “Nobody will care about you when you get older. Your insecurities will be useless.”
Jodi Sta. Maria: “If you succeed or fail, something will always be said about you. So go on and push mo lang kung anong gusto mong gawin. Hindi ba? Kasi each and everytime iisipin mo kung ano yung iisipin ng iba, ikaw yung nalilimitahan. You cannot pay your bills with other people’s thoughts, so might as well go for what you believe in, for what you really want. And if you think what you’re gonna do is going to make a difference in this world we live in, then all the more you should go for it.”
Hidilyn Diaz: “Insecurities will always be there, so just go for what you want regardless.”
PLENARY 2: MAKE IT BIG WITH SOMETHING SMALL
For the second plenary, OFW turned Businesswoman and Chalre Associate Rebecca Bustamante-Mills took the floor. Her bitter-turned-sweet story has already been featured on TV, but since I didn’t see it back then, it was my first time to see Rebecca in the flesh during the summit.
She is the kind of women who really started from humble beginnings. They were 11 siblings in the family. They were so poor that they would sometimes wake up in the morning with not enough rice for everyone. Imagine, though, 11 kids to feed on a daily?! They also had no television for pastime. At 18 years old, her mother died from cancer. Seconds before that happened, Rebecca swore to her mom that she will do everything she can to provide for their family. At that age, she aimed to be a CPA. She wanted to have her own business, but before doing so, she needed to know numbers. Life was hard enough for her when she was born, but she didn’t complain about it. She would rather find solutions than sulk. So look for solutions, she did.
Don’t focus on the challenges, but on where you’re going.
She had target dates for each of her goals. She aimed to work abroad as a janitress for 1 year and flew to Singapore to be a domestic helper. She wanted to reach high, so she aimed to be the best domestic helper. From her words, “there’s nothing wrong with that, right?” She took the extra mile in order to please her owners. Every month, she only had 1 day off from work. She took this day to study at an open university. Every night after working, she would do her homework from 11 pm to 1 am. For her, it was just a matter of choosing where you spend your time. While her fellow D.H. miss home and would rather go out during their days off, she would go to the university to pass her assignment and collect another month’s worth of homework.
I’d rather pay the price now and enjoy later when I retire.
As promised, she only worked in Singapore for 4 years (or less even), and flew to Canada to be an R.N. A registered nanny. She worked as an “R.N.” for 2 years. During that time, she also took a sideline job to earn and save more. She worked as a Saladmaster (stainless steel cookware) seller since she loves sales. For every $5,000 worth of sales she makes, she would get a 35% commission ($1,750). Every time, she would target the $5,000 sales and keep all her commissions for herself. She then started her recruiting agency but this soon closed down because of the recession. She then explored a different field and got interested in Finance.
In the early 2000s, she went back to the Philippines. In 2004, she founded her own company, Chalre Associates, a Management Consulting firm in the Philippines. Aside from being a CEO, she is currently an Inspirational Speaker for multinational companies.
Know your vision. You were born for a reason. Find that reason.
Rebecca’s story proves that there’s nothing you can’t achieve if you dream and do big. From a domestic helper who gets mocked in their hometown, she is now the CEO of her own company. She is only 51 years old but she is already ready to retire in 2 year’s time. She is that stable and independent; she can enjoy the rest of her life living comfortably because she started grinding at a young age. For example, from a nippa hut, she was able to transform their house into a 7-bedroom home.
Now her aim is to make the Philippines a first-world country by 2030, which is a really bold vision if you ask me.
From a domestic helper, I’m now selling the Philippines.
Oh, and yeah, she made the first move on her boyfriend. They’re now married with 2 kids.
PLENARY 2: MAKE IT BIG WITH SOMETHING SMALL
PIA GLADYS PEREY
Like Rebecca, Pia started from small beginnings. She didn’t know what she wanted to be when she was younger, but fate led her to where she is now. When she was little, she met an accident that made her vision-impaired, making her cross-eyed. She was clinically blind until last year, or I guess she had really bad vision, but not entirely blind. She required big, bold letters to read a text and she had difficulty recognizing people’s faces.
