Life Lessons: Donnie Tantoco, Tim Yap And More Create Letters For Their Younger Self
Miguel Pastor is an architect.
Dear younger Miguel,
Don’t take things too seriously. You often take things too personally and you are quite sensitive. In school, you always made sure you would study hard and achieve academic excellence. Sometimes, you would miss out on being with friends and engaging in social activities to prioritise my studies. Social skills were something you weren’t able to cultivate earlier on. In the real world it’s all about having good relationships and a good network of friends and contacts which will get you through many important situations.
Value friends you have growing up. They will be your source of strength, inspiration and guidance, who will keep you grounded as you navigate through life. I continue to survive this pandemic through the support of family and friends.
Don’t worry about what others think of you and what they are doing. Each of us have a different life purpose. Don’t think negatively about yourself. You must know your strengths and use them wisely. Identify and work on improving your weaknesses. Do not compare your life with others. Look back where you were ten years ago and be grateful for the blessings that have come your way.
Learn to embrace the changes in your life. It’s not going to be smooth sailing all the time. You will face many difficult and challenging situations in life. You must learn to be tough and resilient to survive them all.
Finally, take care of yourself. Develop good habits—exercise and have a proper diet. These you will keep for life and help you live a long fruitful life.
All the best,
Gianna Montinola, SVP for corporate affairs at Far Eastern University and co-founder of Hands On Manila.
You do not always have to have the last say! As a lawyer trained to win arguments, I have learnt the hard way to swallow my pride and discern when to let go.
Listen attentively to those who talk to you. Your perception can change once you put yourself in somebody else’s shoes.
You cannot control everything in life. Embrace this, and you will be ready to face the challenges that come your way and conquer them.
Choose your friends wisely; surround yourself with positive, inquisitive, kind and happy people who will make you grow. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Do not waste your energy on those with whom you have nothing in common.
If you lead by example, you will earn the respect of others. It is true that your actions speak louder than words. They are proof of your character.
Be kind, compassionate and generous to all.
Stephanie Ong del Rosario
Stephanie Ong del Rosario, Managing director of Myanmar Consulting Services Co.
Resistance is futile, something you will discover wholeheartedly in your youth. You rarely resist the urge to laugh, to learn and to discover the secrets in words that lay unspoken. This becomes a compelling catalyst for you, and I would urge a little more restraint if you could. But you will not heed warnings here. The way you dive into the world is heartachingly beautiful, and I am still astonished to this day of how much trust you put into people, whether they broke your heart or lifted it.
Your spirit will be paper thin at times, when you discover the nuances of growth are not always kind. Rebel against darker urges to blame yourself for what you cannot control and be more thoughtful about where your energy lies. Find solace in the right people. You will know them when you meet, and you will never let go. Things will become clear to you as you unfold throughout your life, revealing more depth as you simultaneously learn to let go of things that no longer align with the essential. Advice will be given, with caution. But trust yourself, even when your happiness falters. In the end, faith in yourself will prove its worth. One day, a perfect storm will enter stage left. He will hold your hand and never leave. This is the kind of love that is not easily found on the page. He is rooted deeply, a still point in your turning world. Learn from him every day as he learns from you. And one morning, you will be looking into your grandfather’s eyes on a boy with his smile.
Find magic in everything as you had in your childhood. Assert yourself, and never be ashamed to voice a respectful opinion.
People will often remark on your firm handshake. It is a part of you that cannot be softened, not for anyone—and that is okay. Forgive often, expect nothing but give when you can. Kindness is a notion often bereft in the world, champion it in your children and others you would hold dear. Never forget who you are, teeth and heart. Be proud of yourself, as I have been of you. Live with dignity and gratitude, always.
More From Tatler: Pearls of Wisdom: Stephanie Ong-Del Rosario
Joanna Ongpin Duarte
Joanna Ongpin Duarte, Executive director of Gifts and Graces Fair Trade Foundation and senior director of programmes for Ayala Foundation.
To my 17-year-old self,
You are so lucky to have had a wonderful life up to this point. You have a happy and healthy family, a good education, great friends at school and the chance to pursue your chosen sport of riding horses. You are cheerful and adventurous yet, an untainted and unrestrained spirit with no cause to complain. These will give you the reserves for what is yet to come.
At the age of 18 your father dies in unusual circumstances and suddenly, when your world has been turned upside down, you realise what constitutes a life well-lived. Leaving your mark in the world by being a productive citizen and being a woman for others is more important than being successful in business or being well-known.
At 19 you are eager to assert your independence, and entrepreneurial stirrings prod you to start your own business. You are fearless when it comes to signing leases and contracts, borrowing money, hiring people twice your age. You are a house on fire.
I wonder if, should you see yourself 30 years later, would you be disappointed with where fate has taken your future self? She does not become a teacher like you thought back in college. She does not stay an entrepreneur, the path that you took too so ardently. She actually works in an office and has discovered a love for painting period portraits. It is unimaginable to you that she chose this life. Yet be assured that from this vantage point, she does not harbour any regrets and is in fact, very happy. Here’s some advice from the future. Always remember that there is a reason for every experience in your life: the heart-breaking losses, the big wins and all the balls thrown from left field. Do not agonise with “why me?” The reasons may not become clear to you until many years later. Accept the cards you are dealt and know that it is never going to be something you can’t handle. This is the first step to processing any unplanned situation. Learn to live in the present: only focus on the learnings of the past and don’t worry too much about the future.
Take things from day to day, and if that is still too much, moment by moment. Breathe.
