Do you know how Chef Sandy Daza‘s restaurant, Wooden Spoon, got its name? Straight from this Cornell graduate (in Hotel and Restaurant Administration)/ tv host / over-two-decade-long PDI food columnist/ restaurateur/ cookbook author/ food consultant whom you might consider as having Philippine royal culinary pedigree, he explained, “When I had my cooking show, everytime I talked to the audience, I would be holding my favorite kitchen gadget na pang-gisa— a wooden spoon— so that became like my security blanket.”
The unexpected self-deprecating revelation from the veteran chef was quite amusing as I thought he would be high-nosed. His mom, renowned Philippine pioneer culinary legend, the late Nora Daza, was undeniably proud of her son. Here is an excerpt of her introduction of him for his book, Cooking with Sandy Daza:
“My son, Sandy, is undoubtedly the one who inherited the gastronomic savvy people associate most with the Dazas. He has an uncanny ability of appreciating food’s nuances and subtleties. If food were music, he must have perfect pitch. It’s talent.”
“I don’t like attention. I don’t mind if they don’t pay any attention to me,” quips Chef Sandy. Unfortunately, how can he help it? His work record is worthy of attention.
In his food column and tv show, he’s the one asking the questions so it was a treat to be able to ask him the questions for this chat that he is willing to share with Butterflyinthespring readers. If you like food and cooking, you will want to read his tips!
SD: My first job was as cashier at our French restaurant, Au Bon Vivant. I was fired by the manager. She made my mom choose between her and me. So, out I went. [Laughter from me] Had an argument with her… Then, I also became a waiter in our Philippine Restaurant in Paris, Aux Iles Philippines. I watched our cook until he finished the dish. I didn’t notice that I was learning. One day, the cook left so I had to take over. The customers didn’t notice the difference in taste so that boosted my confidence. Because of that, the kitchen philosophy I use in my cooking show is that “A good simple confidence-building recipe is key for a new cook.” A recipe that’s too complicated or doesn’t taste good can make or break a person’s morale. If it’s good and they tell you they like it, gaganahan ka and then you will cook more. My assumption is that everyone watching is an amateur cook so my recipes are very simple, ingredients easy to find, but most of all, masarap.
BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS): How much of what you do now was impacted by your mom?
SD: I didn’t realize it then but my mom exposed us to good food. When we had that French restaurant, it was everyday fare for me. We had Michelin-star French chefs at that time—This is 1965—I didn’t realize that my standard was up na pala so everytime I’d go to other restaurants… it was not very easy to please my palate because what I was exposed to became the standard. Some people try some food and say it’s so masarap but when you try it, you’re [like]… hmmm? …because of your exposure.
BITS: Nakakatakot ka pala pakainin.
SD: Hindi, not at all. Madali akong pakainin. Baka naman yung kinakainan ko hindi mo kayang kainan. Mandidiri ka. I can eat at the remote areas… I’ll try anything.
BITS: Did everyone in your family get the “cooking gene”?
SD: My older brother, Bong, didn’t but the rest of us—my three sisters after me and I, yes. My brother just passed away about month ago.
BITS: I’m so sorry. My condolences…
SD: Thank you. My sister, Stella, from Vancouver and I were praying. She asked God for a sign that my brother would be okay [that he would go to heaven]. My sister-in-law, Gloria, prayed and then the doctor said, “Can I also pray?” The doctor prayed with Bong and said “I know that the last sense to go is the hearing so I know you’re hearing me… so I’d like you to pray with me, ‘In the name of Jesus, I open my heart…'”— the usual acceptance prayer. After that prayer, Stella found out the doctor was from CCF. Stella said this was the sign she asked for…that my brother accepted [God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus].
BITS: Oh that is so comforting! How providential that the doctor was there and shared just before time was up. Praise God for His mercy. Photofinish…
SD: Photofinish talaga.
BITS: It would seem like you were destined to be in the restaurant business.
SD: When I was young, my parents put up a restaurant called, Au Bon Vivant. It was the first French restaurant in Manila at that time. I think it was because of that business that my parents separated and I didn’t want that to happen to me so I when I got into the food business, I chose fast food. That did quite well but now that my kids are bigger, I could already do sit-down restaurants.
BITS: Oh, so sorry to hear that. Do you mind if I ask why you think the restaurant business caused your parents’ separation ?
SD: …because it’s quality time away from the family. Restaurant operations peak during family quality time—lunch and dinner. It’s just my own analysis.
Your mom is like a legend and everyone in your family has … their own sort of dominion, where do you get your identity from?
SD: Growing up, I felt my mom favoured my older brother so I guess in that way I had some insecurity about that but when I became a Christian, that totally changed. I am no longer here to please my mom or the people around me but I’m here to please God.
BITS: I see. You’ve been a Christian for a while… but when you are talked about that doesn’t seem to come across. Is that deliberate? I was actually surprised to run into you at CCF yesterday.
SD: I don’t want to force the issue of, “Praaaise the Lawrd!!!” and all that. To me, if there’s an opportunity, I share but if they’re not open, I’d rather back off because to me, instead of attracting more people, you turn them off.
But I know that everything I do is from God. I’ll tell you why. I just love to eat. I started out as a swimmer and a basketball player. Because of these athletics, I ate a lot. How can you think you’re not blessed when your job is writing for a newspaper getting invited to different restaurants. If there’s a new dish, they send it to the house for me to try. If I like it, I write about it. If not, I don’t say anything. Number 2, I’m in the restaurant business; all I do is eat everywhere, pick up new ideas, and create the dishes. I’m not working. I’m playing. I have a food show, the concept of the show started when I was working at a Philippine restaurant in Paris. Everytime the French enjoyed our Filipino food, I was so proud. So that started my passion for Philippine food. Now my show is called Foodprints, we go to provinces and tell you, when you’re in Bulacan this is where you go… because if you eat just anywhere, you might say, “Pangit ng food sa Bulacan… or Pampanga.” But if we tell you where the good food is, you will say, “Sarap ng food sa Bulacan a… Iloilo, Davao…” Once we cover the whole country, we want the viewers to say, “Ang sarap ng food in the Philippines!” How else can something like that not be a gift from God? You’re eating and just sharing. To me, that’s not work. It’s play. It’s a game.
BITS: You’re right about your work being so suitably fit for you like a gift from God. How did you come to know the Lord better?
SD: I’ve been a Christian since 1986 but sometimes success makes you focus somewhere else. God has always been in my life but sometimes you hope to do things and end up with different results. I know that God has different plans for me. Before 1986, I was President of a tomato paste plant doing very well but when The Revolution happened, that was sequestered from us. I was associated with the son of Marcos; Bong is a good friend of mine. To relax from all the stress, I went to Paris. We had a Philippine restaurant in Paris that a friend bought so I worked there. Someone invited me to a bible study there so I went. The very first verse I learned was “Cast all your worries on Me and I will give you rest.” At that time, I was short on cash so I prayed. Out of the blue, the next day, one of the tenants of my mom in her apartments, called and said, “Hey, your mom called me and told me to give you the rent.”
BITS: Wow how immediate!
SD: Yes, so to me, ang galing nitong bible study so when I went back to Manila, I looked for a bible study and found CCF at AIM.
BITS: When did you feel like you were kind of set on God?
SD: It’s hard to pinpoint a particular time but I remember always looking forward every Wednesday evening to bible studies in AIM. I brought my own bible. I remember thinking that no matter how good the speaker is, if he can’t point out to me in the bible what he’s saying, I will not believe. Part of the story is when my wife and our four kids and I moved to (Vancouver ) Canada for ten years up to 2010. I intended to put up a cooking show to make a name first and then put up a restaurant. That’s what I did but the restaurant failed. I lost confidence. There I was, having a difficult time whereas in Manila, boss tayo… It was a very humbling experience. God was teaching me something.
BITS: What do you think God was teaching you?
- SD: 1- If I fall into sin, there’s something wrong with my relationship with God.
- 2- You can plan and have an ambition, but most of the time, His plans are better than yours. Sometimes, He gives you results that are way beyond your imagination, parang, “Wow, that’s possible pala!”
- 3- I know God sees everything.
BITS: Your relationship with God deepened……..
Is promoting Philippine food on your show related to Nina [Puyat, Sandy’s sister]’s work at the Philipine Culinary Heritage Movement?
SD: No, that’s different. Personally, I find that there’s so much that even we, Filipinos, don’t know exist in our country. My philosophy always in feeding people is to surprise the diner. Everybody likes a surprise… Familiar flavors, unusual dishes. Unusual is surprise, like Dinakdak from Ilocos. Sarap, You’re not familiar with it but the flavor is Filipino pa rin from another region done their way depending on what ingredients surround them.
BITS: Sustainable food using local ingredients, promoting Filipino food producers, and revving up local economy. Win-win!
