How did a house cleaner become a hotel owner?
Josephine "Jho" Floresca, part-owner of the posh Le Charmé Suites in Subic, had a colorful journey before getting to where she is now.
In a recent interview with the press and bloggers, including PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal), she said, “I want to be rich. Yung life ko before, I want it to be better for my children.”
In those years she was cleaning the houses of Taiwanese families in Subic, she would take along her three girls to give them a taste of “buhay-mayaman.”
And just like the hard-luck characters in the movies, she had her share of “Balang araw, magkaka-ganito rin ako. Balang araw, ganito ang bahay ko.”
But her major goal then was to send her children to a Chinese school, "Pero nung mga panahong yun, yung ex-husband ko, hindi namin kaya so I decided to work.”
She first took on a job at a hotel’s front desk.
But with kids to take care of and a bed-ridden father-in-law, she had to give it up.
FACTORY WORKER. The word “idle” does not exist in her vocabulary.
In college, Jho worked as a crew of Jollibee at the same time she was finishing Mass Communication at St. Scholastica College.
After graduation, she landed a job in Equitable Bank, which is now known as BDO.
She recounted, “Yung mga Chinese blood, ang taas ng suweldo nila ‘tapos akong gumagawa ng trabaho nila, e, half lang ng suweldo nila ang suweldo ko.
“Bakit? Partly, they can speak Chinese.”
For a time, she enjoyed spending her own money since she was the youngest among three siblings, "Wala akong responsibility na papaaralin ng kapatid.”
Smiling, she also mentioned her mom’s “no-boyfriend” rule, which indirectly goaded her to try her luck abroad.
She quipped, “Parang masarap makawala sa claws ng nanay mo.”
Her other reason: “Gusto ko rin na maging proud siya sa akin.
"She really worked hard para lang makapag-aral ako sa all-girls school.
“I went to St. Paul’s elementary hanggang high school kahit hindi talaga kami mayaman.
“Yung nanay ko, naniniwala lang talaga sa education.
“Ang kaso, after ko maka-graduate, para sa akin lang ang suweldo ko.
"Habang yung pinsan ko na domestic helper sa Taiwan, ang laki ng naipapadala sa nanay niya.
“Sabi ko, ‘Sige nga, ma-try nga ito para mapaligaya ang nanay ko.'”
At 19, she worked at a factory in Taiwan.
“Alam mo yung plastic na makikita mo sa charger when you buy it, taga-lagay ako nun.”
Jho fell in love with Taiwan, where she also met her Filipino-Chinese husband.
“Halfway, I tried to learn the language.
"Nung natapos na yung kontrata ng husband ko, sumama ako pabalik sa Pilipinas.
“We settled in Olongapo.”
“CURACHA.” Their life here was hard that she was forced to find work.
“Nakiusap ako sa boss ng husband ko, maglilinis na lang ako ng house nila.
“I could speak the language so madali nila akong mapagkatiwalaan.
"So I clean the house, I teach English.
“Habang naglilinis ako ng house, sinasama ko yung kids ko.
"So they could have a taste of the big house.
“Para ma-experience ng mga anak ko yung malaking bahay, malaking garden.”
Her rate was premium: “350 pesos.”
Aside from being a taga-linis, “nag-foot massage din ako...”
“Literal na babaeng walang pahinga. Curacha ba yun?
“Alas tres pa lang, gising na ako nun.
"Ihahanda ko na mga kailangan ng bata.
“Gusto ko kasi laging productive ako.”
She found a gold mine in real estate.
“Nag-aahente ko. Yung bahay na nililinis ko, sayang naman pag umaalis yung mga Taiwanese.
"So I helped sell. Ang lakas ng income—10,000 dollars na commission, payat.”
It was through her fourth job that she met her investor.
“Yung chairman namin… he’s very low-profile.
"Yung son niya happened to be my student sa pagtu-tutor.
“And then nakita rin niya yung capacity ko [to manage] all these houses.
"So dun na yung sa real-estate development.
“We started with 101 units for lease and sale in Kalayaan, dito rin sa Subic.”
Her job as executive assistant in Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority helped her find the right connections.
“As you can see, yung buhay ko, parang hindi naman talaga plinano.
“Nandiyan yung sipag, pero si God na yung bahala sa iba, basta trabaho lang ako nang trabaho.
“Of course, positive point of view is important."
Wasn’t it hard? Wasn’t there a time she wanted to give up?
“Every time may hardship, nagdarasal lang ako, ‘Alam ko, sinusubukan mo lang ako.’
“It was actually the pain that brought me here.”
HOTEL OWNER. She eventually ventured into a spa, milk tea (she owns Nai Cha), and restaurants.
When they acquired the La Terraza Building on Subic Bay Freeport Zone, the original plan was to build a furniture mall.
“Trial and error, nag-iba-iba yung concept ko until we arrived at the idea of a hotel."
The location does not have the beach front, but it’s surrounded by a mall, restaurants, spas, and factory outlets.
“So what I did was nag-benchmark ako.
“Gagandahan ko na lang yung rooms. That’s why I made the rooms spacious.
"Standard size is 45 square meters, and comfortable.
“We’re the only hotel that has centralized aircons, and uses LED lights.
"And, of course, yung bike racks."
She was also able to achieve the same kind of comfort for each room without spending a lot.
“Yung concept, European, pero Filipino hospitality.
"Same age ito ng baby ko, the construction started in 2013.
“Everything you see there, I personally bought them in China, Taiwan, Indonesia. You know where I got the idea?
"From Tonyboy Cojuangco."
Jho elaborated, "Sabi niya, 'Alam mo ba yung mga kaibigan kong mayayaman, pumupunta sa ShenZen namimili ng mga pekeng furniture, sabihin mo gawa ni Gucci, gawa ni ano, pero made in China lang.'
"And nagpunta ako, hindi siya isang building, isa siyang town na puro furniture."
The Filipino entrepreneur also took quality into consideration.
“Yung soap, anti-allergy. Yung thread ng mattresses and blankets, pati iyan, pinakialaman ko.
“And if you saw the comfort room, marble talaga. Real one."
“Basta yung nasa isip ko kasi when we finally decided to turn it into a hotel: good sleep, good food, good experience."
The word “good” figures greatly in her life.
She summed up what she had been through for almost two decades: “Whatever it is you do, wherever you are, whatever stage you are in, if you won’t make it good, then don’t do it.”