Wife, Mother, Grandmother, General Contractor, Remodeler, Age-in Place Specialist
Lead Like a Woman
“Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to
look fear in the face. You were able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can
take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
I first came to America when I was 16 years old during summer break to visit my brother and his family. At that time, I just graduated from high-school and just registered for classes at the College of Architecture at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. When I was in junior high, my parents decided to build a home in the suburbs as it gave us more land than the congested districts of Manila. I was fascinated by the architectural drawings and seeing them come to life. Every weekend, my father Valentino drove us there to see the progress and I remember the excitement to see what was completed that week. In one of those visits, I got to talk to the architect and expressed my interest in the construction industry. He was very eager to answer my questions and encouraged me to pursue it. Being the youngest in the family, I was my father’s favorite so within reason, he lets me do what I wanted to do. Despite his concerns that it may be hard for a woman to be successful in this field, he reluctantly agreed. There were many, many long nights doing drawings as there was no AutoCad during that time. Everything is drawn by hand. Those long nights took a toll on my health and I started having really bad migraines that I ended up in the hospital. My dad, because of his concern for my health and his previous doubt on the future of me being an architect, told me to pursue a business management degree instead. It was a tough pill to swallow, but I followed.
I looked up to my father a lot. He was a great man and he instilled in us the value of hard work and the importance of having integrity in everything we do. Despite his lack of higher education, he started a business when he was just 17 years old. He was honest, fair, and his kindness almost saintly. He was a servant-leader who will never ask his employees what he would not do himself. He told us that hard work may not lead to enormous wealth, but it will always keep our stomachs full and a roof on top of our heads. This man through hard work, perseverance, and savvy business skills, was able to send all of us to college and gave us a comfortable life. At the age of 56, my father’s health started to decline because of diabetes. He started to feel pain on his legs, but he kept working and never missed a day of work. When he turned 58, he and my mom sat me down for a serious conversation. They wanted me to live with my brother in Maryland. At that time, I did not realize how serious his health problems were. With a heavy heart, I left the Philippines in February of 1989 and came to America to stay. My hero passed away January 2, 1991.
In 1990, I got married to my husband who was a property manager. As fate would have it, Cal was very entrepreneurial himself and in 1991, we started a flooring business serving the tri-state areas of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. For many years, we served property management companies in their turnovers, preparing units for new tenants. When 9/11 struck, business took a big downturn which forced us to move to Arizona with our two daughters, working for custom builders. Just as we thought we are on our way back to becoming a profitable business once more, the housing market crashed. Instead of heading back east, we decided to give California a shot in 2009. We have always dreamt of living in California.
Being a female in this industry has its challenges. Whenever I feel disheartened, I think of my father and I can almost hear his voice telling me that hard work and perseverance pay off. Instead of thinking of my gender as an obstacle to success in this field, I used the traits that I have as a woman such as attention to detail, multi-tasking, organization, problem-solving, active-listening, resilience, and compassion, reflect in each and every project I take on. These traits proved to be very useful and effective as a general contractor and remodeler. They have allowed me to have a balance between leading my team and providing excellent results and unmatched customer service for my clients. The resilient trait was not from my father, it was my mother Lydia who gave me that. She was the strongest woman I have ever known. Though she did not get to participate in running the business, she was my father’s adviser and biggest supporter. In 1997, she finally agreed to come to America and help me raise my daughters as I pursue my dream. She did for me what she did for my dad, giving me advise and supporting me in every way she can. In 2014, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and a year later with stage 4 kidney disease, the deterioration in her physical health led me to learn more about Age-in-Place Remodeling. It was not Alzheimer’s nor her kidney disease that caused her death. It was a fall at the rehab facility she was in. From that day forward, I promised myself that I will learn as much as I can and do everything that I can to use my talents in creating safe environments for the elderly. I am grateful to have had the parents I had, they were my role models and they gave me more than just life. I hope that one day I can become an inspiration to young girls to go for what they want in life. I encourage them to pursue a career that they love. When you love what you do, it is not work. It drives you to wake up each and every day with a purpose to make a difference.