Archive of ‘Interviews’ category

Interview With Ms. CDO First Runner Up – Dylanna Bax

miss cdo 2015 + 1st runner up dylanna bax

Photo from Miss Cagayan de Oro 2015 Portraits

It’s not everyday that I get to interview a beauty queen. Especially a beauty queen with an inspiring story to tell. I met Dylana Bax about a year ago while she was still working at SPM10, a local construction company. What I first noticed about her was her height. At 5’9, she towers above the rest of us. Very modelesque – if there is such a word. The next thing I noticed about her was her faith. Dylana is very outspoken about her faith and her relationship with God. An inspiring trait in anyone.

miss cdo 2015 + 1st runner up dylanna bax + top 5Photo by Jacob Casile

Now, she just got crowned last August 22 as the First Runner Up of Ms. CDO 2015. When she first shared about her story and why she joined the pageant at Saturday Night Life (SNL), I was inspired to share her story with you guys.

Alex: Why did you decide to join Ms. CDO?

Dylana: A lot of people have been telling me to join Ms. Cdo ever since I was 16 years old. I didn’t consider joining before since I’m a very private person. I’m an introvert. I’m not good with posing on stage.

Alex: What changed your mind?

Dylana: I finally joined because I wanted to help the kids at Kids Place Student Center. It’s a school for less fortunate children that was established by Compassion International. I wanted to have a voice that people could listen to so I could help the kids at Kids Place. I grew up with most of these children and they have become very close to me. The thing is, they only support children up until high school. After that, they’re on their own. A lot of the kids that graduated from high school end up having to work because they can’t afford to go to college.

Alex: That’s a great reason for joining pageants. Very inspiring. Have you joined other pageants besides Miss Cdo?

Dylana:No. This is the first pageant I joined. I’ve done a bit of modelling though. A lot of people invite me to model mostly because I’m tall – I’m 5’9”. But modeling is very different from joining a pageant. With modeling, you just walk down the runway. With a beauty pageant, you have to learn a different type of walk, you have to project, you have to have stage presence.

miss cdo 2015 + top 5.Photo by Raphy Arcaina

Alex: When did you decide to join this pageant?

Dylana: I decided to join this year because since a lot people kept asking me to join, I finally decided to give it a try. I thought I couldn’t finish it since because of my online job, I have to work at night. And according to pageant rules, if you miss just one main event, you’ll get disqualified. But somehow, by God’s grace, everything just worked out.

Alex: How many special awards does Ms. Cdo have?

Dylana: A lot. There are 22 special awards.

Alex: What awards did you win?

Dylana: I won Ms. Island Souvenirs, Ms. PAL and Darling of the Press

Alex: What award was your favorite award?

Dylana: I’m happy with all the awards I got but I really prayed for Ms. PAL since the prize was a free trip to Japan. It’s the only thing I kept for myself. I gave the rest of the awards and freebies away to the kids at Kids Place. When I joined the pageant, my commitment was that I’m doing this for the kids. So I didn’t want to keep anything for myself. That’s why, although it was hard, I resolved to give to them the cash prizes and freebies. And there were a lot of freebies since Ms. Cdo had a lot of sponsors.

dylanna bax miss cdo 1st runner up

Alex: Wow! That’s awesome! You’re definitely a blessing to these kids. Blessed to bless.

Dylana: Yes. I had good intentions in joining the pageant, but along the way, I almost got lost. I almost forgot why I joined in the first place.

Alex: What do you mean?

Dylana: In the middle of the pageant, I started to become self-centered. I wanted to be the most beautiful girl on stage, I wanted to outshine the other candidates. When I won Darling of the Press and people were telling me that I was definitely going to get into the top 5, that went to my head. It felt good to be praised. There was also a time when I got a free gadget from Globe. When I got home, I hurriedly opened it because I wanted to use it. It took me 30 minutes to figure it out. Then I thought to myself, what am I doing? Why am I about to use this gadget when I promised to give everything to the kids? They need it more than I do. So I put it back inside it’s package.

miss cdo 2015 top 5

Photo by Glenn Palacio

Alex: And then what happened?

