MERCEDITA Fiel Gurrea can sell anything—and she has her whole life to show for it.
At age 11, she sold fish to help earn a living for her family in Cebu. She would wake up at 3 a.m. to go to the fish market, hawk her fish haul by 6 a.m., and rush home to prepare to go to school at 11 a.m.
“Ang father namin na-stroke so hindi na siya makapagtrabaho. Kaming mga anak niya na nag-aral ay napilitang mag-hanapbuhay na rin,” recalled Mercy, now 52 and one of the top financial advisors of Insular Life (InLife).
Their fish business did well enough that Mercy was able to send two of her younger siblings to school. She herself did not finish high school, so finding a job was difficult for her. In the end, she decided to do the one thing she was good at—selling. She sold everything—from casseroles and charcoal stoves to home appliances and peanut butter.
Soon, Mercy found herself working as the franchise manager of a small company in the Visayas, but her lack of a college degree nagged at her. She took an acceleration test with the Department of Education, which enabled her to get a high school diploma and enroll in college.
Mercy took up Accounting but quit without finishing even one semester.
“Nag-isip ako: ano ba ang gusto ko talagang gawin, makatapos ng college o kumita ng pera? Gusto kong kumita ng pera, kaya tumigil na ako,” she said.
In 1996, a friend who had a meat stall at the Carbon Market in Cebu City was interested to buy an insurance policy, and she wanted Mercy to be her agent. Clueless about insurance but wanting to make a sale, Mercy looked for an insurance company that would take her in. She instructed the taxi driver to bring her to this insurance company she had heard of, but by some stroke of serendipity, the taxi driver brought her to the building at the corner of Maxilom and Gorodo Avenue in Cebu City—the Insular Life Building.
“Nag-walk in ako at sinabi ko, ‘gusto ko mag-agent.’ Nagtaka yata sila kasi mahirap magrecruit. Sabi ko wala akong alam, kailangan ko ng training. Itinanong ko ano ang produkto nila kasi may client na ako,” she said.
After obtaining an insurance agent’s license, Mercy went back to her friend to present an insurance policy from InLife.
“Hindi ko alam malaki pala ang na-offer ko sa kanya. Na-shock ako sa laki ng kita ko. Ang first check ko ay P140,000 sa isang client, and that was in 1996!” Mercy recalled.
There was no stopping her from selling insurance after that, and Mercy, a college dropout, soon became InLife’s number one in sales in Cebu.
“Itong mga kasamahan ko mga professionals sila lahat, pero sabi ko kahit hindi ako professional, kayang-kaya kong gawin ito kasi ang ganda ng produkto, ang ganda ng purpose ng produkto,” she said.
Her work as an InLife financial advisor provided the financial security her family needed.
“’Iyong father ko, breadwinner namin siya. Noong nagkasakit siya at eventually namatay, affected kami lahat kasi lahat kami umasa sa kanya. Ayaw kong mangyari sa mga anak ko iyon kung may mangyari sa akin,” she said.
Set on success
When Mercy started earning from commissions, she bought insurance policies, not only for herself but for her husband, their three children and her siblings and their children. Over time, she was able to buy her dream house, a rest house, several farms and vehicles. She and her family have traveled extensively, too—something she could only dream of in the past.
“Nagbago talaga ang buhay ko. Naayos ko na ang buhay ng pamilya ko, mas secured na kami. Natupad ko ang lahat ng pangarap ko dahil sa Insular Life,” she said.
As her clientele grew, Mercy also recruited her own insurance agents. From having only 15 agents under the Agila Financial Team General Insurance Agency, which she runs with her family, her team has grown to around 100 agents.
Just like her when she was starting out, the agents Mercy recruited had limited knowledge about insurance, but Mercy taught them the ropes of the business, including financial planning and insurance policies.
Mercy said she does not have any secrets for success in the insurance industry. All she had when she started was confidence and dedication to her work.
“Kung sales lang, hindi talaga ako nagdo-doubt sa sarili ko. Kahit ano kaya kong ibenta. Hindi man ako degree holder, hindi iyon hadlang sa mga pangarap ko. Gusto ko talaga maging successful ako sa buhay ko,” she said.
Mercy faced a new kind of challenge when the insurance industry, like all other businesses, took a hit from the Covid-19 pandemic early this year. At first, she welcomed the lockdown as a “long vacation” with her family but by April, she realized the situation was not getting better and she began to worry.
For someone who was not tech-savvy, Mercy struggled with the shift to digital selling. She feared that she would not be able to get new clients, but her children came to the rescue and taught her how to use Zoom. Most of her communication, though, was still through Facebook, with which she’s very familiar.
She said she plans to sell insurance for as long as she can, and at her age, she is seeing the importance of having a retirement fund.
“Ayaw ko maging pabigat kahit kanino—that’s my goal,” Mercy said. “Either you die with money or you die without money. Ganon lang ako mag-isip.”
Her advice to young Filipinos? Don’t be a one-day millionaire. Live on 80 percent of your income and invest the rest. Start early.
“Huwag natin hayaan na tatanda tayong walang pera. Madami akong nakitang tao na noong bata pa sila, may pera sila, pero noong tumanda sila, kawawa na sila. Ayaw kong maging ganon talaga,” she said.
To read stories of connecting lives for good, visit https://www.insularlife.com.ph/news/insular-life-highlights-filipinos-resilience-and-hope-473. SPONSORED CONTENT