Miriam Quiambao-Roberto: Rebuilding, Recovering, and Rediscovering God (Part 2)
In the concluding part of this exclusive interview, Miriam Quiambao-Roberto talks candidly about the difficulty of almost losing her life savings to a scam, how turning back to God has given her a better direction in life, and her plans with her new family.
(Did you miss the first part of this interview? Catch up here.)
What difficulties did you face in moving back from Hong Kong to the Philippines?
I got married in 2004, and I got back here in 2006. Fortunately GMA quickly offered me a travel show, Pinoy Meets World, which sustained me financially so I had work when I moved back here even when my ex-husband wasn’t providing for me any more. It took us a couple of years before we agreed that he’d file a divorce.
In 2007 I had a financial challenge. I had invested in foreclosed properties again with my friend and investment partner. But in 2007 I learned that our properties were receiving letters from the bank threatening repossession because she wasn’t paying the amortization. It had over 1 million penalties in the bank.
Because of the number of investments I had, and I had invested my life savings in those properties, I didn’t have money left over to try to recover them from the bank. Fortunately another friend blew the whistle on the mismanagement of this girl so i called the other investors and we came together to file a case against her. We reported her to the NBI and filed a case of estafa.
And while we were recovering all these properties, I was beginning to have trouble with my career because all my shows were getting canceled.
How did you recover from these setbacks?
I wasn’t too busy with showbiz work, and my thing is, if I’m not too busy, I’ll take the downtime to study. So I ventured into entrepreneurship, applied whatever I learned from my lessons when the bank suggested we create a company to manage the properties and to have a legal entity to deal with the bank. In one of the properties I invested in, my partners assigned me as president but during that time I didn’t have much knowledge of real estate.
By this time, I had already come to know the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, because there was a time I turned away from my faith. By 2008 I put my trust in Him as my ultimate provider. Before, my sense of security was based in money, what I had, how popular I was. But through experience I discovered that all these things are temporary and only God is permanent and our faith in Him is what allows us to trust in Him so we can surrender even our finances to Him. So I prayed he’d give me wisdom and knowledge in order to manage these properties.
I came across the Urban Institute of Real Estate and enrolled there, and by God’s grace and the help of my team we were able to recover the property from the bank, raise enough money from collections from our tenants to pay the penalties, kick out the tenants that weren’t paying, continue collecting from those religiously paying, and manage the property in such a way that it is self sustaining.
Since 2009 when we established the company, the property has become self sustaining and we’re in the process of transferring seven properties out of 24 to tenants who are also buyers.
One of the duplexes built by Miriam Quiambao-Roberto in Quezon City.
Is this company your main source of income now?
No, it’s just one of the many things I’m doing. For this company, my fellow investors and I meet maybe once a month, more if there are serious issues but that’s not as common. Mostly we manage with phone calls and emails.
The rest of the time I manage my own properties. Back when I wasn’t getting a lot of TV work I got a real estate license so I spent that downtime practicing brokerage. But when I was done with my divorce, I received some alimony and invested it in real estate again. My last project was to build a duplex in Quezon City so this year I’ve already received payment from PAG-IBIG for one and I’m waiting for the other one.
Most of my investments are in property, but I also have stocks and other businesses.
Do you use personal finance managers, or are you more hands-on?
I used to be very hands-on. Very focused on doing my finances and checking on them almost every day, every week, I’d check on stocks. But I’m at a stage in my life when I realized that’s no longer the focus on my life.
I manage my time with my family, managing my finances with my new husband. I do a lot of ministry work. Once in a while I still accept showbiz jobs but mostly I’m focused on ministry work and taking care of our son.
Money is no longer the center of my life. It’s important, but it’s not my focus.
Miriam and Ardy at their wedding, 2014.
How has your new family changed your approach to finances?
Let’s just say that I’m blessed that I now have a partner to help me manage. I’m blessed to have a life partner to raise children with, but he’s also my ministry partner and business partner, so two heads are better than one. We collaborate on how to manage our resources and Ardy’s a brilliant man. I’m blessed because we are aligned in our approach to money.
