Inspiring Story of a Former Filipina Housemaid Turns Into a Successful CEO of Her Own International Company


We've heard it in fairy tales and other works of fiction—the orphan who became a princess, the outcast who became a king, and so on and so forth.

Here in the Philippines, rags-to-riches stories are for real especially with the number of hardworking Filipinos everywhere.

Meet 48-year-old Rebecca Bustamante, a fish seller turns into an Asia Pacific-wide management recruitment corporation owner.

Bustamante is the founder and president of Charlés Associates, a management recruitment partner to multinational corporations throughout the region. She is one of the most inspiring CEOs in our country and has never been ashamed to share the trials and triumphs she encountered before getting to the top.

Bustamante was very driven and wanted to give her family a better life. It’s what motivated her to work hard.

“We were so poor that I had to sell pandesal, iced candy and iced buko during my elementary years to help my mother earn money for my younger brothers and sisters. I also helped her sell fish in the public market.

“I was never ashamed to accept any job available to me because I had a goal to be rich, for myself and more importantly for my family,” she simply explained.

The now-CEO recalled her endless hours selling merienda items in Pangasinan. She credited that experience as she applied for a saleslady in a sari-sari store job in high school.

“I also worked as a helper for different families in our hometown. Like I said, I took on any job available,”

She insisted on going to college even if they couldn’t afford it. However, she was faced with a tougher challenge when her mother dies of an illness when she's 18 and the caring of her younger siblings was passed into her.

In 1986, when she was 19, Bustamante began working as a domestic helper in Singapore. During her three-year-contract, she was able to find a free time and decided to study Accounting at the Open University of Singapore Institute of Management. She finished the undergraduate program without her employers knowing it.

“I did my studying during the evenings when everyone was asleep. From 11 in the evening to 1 a.m. [I would] start my job at 5 a.m. I was only given a day off. That one day off I would go to school to talk to my professors and get my whole month's worth of homework,” she said. “It was very hard, but I was determined to pursue my education to help my brothers and sisters back home.”

To earn more money for her family, Bustamante then decided to work as a nanny in Canada for almost four years while pursuing her graduate studies in Accounting and Marketing at Ryerson University in Ontario.

Canada was full of opportunities, according to the superwoman. She managed her time to set her goals. Besides her job and school work, she also sold pots and pans whenever she found the time.

With her undergraduate degree and a secured Canadian citizenship, she applied to different companies including cosmetic corporation Mary Kay where she became senior sales director. She gathered all her knowledge to put up her own recruitment company in Canada called High-Q Personnel.

When Mary Kay Cosmetics was to be put up in the Philippines, she readily accepted the offer with her husband’s guidance.

In 2005, she and her husband decided to put up their own company. Chalré now has operations in the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Canada, doing the screening for senior managerial and directorial positions for multinational companies

Despite her success, she never stopped thinking of way to help her fellow “kababayans”. She believes that if every Filipino takes on these attitudes then the Philippine economy will indeed become the largest in South East Asia by 2050.

“Everyone can be a CEO,” Bustamante guaranteed. “Go ahead and dream but work for it. Because it doesn’t matter where you came from; the important thing is where you want to go.”

Source: Rebecca Bustamante