September 23, 2019 (5:06 PM)

4 min read


Despite his failures in the past, Kuya Donald decided to sell for a living along Claveria street. Photo by Geia Mendoza

Orange hues protruded against the midnight sky, signaling the coming of dawn. A lithe figure was mixing batter from a big casserole– right hand going on about a circular motion, the left grasping the outer lid of the bowl tightly. Slowly, solid lumps began to dissolve in the creamy yellow mixture, signaling that the batter had reached its perfect consistency. When he was satisfied, he set the mixture on a container full of utensils and extra ingredients and, leaving his house, made his way towards the long road ahead. Doing this routine may take its toll, but for a determined individual, this was no challenge.

Every day, along the still waking Claveria street beside the Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) and just a couple of steps from the Claveria gate, a tall individual stands in front of a wooden table. With long black hair pinned atop the head, usually cocooned by a smooth fabric the color of rich wine, one would perceive him as a woman; and although he prefers to look like one, he still appreciates being called “kuya” by his customers.

Together with his mother, Kuya Donald would haul their cooking supplies and their ingredients towards their post along Claveria street. Their makeshift stand, usually left overnight and secured with silver chains is adorned on the side by a tall, silver grilling pan with charcoal. Throughout the day, Kuya Donald would be busy making the pan’s surface hot for another of their delicacies, ginanggang – grilled unripe bananas brushed with a generous amount of margarine and sprinkled with white sugar.

“Daghan man mamalit sa akoa diri, taga-Ateneo,” he expressed. Although he has not been in his post for too long, Kuya Donald has come to appreciate the kindness of his customers— not only the students but also busy passersby.  

Kuya Donald’s success in his small venture, however, was inspired and rooted deeply to the failures he has encountered in the past.

“Daghan ko ug negosyo sa una, ni-down lang. Mao gusto nako mabalik nako ang mga nawala sa akoa,” he said, as an uncertain smile graced his face.

Being inclined to business even at the young age of 12, it came as no surprise to Kuya Donald that he is still selling for a living today.

After he graduated from high school, his love for selling grew even more when he decided to start a hotcake and ginanggang stand.

Every day, before sun rise, he would buy multiple hands of bananas while waiting for the hotcake batter to set. Eventually, this small venture provided him and his family their needs.

When he became financially stable, he decided to invest in several businesses. Inevitably, what was once just a hot cake and ginanggang vendor became a jack of all trades. He became a soft drinks retailer, a buyer of a native products, and even the owner of a small lending company– a business, which, according to him, he put up to help people who are struggling financially. As his business boomed, he was able to purchase a car both for personal and corporate use.

However, Kuya Donald’s triumph was a short-lived bliss. Faced with obstacles like soaring expenses for maintenance, debts, and people who could not pay their dues, his business eventually collapsed. Kuya Donald’s supposed straight road to success crumbled, leaving only small bricks for him to work on.

This crisis did not deter him, though. Instead of surrendering his passion for selling, he used his failure as a motivation to rebuild his broken path. Once again, he returned to the business world, together with his original hotcakes and ginanggang.

“Maskig ma down ka, life must go on. Dili ka dapat mag-regret sa imong past, kailangan nimo maningkamot para sa imong future. Laban lang gani,” he advised.

While it is difficult to predict what comes next in our lives, there will always be one thing that is certain: Life is full of broken bricks, of battling struggles and chasing half-baked dreams. However, echoing Kuya Donald’s outlook in life, it may be unwise to stay in the thresholds of the past; instead, one must transform failure into a weapon of the future.   

End the silence of the gagged!

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