eastwind journals
A Kid from the Slums Makes it to the Top. An amazing rags-to-riches story.
By Bernie V. Lopez,
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Tondo is the wild ghetto of Manila, similar to Harlem of New York. James (name changed for privacy), born and raised in Tondo, wallowed in utter poverty. When there was no food at home, he would skip classes at the local public school, for how can you learn with an empty stomach. He always carried a pocket knife in defense against the bullies. When they knew he had a knife, they did not touch him. It was his only defense against a violent world of sheer poverty. James would later evolve into a tycoon beyond his wildest dream, one of the biggest philanthropists of his time. Yet he remained in the shadows, unknown in the corporate world.


James topped the tests for scholarship at a prestigious university. All of a sudden, his world changed from flood-prone streets of goon-infested Tondo to the manicured green campus of a university for the elite. The school put him in the campus dormitory.


His new world hit him like a lightning bolt. He had an acute inferiority complex with all the well-dressed English-speaking students all around. It was easy for him to hide his utter poverty because they gave him new clothes. His poverty was a closely guarded secret. Everyone treated him like anybody else. He was initially lonely and alienated inside, but he did not show it. Watching and listening in silence, he gradually realized he was the same flesh and blood as the rich. His inferiority complex evolved into a deep resolve to prove his worth in academics.


James finally topped the academic ranking, beating the former no. 1 by a hair, who was the high school Valedictorian. This boosted his confidence. Suddenly, all eyes were on him. He blended in smoothly. At first, he was reluctant to meet the rich girls in the Saturday parties. Finally, he inched forward, got a girl friend from the alien world, from whom he for a moment kept secret his former world. James was now accepted and admired by everyone.


James took his Master’s Degree in Economics on scholarship in London. He graduated with flying colors, and ended up in Wall Street, sporting a three-piece suit, achieving expertise in stock market investment. Returning home, he became an Executive Vice President in a prestigious bank.


This is where our story begins. James was all over the stock market. He became a millionaire in the blink of an eye. The coal-dependent Philippine cement industry ground to a halt due to a global coal shortage, syphoned by China for her hungry economy. When the stock price of the largest cement firm plunged, James bought massively, all his eggs in one basket, and waited like a lion for prey. In a year, the coal shortage dissipated and the cement industry was revived by an intense demand from the construction industry, from total bust to total boom. The cement firm stock price soared to the high heavens. At the peak, James unloaded all he got and amassed tens of millions. The stock price fell instantly due to his massive sell-out, but recovered.


And so it came to pass that James, the Tondo kid, became the Tondo Tycoon. But he never forgot his roots, and the violence of poverty. His heart went out to the poor who could not afford an education. He was the largest donor of his Alma Mater at one time, beating all the Taipans. He donated scholarship funds to more schools in other big cities. He created the largest scholarship fund for Muslim students in two southern cities. On top of buildings, he donated hundreds of computers, and gave for free thousands of expensive text books, the infrastructure to learning.


It was amazing how the more James gave, the more he received. It would happen several times. His generosity was answered by the Lord with financial gains ten-fold of his donations. Bless your pretty soul, James, wherever you sit silently in the shadows, unseen by the world. May we have more men like you.


when you wrong another
you wrong yourself a hundred-fold
when you uplift another
you uplift yourself a hundred fold
when you aid the weak, you strengthen yourself
when you give to the poor, you enrich yourself
comfort another and you are consoled
save a life and you are saved
life is such that what you give is what you receive
only a hundred fold more
the greatest lesson for the tondo tycoon
was his utter poverty


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By Bernie V. Lopez,
Columnist Daily Tribune – Blogger – Healing Ministry – University Professor
TV documentary producer/director – Radio broadcaster
Facebook “Bernie V Lopez” or “Eastwind Journals” or “Mary Mediatrix”
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