The cards we’re dealt with when we’re born aren’t always the same. Some are able to get winning aces in life, while others aren’t as lucky.
Inspiring Filipina entrepreneur Hershey Hilado proves that the circumstances we’re given, no matter how tragic, shouldn’t dictate our lives. Her life story reenacted by Ria Atayde in Maalaala Mo Kaya “Damit” showed us how she escaped her cruel life and transformed into one of the 2016 Top 30 under 30 Influencive Entrepreneurs and 2017 Top 80 Women2Watch.
Hershey came from a family that struggled to put food on the table day by day. Her father was a humble jeepney driver while her mother was an OFW working in Hong Kong. Despite the hardships in their life, Hershey and her siblings felt loved by their father. However, when it comes to their mother, they only felt fear and dread. Whenever she was at home, she would hurt them physically and verbally nonstop.
Sadly, the horror of living with their mother every day became a reality. Their father found out their mother was cheating in Hong Kong. Not being able to accept this, he decided to leave their mother and their life in Iloilo for good. He tried to bring Hershey and her older sister, but Hershey’s grandfather stopped him. So Hershey’s father just promised that he would come back for them.
Hershey held on to the hope that her father would return. Unfortunately, after a few years, her father died before he could save them from their misery. A young Hershey felt heartbroken and hopeless, but she realized she had to take matters into her own hands in keeping herself and her siblings alive. Their mother, who had stopped working abroad and permanently resided in the Philippines, had little to no care for them. They were starving every day and being hurt by their drug-addicted mother and her comrades. At one point, Hershey resorted to shoplifting clothes to take matters into her own hands. She would sell the stolen items and use the money to feed her family.
When Hershey was 16, she and her older sister went to Manila to find jobs under their mother’s command. They were taken to a club where they would dance and essentially sell their bodies to customers for cash. Hershey wasn’t allowed to continue because she was a minor, but her sister was taken in.
It was a traumatic experience for Hershey’s older sister. Hershey was determined to find a different job so that her sister wouldn’t need to go back to the club. She tried whatever menial opening she could find, but being a minor hindered her from getting accepted.
She decided to buy a fake birth certificate that would change her age on paper. Using this, she found a job in a department store that was enough to support their family’s basic needs and send her sister back home to Iloilo.
While Hershey was earning little by little in Manila, her mother would still meddle with her life. She had set Hershey up with a wealthy Korean man and forced her to marry him. If Hershey didn’t obey her, her mother would hurt her siblings.
Hershey was abused by her husband and was miserable in the marriage. She eventually escaped and sought solace from an aunt on her father’s side. While living there, her aunt introduced her to the internet where she could look for jobs. As she browsed, Hershey discovered dating websites too. She tried it out and met an Australian man named Scott. Seeing it as an opportunity to change her and her siblings’ life, she married Scott and lived with him in Australia.
Turning her life around
While Hershey’s life with Scott was relatively comfortable, she still wanted to save her siblings from their mother. She looked for jobs to earn her own money without relying on her husband. She worked as a fast food crew first. Later, she took language lessons and training to level up and become a security personnel in an art gallery.
Despite making her own money already, Hershey realized her passion for fashion. It became her dream to open her own clothes shop. While risky, she persuaded her husband to help start it.
The clothes shop slowly flourished, but this also made Hershey a busy businesswoman. She forgets to cook dinner at home and tend to her husband's needs. This angered Scott, making him slowly resent supporting Hershey and her business. Sometimes, he’d scream at her and make her feel small despite her success.
When Hershey’s business lost sales and eventually closed, Scott laughed and mocked her. Hershey couldn’t live with someone like that and decided to leave. Scott tried to stop her by beating her up, but Hershey quickly defended herself and escaped.
Making a name for herself
After leaving Scott, Hershey moved around a lot and lived with friends. Soon, she found stability when she landed a job at a marketing firm. Although, she still didn’t let go of her dream to have a fashion business.
Hershey decided to sell online the remaining clothes she had in stock. This proved to be one of the wisest decisions in her life too because a famous Hollywood beauty guru took notice of her online shop and bought one of her clothing pieces. The beauty guru had advertised the item on her social media account, so her followers quickly discovered Hershey’s shop.
In no time, Hershey’s shop followers increased tremendously. Her fast-growing business boomed, as she began designing and producing her own products too. After a while, the Australian community commended her thriving business. Other countries such as the USA and UK were also recognizing her success.
Now a highly successful entrepreneur, Hershey was able to build a home in the Philippines for her siblings. She had finally taken them away from their abusive mother so they can all live happily together. Hershey was also able to expand her growing business in the country and created more employment opportunities for Filipinos.
Inspiring lessons through powerful performances
MMK “Damit” gives hope to people wishing to break the chains and achieve more in life. Direk Dado Lumibao and the rest of the team behind this episode ensured that the story would capture the pivotal moments of Hershey’s life to get the striking messages and lifelong lessons across.
Definitely, Ria’s brilliant performance as Hershey was integral to the storytelling. All the struggles, emotions, and pain were delivered well with her acting. She knew when to shed layers and show vulnerability as well as how to exude Hershey’s powerful determination to succeed for her brother and sisters.
MMK delivers more moving stories like this every Saturday at 8 PM on A2Z, Kapamilya Channel, Kapamilya Online Live and iWantTFC.