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Boy Abunda recalls sleeping in Luneta, selling encyclopedias before showbiz success

Before he became the Philippine entertainment industry’s “King of Talk,” Boy Abunda took on different jobs — from opening doors at restaurants, running company errands, to selling fire extinguishers and encyclopedias — just to earn money.  

During the Full Tank interview with Catholic preacher Bro. Bo Sanchez on Friday, Boy looked back on his “hard life” in Manila following the death of his father, Eugenio Sr. When he lost his tatay, his family in Samar was also at risk of losing their home.

He shared, “Dito sa Maynila, when my Tatay passed on, medyo mahirap na ang buhay kasi, you know, Nanay was a public school teacher. 

“Naalala ko ito Bro. Bo dahil in my last interview with you, we talked about financial education and literacy. Importante sa akin yun na isa sa mga kaugalian that I learned from Nanay and Tatay ay huwag umutang kasi nung pumanaw ang aking ama nakasanla ang aming bahay.

“Our house was mortgaged with PNB and I saw the face of my mother. Hindi nya alam kung anong gagawin, paano namin babayaran. Her salary was not enough to pay for, you know, whatever loan it was. I don’t remember how much it was pero nagawan ng paraan ng Nanay.”

His family had already limited means but when he returned to Manila for his studies after his father died, he knew he was in for tougher times. “So I went back to Manila not knowing what I was gonna do. I was still enrolled and bayad, pero I knew it was going to be a hard life.”

Boy found himself living with different relatives and friends. “Nakitira ako sa mga kamag-anak kong mababait. They were very kind pero alam mo Bro. Bo yung pag nakikitira ka, alam mong may hiya ka eh, yung hindi ka pwedeng una kumain hanggang hindi pa nakakain lahat anak. Tutulong ka sa gawaing bahay dahil kailangan, kahit may review ka (na) aaralin mo.” 

He moved from one place to another until he and some friends from his hometown decided to live for weeks at Luneta Park. “I was moving from one relative to the next relative, to the next friend, to the next neighbor. Until one day, with my friends from Samar, sabi ko, dito muna tayo sa Luneta for a couple of days, para makabawas naman tayo ng bigat doon sa sa mga tinitirhan natin kung saan ang ginagawa namin sa Luneta was fun.” 

Boy had fond memories of their sleeping arrangements then. “Halimbawa apat kami o lima. Yung isa hindi natutulog, natutulog yung apat. ‘Pag lahat kami sabay-sabay, baka wala na kaming mga tsinelas pag gising namin. Yun yung role namin. Hindi naman months but for like weeks, I stayed there and started to look for jobs.”

Photo from Boy Abunda’s Facebook page

Boy then narrated the multiple jobs he had to earn money. “I sold Encyclopedias,” Boy recalled, adding that he’d travel all the way to Pampanga to sell them.  

He also worked as a salesman for fire extinguishers and “alam niyo yung mga Ford Fiera na pumupunta sa mga villages, sa mga streets, na nagbebenta ng mga shampoo, pinasok ko yun.” 

Boy would also work as a restaurant doorman. “I opened doors of restaurants,” he shared, particularly noting one Japanese restaurant where he didn’t just open doors but also assisted in the kitchen. 

“So, pinasok ko lahat ng trabahong yun,” he added. 

He ran errands for a company named Philippine Glass Corporation. “My assignment was to go to the bank, bring papers and then back. Pero hindi talaga ako para doon.”

He continued, “Nag tourist guide ako, lahat!”

All these work experiences, he believes, led him to where he is now. 

“Sometimes, you do certain things without knowing that you are being led to a certain career. Sabi nga ni Steve Jobs, you can only connect the dots on retrospect…. Looking back, yun pala yung paghahanda ko sa lakas ng loob na humarap sa tao, sa camera.”

If there’s anything to learn from his story, he said, “Just do your best at the moment.

“Kasi why was I selling encyclopedia, fire extinguisher, hindi ko alam na pina-practice pala ako dun magsalita. Why was I saying, ‘Good evening Ma’am, welcome to the restaurant,’ di ko alam, I was going to be in the business of hosting and receiving guests. 

“I also didn’t understand why I became a tourist guide. Yun pala, lahat may kinalaman dun sa propesyon na papasukin ko. Looking back, I’m able to connect, okay, these are the steps.”

Whatever the circumstances, Boy urged people to trust in their personal journey.

“You don’t question where you are now kahit gaano kahirap because that is preparing you for something that you do not understand. But believe in your heart that the thing you don’t understand is good because God wants you to be there. You are where you are supposed to be.”

Boy also recalled living in Mabini in Manila and experiencing extraordinary kindness during one of his lowest moments.

“I will not forget this story because nagkaroon ako ng chicken pox and wala akong pambili ng pagkain. Seven to eight days straight, wala akong gamot, kasi samin ‘pag chicken pox, pinababayaan lang daw hanggang gumaling pero hindi ka pwede magpahangin, you know.

“But doon ko naranasan yung kindness of friends and strangers. Yung may-ari ng canteen sa bahay na yon, sa baba, binibigyan ako araw-araw ng lugaw and this is not to rhapsodize my journey, this is not to dramatize my journey, but my neighbors were extraordinarily kind.

“Who were they? They were some prostitutes na mga kababayan ko na nagtatrabaho sa Red Light District who’d offer me food or anything they had. That part of my life I will not forget.”

Boy admitted he doesn’t know how he got out of that hard life. What he could remember was he just made every day, every moment count. “Take care of that day, take care of that moment. Take care of that now because if you do your best in the moment, that will take care of moving you to the next step, to the next day, to the next hour.”

Watch the full interview below: