Thank you to Dr Carl Balita for including me in his latest best-selling book titled Prosperity.

Tenacity

Poverty can be an awfully romantic concept, especially to those who have not been unfortunate enough to experience it. Poverty builds character, they say. It inspires resourcefulness. It engenders strength.

All these may well be true but poverty also steals—one’s mind, one’s spirit, one’s dignity. Fortunate are those who come out of poverty unscathed, able to appreciate life’s blessings without cynicism. Exceptional are those who come out of poverty victorious, able to transform their lives into blessings for others.

Rossana Ladaga Llenado is one such victorious individual.

Hers is a story of almost telenovela proportions. Rossana’s early childhood memories were marked by the constant struggle to survive. While her family always lived humbly, things almost turned tragic when a fire razed their home, destroying their belongings, including all the inventory of her father’s small buy-and-sell business. She was ten years old.

For years, Rossana’s family depended on the generosity of their relatives. It was an aunt who fed them. It was an uncle who sent her to school. The concept of the new was foreign to her; she only lived on hand-me-downs: clothes, books, bags, etc.

But Rossana was made of sterner stuff. She did not let such dire circumstances defeat her. She was determined to make for her family a better life.

A born entrepreneur, she started her own buy and sell business like her father before her. But more than making money, what Rossana wanted most was to improve herself. A gifted student, she knew the value of a good education and was blessed to be awarded a scholarship at the University of the Philippines.

It is her years at the state university which showed Rossana’s unrelenting tenacity. Day by day, she went on her scholarly ways. She also proceeded to acquire practical knowledge by going to the business of catering, mushroom farming, shirt printing, and commercial subleasing. To have enough time for all these ventures, she hired her first employee at 18—a helper to do the laundry, which would otherwise occupy Rossana’s whole weekend. Her experiments in micro-entrepreneurship have helped her form the country’s leading tutorial company, AHEAD Tutorial and Review Center. She now has under her wing more than 300 exceptional staff from U.P. and Ateneo.

For Rossana, there was nothing that she could not learn given enough time, effort, patience, and plain hard work. Simply put, she was the girl who said, “I could.”

Despite not knowing anything about design, she applied at the graphics department of the university chancellor’s public affairs office. She would later on create eye-catching marketing collaterals for her tutorial business.

Despite not knowing anything about property, she joined a real estate company and proceeded to gain company recognition for her exemplary sales record. She would later win industry awards for marketing excellence, most notably the Agora.

Despite not knowing anything about computers, she worked for a computer learning company, eager to be at the forefront of a then developing industry. She would later on be a pioneer in the field of interactive online tutorials.

To this day, Rossana brings that “I could” attitude every time she talks to parents, makes presentations, meets with her staff, and takes care of her children. This is one woman who can never be underestimated for there is a fire within her that would never, ever stop burning.

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