The life of Ariestelo Asilo, a Batangueño, is the stuff soap operas are made of—something he shared in a touching Facebook post recently.
“Anim na taong gulang noong magsimula akong magtrabaho, nagtitinda ako ng sweepstakes ticket pagkakatapos ng klase sa school sa Bauan East,” he begins the post. “Naalala ko pa noon nahihiya ako sa iba kong kaklase kasi ayaw ko makita nila ako pagala-gala sa palengke na naglalako ng ticket.”
Aries is the eldest among three siblings. His parents only finished grade school, so their family got by through selling sweeptakes tickets, palamig, and paputok during New Year—or whatever items that will bring in the money. His late father was a kubrador ng jueteng.
He recalls numerous rejections in his life. “Isang araw, iyak na ako kasi pinaso ako ng yosi ng isang matandang lalake, pahara-hara daw ako sa paninda nya. Madaming beses din lagi ako napapagtabuyan kasi ayaw nila sa akin bumili,” he shares on his Facebook wall. If he could have it his way, he would not want to sell tickets anymore, but his Lola Sela explained to him the need to help out the family, since he’s the panganay.
When I meet him online for this story, Aries seems like a guy you’d like to hang out with. He has a charming Batangueño accent and likes to crack jokes.
From ages 6 to 12, he treated the palengke in Bauan, Batangas as his second home. “Nagbebenta ako ng tiket ng sweepstakes. At kahit ang liit-liit ko, nagkakargador ako, kaya eto tuloy may scoliosis ako ngayon,” he shares in our phone interview.
Those hardships became his motivation to consciously make an effort to change their family’s future. He tried his best to get good grades in high school, which paved the way to a college scholarship via the US Peace Corps.
He initially wanted to become a doctor—because he was born with a hearing handicap. “Nag-fifty-fifty ako nung ipanganak ako, kaya nagkaroon ako ng problema sa pandinig. Gusto ko sanang maging neurosurgeon. I wished to find cure for people na may problema sa pandinig due to neurologic complications gaya ko. Yun din ang dahilan kaya ako nagpursige na maging scholar,” he offers. Through the scholarship, he was able to finish BS Nutrition in 2007.
But medicine was not to be the world he will make a career in. When his father passed away in 2010 after suffering from a stroke, Aries was deeply disheartened. “Nawalan ako ng gana sa pagdodoktor,” he admits. Instead, he channeled his interest in doing community work and helping people and diverted his attention to business.
“Naalala ko kasi ang bilin ng tatay ko sa akin bago sya mamatay. Una, alagaan mo ang iyong inay. Ikalawa, patapusin mo ang iyong mga kapatid. Ikatlo, abutin mo ang iyong pangarap anuman ang mangyari—yun ay ang maging maalwan ang aming buhay,” he admits. Those final words from his father had kept him strong, says Aries.
His experiences in life also taught him to always find opportunities to help others, whatever your plight in life is. “Kahit saan ka makarating, wag mong kakalimutang tumulong. Dahil yun ang nagpabago ng buhay ko, yung mga taong tumulong sa akin,” he says.
Just recently, he was recognized as the 2020 UPLB Distinguished Alumnus for Nutrition Entrepreneurship and Community Nutrition (College of Human Ecology), for the excellence and integrity he has shown in his chosen field. “I heard one of my co-nominees is an undersecretary, so I really did not expect the award. Iniisip ko, baka masyado pa akong bata,” says the 34-year-old Bauangeño (he was born and raised in Bauan, Batangas).
Finding out this humble man’s background in nutrition, community work, and entrepreneurship, one can glean that the award is well deserved.
Through the Peace Corps Scholars and Alumni Association he founded in 2006, he was able to organize clusters all over the Philippines that did community service related to agriculture, nutrition, social sciences, history, arts and many others.
He participated in medical missions, which he said, became his springboard to organizing a food drive (they prepared 120,000 packed meals) and disaster relief operations in 2013, when typhoon Yolanda ravaged Tacloban and other areas in Eastern Samar.
Through Bauan Technical High School Alumni Association, an organization that Aries founded in 2009, he was able to put together two relief operations during the Taal Volcano eruption early this year. The group organized a fund drive and also promoted breastfeeding to help some 4,000 individuals in Bauan.
Aries also assisted the mayor of Bauan in planning a food security system during the COVID-19 lockdown. This included organizing a mobile palengke so that the economy of Bauan continues to run despite the travel restrictions, and finding a way to distribute the goods in their municipality.
Over the years, he had also found a way to help farmers and small entrepreneurs in improving their status in life. “I had connected farmers to banks para maturuan sila ng business at para meron silang funds,” says Aries, who also studied rural banking from 2010-2013 at the Rural Bank of Lobo.
Recently, he started Circa 1740, which manufactures coffee and other products like kakanin. “We help coffee farmers and single moms by giving them livelihood. Circa 1740 is the source of our finished products for Timplado shops,” he tells me. Aries is one of the owners of Timplado, a startup biz he started with a friend, which now has three branches—in Lipa City, Olongapo, and Subic. They are scheduled to open more branches in the coming months.
Aries will also be opening an agricultural school in Pangasinan come January 2021. “There, we will offer courses on organic agriculture, swine farming, food processing, aquaculture, and many others. Isa din yan sa goal ko, matulungan ang mga gustong pumasok sa agriculture,” he says.
Aries is still young and just starting to fulfill his dreams. His “oble trophy,” he says, which now occupies a special location on his office table, reminds him of his humble beginnings. “Naniniwala kasi ako na kahit salat ka, ang pag-unlad ay magsisimula sa pagtulong,” he wrote on his Facebook wall.
“Lubos akong nagpapasalamat sa tiwala. Sa kabila ng kahirapan noon at lalo ngayon pandemic, ang UPLB at ang aking mga karanasan simula bata ang nagturo sa akin na patuloy tayong tumulong, magbigay at maging matatag,” he wrote. In the field of nutrition and entrepreneurship, he resolves to continue facing the challenges ahead. “Lalo kong pa-iigtingin ang aking kaalaman at karanasan para mas madami pa din akong matulungan, ma-inspire at makasama sa lakbayin na ito.”