Welcome to the Bountiful:
I know my country’s nooks and crannies of 7,107 islands. I played with its tides in my fishing adventures. I went around hopping in every island, looking for good business. I stopped by an island and filled its beaches with a thousand one jars “tapayan” of bagoong buried halfway in the warm sand. I had a short stop in Calaca to buy and sell cow. I earned thousands by selling hard boiled eggs and coffee by the pier in Bicol. I saw the glass factory of Soriano in Palawan. I passed by Macalelon, Quezon, a very poor town so far, there was no business there.
While Peter is in college, I widened my search with Hongkong as my first stop over. I searched for jewelries to sell, I stayed with 2 other friends for two months. As we explored HongKong, we became like natives. I had fun as I enjoyed the rest of the East, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand. After Juaning died, I decided to stay in New York. In the land of milk and honey, I have nothing but me, as Irene, and my God. Still, money came easy in dollars. I did
I will complete my journey and land a perfect homerun. I may be late in proving that the world is round, but I made a trip twice, isn’t that proof enough that it is? From the thousand islands of the Philippines to miles across mountains and seas, God made us a wonderful world!
The Taste of Mannah
I lived each day with Gods’ words. I prayed to Him as a Father who is always there. I asked Him always for blessing and guidance. I am amazed as He answers my prayers. One day, a friend asked me to accompany her daughter for a job interview. I thought that it will also be good if I get a job. I prayed to God that the boss will find me “beautiful” so I can have a job as well. I needed some money. Mrs. Lopez, the owner of the business, saw me and instantly liked me. She asked me if I want a job, too. She asked her lawyer to give me an application form and helped me fill the papers. Then I got in and they taught me how to manage a payroll for around 500 people. I loved the job and stayed for a year before I got an interest on becoming an entrepreneur myself. By the way, Mrs. Lopez called me “beautiful”. Could it be that she heard God’s whispers for me?
It was an experience to remember as I enjoyed every which way to earn. I used to count monies, until I cannot anymore. I just put the money in a hemp bag “bayong” and pour them on top of the bankers’ desks to give them the pleasure of counting.
I did not mind hard work. I did the job of a hundred men. I felt the wings of angels beneath me. I was with God.
Shaping My Destiny: Taking Risks
My usual life went on, but God’s words are ringing loud and clear that God is indeed with me. One teaching, that I learned from Iglesia is how to live financially stable through entrepreneurship. Living singly with nothing but faith in God made me strong and bold to make my way to financial freedom. I pawned the ring from my mother’s heirloom for a good sum, three thousand pesos at that time. It was a beautiful ring with a big black diamond, so precious that the old man who pawned it will no longer give it back to me and ultimately claim to own it. I started my textile business in Divisoria with this money. I rented a stall and brought remnants to sell. It was a good start as every fabric I have was sold to consumers from Mindanao by the Muslims.
Later, as I learned more about the textile business, I became more aggressive. I needed more capital, so I borrowed against the house that my husband bought for me for 12 thousand pesos. That gave me more leverage for a bigger textile business. I got a partner and we bought bigger shipments. My partner chose the beautiful textiles and design, while he gave me what he does not want. To his surprise, I sold my share without difficulty. I always sold out and started doing wholesale. I made more that I was able to get my house back. The money was good and was able to buy a car, my first. What I learned from Iglesia was that I need to be always hands-on and watchful in the business. True to this, while I need to be off on Wednesdays to attend church “samba”, my trusted person is already able to steal a good sum to buy her own house and car.
In another time, fire comes to Divisoria sporadically. One day, a big fire destroyed the whole place. My stall was spared before my eyes, fire stopped before it reached my place. It was something I never could understand, but I believed that God was with me, indeed. I stayed in this business for 12 years, starting with remnants in a stall for retail to a “bodega" for wholesale.
This Land is Mine!