Dylana: It’s like I woke up. I joined this pageant to honor God and help the kids. Not to glorify myself. But when people are glorifying you, it’s hard to remain grounded. So I hurriedly texted my disciplers to pray for me.

Alex: I understand how you felt. It’s really helpful to have a spiritual mentor especially when you’re going through something.

Dylana: I agree. My disciplers prayers helped me come back to my senses and remember why I’m here in the first place.

Alex: What were the other candidates like?

Dylana: Since this was my first time to join a pageant, I expected everyone to be competitive. Every man – or woman for this matter – for himself. But it wasn’t like that at all. The other candidates were very friendly and we supported each other throughout the pageant. I was even able to share the gospel with 4 of them.

miss cdo 2015 dylana bax

Photo by Phillip Vallespin

Alex: That’s great! you’re definitely being intentional in sharing the gospel. It’s something I need to work on myself. Let’s talk about being one of the Top 5. What projects would you like to propose for Ms. Cdo to do for this year?

Dylana: I really have a lot of projects in mind. But my primary advocacy is education. I don’t want to just sit back and relax now that the pageant has ended. Now is the time to start working for the good of the city.

It’s about what you can do with the crown and not what the crown can do for you.

-Dylanna Bax

One project that I have in mind is the “Literacy Drive”. I want to find someone who can sponsor a place every Saturday for 2 hours so we can teach people how to read. Then we can just have volunteer teachers. I know someone who’s already 19 years old and she only graduated from grade school. She doesn’t know how to read and write and I find it so sad. I want to help people like these.

Alex: I think that’s definitely possible. There are a lot of restaurants around Cdo that you can tap to sponsor the venue.

The world of beauty pageants is incredibly competitive, how do you maintain a balance between wanting to be the best, yet still retaining your morals and good nature?

Dylana: I don’t really compete with the other girls, I compete with myself. I just do my best in every event.

Alex: In the final Q & A portion, the question was “What can you do to change the world.” Your answer was to “pray because prayer is powerful”. Do you feel like you gave the right answer?

Dylana: Yes. That is what I believe in and I stand by that answer. If asked again, I would still give out the same answer.

Alex: Would you join another pageants? Bb Pilipinas, perhaps?

Dylana: At this point, I don’t know yet. There are people inviting me to join other pageants, but I haven’t really thought about it yet.

Alex: What are your plans after this?

Dylana: I’d like to focus on the ministry and my proposed projects for Ms. Cdo. And of course I’d like to spend time with my boyfriend since he’s going back to America next month.

dylanna and duds

Dylanna with longtime boyfriend Dudscott Malferrari

Alex: I know Duds came back home to surprise you and support you in this pageant. How did you feel?

Dylana: Very blessed – and surprised too. I didn’t expect it since he told me he couldn’t come home. I’m just really happy to be able to spend time with him.

Alex: That’s so sweet. You’re a lucky girl. Thank you so much for your time, Dylana. I hope your story will encourage other people to have the right motivation in doing things. I believe our main purpose here is to honor God and be a good testimony to other people so we can lead them to Christ.

Dylana: You’re welcome. Thanks for giving me the chance to share my story.


Interview with Blaze 28 Owner – Marky Apilan

I’ve always loved good stories. Whenever I hear one, it makes me want to share it to the world. I feel that good stories deserve to be told. And this is one such story.

blaze 28 .

Marky Apilan is a 26-year-old entrepreneur that has achieved great success despite all odds. He is also a good friend of mine. He started working as a sampaguita vendor in grade school, working his way up until high school. After high school, he immediately started working as a salesman at one of the biggest clothing brands here in Cdo City. Now he, together with his cousin, Johna Elgie are the proud owners of Haze Restobar. They have also just opened a fashion boutique at SM City Mall last August 28, 2015 – Blaze 28.

marky apilan blaze 28Marky Apilan – Blaze 28 Co-owner

Alex: Hi Marky! Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview you. It’s not everyday I get to meet with a young and successful entrepreneur. You mentioned before that you started working while you were still in grade school. Can you expound on that?

