Here’s an exchange of comments from among four friends that centered on humble beginnings and solving toughest problems in life. Virginia Estacio-monteagudo: You are kidding me Sir Mel!! Are you here? Can you stay a little longer till Sunday 3/21/10? Its our Anniversary here in New Jersey ? Have been to Atlantic City? But we will be both blessed if you and I will meet each other in EL Shaddai NJ Chapter Anniversary.. Kunwari ikaw si Bro. Mike who is very busy in Manila. The younger and more handsome (1 paligo lang ha) version of Bro. Mike. Pero carbon copy kayo sa galing. Sir, do you have any toughest problem, issue, wish, dream that you think that is impossible for a man to accomplish or solve but EL SHADDAI can ! Sir, I dare you o.. Try him, punta ka, kahit sandali lang.. Hello and Goodbye. Pero sa presence mo pa lang, apelido mo, ay naku!!! MIlagro na. Mel Velarde’s answer : Mel Velasco Velarde Ha! ha! ha! You make me laugh sobra! It’s 7am here in LA and I’m jet lagged but you are really funny. This is so amusing I tell you. If I could fly there I would. But I’m just here for four days. I will be in New York and Boston in June. I plan to take the train and visit my “foster” parents in Princeton. Are you near Princeton? Oh as to your question on the toughest problem I had well one was when my father lost his eyesight when I was 8. It was the most terrible thing to happen to a Photo Journalist. I helped run the Velarde Studio at Enrico Hotel. Family savings were totally gone. Emergency situations were endless; we were always trying to catch up to survive. When I was in third year high school, the family needed a lot more money for medical services for Papa’s eyes. We were so despondent. Guess what? One day my school chose me to represent it to a Television Quiz and Current Events Contest among high school students in Channel 9 with Jeanne Young. The contest had two parts: first round was the academic portion wherein two high school reps (me and a girl from St. Bridget’s) had to answer three questions, which could be in science, current events or any topic from the encyclopedia. My father told me to read the papers and every page of the encyclopedia. I complained to my mother and told her how could I possibly memorize every detail in the encyclopedia. I would be crazy to even start doing that on the first volume. My father was adamant. He said “just use your eyes like a camera and your memory is like a film. Just browse each and every page and stop when you find something interesting but go through all of it as if you are taking picture of each and every page!” My ever obedient mother said: “sundin mo na lang si Papa mo, para hindi magalit.” Back to the contest, the one who answers the most questions correctly in the first round goes to the next; the other goes home defeated. True enough the final academic question was the scientific name of bats, something I saw (well, it had pictures!), captured and filmed on my memory from the encyclopedia! The second portion is totally based on luck. Since I passed the first portion, I was made to choose the magic word out of nine words posted on the board, which all starts with a letter “V,” and choose three out of the nine guest celebrities in the show, who would have chosen the same word that I had picked. Talagang ayaw nilang may manalo ng grand prize. The chances would have been so nil.
Long and short of the story, my guess was right. I chose the word “Verdict” that was on the hidden magic word and three celebrities I chose picked “Verdict” as well. I brought home the grand prize, a brand new Toyota Corolla 78, which I sold for P45k pesos and gave my dad the P40k. I kept the P5k and bought a second hand beetle. This is the time I discovered the power of hard work and luck, wherein the former is a pre-requisite to, and an ingredient of, the later. (one of the many little/big miracles!)