SD: Another thing is like yesterday, the people at the concession food stands let me try their dishes, nakakatuwa naman. But the drawback there is you gain weight.
BITS: Oh that’s why you have to play [badminton]… When you came back to Manila from Canada, that’s when you opened Wooden Spoon?
SD: Yes, we started off with Wooden Spoon in Katipunan to test the market and Boom! It did very well. We were named Filipino Restaurant of the Year at that time. Then we branched out to Rockwell and all that.
BITS: What a sweet homecoming! Congratulations! As far as business is concerned, did you specifically try to do things God’s way?
SD: Oh yes, at Wooden Spoon, we stick to paying the proper taxes. We don’t cheat. Straight business. The BIR can come and I have no problems with that.
BITS: When you travel, you’re still continuously learning?
SD: For sure. I’m picking up ideas. When someone tells me there’s a good restaurant in Banaue, I’ll drive there alone just to eat because I want to surprise myself and if I like it, then I write about it.
BITS: Can you give a tip or two for budding restaurateurs?
SD: You have to please a lot of people. Because you’re giving a standard when you give them food that’s good, you’re trying to improve the standard of the palate of whoever is eating it. We chefs say that our weapon or talent is our palate so we have to keep on improving this so that when you make your own food, you will make one either as good as, if not better than the best one you’ve tasted. Like if you want to create pesto, try pesto from many places and when you find the best one, try to create as good as, if not better than that. Your palate doesn’t stop improving. So try everything, eat everywhere.
There you have it! Food imprints from Chef Sandy Daza, the inspirational kind my favorite!
Thank You Lord for Your work in Chef Sandy’s work as well as in his entire life. May You protect and prosper, him, his wife, and children, his work, and all their endeavors. May You continue to go before him, give him Your wisdom and discernment. May You give Him Your joy and strength to share his multiple talents to the world as You continue to let him be salt and a sharer of bread in the marketplace in Jesus’s name and for His glory amen.
Beth Young’s main business was as canteen concessionaire at a local school. One day two months ago, she found out that her contract would not be renewed. She was devastated because that was her bread and butter and as a single mom raising a university daughter and a son in the process of being a doctor, she was counting on the continuity of this business. If you have ever been in this situation, this story will encourage you. Here is my chat with Beth:
BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS): You were so sad…
BETH YOUNG (BY): I wasn’t sad. I was devastated. It was a very difficult time. I was also worried about my son’s board exams. A few weeks after I found out that my contract for canteen concession would not be renewed, the news was reversed and I was told I could continue running my food stand but when we did open, our sales were so low.
In my distress, after much tears and prayers, one day, I decided to share my prayer request with my [small] group. The ladies in the small group started praying for me.
One morning soon after that, during my devotion time, I wrote on my journal, “Lord, I’m really overwhelmed. I have three things that I feel I’m almost not able to take on. There was something on Number 1. Number 2, I’m waiting for my son’s medical school to get the permit in order for him to take the Medical Board Exam. Number 3, my work, my source of income is in trouble.”
I remembered that during our fasting, we were taking up the Lord’s Prayer and I recalled that we can ask for provision for our daily needs, so that’s exactly what I prayed for.
On my way out, I told my son that I was overwhelmed because of those three things. My son gave me his full attention. He said, “You know, Mommy, don’t worry. God will figure it out.”
By lunchtime, one of the ladies from my small group who heard my prayer request called me. She so happened to be aware that a pastor and his wife were supposed to operate a concessionaire food stall in CCF Tiendesitas but because of some sudden, unexpected circumstances beyond their control, they could no longer do so. The available stall that is ready to be run suddenly has no one to take care of it. She then asked me if I would like to prayerfully consider operating this spot that has been prepared and ready to run but nobody to run it. Can I run it? Would I be willing?
I said, “YYYYYYEEEEESSSSSS!!!!!!” When I got the call, I could not believe it. I really cried. Immediately, I knew… it was an answered prayer.
By 2:00pm, I heard from my son’s school that they were able to get a permit for him to take the board exam. I was so amazed. Again overwhelmed, but this time not with distress but overwhelmed with joy and thanksgiving.
My friend called me on a Wednesday. In eight days, I was able to operate Master Zhongshan. One Sunday’s sales here is equivalent to six days’ sales at the school concessionaire stand.
BITS: Wow! What a blessing plus extra time for you! With little time, you were actually equipped and being prepared for this!
BY: No one is really prepared enough! It was really God who enabled and orchestrated everything to work out. It’s quite a production to open this but everything just flowed. The menu we have now are the food people usually order from us. The people I have now have the experience to run the stall.
BITS: What do you think God is showing you?
BY: God is showing me that He has His own timing in sending His blessings and sending trials. With each, as long as we hold on to His hands, I think that He never fails to sustain us. My new store is a surprise blessing.
BITS: If Jesus were in front of you, what would you tell Him now?
BY: Of course I will say, “Thank You! I didn’t understand before but now I do. Everything He promised talaga came true.
BITS: What can you share with someone who may right now be devastated?
BY: If we stop clinging to things that we thought are important, then God will take care of all our needs. I was trying to hold on to my work, my assurance that my son will get through his board exam, and the Number One item on my prayer list, I want to take control. But I have to let go so that God can pour His blessings. Also, there’s a verse that I wanted to share, Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Thank You so much, Lord for Your sweet, timely answer to Beth’s prayer! Thank You for delivering her from her distress, and for showing her that You will always sustain her! Thank You for this encouragement for other people in similar circumstances. If anyone reading this is in this very same boat right now, may You increase the faith of this person and show her in the way that she can understand who You are and may she come to know Your unchanging, faithful character. And Lord, we have not forgotten the Prayer Request Number One and we are sure You haven’t either. Thank You in advance for how You will glorify Yourself in Your perfect time through how You will answer that. We praise You already in Jesus’s name amen.
Have you ever been stuck in Metro Manila roads at the onset of a holiday weekend traffic jam when a sudden heavy downpour came? Or have you ever just sat in traffic wishing you could use transit time to accomplish your task list right then and there?
Victor “Atoy” Llave of Atoy Customs thought you might. He to You-in-Traffic could be like an anesthesiologist to a woman in natural childbirth on her last stage of labor!
Atoy’s business, formerly named A-Toy Bodykits, which started in 1996, customizes interior design for any type of car; they make mobile or stationary food trucks, activation trucks, mobile truck lounges among other things. Atoy Customs has become a leader in the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) industry and has won many coveted awards at the annual Transport Shows. Oh, just about a dozen successive Best in Bodykits at one point! When their office was asked for a photo of any award they received, his wife, Aileen, came to reply that they get so many awards, that they weren’t able to keep track and catalogue them! (That many!) A treasure hunt did yield some photos.
A peek into their Facebook page is like leafing through a car magazine and celebrity magazine in one. The roster of their clients includes PLDT, Wyeth, Smart, Sun Cellular, Tanduay, Goldilocks; Kris Aquino, Manny Pacquiao, Kim Chiu, Gerald Anderson, Coco Martin, Julia Barreto, Julia Montes, Iya Villania, Lorna Tolentino, Sylvia Sanchez, ZsaZsa Padilla, and on and on…
I ran into Atoy the other day and he was willing to share his story with Butterflyinthespring readers. (Thank you Atoy!) Sharing that chat with you:
BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS) : Hi Atoy, How did you get started in your business?
ATOY L. LLAVE (ALL): Well, it’s all about passion. Hilig ko lang sa kotse; after that, nag-evolve… I became a customiser. We mainly customise cars now.
BITS: I see your online posts with so many celebrities. Why do celebrities flock to you?
ALL: Nowadays, yung mga artista, ‘pag nasa taping sila, all day, minsan overnight, or extended hours with some rest break after their take, wala silang sariling space talaga. One tent sama-sama lahat. Di ba sometimes pag gising mo, may mood ka na hindi maganda? Yung iba gusto nila may privacy. Kaya pinapagawa nila yung car nila para for example, while waiting on the set, they can watch a movie, take a nap, work on the computer…that’s why they customise their van… mostly with a bed, sofa, and cabinets.
BITS: They can have electricity inside?
ALL: Yes. Even blower [hair dryer]…Kasi once you set up your van, meron syang royal cord for you to plug in doon sa genset [high-powered generator]. When you plug that in, ang power ng buong van mo, parang bahay na. It’s all 220volts. Pag regular drive ng driver, 12 volts tapos pag nakapark ka, 220volts ang power mo. Even the businessmen na malayo ang factory from Manila, alam na nilang traffic, so to maximise their time, they want to equip their car, ipapa-customise nila sa needs nila.
BITS: Oh, so they can work and rest in the car. That’s convenient because sometimes people can consume one and a half to four hours, one way pa lang. With pressing deadlines, with every half hour, marami ka nang magagawa. Nice rin yung hindi ka na maglalagari para magbihis ulit sa bahay bago mag evening function… …
You are now well-established. When you started, were there difficulties?