As a child, Pia didn’t grow up playing with other kids outside, but she spent her afternoons watching her grandma sew dresses. She was raised by her grandmother, so when the old woman passed away, she had her first real heartbreak. Her lola was her biggest inspiration and mentor, and with her passing away, she felt lost and confused as to where she was headed with her life. She was only 11 years old that time. As a good kid, she continued school and persevered. She studied philosophy and political science but turned out to be the country’s sought after designers because of her feminine and elegant gown creations. What changed? It was an ordinary day for her when she saw this billboard that said something about fashion design. On that day, she swore that she was going to be a fashion designer.
When you summon the universe, it will come to you.
She started small. She looked up designer brands in a magazine and called them one by one until one brand hired her as an intern. She didn’t know a single thing about fashion design then. Naturally, she had to start from scratch and deal with this very important question: “Are you willing to have less or nothing to gain more in the future, to see your dreams become reality?”
luck fate would have it, she was the first ever Filipina to be ever invited in the prestigious World Fashion Week in Paris last 2014. She first caused a stir in the fashion industry when she launched her label last 2008 at the IMG Mercedes Benz Australian Fashion Show Week. She attended a workshop to learn more about the craft but ended up getting a big break, which eventually boosted her career in the industry. She only had three sewing machines and enough pocket money with her during that time, but she was willing to learn. She even joked about giving up wine to stretch her budget that was a huge deal for her.
Wine is a big sacrifice. Maybe not at this age. But when you get there, you’ll know why.
She has already made dresses for Hollywood celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Demi Lovato, Aisha Tyler, and more. It was inspiring how hurdles didn’t stop her from going after what she wanted. There was a time that she was invited to an event, but didn’t have enough budget to make an entire line. She called designer brands to ask for sponsorships and one brand helped her out. Oftentimes, there’s really no harm in asking for help. We’re the only ones who fear rejection.
Pia’s Words Of Wisdom
- Never feel sorry for yourself.
- Do no be afraid to be different.
- Your disabilities and weaknesses do not define you.
- I can do what other great people can do.
Listen To Your Calling
- Your calling is deeply embedded in you.
- Do not let misfortune or sadness make you lose track of your purpose.
- You owe it to yourself to give it your best shot.
- There is pain, sacrifice, and hard work that goes with it.
- Know there is a big world; do not confine yourself.
- Be brave and adventurous.
- There is always more to learn.
- Challenge yourself.
Believe That You Can
- When scared or nervous, act like you are confident until you actually are.
- Find ways when there seems to be none.
- People still believe in you if you believe in yourself.
- Never be afraid to ask for help.
- Never give up.
Plant Good Seeds
- Share your talent and knowledge.
- Those you helped before will come and assist you the least that you expect it.
- Pay it forward.
- Difficult times are a good way to test if you have done good to others.
On Being A Woman:
She is the bearer of love and strength. And you can’t find that anywhere else. Don’t try to be a man. Embrace your femininity. Celebrate it.
PLENARY 3: BE THE DRIVING FORCE TO POSITIVE CHANGE
DANAH & STACY GUTIERREZ
I’ve known Danah and Stacy from years back, but we haven’t personally met until early last year. We don’t know each other that personally, although we’re friends on Facebook and I think Stacy follows me on Instagram as I follow her, too. Their blog started some years back and I didn’t make a big deal out of at first. Some days I would feel ugly and visit their blog for some body positive articles. They didn’t make a huge impact on my life then, but now I’m completely hooked on their advocacy. Maybe it’s safe to say that I’m a convert now? 🙂
Basically, they’re body positive wombmates (twins) that aim to make a difference in the the whole body acceptance community. No, they don’t promote obesity. In fact, they love naturally skinny women as much as they do naturally fat girls. And yes, they’re not afraid to use the F word. You’d think it was easy for them to start on their body acceptance movement since they’re both fat women so they could totally relate, but they dug deep and hard to come up with the core values they have now. Suffering from eating disorders when they were younger, the twins actually learned “body acceptance” the hard way. Now they’re leading other women into accepting and loving other females in all forms and shapes.
It’s good to have self-doubts if they’re going to push you out of your comfort zone.
