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If you’re looking for a Monday morning inspirational story, this is it.
Limuel Hayag Vilela was born to a poor family in the Philippines but he overcame life’s challenges to pursue his dream of becoming a flight attendant. Now based in Canada, he can travel anywhere in the world for free, but one of his favorite destinations is still Quezon province, where he grew up.
He believes that before we achieve our dreams, we have to be prepared to go through patches. “Alam mo ang mga pangarap, hindi naman direcho yan eh. Dadaan at dadaan ka sa lubak. Duon masusukat ang pagkatatag mo,” Canada-based Limuel Vilela told Coconuts Manila when we reached out to him after reading his inspiring story on I Heart Cabin Crew.
From working as a houseboy in Quezon province, he graduated magna cum laude and is now a globetrotting flight attendant. The Filpino community in Canada has also noticed his story and nominated him for an Outstanding Filipino Champion of Canada award. Tireless, Limuel is also currently Mister Philippines Canada, who will be representing the country in the Mister Pacific World next year.
According to the I Heart Cabin Crew blog, “when he was six years old, his mother and father had to let go [of] him and his three other siblings. He was sent to different homes becoming a ‘katulong’ or a houseboy.”
We tracked Limuel down and found him on Facebook, where he quickly demonstrated his vigor for life. “Let’s talk now, I’m available,” he messaged us on Facebook. It was past nine in the evening in Calgary, Canada, where he is based.
“My parents chose to live their own lives, so my brothers and sisters and I, we stayed at my grandfather’s house and took care of ourselves,” he explains, choosing his words so as not to paint a bad picture of his parents.
But they weren’t exactly well-off and life in the Southern Luzon province wasn’t easy. “We only ate once a day. Sometimes, I’d find myself knocking on the neighbor’s door asking for food. That’s when I thought, abilidad [na ang kailangan]. We went our separate ways but remained in Pagbilao in Quezon.”
Limuel went to look for relatives who could sponsor his education in exchange for him working as their household help. He slept four hours a night, dividing his between school and his work. “Wala akong life, walang akong friends. But I really couldn’t complain,” he shared, saying the most difficult period in his life had to be in high school.
At one point, his leg was slashed open when a galvanised iron sheet fell on him while he was sleeping at a construction site of another family he lived with, during a storm. “Nahulugan ng yero, o. Pero wala ka namang magawa. Eh di may sugat ka.”
On random occasions when he’d notice airplanes flying in the horizon, he’d think how nice it would be to fly. “Pero parang ang hirap abutin. Nasa ibang level [yung pangarap na yun], so I really just worked hard to get myself out of the situation. Para maiba yung buhay ko,” he said.
Two people helped him in his quest for a better life: Azuncion “Mama Azon” Javier, an aunt who put him to college and became Limuel’s mother figure, and Colonel Sanders.
After graduating magna cum laude from Southern Luzon State University — “Si Mama Azon yung umakyat ng stage para kunin yung diploma ko,” he shared — Limuel quickly got a job as a management trainee in KFC. The chain would prove an important fixture in Limuel’s career, as he would also work for the fastfood chain in UK and then in Canada.
“When I became a permanent resident in Canada, I saw the job posting for a flight attendant. I was still working as KFC’s general manager but I remembered my childhood dream. So I went for an interview.”
“The question they asked me was, what can you bring to the company? I answered, a bucket of KFC. Knowledge, faith, and confidence. I am going to get this job today. Nagulat sila,” he said.
He impressed them again on his last interview, where he subjected his future bosses to an emotional cleanse. “We were asked, if you’re a time machine, what will you do? I told them to close their eyes, go back to the time where they could’ve done differently, say sorry to people they needed to say sorry to. And then after, I told them, ‘welcome to a brand new day.’ Pinaiyak ko sila,” he said
That was a year ago. Since then, Limuel has been a full-time flight attendant at West Jet Airlines, an international carrier based in Canada, plying the North America-Europe route. “I spend about fours days a week away on the job, pero ang maganda sa work namin, we have benefits so I can pretty much travel the world for free.” He has also reconnected with his family, and says they’re closer than ever.
“Alam mo, pag napapagod ako, tinutulog ko na lang. Tapos sa pag-gising, bagong plano na naman on how to reach my dreams. Plan and replan palagi,” said Limuel. “Don’t be afraid of changes, at kung mapagod ka, stop and rest. Kasi hindi gagana ng matino ang utak mo. Breathe properly and then move forward.”
Photo: Limuel Vilela/Instagram
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