ALL: Oo, ang daming challenges. Hindi nawawala yung challenges. I think yung pinaka-sekreto lang, when I realised that this business is not mine. Ako lang ang nagma-manage ng business na ‘to. Yun lang ang nakagaan ng loob ko. Kasi sometimes yung tao mo ninanakawan ka pala, ang daming posibleng bad experience; kung gagamitin mo for your own power, masasaktan ka lang… unlike if you acknowledge that this business is not yours, kung baga, you’re just a steward of this business; yung fear and whatever bad thoughts mawawala. I think yun ang naging key sa challenges na ‘yon.
BITS: Kung baga, yung totoong owner ang ninanakawan. It’s the real owner who will go after them. Doon sila mananagot… Who’s the owner?
ALL: For me, Christ.
[BITS: Naku! Seated at the right hand of God above all power and dominion who will judge the living and dead. Bad news yan sa magnanakaw who doesn’t come to Christ…]
ALL: Not to be so religious but I treat my business as something we’re just handling kasi from the talent, strength, everything, Sya ang nagbibigay sa ‘yo—Ba’t hindi Nya binigay sa iba? Nakita ko yon. Whether good or bad, I always give thanks.
BITS: Oo nga ‘no, in everything give thanks, kahit you don’t give thanks for everything. At what stage of your business did you come to know the Lord?
ALL: I think last seven years lang yung totoo. Yung business ko since 1996, I did a lot of [vehicle] customisation na. I make money, I lose money, parang ganon [not steady] so for the last seven years na binigay ko na ang life ko kay Jesus Christ, doon ko na lang nakita yung happiness, truthfulness at saka yung joy mo sa sarili mo… last seven years lang. At naging honest ako sa wife ko straight seven years.
BITS: Praise the Lord!!! I laveeeeeeeettttttt!!! [mutual laughter] So nakita mo yung blessing even outside of your business?
ALL: Once we have the Holy Spirit, change starts to happen; hindi mawawala yung struggle mo sa life (fear, anxiety, temptation, whatever) pero you have to think and meditate on the word of God. Alam mo, nawawala. Hindi naman 100% pero malaking part yung nawawala.
BITS: Progressive sya?
ALL: Oo. Yun ang nagiging formula ko na parang nagiging effective. Kahit hindi overnight perfect pero nasa tamang direction.
BITS: What helped you to grow?
ALL: I think malaking tulong sa faith ko si Kuya Cito Beltran, si Eddie Tan, si Sammy Liuson. Pastor Ferdie Cabiling from Victory [Church] also mentored and baptized me. They really pushed me. Like Kuya Cito Beltran, he was inviting me to a bible study… ayoko, kasi feeling ko lugi ako. Kasi in my younger years, I didn’t earn money naman e. Nag-earn na lang ako ng money siguro early 30’s na so I was enjoying my life at early 30’s tapos, when Kuya Cito invited me to a bible study, sabi ko sa kanya, “Kuya Cito, ayoko. Di ba mabait si Lord? So kung mamamatay na ako, tsaka na lang ako hihingi ng ‘Sorry.’” Sabi nya, “Pwede naman yon e pero hindi mo alam kung kelan ka mamamatay.”
Meron akong pilosopo na ugali parang… basta bible, ayoko. Kasi feeling ko in order to be a guy, three things lang e… in any order: kotse, babae, pera. Ayokong i-give up yon [noon], Hindi ko kayang i-give up yon to the point na every time I see a bible study, ayoko talaga. One day, nakisama ako sa bible study and every time niyayaya nya ako, nakikisama lang ako na feeling ko it’s fake. Fake because gusto ko lang makita ang friends ko. Deep inside me, di pa ganon ka-pure until one day, I had this bad experience in my life na [I was] totally down. That’s the only time I called on Jesus Christ to be my Savior. Nung binigay ko ang life ko sa Kanya, doon lang talaga naging totoo ang Christian faith ko. From then until now, it’s been seven years pa lang pero it’s a good journey na nakilala ko Sya.
I used to have these anxiety attacks seven years ago. You have to go to a psychiatrist, take medication na. Papunta na ako doon kasi hindi nawawala yung anxiety. Pero when I started hearing the word of God tapos nung na-absorb ko, doon ko narealize nawala pala yung ang daming anxiety na yon. Once you give your life to Him, ang dami palang nawawala na burden. Surprisingly, naka-mindset na ako na magpapa-psychiatrist and medications pero hindi natuloy; so everytime the situation [about to have panic attacks] comes, I meditate on the word of the Lord, nawawala.
BITS: So na-heal ka?
ALL: Oo, kaya nga I’m very excited to share. I help people who have anxiety attacks, They ask me to talk about my experience… [I tell them,]”You have to make a choice. If you give your life to Jesus Christ and depend on Him, matutulungan ka Nya pero pag ginamit mo ang sarili mong power, walang mangyayari.” So ganon.
BITS: Can you share a message for men?
ALL: Sa mga lalaki na mga bata, most of us guys (when) we hear “Jesus Christ or word of God,” parang feeling natin baduy or umiiwas tayo. The good news is parang baliktad. If you know Jesus Christ, share it with people and iba yung feeling. Nung bata kasi ako, na-feel ko na nahihiya ako na people know I believe in Jesus Christ (although [that time] hindi pa ako ganon ka bilib sa Kanya. Now I’m at this stage, I realise na yung mga bata, (gusto kong i-share), hwag nyo ikahiya si Jesus Christ kasi [kung] baga, you can do all things so… hindi baduy maniwala kay Jesus Christ… Yung mga pangarap nyo, ituloy nyo lang [baka] everybody will turn down yung thoughts nyo pero wag kayong maniwala. Habang 20+ ka, [kung] bumagsak ka, magkamali ka, it’s okay. At least you tried na subukan mo. Pag hindi mo nasubukan doon ka magsisisi.
BITS: How do you protect yourself, let’s say kung dumugin ka dahil akala ng tao ang dami mong pera?
ALL: Ginagawa ko lang naman what the client wants. Many of them are high-profile pero ako I’m not high-profile. I’m just an ordinary person. The things that they want to put in their cars, pwedeng expensive, pwedeng inexpensive, I will just install it.
BITS: Your customisation is not just for the super-wealthy?
ALL: No. Yung iba, they get second hand van and for example you like a La-Z Boy type of chair, merong cheaper version non. They just need a comfortable place to rest or sleep habang nasa car kasi minsan tuloy-tuloy ang trabaho. Naaaksaya yung oras sa daan kaya need na rin na maging mas functional yung car.
BITS: How do you protect yourself from temptations? Kasi diba, for businessmen in general, baka kahit karinderia ang itatayo mo, baka may mga babaeng hahabol sa yo.
ALL: May kanya-kanya tayong trial. If you follow Jesus Christ, Satan will work harder to stumble you. Noon, when I hear testimonies na nandon na raw sa situation yung guy with the girl tapos nalabanan nila. Hindi ko ma-absorb yon. Tanong ko, “Pwede ba yon?” Hanggang sa nasubukan din ako. Grabe ang ibang babae. May nagpu-pursue talaga sasabihing pagbigyan mo lang one time.
BITS: One time lang ang kailangan ni Satan…
ALL: Oo pero pag ang Holy Spirit pala nasa yo, iba pala.
BITS: God will give you a way out…
ALL: Kahit tempted ang flesh, mangingibabaw yung fear of the Lord. Sabi ko, “Okay lang isipin mong bakla ako. Naisip kong hindi talaga sulit yung one hour tapos yung seven years na nagpakatino ako, instantly mabubura. Ikatuwa lang ni Taning (Satan) na “Pababasahin ko ng bible itong lalaking ito pero tatapatan ko lang ng babae wala na lahat yon.”
Sa money naman, someone was giving me a seven-digit offer for a shady contract. Tinanggihan ko last January. One of our salespeople couldn’t understand me. Sabi nya, “Boss, malaki ang commission ko. You don’t need the money pero ako, kailangan ko yung pera. Bakit mo naman tinanggihan yung contract?”
That was during fasting week. I tried to explain to him, “Do you think hindi ako nanghinayang? Malaking opportunity loss yun sa akin kaya lang if I know a project is not good in the sight of God, I can not accept it.” Nakakahinayang pero hindi ko na matanggap. That was a Friday. The following Tuesday, that staff of mine closed a deal and he got doble what he would have lost from the shady contract. The only thing I can say is, “Amazing!” Pag sumunod ako to please God, I don’t know that God will answer or when pero para sagutin agad Nya agad in that way, I do not know how. Just amazing!
BITS: Wow grabe yon! Did God compensate you for that?
ALL: God returned to me double pa from what I gave up.
BITS: God confirmed your obedience and gives you the confidence to trust Him.
ALL: Oo although from when I gave my life to Him, mga two years pa for me to absorb na I can trust what He says in His word.
