My Mom’s Dream & My Journey Towards Success

“Man proposes, God disposes.” St. Augustine

One day, one of my favorite teachers in high school asked me to write a success story. From then on, I started asking how I would write mine. I haven’t reached my goals yet, but now the right path is clear. I can share my journey to where I am now and a glimpse of where I want to be.

I dreamed big, had high hopes and intended to entrust my journey to the glory of God.

 What follows is the story of my journey.

I was born and raised in the small town of Maitum, Sarangani. My mother was a teacher, and my father was a policeman. Life was so simple and quiet. I got my first education from my mother, who taught me how to read and write. She also helped me develop the value and joy of reading!

At around five years of age, I already have a hunger and passion for reading. But there was not much to read. We didn’t have a library in our town and lacked resources for reading materials. I read some Filipino comics and magazines available. But it was difficult for me to read textbooks from my Mom’s shelves. It was also not appealing for me to read at my level.

I sought what I could read to fill my hunger to learn. We had an Ilocano Bible storybook at home, and I found it so interesting. The life of the prophets entertained me. But I sought more like it. Then, I found the Holy Bible, Gideon’s version, but it was difficult to understand. So, I resorted to my dialect, the Ilocano Bible, and it was more fun! There, I learned the foundational values in life. One of those was, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom!” I remember that as my Mom’s emphasis, which she wrote on a short bond paper posted on the wall.

When I started going to school, my Mom taught me confidence! Knowing how to read and with the natural intelligence God gave me, my Mom boosted my ability. I still remember her feeding me the topmost part of the cooked rice and eating our food first. She used to tell me, “This will make you the best.” I developed that thought until now but also did my best to become one of them. I finished grade school with excellent grades with the help of my Mom and my teachers, who believed in my abilities.

I carried the same values and attitudes when I went to high school at Notre Dame of Maitum. But some overconfidence needs to be moderated in the future. I enhanced my foundational knowledge in high school. My teachers gave me confidence and trained me to become a better student. I used to join quiz bees and competitions, which pushed me to learn even more. My Mom was always there to support me and boost my confidence as ever.

During my high school days, I wanted to become an engineer because I excelled in Mathematics. But one day, when I was about to finish my second year, my Mom showed me a different vision. She told me I had better become a nurse or a physical therapist to have a better life in the USA. I had to reset my own. Life wasn’t wealthy, so we always dream of abundance.

My Mom and I had a dream for me! A vision of a successful and joyful life. We wrote a class prophecy together during our Junior-Senior Promenade in high school in February 1991. It was fun for our Junior class trying to foresee what they would become, but it was a vision for me. The first few paragraphs went like this, as I can remember. “I was listening to the music ‘Wind of Change,’ then I fell asleep. Suddenly, I saw a picture of me sitting in my clinic in the USA after finishing a Kinesiology seminar. Then one by one, I started seeing my classmates…” I inserted the handwritten copy in my Kinesiology textbook later. I kept it on paper for a while, but I lost it before coming to the US in 2007.

I finished high school with flying colors and was ready for college. I was offered a good scholarship program at a prestigious university in Mindanao. Instead of Engineering, I had chosen to go for Nursing. My Dad accompanied me to enroll to start my college life. We arrived so late on our trip, and there wasn’t a place to stay that night. My Dad and I went to a police station and slept there that night. I had a bizarre and scary feeling. After a few hours of sleep, I woke up in the middle of the night due to a terrible dream. It was so frightening, and I felt it. My Dad saw my reaction and then spoke to me, saying, “I don’t want you to study in this place. I prefer you to study in Manila because there you will have better experience and opportunities”. I affirmed my dad’s proposal without seeing the university and looking at the place. Without a second thought, we turned back and took a ride to Davao City and took a ship bound for Manila. My Dad informed my mother of our decision through telegram, and she agreed with my father’s wishes. 

So, we went to a different world from where I grew up. From a very small town to a big city. My Dad started looking for a college where I could enroll, not for nursing but physical therapy. It was already late for us to enroll in a more prestigious school, so I still enrolled in a college where a slot was still available.

I became relatively independent in college starting at 16 years of age, and it wasn’t easy for me to start. I must do everything. Preparing my food, washing my clothes, budgeting, and the like, were part of my other concerns. I had to adapt; besides, I even came up with a course that wasn’t even my first love, to begin with. My Mom used to emphasize that I should strive hard and focus only on what I had chosen. I had no other choice, so I resolved to love what I had chosen. I had to love what I got, and later I came to love what I was learning in physical therapy.

I had a rough college life. First, I do all the chores, even during final exams, which distracts me from focusing on my studies. Second, I was always on a tight budget because of financial drawbacks. Third, my mom died of cancer when I was in my third year of college. After that, I developed resentment toward my dad, and I blamed him due to his neglect and vices. But had been to be resolved in later years.

