Success Stories

Finding Life’s Purpose under the Bridge


Finding Life’s Purpose under the Bridge
How extreme poverty taught this successful entrepreneur to reach for his dreams
By Bonnie C. Apelado Jr. as told to Excel V. Dyquiangco

Living under the bridge in Pildera 2 in Pasay City near the NAIA airport was what I called home when I was growing up. Even when I really wanted to escape this sad reality, there was nothing more I could do. My parents weren’t earning so much – my father sold coffee in a market in Baclaran and my mother was a street sweeper.

I, on the other hand, just decided to help them out by doing various jobs, hoping that we all could get out of this situation eventually. Selling newspapers, cigarettes, balut, and palamig in the streets and washing cars and being a sidecar boy were the things that provided for me allowance in school.

I would also spend time at the airport to ask foreigners or locals arriving in Manila for money. This was the easiest job I had so far but also the most dangerous one, since when you get caught by the police, you could be assaulted and end up in jail. Thankfully, that never happened to me. And when I realized how grave this situation could be, I tended to my other “work” – selling balut in the evening while studying during the day.

At that time, I had thought life was all about living under the bridge. Life was about a series of events that would take you out of bed, eat a little, study and work, and then go back to our little house and sleep – activities that I considered routine. I had thought that life was all about waking up early each day to do what you are supposed to do. It wasn’t until I was in fourth year high school that I found significance and meaning.

A group of young people visited us in our school, Pasay City West High School, and they gathered us together during break time to conduct a Bible study. The leader of that Bible study taught us about Christ and our dreams, and they told us that with God, you can change and that your life can have meaning and direction. It was there when it all started – I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior and I become a member of that church. I learned how to dream and to have an ambition. It’s indeed true that once you put your mind to something and when you work hard for your goals, your life can change. I never once gave up on my life and my dreams.

A steady rise
I juggled work and school back in 1991 – as a janitor for Manila Refrigeration and Airconditioning System in the morning and as a college student at night. The company saw how efficient and hardworking I was so they promoted me to become one of their sales representatives. Imagine that – from a janitor to a sales rep!
At that time, there was a huge demand for airconditioning systems and the company eventually became a major player in the industry. I even became one of their best sales representatives.

After working for 11 years with the company, I began thinking of putting up my own business. During that time, the company wasn’t doing too well already, so my wife and I decided to just resign from our jobs to start our own small store. But the problem was we didn’t have enough capital, aside from the SSS loan and the commission I got as a sales rep. In the end, our starting capital was P25,000 – the P15,000 went to the rent and the down payment of the space. And we bought goods to sell (novelty and gift items) with the rest of the money.

At the onset, the shop was doing well but after the Christmas season had passed, we were having a hard time earning profits. During that time, the cell phone repair business was also booming so my brother-in-law and I decided to enroll for training.

This was the start of everything. We renovated the gift store and transformed it into a cell phone repair shop, where we also sold cell phone accessories. Soon our business expanded, and we became famous here in our place in Malibay. When this happened, I began to realize that having my business is not just about selling stuff and goods – it’s about opening your doors to new opportunities and challenges.

The dreams are now turning into reality – little by little. Now we have five stores. We don’t live under the bridge anymore. Instead, we were able to buy a house in Cavite, a car, and three motorcycles. These are all the fruit of perseverance, hard work, and determination.

Good working relationship
It’s not easy to start a new business – all kinds of fears and apprehensions envelope me. Fear such as “what if the business goes bankrupt” or “what if it won’t sell” has hounded me. But by God’s grace, we overcame these fears by thinking positively and working productively.

I take pride in a good working relationship with my customers, and this was what probably saved me from what I consider my greatest challenge yet. Two kids broke into our store and took hold of almost everything – cell phones, MP4s, and PSP units that were quite expensive. When my customers heard of what we went through, they were even the ones who investigated the burglary. In the end, they were able to corner the two kids. And everything that was stolen from us was also returned. Now, I’m teaching the kids the Word of God, changing their lives in the process.

I no longer live under the bridge anymore but this was a humbling experience that has molded my character and changed my perspectives in life.

MY Money Lessons
From living under the bridge to become a successful entrepreneur, Bonnie Apelado has learned some hard life lessons along the way:

1. Your past is not an excuse. I have learned that in life, you can change your destiny no matter how unpleasant it is. Poverty is never an excuse for a life that is less fulfilling. When you dream and then you work hard for it, you will eventually succeed. I attributed all of these happenings in my life to God and to His Word who serves as my guide and ultimate encouragement.

2. Successful people set goals and stick to them no matter what. I have also learned that business people who succeed in life share the following – dreams and goals, determination, courage, discipline, and faith.

3. Give back and share your blessings. My mission in life is simple and that in the success of my business, let God, my family and my relatives be the beneficiaries. My vision is that to enjoy more of God’s blessings and to become a more successful entrepreneur and always enjoy serving Our Creator.

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