Marky: You’re welcome Alex. It’s a pleasure to see you as well. Regarding that, I started my first real job right after high school, at the age of seventeen. But I actually started working when I was still in grade school, selling sampaguitas, so I would have allowance. I didn’t have a comfortable life growing up so I was taught at a young age, the value of hard work. 

Alex: What were you like as a kid?

Marky: I’ve always been a dreamer. I love fairy tales. When I would do my chores, I would dream about my future life and what it would be like. We come from a modest family – we just had enough to get by. At the time I didn’t really believe my dreams could come true.

Alex: From sampaguitas to clothes. Quite a leap. What inspired you to put up a clothing line?

Marky: I’ve always been interested in fashion. When I was in high school I passed by this boutique that had beautiful clothes and shoes featured on the display window and it made me stop and look inside. I promised myself that someday, I would have something like this.

Alex: So after high school, why didn’t you proceed to college?

Marky: We didn’t have enough money for college so I had to start working right after high school. I worked as a salesman in a boutique here in Cdo. It was where I improved my skill in selling clothes and dealing with people.

marky apilan 3 blaze 28

Alex: How do you keep the clients coming back?

Marky: I build good relationships with them. I ask them about their life, their family, their hobbies. Every client is different. That’s why I’m very careful with what I say because words are something that you cant take back.

Alex: How was your experience as a salesman?

Marky: I enjoyed it. I’m not afraid to share my life with my clients, with other people, because I’m not ashamed of where I came from. I worked hard to be where I am today. I always think about what I can learn from what I’m doing. I was only able to graduate high school. I don’t have a diploma. One of the reasons why I worked so hard was because unlike others, they can easily resign and apply for another job. I don’t have that luxury. In a way, I was afraid that I wouldn’t have another opportunity like this. So I drew strength from that fear. That motivated me to do my job well.

If you love your job, your job will love you back.

-Marky Apilan

Alex: What did you learn as an employee?

Marky: I learned that everything that you give out will come back to you full circle. That’s just how life is. So you just need to do your best and be patient. I never expected all the promotions I’ve been given before. The other managers where Ateneo graduates, Cum Laudes and had various awards. There were times when I would feel small compared to them. But in a way, this became my strength. Because I had no degree to rest on, I did my best with every opportunity that I was given. I wanted to prove to the company that they did the right thing in promoting me.

 Alex: What are the values that you live by?

Marky: I believe in being true to myself. You should always be yourself. What people loved about you, maintain that. If you must change, change for the better. Continue being humble. Be genuine. Share who you truly are.

Alex: What values have your parents taught you?

Marky: My parents would always tell me to never step on anyone to succeed.

Alex: What is your compass? When making a decision, what do you look to as a guide?

Marky: My compass is Faith. There are times when I feel down, when I feel like nothing is going right. In times like this, it’s my faith in God that keeps me strong. I can hold on to His promise that this too shall pass.

There was a time in my life when I made this decision and I felt that everyone was against me. That was one of my lowest points. I only wanted to follow my dreams, to really do what I was passionate about. Was that so wrong? If someone gave you an opportunity to do that, wouldn’t you grab it?

johna elgie + blaze 28

Alex: Are you talking about your cousin Johna Elgie – your partner in Haze Restobar and Blaze 28?

Marky: Yes. I owe a lot to my cousin. She gave me the chance to go after my dreams. She’s really the one who offered to finance the business and have me as the industrial partner. At that time, I had a great job which I loved. But I was also ready to pursue other things, to take the next step, to find a new challenge.

Alex: So you wanted something more?

Marky:Yes. Something more…A bigger challenge.

Alex: Well as they say, if you wont go after your dreams. Someone will hire you to fulfill theirs. And it’s really fulfilling to run your own business.

Marky: Yes, the fulfillment is really different. It’s tiring but it’s worth it.

Alex: So how does your partnership with your cousin work?

Marky: I come up with the concept, with the ideas then I present it to her. Then she adds to it or comes up with other suggestions. Actually my cousin is very encouraging and supportive. She’s very open-minded and appreciative of my ideas. That’s what I like about her and it encourages me to come up with more ideas.