If you look around, big bodies are never celebrated. It’s always the skinny girls who make it to magazine covers, billboards, commercials, and even online shop ads. Suffice to say, fat or big girls are never celebrated. And why not when fat girls clearly exist? It’s natural to have rolls, to have huge thighs, to not have abs. Why is it hard for us to accept that when we deal with that kind of body every day? When that body is ours? The point is to love your body anyway. As long as you’re treating it right, then you’re good. Because really, what others think of you and your body is none of your business. And how you want to dress yourself should be none of their business as well.
Nutrition is important. Your body needs it. I starved myself and for what? To be skinny?
The twins worked hard to get where they are now. There was a time that they questioned their advocacy’s purpose because they didn’t seem to be getting to their market clearly. But unlike then, everything is smooth sailing for them now. They don’t feel beautiful every single day, they have bad hair days, too, but the beauty of it is that they already know they’re worth (and it’s not on the weighing scale, by the way) that no negative comment towards them or their bodies can still faze them.
The more you expose yourself to a conversation, the more it becomes your reality. What kind of reality are you creating for yourself?
What lies are you believing about yourself?
Are you headed towards a positive path that will enable you to spark positive change?
Body shaming also boils down to your surroundings. It’s not always internal and in your head. How does your family perceive body acceptance or lack thereof? How do you talk about your body in front of your family? If you’re already a mother, how do you talk about your body in front of your kids? These are simple things that can make a huge impact on someone’s life, especially if these negative thoughts are embedded in the mind at a young age.
You can follow their Facebook page here: PLUMP.
Open your lives to correction. External impact is important. You have to have that desire to keep bettering yourself.
PLENARY 3: BE THE DRIVING FORCE TO POSITIVE CHANGE
Some of us have those last five pounds that we can’t seem to shake off. No matter what we do, it just won’t budge. For Jaymie, she found that running helped her rid of those last extra pounds. Working as a freelance graphic designer, she rarely went out to socialize. She juggled household chores, taking care of her kids, and working on a daily. She started running in 2007 when it wasn’t really a thing yet. In order to keep tabs on the next race, she had to manually look at the sports section of every newspaper and list down the schedules. She eventually got hooked on running that every time she would go out with her friends, she would talk nonstop about it. She sensed that her friends were getting tired of her stories, so she decided to put up a blog. She turned it into an online journal and also as a resource for future fun runs and races.
Every serious runner’s dream is to run a 42k marathon. So she chased after that dream. She joined a 30k-race to ready herself for the marathon, and who would have thought that reaching the finish line would change her life for good? Before she started running, she felt lost. She didn’t know it then, but looking at it now, she realized that she had no goals or dreams for herself. All of her aspirations were for her kids. She would seldom go out and confine herself in their house, working. Post-running, she turned into this superwoman who’s more creative, better at work, and a better person holistically. She also turned to running as a stress reliever.
In 2009, post 42k run, she knew she was hooked on running for life. But she felt she wasn’t enticing enough people to run with her blog. She wanted to go further, so she founded The Bull Runner, a web magazine that caters exclusively to runners nationwide. Why Bull? Just because she’s hardheaded like the animal. She was always stubborn with her ways. Doctor tells her to rest her knees due to injury? She would rest for a week and run again after that.
With The Bull Runner, she really aims to get people to try running. She even went as far as to hosting her own race. It was a surreal experience for all of them. Jaymie showed the video clip of the race and you could see the participants crying after finishing the race. You could really feel the genuine happiness and the sense of accomplishment.
Jaymie’s Recipe For Success
✔️ Follow your heart
✔️ Find a higher purpose
✔️ Friends! Community!
✔️ Face your fear
✔️ Have fun
VP Leni Robredo was also there as the keynote speaker. She spoke of their recent visits in the rural areas of the Philippines. I’ll be completely honest, I wasn’t paying much attention to her by this time because I was freezing from the room’s temperature and I was hungry from not having lunch that afternoon. LOL. Sorry, VP.
Overall, the summit was really inspiring. This 3,000-word blog post can attest to that. I always love hearing women speak of empowerment. In this crucial world that we live in, we need more grace, compassion, and uplifting.
Now here’s my question for you:
How do you empower women?