HE could have stayed in the United States where his family is or in the burning deserts of Saudi Arabia to rake in more money. But Mike Bolos opts to stay home and walk the road less-traveled.
“I’ve had enough overseas. Life’s comfort is obviously there but I’d like to get old here,” Mike Bolos tells the Inquirer in an interview.
Turning 53, Bolos obviously had enjoyed the prime of his life toiling 25 years as an accountant and chief financial officer in several companies in Saudi.
He had all the best. But in 2005, he decided to return and settle where, he says, his heart is.
“I’d rather spend whatever earnings I have here,” says Bolos who has put up a spa center in Manila and a commercial building in his hometown, Guagua, Pampanga.
The spa which started in August, 2005 employs 18 women, whom he says could have ended as domestic helpers had they gone abroad.
“They were merely high school graduates but they earn here as much as P20,000 monthly as masseuse,” he adds.
The P60-million, 3-story commercial building, on one hand, is expected to be in full swing this month. It will house various establishments such as a dance studio, an Internet café, a 7-11 convenience store and a modern American-patterned dental clinic run by one of his children.
“The mall type building will be the center of life (in Guagua). This is my way of paying back the people I grew up with. This will be a one-stop shop,” he adds.
Formula for success
But the success of Bolos didn’t happen in the blink of an eye.
“I was good in numbers and they never failed me throughout. But of course, it was sheer determination, hard work and patience,” he says.
His is a classic Cinderella story. He climbed the corporate ladder from being an ordinary Accounting board passer.
It was his brother who was looking for a job abroad but it was Bolos who was given the chance.
At 21, he worked as an accountant in a travel agency in Riyadh where he stayed for two years. He later moved to a health care company, the Gama Services Ltd., where he spent 23 years. He left Gama as corporate assistant comptroller.
At an early age, Mike learned how to juggle work with academics as business administration student at the University of the East.
But the hard times didn’t stop him from dreaming of a brighter life for his family. It was actually one of the goading forces behind his success.
He graduated high school valedictorian which qualified him for a business course at the University of Santo Tomas.
But after a year in UST, he decided to transfer to the University of the East where schedules were more suitable to him as a working student. After graduating and passing the CPA boards, he left the country in 1980.
He also had his own family to miss, being married to a fellow Kapampangan at an early age. “My first two years were miserable because I had no idea of the culture of the place. I was young and was thinking that things are done as they were done in the Philippines.”
But he eventually learned the ropes, he says. He later learned how to throw his hat into the fray, so to speak. He performed well ahead of his co-workers. He started earning good money, was provided free house and car by the company. “Everything was free. A lot of freebies. So my monthly check goes to my family tax-free,” he recalls. In fact, he admits, he was one of the highest paid Filipinos in Saudi at that time.
Children far from me
“Given a chance I would have tried to work out my relationship with my children. They grew up far from me. We’ve gone on our ways,” Bolos says.
Two of his kids are now in the US. Michelle, the eldest has a family of her own while Michael, 20, is studying law in Chicago. The middle child, Madelaine, is helping him run the family business in Guagua.
Asked his business secret, Bolos could only say, “There are a lot of opportunities here. But the sad part is that the money that Filipinos work hard for are going to the hands of the rich people, most of them foreigners.”
These days, Bolos says he gets himself busy by doing the rounds of his businesses. He rarely gets rest days. “I don’t even have time to watch TV. I am always in front of my computer. I wake up at 8 a.m. to check e-mails then my day ends at about 3 a.m.”
“Until I get my team in place then I’d finally take a break,” he says. He is currently hiring people to man his commercial center in Guagua. “I’m happy but not content. I have a lot more things that I’ve wanted to do but not for myself though.”
Did he ever think of running for public office? “Yes, I’ve received feedback from some of my town mates. But it’s not really my turf. I’ll help out as a private individual.”