Alex: Who are your role models or people that you look up to?

Marky: I look up to my cousin – Johna Elgie. She also came from humble beginnings like me, but look where she is now. She owns and runs two real estate companies in Phoenix, Arizona. She also owns two home care centers and one skin care clinic. She was awarded as a top entrepreneur in Phoenix and she was on the cover of a Filipino-American magazine.

Alex: Is she married?

Marky: Yes, she actually got married to her boss and they had twins. Now they handle the business together. The business grew a lot when she started managing it. But despite her success she has remained humble.

johna elgie + blaze 28.

Alex: I think that’s the true test of character – to remain humble despite your success. Because that’s hard to do. Success can go to your head if you allow it to and that will be the start of your downfall. It reminds me of the story of Job and how everything was taken away from him in an instant. So that can also happen to us. The Lord gives and the Lord can take away. That’s why it’s best to remain humble in all circumstances.

Alex: What is your main motivation to succeed?

Marky: God and my family are my main motivation and strength. Nothing is impossible with God – as long as you are willing to do your part. Hard work is also important. 

Alex: Having a bible study group is very helpful too in making the right choices. Aside from prayer, having a Dgroup is a huge blessing. They help guide me in making the right choices.

Marky: I hope you invite me, I would like that too.

Alex: Sure, I’ll invite you to our Sunday service at CCF. We have a 9am, 11am and 5pm service.

Marky: I would love to go.

 Alex: What’s your advice to young entrepreneurs who want to start their own business?

Marky: Commitment and hard work are very important. Once you decide on something, you really need to work hard. Commit to seeing it through till the end. Finish what you started. You must also know your passion. Do what you love to do. Don’t engage in business for the money. Follow your passion.

blaze 28 cdo + be truly wealthy 5

Alex: Let’s talk about your boutique. What’s the concept behind Blaze 28?

Marky: My cousin and I wanted to have a clothing line that can cater to people from different segments from all walks of like – from teens, to moms, to lolas. We have basic wear for daily use, corporate chic for young professionals and glam for evening wear. We want our clothes to be fashionable yet comfortable.

Alex: What’s your price range?

Marky: For the blouses we have 400-800 php price range. And for the skirts, 500php and up.

Alex: What were your main challenges in starting Blaze 28?

Marky: Choosing the clothes was very challenging. I really chose the inventory personally with my cousin. The selection process took us months.

blaze 28 cdo + be truly wealthy 4

Alex: Why did you name your boutique Blaze?

Marky: I choose Blaze 28 because it’s easy to remember and catchy at the same time. It also stands for fire, passion. When you wear a Blaze outfit, you’ll be able to bring out the fire inside you and bring confidence in your life.

blaze 28 cdo + be truly wealthy

Alex: Thank you so much for your time Marky. Your story is indeed inspiring. I hope it will encourage other people to also go after their dreams, give it all they’ve got and trust God with the rest. I’m excited for the grand launch!

Marky: You’re welcome. Thank you for giving me the chance to share my story as well.

alex and marky

 Marky Apilan & Alex Zeta (left to right)

Interview with Young Entrepreneur Chingkee Te (Part 2)

…Continued from Interview with Young Entrepreneur Chingkee Te (Part 1)

chingkee tea interview + young entrepreneur 2

Chingkee: Chingkee Tea finally opened on March 2012.

Alex: How did you chose your location?

Chingkee: I just wanted a place near Xavier University. This place (referring to the first Chingkee Tea branch near Corrales St.), was a big risk for us because it’s very hidden. But then it worked out. In all this, I could really see the hand of God moving. If not for His grace, I don’t know where Chingkee Tea would be. I mean, the location is very hidden, but it’s almost always full. Everything else just fit together.


Alex: How did you market Chingkee Tea?

Chingkee: Mainly online. I didn’t know a lot of people in Cdo – only my high school friends. I made a facebook page and created online posters. It became trending because we were the first shabby chic café and a lot of people were curious. Social media was my main marketing tool – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and also word of mouth.