We try to manage our time in such way that even though we’re both earning, working, we still have time for family. We also pray for opportunities to have more businesses, and I’m glad opportunities are opening up. We have a new venture that we’re studying on a franchise. There’s a lot of potential there, but we’re still studying it.
What do you wish you’d known earlier about money?
That God is the ultimate provider. There are many times when I trusted money as my source of stability. But ever since I’ve learned that God will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches. All money, all fame, everything we have is temporary; but for as long as we have God, then even if we lose everything, as long as we trust Him, we pray for wisdom, He will be the one to provide us with the ability to produce.
I’m blessed because I’ve come to that knowledge. Not a lot of people have that opportunity. Through this interview, I really hope I can encourage the reader to discover what God has prepared for all of us because He has great plans for us.
What’s the best financial decision you’ve made?
To obey God in giving tithes. Tithes is 10% of gross income, gross salary. When I first encountered this I was like “What???”, but when you come to think of it, all our money is God’s and He’s just sharing it with us and we’re to be faithful stewards. If we can prove to Him we can be good managers, He will bless us with more.
Ever since I started tithing, hindi ako nagutom. Hindi ako aabot na kukulangin ako. When I see that my savings are dwindling, when I wasn’t getting too much work, biglang may darating na opportunity.
There was one time when God asked me for the whole income from one of the properties I owned, so I just trusted that call to tithe the full income of that property to Him. So I gave the income of that property in January 2011. Three months later I got a project and when I computed the amount of that project, it was 70 times the amount I tithed! Only God can do that. Mula noon nagti-tithe ako.
Miriam and Ardy on honeymoon in the south of France.
What are your financial plans for the next five years?
For the short term, my husband and I just married in March 2014, so for the past year we’ve been trying to merge our finances. We just moved to our house in Alabang in November, so we’re still finding out how much our expenses are for that house, how much we really need. And this last month my mom died and we had to shell out money to help out the family. So our cash flow and expenses haven’t settled yet, but now things are normalizing we are trying to identify how much really are our monthly expenses so we can properly budget.
We’d like to be in a position when we can live comfortably, enjoy life every so often, but also be able to build businesses so we can give more to the works of God. We pooled our money together to invest in a business and it seems to be doing well. We also recently opened this [Neil’s Kitchen and My Father’s Bookstore, where the interview is being held] in December. For this venture we partnered with my publisher so it wasn’t that much of an outlay, but it’s an opportunity to share inspirational books.
We’re also looking to build a new business. We’re studying which opportunities to prioritize in the next five years. We want to make that choice, one or two franchises, and we’ll build on it.
The plan is to organize it in such a way that we don’t always have to be there but our money can work for us, not us working for money.
Does money make you happy?
Money is a tool. It’s a neutral. It’s not alive. Something dead cannot make me happy. There was a time I was surrounded with so much money, living the worldly life, what every woman dreams of: traveling the world, living in a big beautiful house, and driving expensive cars, and being surrounded by luxury, the latest it bags, the best branded clothes. But without God, and not being married to God’s best for me, I was not happy. That’s when I discovered that this is not what makes me happy after all.
Growing up, having that life was my dream, especially after I became a beauty queen and I was able to attract the richest of men or the whatever princes. I thought “Ah, OK, I need someone who could provide for me.” But I married that the first time and I wasn’t happy.
But now I’ve discovered that God is my ultimate provider and God is the one who makes me happy because He completes me, fills me with joy, makes me so fulfilled that I have no need to find my satisfaction nor identity nor security in anything else.
By God’s grace I’ve been blessed that He’s providing for me, taking care of my needs and even more. I still enjoy a nice big house, I drive a nice car. It was not as luxurious as the life I had before, but I am content.
Wealth for most people is having a lot of money, but true godliness and contentment is indeed great wealth.
A family photo: Miriam, Ardy, and Josh.