BITS: Yung “to believe is to see” when it comes to His promises. Obey muna on your part then He will be the one to show you na it was for your good… Opposite ng “To see is to believe.”
ALL: Oo, kaya natutunan kong magtanong sa Kanya, “Lord ok ba ‘to?” Kahit praying before eating, hindi ko naman ugali yon. Galing ako sa Chinese School… wala—as in zero talaga sa mga ganyan. Pero with the kids natutunan kong magpray na kami bago kumain. When old friends invite me, natutunan kong sabihin na kung may hanky-panky, hindi na ako sasama, hanggang kainan na lang ako. They ask me, “Wooh? Totoo bang straight ka na? Nawala na ba yung kalokohan mo?” I always remind them, “Wag kayo matatawa. Basta anytime you need Jesus Christ, just call me. I will help you.” Kasi pag nasa taas sila, hindi nila ma-appreciate yan. Pero pag nasa problema na, ma-reremember mo yung mga kaibigan mong alam mong magbibigay ng good advice.
BITS: How do you live out your faith in your family?
ALL: Pagkatapos ko ibigay ang life ko kay Jesus Christ, may struggles pa rin sa work, sa lahat… including marriage. Hindi perfect pero with the Holy Spirit, nakikita mo nag-iimprove. At end of the day, every time we get angry, after a while, you don’t need to say sorry, mag-uusap na kayo. Actions speak louder. It’s very clear to me na when we fight, that’s not from Jesus Christ but from Satan. Pag may struggle, mas maganda to keep my mouth shut kasi pag kokontra pa, back to Square One. Pastor Peter reminds us na whatever happens, you have to love your wife. Pag nagkamali ako, na-coconvict ako, I apologise. Ang hirap ko yatang nanligaw sa wife ko noon. Bakit ngayon ko kakalimutan na pinaghirapan ko syang ligawan.
BITS: Tsaka honest for seven years na diba?🙂 Do you disciple some men?
ALL: Yes, once a week, lahat ng tao ko (mga 20-30+), we have bible study with pay from 830-1030am. May konting breakfast, kwentuhan. Sometimes kahit na they just want to come for the free breakfast, may napupulot rin sila kasi biglang nagkakaproblema. May natatanim na God’s word na nakakatulong sa kanila. Maraming gifts sa pagsha-share na hindi magawa ng powers ko, tulad ng sharing with your airplane seatmate, kaya dito ako nag-coconcentrate sa kaya kong gawin.
Some people say lugi ako sa oras ko pero we have been doing this for five years, walang nawawala. God has grown the business pa nga. This business is not mine, I give God the glory.
I’m floored by this awesome sharing from Atoy Llave. I used to just see his IG posts of him exercising and traveling with his family and some car-related photos. And really, I was rushing out of the building to get to lunch when I saw him along the way by chance and remembered he runs a business so this interview was really just God’s gracious orchestration. [Thank You!] Praise God for His story in Atoy’s life; for the men, Cito Beltran, Eddie Tan, Sammy Liuson, and Pastors Peter Tanchi and Ferdie Cabiling, among others, who didn’t tire of encouraging Atoy to know the Lord in a continuing process of becoming more and more the person God wants him to be; for the wonderful improvements in his health, marriage, parenting, business, and his walk with God. Giving Jesus the lordship of his life gave Him the reins to bless the other parts of Atoy’s life as well.
Lord, may You protect and guard Atoy and his family and business from all kinds of harm. May You continue to prosper him in his business as he acknowledges Your ownership and his stewardship. May You use Your story in his life to encourage him, his family, his team, and everyone around him. We thank You that You who began a good work in Your children are faithful to complete it for Your glory in Jesus’s name amen.
The only two things I knew beforehand about the new movie Ben-Hur are that it is a remake of an old old movie (actually, it’s the fifth remake of the 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, by Lew Wallace) and that Lisa Bevere reposted (Ptr) Rick Warren’s IG post endorsing this movie.
The other night after working on the dinner shift and catching up in time for the last course (dessert of very nice taro puff swans among other sweets) at a niece’s birthday dinner, we caught the last full show of 3D/4DX Ben-Hur across the street.
The movie started at 1030pm, around our bedtime but before we could get sluggish, our man-sized chairs started rocking back and forth to the rhythm of the opening horse race scene. The Beloved and I looked at each other,”We can’t to snooze on this movie,” we agree (in our facial jargon).
It was neat to have the aroma, breeze, moving chairs in synch with the action onscreen. That was the 4DX features to enhance the 3D. For P475 per person, it’s worth trying!
The journey of Ben-hur is worth watching!
Stephanie Merida Franco is Managing Director of Fresenius Medical Care (Philippines), the world’s leading renal care company. She has had extensive management experience in the pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and life sciences industry.Our class valedictorian and a dear, precious friend who has covered me in much prayer, Steph is my go-to person when I need a two-sentence primer on world news or things I don’t have time to Wikipedia about and need to understand Now Na.
This particular morning over Three-Cheese Tomato Puff Tart and Beef Salpicao, we talk about everything including Handling People. (Here is an excerpt from our discussion…consisting of this grasshopper asking questions and Steph giving the answers.)
BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS): What do you do when you have some people on your team who don’t seem to have the drive for excellence that you hope for?
STEPHANIE M. FRANCO (SMF): People really have varying degrees of committing to excellence. The underlying value is commitment. A person may not yet be excellent but if a person is committed, then that person can learn. Even if you delineate between technical skills and leadership (the soft skills) for the most part, the soft skills will win IF you have the right attitude.
[BITS: Please define “Soft skills”?
SMF : Leadership, disposition as a person, attitude. Leadership is how to influence. Your overall persona is the vehicle to influence. A situation requires different responses. A leader has to be very self-aware of that. So if you’re dealing with a subordinate who is new, maybe wet behind the ears, the leadership that is required is very directive… spend time with that person, tell him exactly, “This is how you do it.” You instruct them and then ask them to show you [what they understand of your instructions]. Over time, they learn. The more mature team members, on the other hand, must be challenged and given broader responsibilities to grow and develop.]
BITS: In your day-to-day, how do you lead and direct if they don’t seem to hear or deliver?
SMF: As a leader you have to be very aware and observant of the people who report to you…Try to document critical incidents. It’s always good to provide feedback and coaching. As a coach, you facilitate the learning. If they have done a good job, feedback will encourage them. If they have not done a good job, you can discuss how else it could be improved and provide the support they need to succeed in their goals. You have to set in place the Performance Management Process to help you clarify these things …through the Performance Improvement process, some people will have to go.
BITS: …because for the staff already there, you can not teach commitment?
SMF: Right; to me, commitment is not teachable… because it’s an inner disposition, an inner drive. In my experience, a lot of people who are committed have already gone through a lot of challenges and difficulties and that is how the commitment is tested. So when you recruit, you have to be purposeful to recruit people with commitment. Always ask them, “Have you ever experienced difficulties in your life? Can you tell me the story behind certain life challenges? Explain to me how you overcame.” Then you can see how committed they were to overcome it. That’s the only way they can demonstrate that that commitment is there. But you can recruit people with good technical training. They went to the right schools, etc. Things may have been so smooth for them. I’m not saying that they will not be committed but you have to draw that out…early on before hiring. They must have experienced some difficulties in their lives not just in the professional realm, perhaps in the personal realm. You have to tease that out of the interviewee. More importantly, You ask the Lord for wisdom and clear directions to hire the right talent.
BITS: How do you maximise the staff that do have potential and commitment?
SMF: In an organization, you will always have people that you will identify as your top talent. You think of these people as able to take your place in the near future or in the medium-term. They have strengths as well as areas that they still need to develop in. You coach and mentor them through that (helping them to see and define for themselves what they will be). Mentoring is sharing your journey of what you went through. Coaching can happen at any time for two or thirty minutes, regularly, giving feedback. You challenge them with increasing pressure and responsibilities and help facilitate their success and build their confidence. And most of all, you pray for them. For it is the Lord alone who confirms and establishes the works of their hands.
BITS: If a job was not done well, what’s the best time to bring it up, right after or after some time has elapsed?
SMF: It’s always good to give feedback in a timely manner. As a coach who facilitates learning, you can discuss negative results or outcomes in a way that encourages and builds up the person. People do learn from mistakes and failures and become more motivated to improve.
BITS: The Sandwich Principle?
SMF: The Sandwich principle starts with positive, then negative, then end with positive. It has been found to be more effective to begin with the objective or the end-in-mind. Any feedback can be question-led. You ask the person questions and allow him to think critically and assess himself… for example, “What led you to have a gap in that area? What are you going to do the next time?”
That’s an investment of your time. In the beginning, the first time I used to manage people it was pataka lang (shoot from the hip). But in time, I learned it from training, from feedback. You learn it from your mentors, from observing leaders whom you appreciate and those you don’t appreciate as leaders. You get to see what are the things you don’t like done and therefore learn not to do those things. The ones who have helped me the most are the ones who inspired and challenged me to step up and get out of my comfort zone.