Alex: How was opening day?

chingkee tea interviewChingkee: The first week of opening was really great. I didn’t expect to have to many customers on the first week. What I’d like to share is my testimony about tithing. It was my dad who really encouraged me to tithe and who reminded me about how important it is to give the first fruits of your labor to God. So on the first Sunday of our opening day, I gave all my sales to God. The following week, our sales doubled. It was really amazing.

Alex: Wow! That’s a great testimony!

Chingkee: I know. God is really amazing.

Alex: How have your parents been through the whole process?

Chingkee: Oh, very very supportive. My parents would come here almost everyday, especially my mom. She would work as the cashier before. And even my brother, Richmond would come to help out. I love it when my brother comes over because he has a lot of fans so my sales really go up. Haha.

chingkee te family 2

Alex: Wow, really?

Chingkee: Yeah. A lot of people say he looks like Xian Lim.

Alex: Oh, so your brother is your main marketing tool!

Chingkee: Haha. Yes! I would so love to keep him here. But he has to go back to Manila.

Alex: How has being a business owner changed you?

Chingkee: It made me more mature. I’m still very childish – my staff knows this. But I think, I’ve grown up a little. I’m a Marketing graduate but I think you’re better at it! (laughs)

Alex: But you have a really likeable personality. Everyone seems to like you immediately.

Chingkee: I’m a bit awkward around people I don’t know, actually. Chingkee Tea really forced me to come out of my shell.

chingkee tea cagayan de oro

Alex: How do you handle your staff?

Chingkee: I’m actually pretty lenient with them which is both a weakness and a strength. Many of my staff are the children of the workers we had before in our old family business. I’ve grown up with most of them because we all live in one compound. Most of my workers are related to each other. I’ve been very blessed with my staff. Without them, there would be no Chingkee Tea. That’s why we close early compared to other cafés. I don’t want my staff to go home so late. So on Mondays – Thursdays we close at 8PM. On Fridays and Saturdays, we close at 10PM.

Alex: What are your plans for Chingkee Tea? Are you planning to expand?

Chingkee: Yes, I am. A lot of people want to franchise Chingkee Tea but I’m still weighing the pros and cons, because it can be a headache. Right now Chingkee Tea has 2 branches: One near Corrales St. and one in Grand Central.

Alex: What’s your advice for people who want to start their own business?

Chingkee: First, find your purpose in life and then do it. I believe this business was given to me by God so I can help enhance the lives of other people, like my staff and my customers. I’ve heard many stories about people coming to Chingkee Tea, sad and lonely and their coming in here made them feel better. Some of my customers met and became friends here in Chingkee Tea. So it gives me a sense of fulfillment. Chingkee Tea is a testimony of God’s grace and how He has helped me find my life’s purpose.

Second, be passionate about what you are doing. If I weren’t passionate about this, I’d have given up long ago. Running a business is a huge headache and there’s always so much to do.

Third, surround yourself with the right people. I call them my pillars. God, family, friends and mentors.

alex zeta + chingkee te interview

 Chingkee Te & Alex Zeta (left to right)

Alex: Thank you Chingkee! I’ve learned so much from you today. Thank you for the time. Merry Christmas!

Chingkee: Thanks also Alex. It was my pleasure. Merry Christmas!

Interview with Young Entrepreneur Chingkee Te (Part 1)

cdo milk tea chingkee tea

This is Part 1 of a 2-part interview: Read on to Part 2 of Interview with Young Entrepreneur Chingkee Te HERE

It’s not everyday we get to meet a young, successful entrepreneur. At 24 years old, Chingkee Te is an inspiration to many (and to me too!). Fresh out of college, she established her first business at the age of twenty-one. And now, she is the proud owner of one of the most successful, homegrown, milk-tea brands in Cagayan de Oro City – Chingkee Tea.

I met Chingkee at Atlantis Gym a year ago. We became fast friends and would often indulge in long conservations in between Crossfit and lifting weights. It’s amazing how many friends I’ve made at the gym – and Chingkee is one of them. I’ve always liked to interview people about how they’ve “made it” and what their journey was like. So last December 13, 2014 (that’s right, this was done more than a year ago. Hehe), I scheduled an interview with my good friend Chingkee right here at Chingkee Tea.

