Philam Life CEO shares lessons from triumph vs poverty


Posted at Dec 27 2017 09:35 AM

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MANILA - It wasn't always easy for Philam Life Chief Executive Officer Ariel Cantos. The boss who used to clean homes and cars for his neighbors recalled how life’s difficulties shaped him and his future. 

Born to a family with a thriving business, Cantos know how it was like to live a luxurious life. However, this also made losing everything more difficult. 

"The business really went bad, it was kind of difficult at that time, before I graduated in elementary I saw the cars disappearing, I saw the swings, seesaw and slides are not there anymore," he told ANC’s On the Money. 

Cantos recalled fetching water from public faucets at 4 a.m. to prepare for school. That did not stop him from finishing his economics degree and working his way up.

He said he had an awakening while reading a school book, in line to get water one morning.

"I realized that life has to be better than this and I think that’s where my resolve became stronger, I’ve got to do something because this is not what life is all about,” he said.

Cantos shared the following lessons he learned while struggling to succeed in life.


People take action once they own their destiny. This means defining goals, setting action plans and taking steps to achieve these.

“First you have to understand and really accept that you are the master of your own destiny, if you do not accept that nothing much will happen,” he said. 


For Cantos, financial literacy is not just about the knowledge, it’s about changing behaviors. 

Based on their research, Cantos said only 2 out of 100 retirees live comfortably. Some end up spending their retirement fund on unexpected medical bills. 

Philam Life encourages customers to go into health and wellness in order to live longer and better lives. 

"We’re not only educating you but we’re influencing you to do the right behavior," he said. 


Cantos got to where is now by maintaining the same lifestyle even as his paycheck increased.

“Kasi mahirap talaga maging mahirap (It's hard to be poor). If you experience that you will do your very best not to be in that same level again,” he said.

Before investing, a person should build the basics -- an insurance and an emergency fund, Cantos said. 

“Ultimately, if you have enough funds, look for the opportunity to become a small entrepreneur and make your money work for you,” he said.


Cantos joined the company after finishing college. His secret, he said, is loving his job and inspiring people to do their best. 

"In fact, my leadership style is people first and I really make a lot of effort and we put a lot of resources to really make people excited and inspired," Cantos said. 

"In our business, if you’re not motivated, if you’re not inspired, you can’t make it, so it’s really important for us to build the confidence of people and what they do in this business," he added.