I met Donya Trining in the bus one day. As we passed by the vast fields along the highway, she told me that, the farms are for sale. She told me that its Dr. Jose Leviste, his brother, who is the owner and in-charged. I felt an instant love for this place. My imagination flew as wide and wild with a dream: “This land is mine!” I instantly built a house to become my haven and paradise, with my garden of flowers, and a business in my dreams, the chicken farm. I saw my life as if I were already there. The feeling was good that I do not want to let go, then I asked God, like a child if I can have it, because I love it. “Ama, ibigay mo po ito sa akin”.(Please God, give this to me!”)
I do not know what happened, I just found myself looking for Dr. Jose P, Leviste, a rural doctor. I told him, “I want to buy his land, but I have no money.” And further told him, “but the bank has money”. And very surprised, because I am so young, he asked me, “What will you do with the land?” I showed him my plan for a poultry farm. Surprised again, he asked me” Where did you learn about poultry? “And I told him, “from Donya Trining, your sister”. He asked me if there is anybody who will help me with the loan, I told him “Yes!” In a blink of an eye, he called the lawyer to sign the papers including the title to the land that will soon become mine and home to Irene Lumbrera Farms.
The following Monday was not an ordinary day, there was a typhoon. When I reached the Development Bank of the Philippines in Makati, I was soaking wet, my small umbrella cannot do anything, or perhaps the rain was God’s blessing? When I reached the receptionist, she asked me, “Who are you looking for? It’s so early and raining!” When I entered in the office, I saw a man standing in one corner by the window, then he faced me as I asked in surprise, “You are the president of this bank? Why did you not tell me?” He responded, “You did not ask. See the name on my table?” And that was the shortest and sweetest personal “fling” I had with Dr. Leviste, the breaking of formality and the beginning of a business deal. We asked for a million-peso loan for almost 20 hectares of land and received only 850,000 to safeguard my investment in case things will not turn out right. I returned to Lipa with wings on my feet. I started the farm as I imagined it in my dreams. The house became my paradise, a prairie in the meadow, with God’s light shining bright in all the rays of the sun. I paid off the loan in 6 months!
There was a big fishing boat that was on docked because they cannot go fishing, it was high tide. I met the captain who knew about fishing and helped me learn since he has no job either. Then, I spoke to the owner who cannot believe that I am so determined to go deep sea fishing because I am a woman. I hired him and the fishing boat for a hundred thousand pesos. “When its high tide in this area, it must be low tide on the other side. Then that’s where we are going for the catch.”
We went to a village in Marinduque and hired all the fishermen with boats. I offered each one of them, a thousand pesos and a sack of rice for their wives and children while they are at sea fishing. That will at least make the women less anxious that their men will no longer come back and find other women on the other side. We loaded the boat with blocks of ice I bought from San Miguel ready for the good catch. We have reached as far as Palawan where the tunas abound. We stayed for a month at sea, then we headed and docked in Cavite where fishermen bring in their catch to cash out by wholesale. The tunas were sold at ten centavos a kilo. The money was excellent! I went to the Central Bank in my blue jeans and wooden shoes with two bags “bayong” full of cash covered by pots and pans. I asked the manager if I can put the money on the table. The tellers cannot believe their eyes when they saw the money for them to count! The bank's Assistant Manager was kidding to join me in whatever I was doing.
My niece, Lumen, who is working in the bank saw how lucrative fishing was. As she saw the monies coming in, her husband who was an engineer, a graduate from UP got interested and thought he can manage it. They asked me to give it to them. They bought me out and gave me back my share and capital. I was not happy because I know they will not make it. Soon enough, it happened. They lost it all, in just one sail. They forgot, in fishing, it is not only the fish but the men who will fish, with God’s blessing.
While, on my fishermen’s days off, I brought them by Luneta Park, to relax. When I ended my contract, I gave each one of them a pair of Seiko watch from Japan as a token. It was good for them and for me. We all felt God.