BITS: You’ve always been a leader, you’re responsible for attaining certain goals and standards. How do you balance getting results with being a good [Christian] testimony as a leader?
SMF: The testimony as a believer, you need to pray for that every day. As a human being you will be subject to your episodes of impatience, irritation. It’s a fact that you may have a team of seven or eight people but you may not necessarily like all of them. But you need to set that aside and know that your responsibilty is to coach these people and to develop them. Preserving your testimony, if you are representing Christ in that leadership position, will take a lot of prayer. Think about Jesus as the head of The Twelve that He has chosen, that person in the Sermon of the Mount, teaching the crowd with all gentleness, in all humility. You think about that. Is that possible for a human being? That’s impossible.
BITS: Hahaha (Oops, that laughter was too loud. Ouch!)
SMF: That’s impossible because you’re pressured here and there and as human beings, we always succeed to get into each other’s throats. It’s just a reality that we are always subject to our weakness. So a lot of that is prayer for grace, patience, for the Holy Spirit to override your thoughts, your heart so that instead of reacting, you will respond and hopefully the response is like the response of Jesus. You will not succeed all the time but that’s good because then you will know that it’s not your own effort. It’s really the Lord. With a humble heart, you ask the Lord to hold on to you with His righteous right hand to direct your steps.
This topic really enhances the flavor of the Frozen Brazo Ubecado.
Dear Lord, Thank You for Stephanie’s authenticity, humility, and dependence on You despite her stature. Thank You for her heart to share her knowledge. May You continue to prosper her in her work, in her family, and in her walk with You. For leaders reading this, may You give us wisdom, discernment, guidance, and godly love for our staff, seeking ways to edify them as unto You. May You fill us with Your Spirit specially when we spend long hours at work. May You make us the leaders You want us to be, keenly aware that there is no favouritism with You and You are the Master we all work for. We pray for each of our staff for blessing upon their health, family, finances; may You enable them to come to know You intimately that they will make You the Boss of their lives, work to please You, be the best that they can be in You with sincerity of heart and reverence for You. May we all regard our tasks (the greatest and the smallest) as our true and proper worship of You, doing everything heartily as unto You in Jesus’s name amen.
Searching for lodging in the popular tourist destination of Tagaytay on Tripadvisor.com.ph will yield over 370,000 results. The Number One spot goes to Hotel Kimberly (the 2015 and 2016 Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice winner), a well-appointed yet affordably-priced hotel in the quiet, rural area of Barangay Kaybagal North. Even though its barangay name means “so slow,” Hotel Kimberly offers such a variety of fun, wholesome activities that travellers may quickly maximise a single trip with many adventures in this booming, bustling little city.
I looked at the website of Hotel Kimberly. I can really see how guests on vacation, on business, retreat, or those with special occasions would love this place!
Warning: The following pictures may make you want to plan an event at the featured venue🙂
The entrance is inviting:
The rooms look cozy, clean, and comfortable:
There is much room to explore and run around in with the jungle gym in a wide open space, an obstacle course…
The pool looks refreshing for day or night swimming…
You can imagine the special occasions you can celebrate at their indoor Pavilion:
The outdoor party area has (almost) limitless possibilities…
There are different farm animals and birds to visit…
The Fruit, Herb, Vegetable, and Flower Garden provide educational walks and activities…
There is a meeting room for business and game room for leisure…
And there is food, food, food indoors or al fresco by the pool…
But beyond the attraction of the place itself, I’m curious about the thought process behind the scenes that brought this about. What makes this place Number One among sooo many other choices even if it does not have a view of the Taal Lake which is one of the most popular reasons people go to Tagaytay? What is behind this success story? Sharing with you my chat with Natalie Ng, Managing Director of Hotel Kimberly:
BUTTERLFYINTHESPRING (BITS): Hi Natalie! I heard that Hotel Kimberly just got an award?
NATALIE Q. NG (NQN): Yes it’s really a blessing that we are Number 1 on Tripadvisor. It’s basically reviews from our guests, say if they like our hotel they rate us 5 stars…so recently, we’ve been ranked Number 1 in Tagaytay.
BITS: That really sets you apart as Number One considering that if you type in “Tagaytay lodging” on Tripadvisor, there are so many search results! What do you think is your key to success?
NQN: We try to provide a place that is all-in-one. There are a lot of activities available. There’s a games room, a massive DVD library, a farm where children can pet and feed animals, ride horses…kids get cookies and milk at bed time. On weekends, there are movie nights with unlimited free popcorn. We have bonfires with marshmallows.
We sometimes plan games such as scavenger hunts for long weekends. So people like staying at Kimberly and it’s especially a hit with families. If you look at the reviews, people always say, “Oh my gosh, my kids don’t want to leave yet.” because there’s enough stuff to do there and not enough time! Actually, we’re Number One for the reviews but we’re also an awardee for the Top Family Friendly Hotels in the Philippines… also on Tripadvisor.
BITS: How did you come up with those interesting sections of the hotel (the birdhouse, farm, the jungle gym)?
NQN: We have passionate people on our team who have interest in animals and activities. We open up with ideas in our weekly meetings and have a Viber group that is literally entitled “Tagaytay ideas” where any participant can contribute. If I think this is a good fit for the place, then they are encouraged to go and run with it. Our travels help a lot too. We are always looking for what we see abroad that we can bring back for people to enjoy here.
BITS: When a special occasion like a wedding is held at your outdoor area, are you the only one allowed to cater for the event?
NQN: No, we also accept catered events for our weddings at the Joya Pavilion but they must be accredited with us.
BITS: Is Hotel Kimberly suitable for corporate or other non-family needs as well?
NQN: We have multiple function rooms that cater for anywhere between 10-350 people depending on the requirements.
High level executive planning all the way to noisy team building facilities. It’s also conducive for couples’ and family retreats. There’s enough space in the two-hectare property to spread out.
BITS: What is the name of the hotel in Malate?
NQN: It’s also Kimberly Hotel. It was the first one opened 15 years ago. But it’s a different market segment that caters mainly to business travellers.
BITS: When you were starting out, did you experience a lot of challenges and how did you overcome them?
NQN: There were challenges… mainly because when we started out, we hired General Managers to run the business. A godly man on top is always the key because if not, how they run the business is not always ethical. I realised after I took over (after the second manager didn’t work out), even if I didn’t have any background and it was basically an Accounting background that I came with, it doesn’t matter. All I do is just make sure the character of the higher level people are intact.
BITS: Everything follows?
NQN: Everything follows. Of course, you have to make sure they have technical skills; they know how to manage the operations; your sales team knows how to sell. But other than that, the most important thing is their character has to be maayos (in order). Kung maayos yon (If that is in order), everything will follow. The most important thing is probably the culture of the people on the top then it cascades down.
BITS: In your eight years with Kimberly Hotel, what is your most special or rewarding moment?
NQN: It is not so much a moment as a journey. The whole journey of watching the hotel and its staff grow to what it is today has been very special. The best part is that it is ongoing. My staff know my favorite question is “How else can we improve?’!
BITS: What inspires you to do your work?
NQN: My time is limited as I juggle work, family, and exercise on any typical day. Because I treasure my time, I have an obligation and desire to do my best in whatever it is that I’m assigned to or focused on. And not only to do my best but to be happy doing it and to cause the greatest good. When I started my first job, I was only concerned with making a good impression with my boss and I did that over time and different jobs. In time, that boss became God since I had to head the business. Ultimately, I am accountable to Him.
I guess, in a way, it’s also for our staff. I want them to experience a culture that is positive, that can reward, and is not just all about money.
BITS: How do you do that?
NQN: I try to create a good, open working environment so that people can work and contribute and be paid doing it. Again it comes to enjoying or being inspired to work rather than doing the bare minimum to get paid. If you look at our reviews, a lot of them (besides the facilities) really say, “excellent staff; the service is excellent.” And I’m not even always there. It’s just them. So I know that without the people that serve our guests, the hotel is not going to do anywhere near as well. In a way that has sort of evolved on its own and I think it’s all God’s work.
BITS: When you say “not just all about money,” that might not make sense to some people; isn’t a business concern’s goal supposed to be profit or money?
NQN: Yes, you may start a business thinking it is about making money and maximizing it. Over time, though, I’ve come to realize that maximizing profits may not necessarily be good for long-term or repeat business. Some of the best decisions I’ve made were when we chose the options that would make our guests happier but they were not necessarily the cheapest way.
If we create a business to fill an unmet need or can provide an unparalleled experience, then profitability and longevity follow. History is full of past and present examples: Google which started with allowing free information to the world…
BITS: Unparalleled experience?
