It is next to impossible for a poor man — or a woman, for that matter – to reach the peak of success. And so we admire poor people who have made it to the top. They made it because they have unwavering faith in their capacity to use to the fullest their God-given abilities.
We doff our hat to Imelda Martin-Hum, who is one of the successful Filipinos in Michigan with humble beginnings. Her formula for success is a combination of age-old Ilocano traits and values — patience, perseverance, hard work and strong will and determination.
She also believes in the saying, “If there is a will, there is a way.”
Before Imelda came to the United States in 1989 to pursue her American dream, she was not exactly dirt poor. Her family, who resides in Barangay San Sebastian, Ramon, Isabela, is comparatively well off. The family owns several hectares of irrigated rice farms located near the giant Magat Dam, and her father was working with the National Irrigation Administration.
Her parents, Pedro and Rosita Martin who are now in their late 60s, had the means to send Imelda and her four siblings to college. And, consequently, all of them have obtained college education.
As a barrio girl, though, Imelda had to help her parents during the planting and harvesting seasons. This means she buried herself in mud while planting rice and endured the scorching heat of the sun while harvesting palay. During those tough days, she would mumble to herself in Ilocano, “Ania met daytoy a biag? (What kind of life is this?).” She then promised to herself that she would become successful in the future.
Imelda was only 23 years old when she came to the US. She had nothing except her college education, her capacity for hard work and her willingness to endure discomforts and inconveniences. But she was encouraged by her belief that if she had survived the rough life in her province, she could make it anywhere in the US, the land of opportunities.
And make it she did – well, after at least 20 years of continuous back-breaking, sleep-depriving work. Her first job in Michigan wa`s as cook’s aide at the kitchen of a nursing home.
Realizing that education could be the game changer, she went back to school. To make up for lost time, she went on full-time schooling even while she was working full-time. It was still a tough life, but she persevered.
These days, Imelda lives, together with her husband Vance Hum, in comfort and luxury at a home in a high-end, gated subdivision in Brighton, Michigan. The couple also lives in Washington, D.C.
And money is now the least of her worries as her business is well established. She owns and manages the Brighton Sleep Diagnostics Center, a single-proprietorship enterprise she set up in 2003. At present, the center has one neurologist and 10 other people under its employ.
How she started the business is a testament to Imelda’s “leap of faith” in her capability to realize her dream. To equip herself with the needed business and management skills, she went to Chicago to study and later to the School of Sleep Medicine in Atlanta where she undertook training on polysomnography.
Then Lady Luck smiled at her: A manufacturer of sleep-laboratory equipment provided her with an interest-free loan of $80,000 which she used as initial capital for her sleep diagnostic clinic. “After six months of operations, I started seeing the fruits of my labor,” she said during an interview with the Filipino Star News.
And now that she is a successful businesswoman, it is time for her to give back. Recently, she and her husband went back to Ramon and donated a dozen of computers to the San Sebastian Elementary School where she attended grade school. She also set up a computer lab equipped with free Wifi for use by the students and teachers. She also donated school supplies and new books to the school library.
Believing that education is the key to success, she has launched a scholarship program that benefits poor but deserving students in her hometown.
Here in Michigan, she is also giving back to the Filipino-American community. At present, she is a member of the board of directors of the Filipino American Community Council (FILAMCCO). She chairs a FILAMMCO committee tasked with making preparations for the Rizal Day celebration in December.
She loves to do volunteer service at World Medical Relief and helps feed the homeless in Detroit. Likewise, she is always ready to support other worthy causes.
Yes, the poor girl from Ramon finally made it, and now she is sharing her blessings and giving opportunity to poor children to achieve their dreams.
These days, Imelda’s natural Filipina charm is aglow, greatly enhanced by her grateful heart and beautiful mind.