Frequently take stock of all the things you have and give thanks. It may sound trite but the secret to happiness is in wanting what you already have. Always keep your family and friends close and nurture those relationships with frequent kindnesses and attention. These relationships are the fuel to a meaningful life. Conversely, although some people may irk you, try not to make enemies and burn bridges. You will probably meet again and there is no telling what the situation will be then. Your character and skills are an epic work in progress so be open to new ideas, new people and new adventures. “Outside of the box” is where the most exciting lessons are, so when you are compelled to get into something new, just say yes! Have a posse of empowered women to draw strength and inspiration from. Do the research and tap into the wisdom of experts and people who have been there before. There will be challenges in work, in parenting and even in the realm of health that may overwhelm you and undermine your confidence—cut yourself some slack.
Everyone makes mistakes but quitting is not an option. Your resilience and optimism are your innate aces so, have a drink or two, blow off some steam and then get back right in the game.
On the lighter side, wear that bikini while you still can and love your body!
Tim Yap is a host and eventologist.
Do not be scared. Life is an exciting journey filled with moments that will make it all worth it.
Timmy, write down and visualise all your dreams one by one, then make it all come true. You will realise that your life is a series of wishes being granted. Nothing comes easy but work earnestly and work hard —the reward for your labour will be worth it! Invest in yourself, always be creative.
Be grateful. There is a reason why our initials are TY— it means thank you! Through it all, be humble and treat every single person with respect.
If there will be people who will speak ill of you, let them... But when the situation calls for it, stand up to the bullies. Sometimes, they just need to be reminded that they can’t bully everyone.
Timmy, you will meet people from all walks of life. You’ll meet some of the best ones, but you will also encounter a couple of bad eggs. Heed the counsel of the best and allow them to mentor you. And the unsavoury ones? From them, you will learn how NOT to be. Observe, don’t judge, allow people to be their own person. You’ll know what to do when the time comes.
On most days, our life will feel like a bed of roses, it will not be without its thorns. And those days will hurt. But we will survive.
There will be headaches and heartaches along the way, marriage and a lot of animals, natural disasters, man-made tragedies, a pandemic and other situations beyond his control.
Through all these times, stay grounded, keep focused, deepen your faith in God and in humanity, and try to see the good even if sometimes it is not so easy to see.
Timmy, when the world tries to envelop you in darkness, let your light shine. Darkness is afraid of the light. Be still. Everything will be alright.
Read more: Wok With Yap: Tim Yap Launches His First Food Concept This August 2020
Marivic Rufino is an artist-writer and vice-chair of the Philippine Red Cross Makati branch of the Rizal chapter.
My dearest Marivic,
This is a unique chance to write you from across a chasm of space and time, decades into the future. You are in the past, ready to start your life.
As a wise woman who has been through tests of fire—
the experience of crises, chaos, pain and grief—I have a few lessons to teach you.
I now understand most of the questions: What? How? Why? When? Where? How can I guide you?
First, you should always be close to God. Pray the daily rosary to Mama Mary.
Be close to the family. Stay strong in your faith because that is how you will survive.
No matter what happens, don’t give up. Persevere in whatever you are doing and do your best. Aim for excellence, not perfection.
Work for your independence. Delayed gratification is better than something that is given instantly. “Life is hard,” Daddy used to tell me.
Pray for discernment to make the hard decisions, the right choices. If you fall, stand up and carry on. Mistakes and failures will make you stronger.
Count your blessings. Forgive.
Be grateful, compassionate, kind and respectful. Do things to make a difference in the lives of others. Develop generosity of spirit, the willingness to share blessings and to give of yourself.
Study hard, develop your talents and keep learning. Your innate intelligence will make you strive for the best. Develop your spirituality. You need the essential
qualities of wisdom and grace.
Be open to synchronicity—the coincidences of events, the signs that happen. These things may seem puzzling, confusing at first. With God’s grace, things will fall into place. Everything happens for a reason. “God draws straight through crooked lines.”
Happiness is for the self. Joy is more important and lasting because it transcends the self and it is shared.
True love is an act of the will.
You are a valuable, precious individual. Follow your dream but be practical. Be productive, creative. Paint, write and express yourself. Keep your feet on the ground.
You will evolve and be transformed. Accept what the universe offers you.
Donnie Tantoco is the president of Rustan's Corporation.
Dear 40-year-old Donnie,
We’ve made many mistakes including avoidable and stupid ones these 14 years. Often our mistakes were caused by too much pride. However, I am grateful to you because I am reaping from what you were sowing. Thank you, younger Donnie for:
Exercising every single day. I am pudgy right now, but I have a strong heart and good immune system because of your crazy discipline.
For making that life-changing and very inconvenient three-week trip to the Holy Land. Long way to go still towards being a true follower and devout Catholic, but my spiritual health is solid because of everything that has happened since that trip.
For listening to Crickette. Especially when she demanded that I stop putting my work above my family. My once fragile relationships with my wife and kids are now a source of great pride, significance and nourishment for me.
For continuing to spend every single Wednesday with Lolo Benny. I have now added my parents. These one on one, regular and very deep conversations have shaped whatever character, purpose of business and life wisdom that I possess now.
Anyway, younger Donnie, I am more comfortable in my
own skin, clearer about my life’s purpose today than ever before because you were open to learning from the right people and the Bible. I will do my best to balance continuity and evolving from the path you have set. I hope pride and the fear of failure do not derail me from our path. By the way, we have a beautiful and super intelligent granddaughter now. Her name is Yani.