NQN: An experience that cannot be easily found elsewhere or done on your own… for example, who would set a bonfire in their own backyard? It needs space and twigs and other people to enjoy it with. That’s what we seek to give.
BITS: Do you have any encouragement for small business owners?
NQN: Oh, I think, you must have the passion for it so you can see it through thick or thin. It will be your baby for a LONG TIME. You keep an eye on it and on the cash flow…where will you get funds if you need, how you control the spend. And you just really have to rely on God on EVERYTHING. I constantly pray for wisdom and guidance in all my decisions. I pray for the right staff. I pray for the customers. God first when there is conflict of interest between your agenda and God’s, even if it doesn’t make sense especially with taxes and government requirements and so forth. You just have to lift it to God and say, “Just honour this.” That’s it. Honestly, that’s it.
BITS: What role does He play in your life?
NQN: I try to make the hotel something that I would not be embarrassed to present before God. It should be something like, “God, this is here because it’s You, it’s all You.”… like “even if we don’t have views of Taal Volcano which is the main reason people visit Tagaytay… whatever this is, it’s because we work hard for it but all because You [God] brought our guests in.” The way we run the business, it’s all above board. We pay our taxes, we pay our staff. We actively avoid any funny business. And I always think that whatever blessings we get, that’s because God honours it. Really, that’s what we do. We’re probably one of the highest taxpayers around but I don’t mind because I’ve seen it come back time and time again over the past eight years.
BITS: When you started managing Hotel Kimberly Tagaytay,
where were you in your walk with God?
NQN: Nine years ago, my husband and I and our three children lived in (Perth) Australia. I really loved my life and my job there so moving was not a priority for me. That year, my husband and I took part in the CCF Prayer and Fasting (remotely via online livestream). I remember telling the Lord that if it is His will for us to move back to Manila, here was my list of conditions to confirm His will.
I figured I had a lot of time before I needed to move because some of the conditions were quite specific and unlikely to be accomplished in a short time. (For example, school for all three kids with none being rejected or waitlisted, a home that is within fifteen minutes of the said school. We had not applied to any nor looked for a house at all.) Imagine my surprise when ALL the conditions were met by May! I knew then that God was clearly telling me it was time to come back. We made the decision to move in June and by August we were in Manila.
Because I knew God unmistakably wanted us here, I focused on building my life up, going back to my old church (CCF) and joining a bible study. I was also active in the school PTA. I didn’t realize the extent to which my spiritual walk had stagnated in Perth; coming back was like a spiritual homecoming. So I guess it was a spiritual rebirth or recommitment for me.
BITS: How is your relationship with God today different and how did it evolve?
NQN: Since then I’ve tried to learn and grow more over the years. It wasn’t hard to be part of CCF once more and I really love that it is unashamed of its stance towards the gospel. I like that CCF says “well this is what the bible says” and expects everyone to follow and conform. One thing with living in Western society: I find that sometimes it makes excuses and tries to conform the Word of God to what society will find acceptable. Over the years I’ve continued to familiarize myself with God, with His word and what His stance is. I try to focus more at the heart and motives than legalities or rules. I’ve tried to be more aware of where I can fail and where I can help. I’ve also learned to go with what God wants for me and just rely on his sustenance. Each day I wake, I pray for wisdom and think that if at the end of the day, I can face God then I’ve done well and start again the next day. It’s evolved more so that my accountability is with God first then the rest will follow.
BITS: Is there a bible verse you live by as far as business is concerned?
NQN: Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
Also this is the best summary of my work view: Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Dear Lord, Thank You for Natalie’s submission to You in her leadership. Going the extra mile even if it is more costly, doing business above board in pursuit of excellence and integrity to honour You, You honoured with this awesome sweet success that inspires us to trust and obey You and rely on You for everything. What a delightful endeavour Hotel Kimberly has turned out to be giving guests time to be recharged and to bond, and share wonderful experiences in beautiful surroundings without breaking their wallets. Thank You for Natalie’s example of giving her staff an open, positive venue to contribute their own ideas and be in a positive environment where they are rewarded. May You continue to empower Natalie through Your Spirit and bless her, her family, her work, Hotel Kimberly. May You continue to give her the desires of her heart as she delights in You in Jesus’s name amen.
Last Saturday, as I started to head out of the house for a meeting, I asked the Lord to show me whose business story I can share for Butterflyinthespring. The room started filling up and with barely ten minutes before the session start, from the crowd, I saw Natalie Ng walking in. As we smiled to greet each other, I recalled the Instagram post she shared some time ago; it was about an award given to Hotel Kimberly, the hotel she manages. This post is a result of that brief meeting. Hope Natalie’s sharing inspires you…
Ruth Uy helped her husband, Max, an eye doctor, in their optical business which started in the early 70’s. For many years, they had about five branches. It was quite difficult in the beginning managing the many tasks a wife, mother, and businesswoman had to juggle… it was a period of her life that she likened to a “rat race.”
Today, their business has grown to 114 branches nationwide. Ruth shares some of her experiences and the lessons she learned through the years. Sharing our chat with you:
BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS): How did you begin in your business?
RU: It started from when my husband was still single. When we got married, Christian mentors, advised us to branch out. We did so very slowly and conservatively until the kids grew up. By then, the Lord inspired us to expand.
BITS: What was it like in the beginning?
RU: We were very hands-on with everything… Needed to check on daily sales, check the eyeglasses that haven’t been picked up, the balances, the bank, everything… chop suey [a little of everything mixed in]. then you have to check the kids if they are sleeping… everything, everything…It was like a rat race life. Then we backslid pa [got off track from Christian walk] . Those were horrible years.
At that time, we were already believers but up and down [not steadfast]. In the early ten years of married life, we backslid , we quarrelled… we had different viewpoints. After ten years, God enabled me to be humble enough to admit I’m lost and sad and out of direction, and to reflect on what I am living for.
BITS: That was a breakthrough for you? What happened next?
RU: Yes, I started to grow in my walk with God. Our marriage relationship quieted down. Every time there’s a problem in business, we didn’t blame each other anymore. When we encounter a problem, 99% of the time, we call on the name of the Lord. 1% of the time, the self still comes out [smiles], we still want to do it our own way. But we are growing…
BITS: What encouragement can you give to those in the rat-race-years stage, juggling motherhood, “wifery”, business?
RU: Find time to be with the Lord. Look for the time when everybody’s sleeping and you’re still very awake or the time that you’re fully awake and nobody else is up yet. Look for the time. It is there.
BITS: When you have so much to accomplish, it would seem like finding quiet time to apparently “be quiet and do nothing” is the opposite of what you need to do. How does finding quiet time become a priority?
RU: Doing quiet time doesn’t mean you’re not doing anything. You read the bible, sing, worship the Lord, pour out your heart to the Lord, just being you before God. And listen to what He has to say through His words or through worship music.
BITS: How did you see that help you; you saw that as key to solving the problem?
RU: First, it heals me. There was a lot of pain in my heart. There were a lot of people I could not forgive at that time. Quiet time leads to healing (as I pour my heart out to the Lord and read in His word the need to forgive to be freed from the bondage of pain). It made me humble… so I can be submissive to my husband and be kind to my kids.
BITS: I see, it’s like a continuing process… How does that impact your business?
RU: You would see that the Lord will start to bless you. You start to have the right attitude and mindset aligned with His will. It’s no longer about me, like “I’m good that’s why the business will do good.” Instead, you prioritise Him; you live for Him. The result of that…from blessing me personally, He started to bless my relationship with my husband and then with my kids and then He made people gravitate to our business. He provided our staff that we never knew in ten years we would need so much in the department. They just came in as simple rank and file. Now they are Department Heads. We see how the Lord prepares us for our future needs and that built up our confidence, too.
The business matters started falling into place. When I was not yet back to the Lord (fully committed), the business also was not doing good and at home it was not well. It was always problems. I see the contrast. Now there are still problems but there’s peace. You learn to let go.
BITS: That sounds like everything became aligned and fell into its proper order. When you were in your ten years of still struggling spiritually (to follow God’s ways or your own), how many branches did you have?
RU: Around about five branches. It stayed small.
BITS: When you matured in the Lord, how many branches did you have?
RU: Every year, it began to multiply until today, we now have 114 branches nationwide.
BITS: At this stage, it’s already thriving… way more than thriving!
RU: Yes, by God’s grace. We take it as a ministry already. God brought us to a level wherein we try to minister spiritually to our staff and have bible studies throughout our stores. With God’s help and our pastors, almost half of our stores already have bible studies.
BITS: Why do you desire for your staff to have bible study?
RU: We now consider our business as God’s mission field and we want our staff to be given a chance to hear God’s salvation for them, hoping they accept so we can spend eternity in heaven with them and they would experience peace and joy in their hearts as they learn how to live and how to live for the Lord.
BITS: For those who might have the notion that believers should not seek profit in business or must emphasise on being kind to employees so as not to require excellence at work, what can you share?
