How a janitor started multi-million peso business

Posted at 09/07/2013 8:21 AM | Updated as of 09/09/2013 11:26 AM

MANILA, Philippines - It was 1995. Steve Tamayo just woke up and headed straight for the kitchen. There, he prepared exactly 15 packed lunches and placed them inside his bag.

He then proceeded with his daily routine: a jeepney ride to Espana; a short walk to Centro Escolar University where he would sell the packed lunches; another jeepney ride to Quiapo; and a long walk to Heritage Hotel where he worked as a waiter.

Caterer of the Stars" Steve Tamayo of Tamayo's Catering is featured on ABS-CBN's My Puhunan. Courtesy of My Puhunan Facebook page

This was how Tamayo's Catering began.

And in ABS-CBN's "My Puhanan", host Karen Davila found out how these packed lunches became a multi-million peso catering business that hosted parties for the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Sarah Geronimo and other celebrities.

But it was a series of unfortunate events, a series of ups and downs, that led Tamayo down the path towards catering.

Born into a family that carried the burden of a paralyzed father, Tamayo was forced to work at the age 4 in the local wet market.

"4 years old pa lang ako humahawak na mga balde ng mantika. Nakikipagsabayan talaga ako. Halos matanggal na yung braso ko pero kailangan mag-hanap buhay," Tamayo said.

"Naranasan ko pang ulam namin asin," he added.

And in order to finish college, Tamayo had to work as a janitor which he hid as a secret to his friends, family and other people he met.

"Honestly, hindi ko sinasabing janitor ako. Sinasabi kong timekeeper ako," Tamayo confessed.

"Sobrang baba ng tingin sa janitor noon 1970s," he added.

So Tamayo convinced himself not to settle and to keep dreaming for a better life.

"Pinilipit ko na maging mataas ang standard ko," he said.

Going abroad

Tamayo then dared to go abroad at the young age of 21 after finishing college. In 1981, he boarded a flight to Saudi Arabia to work as a waiter.

It was there that his nature of being "ma-diskarte" shone.

"Pumunta akong palengke tapos nakita ko na tinatapon nila yung mga ulo ng isda at mga buto-buto ng karne. Sabi ko puwede kong gawing negosyo. Kinausap ko yung mga Arabo. Sabi ko wag nila itapon, kukuhanin ko yan. So ang ginagawa ko, pagadating ko sa bahay, lulutuin ko yoong bulalo tapos yung mga ulo ng isda, ginagawa kong sinigang," said Tamayo.

His first foray into the food business was an instant success, especially to the other Filipinos in the country.

But, true to his nature, Tamayo was never satisfied.

He then brought capiz ornaments from the Philippines back to Saudi Arabia and sold them for almost 18 times the original price.

"Kapag gusto mo talagang yumaman, magagawa mo lahat eh."

He then kept looking for different ways to earn more.

And in 1985, Tamayo bought a shop at the local business district down in Kuwait. With the opening of his store, he began earning more than P100,000 a day selling clothes and different items.

"Para lang akong namumulot ng pera doon," he added.

But his fame and fortune abroad wouldn't last long. In 1990, sparked by the Iraqi troops' invasion of Kuwait, the Gulf War in the Middle East began.

"Rich and famous ako tapos in 30 minutes, in-invade ni Saddam, washed out," he said.

"Sabi ko Lord, i-uwi mo lang ako sa Pilipinas ng buhay, iiwanan ko lahat ng investments ko kuwait," Tamayo added.

"Caterer of the Stars"

And when he arrived back in the Philippines, he had to start from scratch, again.

"Rich and famous ako sa Kuwait tapos nag-umpisa ulit ako sa umpisa. Naging vendor ulit ako. Rich and famous," he reiterated.

But he said with a smile, "basta buhay, may pag-asa."

And this time, with his small packed lunches, Tamayo earned the title of "Caterer of the Stars."

His first break came when he was offered catering stints by local parish Our Lady of Mount Carmel. But he was reluctant.

"Hindi ko kayang mag-cater. Walang puhunan. Hindi naman pwede mag-cater ng packed lunch sa wedding," he quipped.

But this was where Tamayo's diskarte took center stage again.

After striking a deal with a friend that allowed him to rent the equipment needed to start a catering, Tamayo's Catering never looked back. There would be no downs from here on out.

"In one year's time, nag fo-fourteen weddings na ako in one day," Tamayo shared with disbelief.

Today, Tamayo now earns millions of pesos every month, has 4 hotels, a group of companies and over 1,000 regular employees.

"I consider to be very, very blessed...It's a very good and very strong foundation pag nag-umpisa ka sa baba. Wag kang mahiya," Tamayo humbly said.

Struggling fish ball vendor

And Tamayo, as part of My Puhunan, imparted some of his blessings as well as the know-hows about running a business to a struggling fish ball vendor.

Sonia Adorna has been selling fish balls for 21 years but with an income of P300 a day, she found it difficult to help her family break out of poverty.

"Dasal lang ng dasal, yoon lang ang kakampi ko eh," Adorna said.

And as if an answer to her prayers, My Puhunan took Adorna to meet Tamayo.

Along with boxes of juice, packs of fish ball and various canned goods that can help Adorna, not only with her food stall, but also with her family, Tamayo also gave her tips regarding prices, as well as recipes for different sauces and dishes.

"Yung puhunan mo, i-save mo na agad. Yung tubo mo, yung ang i-divide mo kung saan gagastusin. Para may pangbili ka ulit ng ititinda mo. Kasi pag ginalaw mo ang puhunan, diyan hindi umaasenso ang negosyo," Tamayo advised.

Emotional and in tears, Adorna thanked Tamayo. "Sobrang laking tulong po sa amin. Maraming salamat kasi kapos po talaga kami. Maraming salamat."