But doctors in the Philippines gave up on my father’s eye situation. I told my father I don’t believe these doctors. There has to be a way and I will make sure it will happen. My father said you can do anything in your life Mel, you don’t have to worry about my problem. At 19, I told him I would go to America and find a way. The United Nations was in search for youth leaders to attend the 1983 Youth Leaders Conference. I applied, I passed the interview and became Chairman of the Philippine Youth delegation. In the conference, I became Chairman of the Youth Organization of 110 youth leaders from different countries. My father’s eye situation was always in my mind. It’s the target to shoot. All these many little accomplishments were meant, at least to me, that I am getting close to achieving my real target. After the youth conference in Manhattan, the UN set me up to stay in a house in Princeton, New Jersey, owned by Dr. Earl and Nancy Simon. I call Nancy “Mom” but “doctor” to Earl. Guess what? Earl is a top eye doctor. (Always be on the watch for little signs of miracles like this, which show that life is such a beautiful mystery!) Since my father’s eye medical records are always with me I showed them to Dr. Earl on the first night I met him. Dr. Earl says my father’s eye disease may be incurable; it is called “nerve atrophy.” “But not without hope, Mel,” Dr. Earl said. My ears grew so big like those of Dr. Spock in Star Trek. “Take him to LA, there is guy known as the Father of Low Vision Opthalmology.” This doctor believed that no matter how small or weak the eyesight it can be improved through the daily exercise of seeing through various lenses. Dr. Earl wrote him and sent him a brief about my Papa’s eyes. He said there is hope. Whooha! This is America indeed, a solution is at hand! I had a problem when I left for the States, now I have a solution for my father. It would take more than a million peso, perhaps I need to be a multi-millionaire, to execute this plan. But that is an impediment that pales in comparison to the hopelessness of a so-called incurable disease! Once the mind opens up and drops the idea of the impossible, the mind can not control itself as it flies freely, almost uncontrollably, to fulfill its deepest longing. After sometime, I landed where I wanted to be: the city of angels, Los Angeles. As a trainee News Director of Channel 5 KTLA News, I worked in this Hollywood studio with Hal Fishman (who died some years ago) and Jeff Wald, the News head. My training starts at 3pm and ends at 11pm. 8am to 2pm was an opportunity time to do something along my target. As I was walking on California Street in Glendale, there was a bookstore that sell old books named Brand Bookstore, owned by Joseph Brand. I always go there. Joseph says “why do you come here for hours, read all these books and then you would buy just the one dollar book before you go just to say you bought something?” “Hey, you can just read and read here, you don’t have to buy anything.” I said: “great, but you know, I can organize the books here really.” Joseph was in fact looking for someone to do this at $3.50 an hour. His bookstore is a big mess. I told him to give me the option to be paid half in books and half in cash for four hours a day on the condition that if I finish my task for the day early I can spend the remaining time reading all the books I want. He agreed. I went maniacal over these valuable books. You could just imagine! I read the most expensive books (that I can’t afford with half of my salary) while working and brought home, as part of compensation, the “classic” books that I wanna keep for life. That’s how I got to build my personal library. Here’s the thing. What books was I reading so diligently? Well what else? Stories of the wealthiest men and women in history, especially from the Medici family of Venice to the early Technology billionaires of our time. I was intensely interested, in a forensic way, in investigating how these individuals rose bigger than life, what skills they possessed, the moves they made, the friends they kept, the habits they acquired and the motivations that drove them. (I wrote slightly about this in my previous FB update last year) I could not stopped reading at Brand bookstore. My reading glasses became my new best friend. Before I was 24, I brought my whole family to America and had my father checked. He was given two inch vision lenses for him to exercise daily. In less than a year my father can walk on his own, with a silhouette vision, a big improvement to a life of seeming total darkness. He could dance the tango again without losing balance and falling off; he still dances up to now. We celebrated his 74th birthday last March 10. When I was 24, I headed the news department where Loren Legarda, Korina Sanchez and Noli de Castro were prominent members of my department . At 26, I started to work with professionals like you in planning to build what later became the biggest cable TV company in the Philippines. I invested my own money in that firm and sold my shares in 1997, age 34. I got 5.3 times from that investment. Then I established Velarde Inc. (VI) in 1999, which organized or bought and sold TMT (telecom, media, technology) companies, which now owns ICTV, a listed firm in the Philippine Stock Exchange. In less than ten years, VI’s tax payment alone matched that of the Philippine National Oil Company. Did I in the process become a millionaire, a billionaire or multi-billionaire? That’s the irrelevant detail. When one is driven by a billion horsepower towards attaining an impossible goal, the impossible will give up! Judy Arteche-Carr and Rainier Deang like this!
March 20 at 11:34pm ·
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