RU: First, we have to be excellent for the Lord. Mr. Stephen Roxas, the owner of Citiland, said that we should never be shy to be successful for the Lord. But success will come from the Lord. Once He gives it to you, exalt His name. We try to be excellent for only one reason—to exalt Him. How do we strive to be excellent? Being humble is Number One. I admit I don’t know, I fail, and I’m willing to stand up again… all by God’s grace. For me, that’s the whole practical side of it. Then that’s the way to go, putting God first in our lives.
BITS: Would you have an encouragement for those starting out in business?
RU: Put God first. Even when there are failures, go back to the Lord, He will use it for good.
BITS: How did you see God respond to your putting Him first?
RU: Peace as He promised, strength for the day. I don’t mean that money wise you’re going to be richer but the satisfaction of living for Him, the inner being was strengthened.
BITS: But outwardly, your business was also prospering?
RU: I take that as a bonus from the Lord. It’s from the Lord. If He takes it away, it might be painful but you still recognise that it still all belongs to the Lord. It’s His name at stake.
BITS: Wow that’s freedom and security!
And how’s this for a sweet reward?
Dear Lord, thank You for the lessons Ruth learned in business and life that she is willing to share with grasshoppers like me and my two readers. Her humility and admitted dependence on You despite the obvious prosperity You gave her business-wise are awesome manifestation of a life surrendered to You. That she has learned from many years of experience that the key to her success is the quiet time with You to process her evolving situations is a revelation that Your ways are not always logical or in keeping with the world’s norms but her life shows that they work. Thank You for demonstrating in her life Your promise, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” which comes with first and foremost the gift of You, then the added things, then the freedom and security that comes from knowing You, that if and when something is lost or taken away or when something untoward happens, You who are able, You who are holy and good with the heart to bless, who does not leave nor forsake Your children, are there for the journey and You will glorify Your name in Your way and time as consistent with who You say You are in Your Word in Your name amen.
One day when I walked out to the store front, a young and beautiful, wide-eyed, long-haired, petite lady with perfectly tanned skin, dressed in a feminine off-white lace cutout crop top over chic wide-leg slacks was posing for pictures at different corners of the shop. My thoughts went, “She looks like a doll… in the dollhouse (our shop has been many times described as dollhouse-like).”
Little did I know that the lady, Nika Diwa, was indeed from a dollhouse! The Diwa Dollhouse, a New York City-based fashion blog that seeks to “empower women through a revelation of their worth” which has been featured in partnership with events and brands such as New York Fashion Week, E News, and Huffington Post.
She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Merchandising from LIM College in NYC. Her experience as Merchandising Manager for the leading luxury consignment site, The RealReal (overseeing over six hundred Women’s designer brands such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Hermès) as well as her experience in the buying and merchandising companies of Barneys New York, Ermenegildo Zegna, and Esley Collection further honed Nika’s eye for fashion. And now, she is a fashion blogger and speaker.One of our favourite regular customers at the shop, my friend Nanette Co, brought Nika with family and friends and I got to sit with them for a little bit and enjoy everyone’s company. I learned that Nika was giving a talk on the Theology of Fashion that evening but unfortunately I couldn’t make it. Nika, however, agreed to an interview about it to share with BITS readers!
Sharing our chat with you!
BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS): Can you please tell me how you got interested in the “Theology of Fashion”?
NIKA DIWA IHEDIGBO (NDI): Ever since I moved to NYC to seriously study and pursue fashion, I noticed that the industry as a whole contributed to many self-value issues within women specifically. Knowing that God views each of us at such a priceless value, I made it my mission to go back to the bible to discover what God has to say about fashion and how we can apply that in today’s world.
BITS: What does the bible say about fashion?
NDI: In light of my topic on the Theology of Fashion specifically, I look to Genesis 3:8-24. Here we see that Adam and Eve have just fallen to the first sinful act in the history of mankind. They then attempt to cover up their guilt and shame to hide from God, each other, and ultimately themselves. God then steps in in His very first move to pursue us by sacrificing an animal and making Adam and Eve garments of skin. This is extremely significant because God used fashion as his first demonstration of redemptive love towards us despite our sin and ultimately, it is a foreshadowing to His ultimate sacrifice on the cross.
BITS: How can we apply that in today’s world?
NDI: Applying the truth that you are fully covered by the blood of Christ with an identity ransomed for and rooted in Him means that you can be freed from the bondage of chasing a counterfeit identity and live in the knowledge that you are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of Christ.
BITS: How does a woman develop confidence in the beauty God created her to be, say, if what she finds in the mirror is completely opposite what would typically be found in halls of beauty like beauty magazines, etc.?
NDI: It begins as a heart transformation first. Looking at yourself as the BEAUTY God sees; viewing through the “lenses of Jesus”.
BITS: That is powerful… recognising that she is fearfully and wonderfully made, precious, priceless… That may come as a nice surprise for readers who might merely be looking for basic guidelines in styling or choosing clothing. What would you share?
NDI: First, always put on the confidence that you are primarily covered in Christ. This light will shine beautifully no matter what you put on. Secondly, know your body type so you can dress appropriately to most flatter your figure! (It is important to note that if you are confident in the beauty God created you to be, embracing your body type will follow naturally!) Lastly, don’t take fashion too seriously. Let your personality shine through and have fun with it!
NDI: Exactly! Christ is your foundational identity.
BITS: How does that work?
NDI: It starts from a heart transformation and seeps into the rest of your life on the outside. For example, instead of looking to the world to define my worth, I go to the bible to see what God says about me. Then I preach that truth to my heart. I love memorizing bible verses like 1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness and into His wonderful light.”
BITS: Is this applicable to men and women?
NDI: Yes, this is applicable to both genders as fashion is relevant to both. I just find that generally women are most openly affected by body-image and self-image issues relating to fashion.
BITS: From what age?
NDI: All ages; especially with the rise of social media, even our children are affected by what society says about self-image at a very young age. This is why it is crucial to order a healthy view and understanding of fashion at a young age.
BITS: Can you give a tip for mothers on how they can orient their kids about fashion?
NDI: Start having conversations early that pour and radiate positivity into their self worth. For example, invite them to join you and help you choose their clothes and explain why Jesus created fashion for them to bring out the beauty ALREADY embedded within them!
BITS: Can your recommend some resources or is the topic of knowing your body type and finding correspondingly flattering clothes on your blog?
NDI: I am always updating resources on this very thing on my blog http://www.diwadollhouse.com!
BITS: I love what you said about “don’t take fashion seriously.” Have you seen the fashion sense of Emilia Clarke’s character in “Me Before You” with bumble bee tights, etc? How do you balance the anything-goes with classy?
NDI: Yes! I love that movie! I love how Emilia Clarke’s character comes to life when she is wearing those tights because for some special reason, those tights speak uniquely to her heart and soul. I can tell just by looking at her that she is bubbly, fun, and lives colorfully! As far as balance, generally, I like to choose 1-3 statement pieces to pair with a more classic piece so that the overall look isn’t too overwhelming.
BITS: Do you think it’s important for women to know the theology of dress?
NDI: Absolutely! Especially as believers, in the beginning was The Word. It begins here and ends here. This means that God has dominion over ALL and if it is true (and indeed it is!) that He is FOR our flourishing, we need to pursue His foundational truths concerning fashion. After all, He is the original designer!
BITS: Wow! Before Christian Dior! Do you often share this topic (Theology of Dress) with groups?
NDI: Yes! From larger conference sessions to smaller groups, I love to share this topic.
BITS: How did you become interested in fashion?
NDI: As a young girl, one of my favorite pastimes was watching my father maintain his wardrobe. He was always so meticulous in caring for his clothes; taking the time to really treat each item with precious respect. I witnessed it really manifest in the way he dressed and presented himself. It was then that I realized that fashion was so much more that clothing. It was a conversation to the world.
BITS: Wow, a conversation to the world! Does it have to do with the respect he puts in what he represents?
NDI: It is a conversation to the world in that it is a reflection of how the Lord created your heart and soul. That’s why people have such fascinatingly unique preferences and perspectives on style.
BITS: Is this your main occupation or do you have another main job?
NDI: My main occupation is owner and content director of the fashion blog, Diwa Dolls.
BITS: How did your blog Diwadolls.com come about?
NDI: The blog started as a fun fashion diary between me and my sister. It was a way for us to continue sharing our style ideas and inspiration with friends and family back home after we both relocated to NYC.
BITS: What is it like working with your sister on this project?
NDI: It is very seamless and natural for us. God blessed us with a special dynamic. We are best friends who have a foundational respect for one another. We also each have certain strengths that balance out our weaknesses specifically when it comes to business.
BITS: I love your video together. You obviously have a wonderful relationship. Was there ever a stage when your relationship had rivalry? How did you overcome that?
