AN OFW FATED TO DISCOVER HIS PASSION OVERSEAS: Ben tells how an undiscovered passion unfolded
VOL. 1 NO. 2 MAY 2019
BY: TRISH LAMEYRA | PHOTOS BY: CAROLYN PESTANO
Born into an underprivileged family in San Pablo, Laguna, Benildo "Ben" Pasco took a leap of faith overseas where he discovered his passion. Coming from a family of engineers, whose members graduated from state universities, Ben also took a degree in the same field. After eight years of study at the Technological University of the Philippines, he graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering, but the passion he talks about is distant from his course.
After attaining his diploma in 1999, Ben flew to Taiwan where he worked for three years and thereafter returned to the Philippines. He then moved to Italy in 2003 where he took all sorts of challenges to get to where he is now. A relative took him in his first six months, and he worked as a porter transporting fruits. However, with his tourist visa soon expiring, he did not have many choices despite wanting to stay longer and legally in the country.
Ben then started working as a domestic helper. That was the beginning of his challenging journey. Stories of OFWs have similar plots - expiring tourist visa, working as domestic helper, having abusive employers, and being deported back to the Philippines. "Taga- kudkod ako ng inidoro. Iyan ang hindi ko talaga makakalimutan. Kasi malinis ang banyo nila doon eh. Talagang pag-upo ko, kaharap ko mismo yung inidoro, talagang sabog ang aking luha", Ben vividly recalls. (Scraping the toilet bowl was the most unforgettable [job I had done as a domestic helper]. Toilets there are really clean. So when I sat on the floor facing the toilet bowl, tears profusely streamed down my face.)
In 2010, Ben said goodbye to the ironing, babysitting, and cleaning, and said hello to the dishwashing routine at a fine dining restaurant. At that time, he was also able to arrange his visa documents.
One and a half years later, he immediately grabbed the opportunity to become an assistant chef, and half a year later, as head chef himself. Ben admits he did not know anything about cooking before he went to Italy. The first dish he cooked by himself was an aglio olio pasta that he prepared while he was still working at the house of his signor. Later, at the restaurant, he befriended the chefs and asked them to teach him how to work with the knives in the kitchen.
From a struggling OFW to a successful entrepreneur
Ben shares his thoughts about the idea of coming back home. "Nandito na ako. Ang tingin sakin ng mga tao sa Pilipinas ay pag nasa abroad o OFW, regardless kung anong trabaho mo, Malaki iyong expectation ng family mo pag-uwi mo." (I am already here [abroad]. Filipinos think of me as an OFW and regardless of the job, my family's expectations of me are high when I come home.)
Meeting personally with an inspirational speaker, Francis Kong, who conducted a seminar in Europe that Ben attended, Ben learned all the basic strategies that he needed in order to start a business. That was when he decided in 2014 that it was time for him to come home.
Inspired by financial gurus, he took the risk of investing in the marketing of his signature spicy winter halo-halo that soon led to its rapid extension. With the current and impressive 33 branches of Ben's Halo-Halo Ice Cream that started operations in 2014, Ben gives a few tips for aspiring entrepreneurs.
1. Save and Invest
One of the basic requirements in opening a business is how to have a capital. Whether you are using an 80-20 or a 70-10-10 tactic, the main goal is to save money and invest it. Ben did not save to splurge in branded clothes or latest gadgets. "Nakabili ako ng isang condo at napapaupahan ko." (I was able to buy a condominium unit that I am now offering for rental.)
2. Be patient and hardworking
Attitude is just as important as the money. Marketing strategies only work if you are patient and hardworking enough to start small. Businesses do not flourish overnight, and Ben advises to "interact with rejection."
3. Conceptualize and Innovate
After inventing the trademark Filipino dessert, halo-halo with chili, Ben conceptualized the same dessert with salted egg. But halo-halo is not the bestseller during the rainy days, so he thought of eventually offering main courses.
Ben believes it was God's plan that led his once undiscovered passion for cooking to the world of food and business. Thankfully, his journey as an OFW opened up a life he was fated to live. [K]