I grew up in a chaotic environment. It can be difficult to talk about sometimes, but I think it's always helpful. I come from a family of 11 kids; I’m lucky number 7. I grew up with 7 of them…plus, two aunties, a grandma, two dogs, four cats and a huge desert tortoise. I lost my mom when I was four and found that I had to grow up really quickly.
My dad immigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines. When he was 12 years old, the Japanese invaded the Philippines. His brothers became guerrillas, fighting alongside the US soldiers. Losing brothers and sisters in the war in front of his eyes, it’s hard to image the horrors of war that he experienced. I think his determination to become a doctor was fueled by the things he saw.
Shortly after he graduated medical school, he was recruited to Minneapolis and eventually became a country doctor in rural South Dakota, treating everything from sore throats to delivering babies. As a doctor, he was set. We were set. In a small town, having boats, cars, snowmobiles, and a custom home, you feel pretty good. Until, one day you don’t.
My dad also liked to gamble. That, and he never asked a patient to pay who couldn’t. Chickens, watermelons and baked goods were just fine. After some tough losses in Vegas, and with a shrinking small-town clinic barely making money, he was left with few choices.
Being the survivor, he always was, at the age of 47, my dad joined the Navy. We were relocated. All we had left were a few cars, our clothes and some furniture. We were stationed on base. I went from living in this amazing house to living in the laundry pantry. I was eight years old. We built bunk beds in this pantry and just kind of survived. Lots of Mac n' Cheese and Spaghetti. We eventually built a screened in porch on the patio and slept there after the navy put a stop at us sleeping in closets. I remember getting my own room, with my own bed at 16. It was all mine!
I learned a lot from that experience. I learned from my father to NEVER give up. Your family always comes first.
Going from having everything to not making ends meet, has left me spending a lot of time looking for security. When I came to OTA, I was looking for a career, but found a family. I also found a purpose. My purpose to help people never wonder if they’ll be okay tomorrow. To never feel the fear that tomorrow it will all be gone. The good of what I do here in helping people find that security drives who I am.
I'm a researcher; insights and marketing strategy. For me, it's all about understanding psychology. Growing up the way I did, you learn a lot about how different people behave, what motivates them, how to connect with them, and how to listen. Imagine 8 kids with one shower trying to get ready for school.
I'm also a surfer. I'm a musician. I'm a cook. I'm a triathlete. I did the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon just last year. My whole life is a story. It really is. It's crazy. But it is also an example of overcoming things and using these challenges. I appreciate what it's helped me become. I use my experience to help other people find ways to get themselves out of holes and feel better about the things that they're doing and appreciate the things that they have.