NDI: Only when we were very very young; I was 8 years old and she was 3. I was jealous having a new baby in the family after being an only child for so long. One day, we were playing on a playground and another child shoved Bianca. I ran to her defense against the bully and it became a deep conviction in my heart to always protect and love her from that day forward.
BITS: What is your ambition?
NDI: To join God in the renewal of all things.
BITS: Can you please expound a little?
NDI: As it pertains to fashion, as God has dominion over ALL, I am passionate about discovering more and more what He has to say about how fashion can best represent His heart towards people. As I have witnessed so much disorder (body image issues, unhealthy competiton, etc.), I desire to be used as God’s messenger in promoting a renewal of fashion; reclaiming it as fun and for the fearless. Our mission statement is empowering women through a revelation of their worth in Christ.
BITS: That is powerful purpose! It takes fashion passion to a higher level! I heard you just got married. Has marriage changed your fashion sense?
NDI: Not as far as style. My husband and I waited until marriage before being sexually intimate; purity was God’s calling and it was our priority to see it through. Now that I am married, it is my joy to know what my husband loves and dressing up for him when we have special date nights! I believe I have a responsibility and joy to honor and love my husband even in the way I dress! It is a gift!
BITS: Is there anything else that God is impressing on your heart to share for this post to encourage faith?
NDI: Always preach truth about who you already are in Christ, and the rest will follow. As 1 Peter 2:9 says, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises on Him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light!”
Lord, thank you for giving Nika Diwa the eye for outward fashion as well as the passion to open the eye to the value inside. May You continue to use Nika to enable women (and men) to discover their true priceless worth in You and share Your message of redemption and love through her blog and life. May Your favor rest on her; establish the work of her hands for her, may You continue to go before her, protect her, bless her family and work, and her walk with You in Jesus’s name amen.
L-R (Ptr) Russell Diwa, Mimay Inong, Beth Dan, Corinne Blanco, Karen Young, Stephanie Dan, Nika Diwa, Nanette Co, Manel Diwa. (Thank you, Corinne Blanco, for the photos on this post!)
Matthew Tan, has over thirty years of experience in the business world, sits as a Director of several companies. He is currently the Chief Technology Officer of a listed company in Singapore. He is distinctly humble and simple in his demeanor despite his stature.
I was blessed to have been invited early this year to a small forum where Matthew shared for believers many encouraging stories about his journey walking with the Lord in the context of business. He had a few hours before he had to rush to the airport after his short Philippine visit but instead of exploring the bustling, lively Rockwell community where we all converged, Matthew chose to use this time to sit with us and answer questions anyone had about his topic.
Here are some some of the things he shared which I thought might inspire you [text emphasis mine]:
For Christians, what does the Word say about being in the marketplace?
Matthew 5:13-16 says, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its flavour, how can it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” Then Jesus went on to say, “You are the light of the world. A city that’s set on the hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under the basket but on the lamp stand. It gives light to all who are in the house.” It says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Why does God call us the salt? Why not “eagle of the land, you will fly high?” Salt is used for seasoning. Salt by itself doesn’t taste good. What are some of the properties of salt? Why would God compare Christians to salt?
Salt gives flavour to food. By itself it tastes terrible but when mingled with food, salt tastes good. It actually brings out the natural flavour of food. Salt is useful when added to other things. But if salt just by itself, it is useless unless you add it to the other thing. (You have to mingle with others.)
In the area of Science, salt is used as a preservative. When you add salt to anything, it will be preserved. That’s why you have salted chicken, salted pork leg. It prevents it from rotting away.
Jesus tells us we are the light of the world. What does light mean? When there’s light, there’s no darkness. The more light you have, the less darkness you have. It has like a purifying effect. This involves us making a spiritual impact in the marketplace in line with the mission of the local church.
How does salt and light apply to the church? To love God and to love one another including the lost in the marketplace.
In Matthew Chapter 5, before it talks about the salt and light from verse 13, it talks about the beatitudes, the values of the kingdom of God (Blessed are the poor in spirit, etc.) because God wants to preserve kingdom values in the marketplace.
Have you ever thought that God will use you to bring the flavor of something that don’t really taste good in the marketplace?
A number of years ago, I was appointed as a Director of Sales in a regional airline. I was quite young then and it was a big company. One day, my wife asked me to send out a small letter that needed a 10 cent stamp (maybe P30). I went to Receptionist and asked her if she could help me mail out this personal letter and I will pay her back the next day for the cost of the stamp. She said, “Don’t worry. The company has many stamps and everyone in this company uses the company stamps to mail their own letter.” However, I reiterated and told her that this is a personal letter. The next day, I brought a stamp to replace the one I borrowed. She told me, “Mr. Tan, you’re very strange. For 10 cents, it’s okay.” But three months into the job, her boyfriend who knew what happened came. He had trouble and opened up to me. I prayed for him. He cried. The Lord showed me, “You can help shine God’s light in a world of darkness.”
Light talks about integrity. When people see that you have integrity, you will gain respect, influence, spiritual leadership. Because of the light, God gives you an open door into their lives. You are able to help those who do not go to church. Maybe they’ve had bad experiences there before. These are the people who think, “Aah, I make more money than you, why do you talk to me about God.” Someone has $1.2 million watches, all the money in the world but he needs prayer. You inspire more than you instruct not because of the position that you have [but because of your integrity].
Without realising it, you already have a platform. You mingle, mix like a food. In the marketplace, you are the salt and light. In the last days, God is going to use all of us. But you must have integrity.
Psalm 24:3-4 Who may ascend to the hills of the Lord but he who has clean hands. It’s very important that whatever we do, we must have clean hands because the Lord is watching.
My wife started working as a property agent three years ago when our youngest of three sons went off to secondary school… empty nest. She realised that a number of agents were not following the law. They’re not supposed to advertise properties unless they have exclusive rights to sell the house but agents were doing it. In the end, she had little or no customers. So we prayed. But after three years, she came up top property agent. When you walk in integrity, God will honour you.
2. SPIRIT OF EXCELLENCE
Be the best in everything you do. Whether you are a secretary, or helping your parents… become the best. You know who is an example of someone who became the best? Joseph in Genesis. Even as a slave, as a prisoner. It says, “The Lord was with him.” And Joseph was successful. God made him prosper. Subsequently, Joseph became the Prime Minister of Egypt. When you have the spirit of excellence, you bring out your testimony as salt and light to the world.
I’m now a Chief Technology Officer in a listed company and an adjunct professor. [But in the past], we have GCE O level Exam. I came from a poor family. I did not pay much attention in my studies and didn’t do well. I failed my college exam. I did a retake. But even at a young age, I was serving the Lord. I said, “God, I’m going to be the best even though my result is not a pass. I started from scratch. Along the way, I went back to study and I became an A student. In everything I do, I say, “God, please help me.”
During the time when I was with the airlines, every year, our bosses talk about the sales quota and they would asked me what’s my strategy to renew the business.”
We have to compete with airlines around the region … Every September there’s so much pressure. We got to see all our customers as we are competing for the same companies’ budget. But you know, as I begin to read about the life of Joseph, he always seeks the Lord. I went to God and said, “God, I want to be the best.” One evening when I was sleeping, I woke up at about 2:30 in the morning, I just saw the Lord giving me an idea. I woke up my wife and told my wife and she told me to write down the thoughts I was getting. In the morning I thought it was a dream but when I went to the table, I saw what I had written down. It was to launch a loyalty [incentive] program where they will be given a 10% cashback if they sign up their business with our airline by 15 December and pay the whole amount up front. What? [Everybody seemed to say.] In the airline industry, nobody give any cash back. They give points but they don’t give cash. I said, “God if this is You, I will give it a try.” I brought the proposal and gave it to my manager. The higher boss wanted to see me. He said, “Are you sure? You’re going to be responsible.” And I said, “Boss, we will give the cash but they cannot cancel.” By January, I had my full target fully met for the whole year. However, three months thereafter, the global economy was plunged into a financial crisis. The other airlines had massive cancellations except my company. My bosses said, “You did well, Matthew.” But you know what, it’s because I asked God for help.
Matthew prayed the release of the Joseph anointing upon those present to know the seasons, when and where to turn, before doing anything, that it be with God’s hand present, with wisdom to know how to make good investments and good business decisions but ultimately, always running back to the Lord.
Interestingly, Matthew didn’t know how many people would show up but there were exactly six people and when we looked around the room, there were exactly six chairs in the room as well. Praise God for this blessed opportunity.
Dear Lord, thank You for how You got a hold of Matthew’s heart from a young age and have been with him through his life, growing him in wisdom, stature, favour with you, and favour with men being salt and light in his family as well as in the marketplace. Even as in humility he pursues excellence and integrity, he seeks to preserve Your kingdom values where You put him. Thank You for his heart to share what he has learned with others who are willing to hear. Please help us to follow him as he follows You in Jesus’s name and for His glory, amen.