The Bricklayer: Sen Rafael Ill

Sen Rafael Ill is the Bricklayer of A.M. Builders’ Depot.

Everyone loves a success story. Epic tales of conquering seemingly insurmountable odds and the sweet taste of victory that follows have been countlessly retold in literature and the media, leaving indelible images both awe-inspiring and familiar to be one for the books.

Sen began his career as a salesman in his native Bacolod for Amon Trading, a supplier of finishing construction materials, at the ripe old age of 17. For 25 years he plied his trade, eventually working his

way up to a managerial position at the Iloilo branch, till the Asian economic crisis of 1997 hit hard, forcing Amon to shut down its operations, “I had to feed my family,” Sen remembers, “and it was the only business I knew. I simply had nowhere to go.

Sen Rafael Ill
Sen Rafael Ill | Photo Scanned from Ilonggo Initiatives published by Iloilo Business Club (2011)

The challenge brought with it inspiration: Sen courageously offered Amon’s stock on a consignment basis, so he could continue what he did best. It seemed like a good deal, and Amon agreed. For the first time in his life, Sen was in business for himself.

But the excitement of entrepreneurship meant new challenges. “It dawned on me that there was more to the business than just selling. I had no experience in accounting, warehousing, marketing, purchasing, and all other operations required for the business to run. I had to learn the business as I went along.” Brick by brick, Sen laid the foundations – and despite the crisis, fire and theft marring its first year of operations slowly grew the company.

Another 13 years have passed since those trying times, and A.M. Builders’ Depot has become one of the largest finishing construction supply stores in the Visayas, with no less than 41,000 different items in stock across its 12 massive outlets. And along the way, Sen’s passion continues to thrive. “We are already a saturated market,” he admits. “That’s why we can’t afford to stop and smell the flowers – we have to keep re-engineering, innovating.”

Perhaps for some, the success of A.M. Builders Depot would have been enough, But not for Sen, “I’m still alive, aren’t I?” he exclaims. “I don’t have time to think about things like age. I think I’m going to keep on working till the day I kick the bucket,” he adds with a laugh.

Indeed, it seems that there will be many more chapters to add to the story of Sen Rafael. But no matter how fraught with challenges the future, with his unwavering passion and determination, it is almost guaranteed to end with his triumph.

Source: Ilonggo Initiatives published by Iloilo Business Club (2011)


Sheila is a digital marketing enthusiast and obsessed in promoting Iloilo. She is a kdrama fan, a dog person and a certified foodie!

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