Whenever I ask friends who assists them in their shopping during the quarantine, only one name escapes their lips: Camilo D. Tolentino Jr. And with it come clarificatory statements — he was there even during pre-pandemic days.

Through the years, this young man from SM Home Makati has risen from sales utility clerk to the position of the department manager, all the while nurturing meaningful relationships with his clients and customers. Today, he is the esteemed personal shopper of several high-profile patrons.

Camilo Tolentino with Tessie Sy-Coson during the Customer Service Rewards Program of SM Home. / Photographs courtesy of Camilo Tolentino

Born and raised in the town of Mangatarem in Pangasinan, he was the youngest of six siblings. With his mom and a sister passing early on, the dad, a mangbobote (itinerant scrap buyer), was left as the sole provider.

After finishing at the Bogtong Silag Elementary School and Quetegan National High School, both with flying colors, Camilo knew he could not finish college. Luckily, he did not lose hope.

Recently, we had a chat with Camilo, a proud breadwinner of his family, composed of the patriarch, a niece, and a nephew, where he shared his young adult’s life’s journey, punctured with struggles, trials, and successes.

The personal shopper with Tingting Cojuangco.

On being a working student
Right after my regularization, with the help of my immediate superiors, I took up Business and Information Management at AMA Computer Learning College.

I usually went to school before and after my shift and had arrangements with some professors concerning my absences. Most were very supportive. It was a really tight situation — studying at the same time providing for my family. I budgeted all my expenses — as most of my earnings were just enough for our everyday living.

On his continuing education
After I graduated in 2011, I took up BSBA in Marketing Management at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines through online studies. Finishing and submitting my thesis were my last requirements.

On his SM Home family
I am so blessed to find a family who granted me opportunities. They have assisted in sending me to school. I am likewise grateful for the trust that the company has given me. Special mention goes to the Sy family, my bosses Ma’am Asuncion Yap, Ms. Sonia Estanda and my immediate superior, Ms. Pia Villareal, supervisors who became my second mothers. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the trainings, so I always strive to work hard and do my best. I want to give back to the company which gave me more than what I had ever hoped for.

Tolentino assists his long-time patron Emily Lopez during her birthday celebration.\

On competitions and awards
The SM Stores had the Customer Service Rewards Program (CSRP), which acknowledged exceptional employees with excellent customer service. I was humbly nominated in 2015 and I eventually represented the SM Makati branch. We clinched the Customer Service Rewards Program National Champion (Supervisor Category) title, wherein I won a brand-new car, whose value I converted to a house, a trip to Hong Kong, health cards for my dependents, and a lot more. It was an unforgettable and life-changing experience that forever transformed my family and me.

On experiences with customers
Every time they drop by the store — often called in earlier to check if I am on shift or not — we would talk about life and they would give me advice. Because of their encouragement, I am constantly inspired to do better. And now during this pandemic, I continue to return their generosity and time to provide for their essentials and extend my services to their family and friends.

On career advice
If you want to start your career in the retail industry, do not focus on your salary or position. Find something that interests you. Be passionate and give your best. Do not wait for opportunities — create them.

Source: Tribune