A year before my mother died in 1995, one of my relatives said I wouldn’t finish college because my mom was sick. I just said I would but never thought I won’t be. After my mom died, my college life became so burdensome until I was only one semester away from graduation. But through the help of generous people, I was able to finish physical therapy. I graduated in April 1997.

I took my licensure examination a few months later, and I made it. I started applying to the US to pursue my dream. Unfortunately, the US closed foreign visas for physical therapy that year, and it became so tough for me. My ticket to freedom and success became shady. I was so frustrated! I studied hard and learned my chosen profession by heart, but I fell short. I didn’t make it. Circumstances did, but I needed to move on.

Before those incidents happened, I had my conversion of faith. I became so interested to learn about it. I relearned what I neglected in high school because my beliefs were different. I learned the reason for my faith and read all I could to know more about it. Reading helped me find strength in the life of many saints and their teachings. But most of all, going to adoration and praying the rosary.

I fell short of my dream, but I found myself. It was a great challenge, and I had mixed emotions. But God’s grace was enough for me to move on. I wanted a different direction so that I could push through with my life. I even wanted to become religious, thinking it may give me a better life. But it wasn’t for me. Later, I married a friend and companion who I learned to love so much. She was my classmate in high school, and she became my strength.

A year after my marriage in 2001, Notre Dame of Maitum hired me to teach from 2002 to 2006. I didn’t only think of the institution but my faith and love of Mary. I did my best, and I loved teaching. But the longing deep within me as a physical therapist still lived on. In those days, I tried to learn different skills and knowledge as much as I could. I read the books that interest me in the library and look for them one by one to fill my hunger for knowledge. I also tried learning about other things with massive reading. I tried to excel in what I had, but it wasn’t enough for me. I kept on praying to God to lead me to become the one I was meant to be.

I was almost giving up my dreams. I was like Joseph, the dreamer who went to a detour and found hardships in life. But deep within me, I had my longing. That was my proposal to God and the one I really wanted. I always believe that God made us to be happy and successful in life.

Nine years after my graduation, I heard that the US opened visas again for physical therapy. Right away, I grabbed the opportunity to apply. But I also must take the US licensure exam. I had to start reviewing and rereading my profession. Finally, I came to the US on October 13, 2007, ten and a half years after my graduation. I took the exam more than a week after, and I made it.

I came to the US with $700 in my pocket, which my aunt gave me. I had only one thing in mind, to do my best and be the best I could be. I worked as a physical therapist in different facilities and started earning for myself and my family. But I had bigger dreams. I believed that I could do better if I ran my own practice. In January 2013, I started my physical therapy clinic with only the guts! I only have one thing in mind: I’m an excellent physical therapist and have a big heart to serve.

I knew physical therapy but didn’t know how to run a business. I had the heart to serve, but I had only a few patients. After more than a year, I was way broke financially and in debt, and my wife was worried, and proposed I stop, but I didn’t give up. I started massive reading again to know what others did. I read about successful doctors and physical therapists, and about running their businesses. One by one, I figured out what needed to be improved and what needed to be accomplished.

I loved what I had chosen but worked so hard too. “By the sweat of your brow, you shall eat” in Genesis 3:19″ seemed to be so harsh. But if you love what you do, you’ll find happiness in your labor.

“Man proposes God disposes of it.” Reading tons of books, I learned to create plans for my life, my family, and my business. I wrote my goals, and I figured out what I needed to improve and keep on. I proposed to God with the help of Mama Mary and St. Joseph. God answered my prayers.

At present, we have a good reputation as a physical therapy business in Queens, NY. The business name is CT Physical Therapy Care. We prosper because we aim to serve and help people find joy in what we do. I still have bigger dreams. My vision is to expand and create a system to serve more people with care and dedication the way I believe. You’ll never go wrong if you genuinely serve and give your heart.

I believe that success is not all about money. But it is how we become the person as God wants us to be. “Observe what the Lord your God requires. Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go. 1 Kings 2:3.”

Money is part of our lives to live healthily. We spend to enjoy life but also invest and give. Only those who learn and dare to give heartily are truly happy and successful.

My family knows what I do. I share with them my vision and plans. I help them to understand that God made us to be happy and abundant. I emphasize to them that the most important of all is to love God and your family first. I always remind them that to be true success includes living a holy life and asking God to make us so.

I’m still on a journey to what God wants me to be. At every moment, I want to enjoy my life. I’m happy my mom taught me to have the joy and the passion of reading. I fulfilled her dreams and my dreams! A dream that lives on and continues with my children.

To God be the Glory. I entrust my life and my all to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Dr. Chester

Originally written On April 21, 2021. Edited today.