They say that the key to life is balance, and Wilbert Tolentino has been unlocking doors not only for himself, but for everyone around him
Equipped with the titles of CEO, Entrepreneur, pageant winner, talent manager, philanthropist, rising YouTube sensation, and LGBTQIA+ icon, Wilbert Tolentino seems like an actual real-life counterpart of Tony Stark more than anything else. From running an esteemed chain of bars and clubs across the Philippines, to representing the country in global pageants, the man is still going strong in finding new pursuits to succeed in despite having done it all. What is the secret to Wilbert’s undying passion? How does he continue to inspire everyday? How does he share his blessings? Discover some of the incredible insights we were able to learn as we sat down with one Wilbert Tolentino to talk about the unique story that made him.
On humble origins
Like all great heroes, Wilbert Tolentino started out from relatively meek beginnings. Growing up in Binondo, Manila with Filipino-Chinese parents, Wilbert showcased a strong sense of self-reliance from an early age, becoming fully self-dependent at a tender age of 14 years old.
Despite facing a host of challenges, Wilbert managed to study in prestigious schools such as the Lorenzo Ruiz Academy and the University of Santo Tomas. After moving on from academics, Tolentino slowly began etching his name in the industries of beauty pageants and entertainment while supporting himself as a taxi cab operator and a small-time entrepreneur. Luckily enough, he eventually found massive success in both pursuits. Wilbert co-founded the Fahrenheit Cafe & Fitness Center, a historic establishment in being the first LGBTQIA+-exclusive membership bathhouse, club, and bar in 2003, while also bagging a coveted 2nd-runner up finish in a national pageant in 2007. These successes would only be a stepping stone for him, as he would eventually represent the entire country in a well-known international pageant in 2009, winning numerous special awards such as Best in Talent, the Photographer’s Choice Award, and the Congeniality Award, all in a single night.
Like fine wine
Becoming the face of the country’s LGBTQIA+ community seemed to have just been the beginning of Wilbert’s steady rise. As he continued to establish connections with like-minded entrepreneurs and build his personal capital, the young businessman made the most out of every single small win he could muster; using it to expand his already-thriving ventures and building a business empire.
“Ako, parang inisip ko lang in that time is, ang goal ko is maging success. So, kung nakikita ko na maraming successful na person, yun yung nag-iinspire ‘tsaka nagmotivate sakin na [if] kaya ng iba, kaya ko.”
Wilbert Tolentino on what motivated him to do his best
After the success of Fahrenheit Cafe—now renamed to F Club Philippines—Wilbert expanded his fledgling entrepreneurial pursuits into a vast expanse of establishments throughout Metro Manila; all of which still stand and operate today—limited only by the struggles brought by the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. Beyond brick-and-mortar businesses, Wilbert also began a brand-new venture in 2016 in co-founding Wemsap Incorporated; a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) company that supports affiliate market brands by providing them a platform to reach their respective audiences with well-trained personnel. When asked what he looks for in people he wishes to do business with, Wilbert shared that he immediately looks for like-minded people who are committed and willing to learn, adding:
“Siyempre ang unang hinahanap natin yung commitment. Just like me, kasi lahat tayo [ay] merong core value. Yung core value na meron sa akin is yung commitment. In every aspect, magagamit mo yung commitment mo, whether dealing in business or relationships, or even as a leader.”
Wilbert Tolentino on forging partnerships
Despite all odds
With almost two decades of sustained growth, it seemed that the sky was the limit for Wilbert and his pursuits. This was ultimately the case until the untimely arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020; a worldwide event which vastly affected the livelihoods of everyone in the entertainment and service industries; the main hubs of Wilbert’s ventures.
Despite the hardships, it is in these tough moments where Wilbert shares his true character as a person to be the most visible. Beyond being a vitruvian man, Wilbert also prides himself in being a passionate philanthropist; a pursuit brought upon by knowing first-hand the challenges that life has brought to his feet. During the pandemic, Wilbert conducted a variety of fun Facebook challenges and fundraisers in order to support and sustain the lives of all the people around him; the same people that helped him get to the top in the first place.
And yet, despite trying really hard to provide all the help he can give, another bout of misfortune would strike Wilbert in 2020, as he himself was reportedly critically hospitalized after being infected with the COVID-19 virus itself; an experience that he believes to be one of the most challenging in his life so far.
Despite the harrowing circumstances, Wilbert managed to defeat the virus, recover from his injuries, and eventually return to normal life. This survival was not without its silver lining however, as Wilbert also shared with us a great revelation he was able to face from surviving from the disease, which was to reconnect with his faith. He adds:
“Walang iba syempre kung hindi mag-pray. Dapat talaga ‘wag nating kalilimutan ‘yung nasa taas. During noong nangyari sa akin yung incident, parang I feel na lahat ng pinaghirapan natin, lahat ng in-effort natin sa buhay, hindi naman natin madadala sa hukay.”
Wilbert Tolentino on the great lesson he learned from surviving COVID-19
After taking a few moments for recovery, Wilbert’s glow of generosity would continue to shine, despite the trauma that might have risen with being infected with the disease. Wilbert continued in his pursuit of helping others around him flourish despite the seemingly insurmountable threat of the pandemic; managing to become the talent manager of rising internet star Daisy Lopez, better known from her iconic stage name, Madam Inutz.
It was also in this moment that Wilbert found a chance to create content for his own wellbeing. The all-around pageant legend shared the opening of his YouTube vlog to not just be a way of connecting to his fans and audiences, but also as a means of catharsis and staying sane in spite of the dreadfulness of the lockdown.
With a curriculum vitae that most men would envy secured under his belt, one can only wonder what more is in the future of this truly vitruvian man. Whatever new pursuit this may be will be up to Wilbert, but one thing may always be for certain: he will always face these pursuits with an open heart, and his signature acumen of knowing and connecting with people. When asked what is the most powerful lesson that he can impart to those who aspire to be like him, Wilbert went back to the tried-and-tested mantras that helped him win his battles throughout the years, declaring:
“Isipin niyo na kung kaya ko, kaya niyo rin. During that time [when we studied], a passing rate was okay for me, pero, right now, ang lagi kong tinuturo sa angels ko is: magbibigay lang kayo, ‘bat hindi niyo pa ibigay iyong best ninyo?”
Wilbert Tolentino on doing your best
Want to see Wilbert Tolentino in action? Make sure to follow him at his official Facebook and Instagram pages. Catch his fun vlog on YouTube for the latest happenings with Wilbert.
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