Turning a nightmare into ‘dream come true’


MANILA — Climbing the corporate ladder may require one to shed sweat and tears. For one leader, Rebecca Bustamante, she had to deal with nightmares, but has always been determined to reach the top.

The Philippine News Agency (PNA) sat down with Bustamante to find out how the former overseas Filipino worker (OFW) became a boss and a respected company president.

The 52-year old Bustamante had been through a lot. As a child, she was raped by a neighbor and even molested by her father. She was also bullied in school.

With tears welling up in her eyes, she said it is but okay to tell others about her past.

“It’s fine with me. I’m okay now,” she uttered, indicating that she had moved on from what happened. She said telling her story could inspire other women who had the same experience.

“Others prefer to keep quiet. I want to inspire them. If they see my status now, then they could tell themselves they could also surpass that and move on with their lives,” she said.

Life was hard for the young Bustamante. Her mother died when she was a teenager. At 19, she had to shoulder the responsibilities of paying their bills and sending her siblings to school by working as a domestic helper (DH) in Singapore. Rebecca is 7th among 11 children.

“I was mistreated as a DH. Imagine I was 19, and I had to carry the burden of thinking if the family had food to eat, if they are okay back home,” she said.

MAID WHO MADE IT. Asia CEO Awards President Rebecca Bustamante was an OFW for three and a half years in Singapore, and two years in Canada. It was during those times that she had a vision — that she must do something to make a change, make a difference. 

She was an OFW for three and a half years in Singapore, and two years in Canada.

It was during those times that she had a vision — that she must do something to make a change, make a difference.

“I told myself I shouldn’t be like this forever. I shouldn’t be dealing with poverty, hardships forever,” she said.

Bustamante admitted, however, that she had no regrets about her past. “I believe that everything I’ve been through was necessary to make me who I am today,” she remarked.

The former OFW shared that she used her spare time in Singapore to improve herself and gain more knowledge. She used her days off to go to school, got part-time jobs, read lots of books, attended some trainings, and also studied personality development.

“I look at things differently. I know that it was through Him (God) that I survived,” emphasized Bustamante.

“I came back (to the Philippines) armed with a vision,” she continued.

Bustamante and her husband, Richard Mills had a business, which she described as a “headhunter for multinational firms”. “But we’re not focused on that now. Our focus now is the Asia CEO Awards,” she said.

She is the president of the Asia CEO Awards, a business awards that recognizes leaders in the country and across the Asian region. She’s also the founder of the Chalre Associates, which focuses its Senior Manager Staffing services in emerging countries of the Asia Pacific.

The Asia CEO Awards was conceptualized by the couple to also recognize the struggles of CEOs (Chief Executive Officers).

“It’s for the people at the bottom to be inspired. I want them to realize that these CEOs were also at the bottom before, and have struggled to slowly climb the ladder,” she said.

Bustamante explained that having the Asia CEO awards will enable other employees to hear the bosses’ success stories. “I want the CEOs to serve as an example,” she added.

THE WINNER. Chief executive Rebecca Bustamante explained that having the Asia CEO awards would enable other employees to hear the bosses’ success stories.

A good leader

For Bustamante, these are some of the qualities of a good leader:

1. He or she must be a good example to colleagues.

“Show your people what you expect. Don’t just tell them; you must be able to show and lead them,” she remarked.

2. He or she should have a heart.

“He should have a heart for the people, but must be also tough,” she said, adding that being tough is actually hard because the expectations become too high.

3. He or she should show colleagues that they are just equal.

“Let them know that they’re equal, and that they are together in the same goal or project.”

To be on top of the corporate ladder, Bustamante said one should always ask himself or herself what can he or she contribute to the company.

“Isn’t it during job interviews, people often ask how much is the salary, etc? The question should be ‘what can I contribute to this company?” she commented, emphasizing that it’s not about what the person could get from the company, but the things that he or she can do for the company.

To reach the top, Bustamante shared it’s also important that you love what you do, and to be mindful of what is right.

The mother of two boys also cited that good leaders know the value of time management and a good relationship with their colleagues.

HUMBLE LEADER. Former OFW turned CEO Rebecca Bustamante poses for a photo with PNA senior reporter Ma. Cristina Arayata after the interview Photo by Ma. Cristina Arayata

The humble leader 

“I don’t consider myself successful. I still feel the same,” emphasized Bustamante. “I’m not smart. I’m just normal. Wherever I am now, I have worked for this,” she added.

She said her experiences were the best teachers, and made her discover that she could fight battles.

“He (God) led me to do the right things. He led me to where I am now,” Bustamante said. Ma. Cristina Arayata/PNA-northboundasia.com