For the young Rebecca Bustamante, life was grim.
As a child, she suffered bullying at school, was raped by a neighbor and was molested by her own father.
Her childhood was also filled with hardships due to poverty. Her father had no stable job and her mother sold fish at the market. So at a young age, she was already thinking of ways to put food on the table. She sold food like pandesal and ice buko, and helped her mother sell fish in the market.
Despite hardships, she recounts enjoying making a living over playing or whatever children her age were doing. “I think I loved sales even as a kid,” she tells GMA News.
Providing Free Work in Exchange for Education
Like many young women in the country, Bustamante became a helper without pay in exchange for education. Instead of giving her a salary, her employer shouldered the cost of her schooling. Wanting to finish her studies, she agreed to such an arrangement.
At 18, Rebecca’s mother died, shifting the responsibility of sending her younger brothers and sisters through school to her. She was forced to leave her hometown in Pangasinan and moved to Bataan to work in a factory.
A year later, she decided to take a chance at becoming a domestic helper in Singapore.
Barely Enough Time to Sleep
Despite being mistreated, Bustamante endured three and a half years as a domestic helper in a foreign country.
She took advantage of the opportunities in Singapore to further her studies and complete an undergraduate program. She studied Accounting at the Open University of Singapore Institute of Management without her employers knowing it.
As her employers slept, she studied from 11:00 in the evening to 1:00 in the morning. She had little rest as she had to start her job at 5:00 am. She was only given one day off, and she spent this day going to her professors and getting a whole month’s worth of homework.
After completing her degree, she decided to work as a nanny in Canada to earn more money for her family.
The Nanny Pursuing Graduate Studies
Bustamante worked for almost four years as a nanny while pursuing graduate studies at Ryerson University in Ontario.
After completing her degree, Bustamante started making a name for herself as a marketing executive. Eventually, she founded her own recruitment firm High-Q Personnel.
It was also in Canada where Bustamante found the love of her life, who also eventually became her partner in business. The couple decided to raise their family in the Philippines, and she came back to our country armed with a vision.
An Inspiration to Filipinos
In the Philippines, Rebecca worked for Mary Kay Cosmetics and the Canadian Embassy at first. But a few years after moving back to the country, the couple decided to put up their own company Chalre Associates. This multinational recruitment firm fills senior management executive positions in Southeast Asia and Canada. As the founder and president of the recruitment firm, Rebecca deals with multinational companies and coordinates with business leaders and economists for lectures and seminars.
But her main focus is no longer her firm. She is now putting her heart and soul into Asia CEO Awards, a nonprofit organization founded to recognize amazing leaders in the Asia Pacific. The couple hopes that through sharing the stories of how CEOs struggled to get to the top, people will be inspired.
Despite being featured in magazines and news outlets across Asia, Rebecca remains humble.
“I don’t consider myself successful. I still feel the same,” Rebecca tells Northbound Philippines. Looking back at her life, she does not regret anything and believes that everything she’s been through was necessary to make her what she is today.
She is also not ashamed to tell her story.
She wants people, particularly women, who have a similar story to tell themselves that they could surpass childhood traumas “and move in with their lives.”
She also has a very strong faith, and says that everything was possible with God’s help.