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 dami; 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.”
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 they 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 the 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.