Alex: Hi Chingkee! Thank you so much for agreeing to do an interview with me. I really appreciate it. Chingkee Tea is one of my favorite milk tea brands here in Cdo. It’s amazing how you now have a thriving business at such a young age. How did you get started?

chingkee teChingkee: Thank you Alex! It’s my pleasure. Regarding how I started, I didn’t really plan on being in business. But I couldn’t see myself as an employee either. So on the night after my graduation I felt a little nervous of what was to come. So I prayed about it. I asked, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” I couldn’t see myself working in a 9-5 job. I wanted to work at my own pace. So being an employee was out of the question. I just wanted to have a job that I was passionate about and where I could have time freedom. As I was praying, I felt God was telling me to open a business where I could display my love for art. So I first thought, I can open a café! But then I don’t drink coffee and there are already so many coffee shops around Manila.

Alex: So you were based in Manila then?

Chingkee:Yes. I was a fresh grad from De La Salle University where I took up Marketing. That was back in year 2011. I guess that’s the usual question of new graduates. Like, what am I going to do with my life?chingkee te + cdo milk tea

Alex: What did you think of opening next, if not a coffee shop?

Chingkee: I then considered opening a milk tea shop. But then, there were also so many milk tea shops in Manila already. At that time I had no plans of settling down in Cagayan de Oro because I was planning to be based in Manila.

Alex: Why Manila?

Chingkee: I studied there and my siblings are there. It just made sense at the time. Anyway after that, I thought about putting up a milk tea shop in Cagayan. At the time, there were no milk tea shops yet in Cdo. So I called my mom and told her, “I know what I want as my graduation gift…a business.”

Alex: What was your mom’s reaction to that?

Chingkee: My mom was really happy about it. At least with a business, I’d have something to do after graduation.

Alex: How many siblings do you have?

Chingkee: Three. I have an older brother and sister. My sister is 30-she’s happily married to a pastor with 3 kids. My brother is 25 and still single. They’re both based in Manila.

chingkee te family

Alex: So back to your graduation gift.

Chingkee: Yes, at first I thought that maybe my mom wasn’t serious about it. But I still did my research. At that time, I didn’t know anything about milk tea except that I liked drinking it. Then there was this one supplier from Taiwan who approached me. He sent me an email and offered to train me in Taiwan.

Alex: Where did you get that supplier?

Chingkee: I made a lot of inquiries online. So when the supplier emailed me, I thought about it long and hard. Because of course, it was a big investment. And the fee didn’t include yet my fare and accommodation. Just the training itself was already expensive. So I prayed again and told God, “Lord, if my dad is ok with this then perhaps it’s really your will.” Amazingly, my dad was willing to support me all the way. So in September, a few months after I graduated, I flew to Taiwan.

Alex: You’re so blessed to have a supportive family.

Chingkee: Yes I do. But it still wasn’t that easy. When I got back from Taiwan, I thought, I could start immediately. But it turned out that what I learned from college was very different from the real world. I was ready to begin but I didn’t know what to do. I had no experience on starting a business. I started to read books on how to start a business, but actually doing it was different.

chingkee tea milk tea 3

Photo from

Alex: Yes, I can relate. Making tea is easy once you’ve got the training. But running a business, that’s the hard part.

Chingkee: Exactly. Plus we had invested a lot of money already. The loan I got from my dad was getting bigger and bigger. Also around October 2011, two milk tea shops opened in Cdo – Kenko Naicha and Datsa. So I got a bit stressed because I really wanted to be the first to open. The thing was, there was still so much to do so we couldn’t open yet. Then I started to have doubts whether I should even push through with it. It’s a good thing my family and friends were very encouraging and supportive. My goal was to open before 2011 ended. But then came Sendong. So the opening had to be rescheduled again. This time we picked Feb 2012 – in time for Valentines. But then again, we got delayed because of construction. We got delayed lots of times before we finally got to open…

Want to know when Chingkee Tea opened? Read on at Interview with Young Entrepreneur Chingkee Te (Part 2)