“What are you going to do in the Philippines?” I asked him as we sat on a bus traveling to one of our friend’s house for his despidida party. “I’m going to start a real-estate business,” he declared with certainty. This was a week before his departure going back to the Philippines for good nine years ago.
Currently, Steve Luri Mercado, a former OFW in Thailand, is living the dream of being a real-estate businessman while serving as the Assistant Regional Director of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) of Region X.
OFW in Thailand
In April 2008, at 26, Steve joined the OFW bandwagon and flew to Thailand to seek for greener pasture. He left his English teaching job at a private school in Cagayan de Oro and refused an offer to teach special education in the United States in exchange for an uncertain life in Thailand.
“At that time, I was still very young. I was still on my early 20’s and I could not think of living far-away from home. Thailand is just 3 and a half hours from us so I opted for Thailand than US,” Steve says.
Steve soon realized that distance does not matter.
“The first two months in Bangkok was really hard. I struggled with language. I don’t really understand what people were talking about,” he shares. He admits that he had difficulty in coping with the culture being raised in a Christian family and all he could see around were Buddhist temples. “The food was really spicy too,” he adds.
It took six months for Steve to get accustomed to the Thai way of life. When he was hired to teach in Phitsanulok, his perspective about working in Thailand changed dramatically.
“My happiest years in Thailand was in Phitsanulok,” Steve recounts. “There, I met fellow Christians and we started a Bible study group that regularly meets during weekends to foster friendship and to exercise our Christian faith, he shares.
In 2010, Steve was appointed as member of the Filipino Council of Phitsanulok (P’lok Pinoyz). As representative of I Mission group, he helped in organizing events for the growing number of Filipinos in Phitsanulok and its nearby provinces.
Saving on a cooperative
Steve admits that one of the most difficult challenges that any OFW face is how to save effectively.
“Since the first month, I diligently tried to save at least 70% of my salary. I regularly send it to my mother to put into the cooperative where I was a member,” he says.
“I set a goal to hit a 7-digit savings and divided it to 4 years. Then, I determined how much should I be able to save each year then divided it to 12 months to know my monthly savings toward that 7- digit goal,” he claims.
Steve further shares that before he will receive his salary while working in Thailand, he already had a budget list as to where his salary would go.
“I will only feel happy once my mother would be able to save what I sent into the cooperative. That’s the time I would say that I earned that money, not when it is deposited to my Bangkok Bank account,” he says.
The journey back home
But the life he started to enjoy was suddenly interrupted after four years and six months.
“I was beginning to enjoy the OFW life when I got an emergency call from my family that compelled me to come home,” Steve recalls. “It was also then that I finally decided to stay in the Philippines for good and embark on something new, perhaps on that real-estate business I always planned about” he adds.
With his target savings completed, Steve packed his bags and left Thailand in October 2012.
Post OFW blues
It’s been nine years since Steve graduated from the life overseas. He confessed that the first four years of being back in the Philippines were not easy because of the income differences.
“But through time, by the same virtue of saving and investing, life is far better now in the Philippines compared to the life before in Thailand,” he confesses.
Real- estate business venture
In 2017, Steve saw an opportunity to build his first Bachelor’s Pad and continued to build at least three to four units each year thereafter. Due to Covid 19 measures, the completion of his 14th unit has been delayed.
Steve revealed that for a 20 sq. m. unit, he allocated at least Php. 100,000.00 excluding the furnitures. Before the pandemic struck, each unit is rented at Php. 5,000.00.
Currently, under Steve’s real-estate business is one condominium unit at the very heart of Cagayan de Oro City. He also owns few houses for rent and 13 bachelor’s pads that yield roughly a hundred thousand monthly income.
But this success did not come without challenges.
The main and the most difficult challenge that Steve had to go through in his real-estate venture was the lack of knowledge.
“I am not an engineer by profession so I had to read, look for designs from instagram, pinterest, facebook pages. Then, I hired the wrong men for the construction job. But I learned from my mistakes and it took me a year to finally acquire the trade of building these spaces for rent,” says Steve.
Advise to fellow OFWs
“I could easily understand the sentiments and the desires of every OFW because I was once like you. In our time, going abroad was the product of no other option. The opportunities in our country back then was limited. The idea of going abroad was our only idea of having better lives in the Philippines,” Steve claims.
According to Steve, things have changed for the better in the Philippines.
Steve encourages every OFW to plan ahead before going home so that when they finally come back, it will be just years of investments and enjoying the fruits of their labor.
“They don’t have to go back to square one. We work there and bring the capital back to the Philippines. Put them into small businesses like real-estate business, in agriculture, or in becoming a college or a university teacher working with the government,” says Steve.
“To my fellow OFW, prepare now so that you can come home to our country and just go back to Thailand as a tourist,” he concludes.
To know more about Steve Luri Mercado, please watch out for the full interview to be posted very soon at Enzo’s Point you tube channel. You may also follow him to be inspired more about his real-estate business venture at these social media platforms: