Women on top: The reader and the runner

Adrianna Mejia
Read the stories of 2 women whose passion keeps them motivated to pursue their dreams

MANILA, Philippines – Could you say that you haven’t worked a single day in your life?

Doing what you love for a living may not be a reality to many. Whether your passion is painting, writing or dancing, it would be a dream to make it your career, or at least part of it.

For some, they may just keep it as a hobby and have a 9–5 job to make a living.

Here are stories of 2 women whose work includes their passion for reading and for running, both who have worked hard and persevered to become who they are today. 

Laking National

LAKING NATIONAL. Xandra Ramos-Padilla shares how her love for reading gives her passion for her job. Photo courtesy of Naitonal Bookstore.

Xandra Ramos-Padilla recalled how her parents would bring her and her 2 brothers to National Bookstore in Ali Mall every night for closing when they were just kids. “On Saturdays, when they would do store visits they would bring us along. I remember playing with the cash register or trying to help out in the back office.” She even learned how to count because of her constant visits to their store.

Their family business began before the Japanese occupation. Xandra’s grandparents, Socorro and Jose Ramos, opened a stall in Escolta selling school supplies. After the war, the entire Escolta was burned to the ground leaving their supplies in ashes. But they were determined to rebuild their store, this time in the corner of Soler and Avenida Rizal. It was success as their store opened close to the first post–war school opening.

Through the years, as the business was passed on from one generation to the next, National Bookstore has become a household name and have expanded to over 145 branches nationwide.

Xandra would eventually follow in her family’s footsteps.

Growing up, Xandra was an avid reader just like her parents and other relatives. Her love for reading began when her grandmother Socorro gave her the whole set of the Nancy Drew, Bobsey Twins and Trixie Belle series when she was in the 2nd grade. “I finished all that when I was 7 or 8.”

She said that trips to National Bookstore meant finding out what the latest titles are and discovering new authors such as Judy Blume and Madeleine L’Engle.

She also shared that her family had a big library at home, which developed her love for reading as well.

After earning her degree in Management Engineering, her grandmother recruited Xandra to join the family business.

Her grandmother even gave her advice, “if you’re going to tell people how to clean the toilet, you better know how to clean the toilet.”

So Xandra worked hard to learn the business inside out. She went around the different departments and spent 5 years learning the basics just like any other new employee. 

Xandra then decided to pursue her MBA in North Western University and worked in Walmart in Arkansas for about 3 years. “After a while, my dad was inviting me to come back to help with the family business,” she recalled.

Today, she is the purchasing manager for both books and supplies for National Bookstore.

What she loves about her job is that she finds new and interesting things. She goes to trade fairs selecting what would be fit to sell in National Bookstore. She said, “you never thought paper would be so exciting.”

Of course, they had to make some partners and build relationships along the way to grow.

Ayala Land has helped them build more stores in prime locations. “They would give us the locations in which to try new concepts or build flagships. Our biggest store is in Glorietta. We’re given 3 stories to create a stationary and book playground.”

Strong family ties and relationships have kept the business alive and thriving. But another reason why Xandra has continued to do what she does is because of her dedication to her job and family as well as her passion for reading, which has led her to her own success.

Apart from working in National Bookstore, she is also the general manager of The Ramp, a department store which is known for trendy and affordable clothes and accessories.

However, Xandra makes sure that she keeps a balance between her family and her career despite her busy schedule. She makes sure that she is there for her famiy every step of the way, just like her family was to her. 

She said she would like to give her kids the chance to learn and explore on their own. But they aren’t straying too far from what the family has grown to love. “My daughter, who’s 6, can read to my son who’s 4. And it’s refreshing because even if they do have access to iPads or TVs, they still ask to read books at night.”

So how does Xandra juggle everything? “You just have to make it work. You need to balance [things], you just have to do your best to get things done. Women should not underestimate what they can achieve if they put their mind into it.”

The Bull Runner

“Life was simple,” said Jaymie Pizarro.

She was a young mom of two who worked as a freelance graphic designer. “My life revolved around caring for my family.”

When a friend shared with her that she could run on the treadmill for 30 minutes, Jaymie figured that she could do it too. So she stepped on her treadmill and decided to give it a try.

In 2 months, she could run on her treadmill for 30 minutes.

Jaymie started running on her own on December 2006 and she saw it fit her lifestyle perfectly. For busy moms like her, running was the right sport becuase it keeps you fit and healthy, it’s not time consuming (she could just run for an hour while her kids where asleep and be back before they woke up) and all you need is a good pair of shoes.

From then on, running played a significant role in her life. 

“Inevitably, the benefits of running have spilled on to the rest of my life. I’ve definitely gained more confidence and a zest for life and its adventures.” It helped her push herself when she faced challenges that seemed impossible to overcome. She said that she just had to remind herself of the races she finished despite the pain and discomfort.

But running has also helped Jaymie to focus on herself and become a better person. “It gave me a space to just be myself, not mom or wife, but me as an individual. It gave me my own goals to aim for and my own achievements to be proud of.”

“It’s just me: my body and mind. It’s an opportunity to test my physical and mental endurance and to see how far I can go. It’s also my escape from the daily grind. It’s my time to solve problems, to conceptualize new business ideas, to reflect on life, or simply to empty my thoughts,” she said.

But when she first started, she noticed that there was a lack of information on running in the Philippines. So she got on her laptop and started to write about it.  and start her own website on running.

“I needed a venue to express my intense passion for running. I also wanted to provide runners like me a source of information on running and future events. On my birthday, May 5, 2007, I created thebullrunner.com in less than an hour.”

In 2009, Jaymie decided to go the extra mile and run her first marathon. She says that to finish a 42km run is the ultimate dream for any serious runner. 

THE BULL RUNNER. Jaymie Pizarro shares her story on pursuing her love for running. Photo by Tong Pascua.

When she successfully finished her first marathon, she felt that she could overcome any challenge thrown her way in running and in life.

But she also wanted more people to experience running a marathon. “There was just no way to explain in words how the marathon can transform one’s life. One simply had to run it.”

With the help of Jim Lafferty of P&G and Jun Bisnar of Nuvali, the 1st TBR (the Bull Runner) Dream marathon became a reality. It’s the first and only marathon in the world that caters to first time marathoners, an idea shared by Jim.

Jun suggested Nuvali as the venue of the race and Jaymie agreed that it was the perfect venue for the dream marathon upon seeing the views and wide roads. Even though no one was familiar with the venue at that time, 300 slots were sold out. “With Dream Marathon, I’ve even been blessed with the opportunity to touch people’s lives through running.”

For the past 5 years, they have about 3,000 runners who shared their first marathon with Jaymie and her team.

“To be honest with you, I don’t feel like I’ve worked a day in my life in the past 7 years,” said Jaymie. “I’m fortunate because my work is my passion.” 

With her busy schedule and full–time mom duties, Jaymie said that balancing everything is no easy task. She said that there is no room for being mediocre. “I’m a work in progress. I’m always working towards a new goal, new roads to conquer, new adventures to undertake. I’m always trying to become a better person for myself and for others. The moment I say I’m successful and I’m done trying will be a time that I fail myself.” – Rappler.com


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