Defining humanity through her devotion to the community
Nelson Mandela once said, “There can be no better gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to help others without expecting anything in return,”, and we strongly agree. Those who are blessed with the means to afford essentials in life are indeed fortunate but even more so are those who have it in them to share these means with others. As a part of a community, we all have a moral duty of spreading kindness and serving those who are in need.
There are many who do not have proper clothing, shelter, and education, and helping even one person can make a huge difference. With Bella Foundation, founder Ms. Padillo Maybelle Ho aims to do exactly so. She aspires to empower the children and women in the city who belong to different ethnic minority backgrounds. Her journey from the Philippines to Hong Kong revolves around the community that she grew up in. This feature gives an insight as to how she has gone on to share the love and the blessings with fellow Hongkongers.
When and how did you come to Hong kong?
I have always loved the idea of exploring new things and being able to go to new places. However, I didn’t understand the implications of being in a foreign land. I was performing as a singer in many countries during that time, and something about Hong Kong really pulled me to this beautiful city. It was much later that I found out through a historian that my family tree has some roots in Hong Kong. On my maternal side, my great-grandfather was born and raised in China. Whereas, my grandfather was born and raised in Hong Kong. That’s how I realised that maybe the blessings from my ancestors were pulling me to this place. When I arrived in Hong Kong, in around 2001, I was very young. I wanted to discover the world, perform, and make people smile.
Initially, my parents were reluctant to let me go out of the Philippines. They have ample fortune and me, as an independent lady, always tried to convince my parents to allow me to go out. We also had a few arguments in this regard. Luckily, they agreed after much persuasion and I arrived in Hong Kong. They saw me independently overcoming challenges and realised that people liked my singing and performances. I especially got a lot of appreciation for singing Chinese songs. My father ultimately realised that it was a good decision to let me go out, and make my own money, rather than just relying on the family wealth.
Yes, it was difficult in the beginning. Being from the Philippines, going to a foreign land is not exactly an easy task. Also, I didn’t know anyone here when I arrived. However, I stuck to the values, principles, and teachings that were passed down to me by my mother, my father, and my grandparents. With some caution in mind regarding the people I engage with, especially in my musical career, I started making new friends. I just wanted to make a mark in Hong Kong and have a positive impact on the city. Ultimately, one can not set everything right in one night. One needs to go through the process. Fortunately, I was surrounded by helpful people, who always guided me and helped me take the right decisions.
You are a very famous singer in the Philippines and now in Hong Kong. Tell us how did that happen.
Actually, my father is a singer and he also plays the guitar. My grandmother, however, did not want my father to become a singer and perform. She didn’t understand or appreciate the concept of performing for money. But my father had a different viewpoint, he just loved singing and playing the guitar. However, he had to focus on the business since my grandmother wanted him to. He is the one who taught me how to sing and how to perform on the stage. He is my inspiration.
How did Bella Foundation come to being? What was your inspiration?
When I arrived in Hong Kong, I was practically all by myself. At that time, I befriended many people from the Philippines. I could see, both, their hardships in settling down and their passion to help others. While establishing myself, I could see, firsthand, how difficult it is to go to and work in a foreign land. I wanted to help everyone who didn’t have sufficient means and needed help, especially the kids and women. I worked hard and saved some money and gladly, my father also saw my passion to help. So, he was also there to help me out with my vision for charity. I was helping, in whatever capacity I could, even before Bella Foundation. I was really glad to have met Mr. Kulddeep Buttar, who helped with the foundation and guided me in the right direction. He suggested I should get Bella Foundation registered. He was really instrumental and inspirational for me when it came to being able to reach out to those who were in need. By the way of Bella Foundation, since 2017, I just wanted to give back to the community.
Tell us about some of the programmes undertaken by the foundation.
Bella Foundation is a Hong Kong-based non-profit organisation. It was established in 2017-2018. As a woman, a mother, as well as an overseas worker, I wanted to focus on causes that are very close to my heart — empowering the youth and women through education. This is primarily what Bella Foundation does. This is because I believe that women and kids hold the key to a promising future. Also, I also want to make sure that the foundation plays a crucial role in making a difference to the aged who suffer from old-age-related diseases, such as diabetes.
We are continuously working, independently and also in close collaboration with Mr. Buttar and Singh Welfare to be able to make a difference to those who don’t have enough in their lives, by way of clothes, meals, and other assistance. Especially during the pandemic, we continued to provide people with masks, sanitisers, and other essentials. Also, I have been able to assist individuals from different societies — I am helping the kids by sending them to school and also helping the domestic workers to help them learn new skills. I have been providing financial assistance to ethnic minorities. Further, we also aid the Filipinos who want to go back home. As much as we can, we continue to give back. We will strive to continue our efforts for the larger good of society.
What is the most challenging facet of setting up and running a foundation like yours?
One of the first things that crossed my mind when I started running this foundation was if it will succeed. When I began, there were obvious concerns regarding the budget, finances, political stability, and how all these things will affect the operations. I often wondered if we will get the right people, and the right volunteers to help us out. Yes, there were many challenges, but my family has always been my rock-solid support. They have always been there for me and encouraged me, ever since I started out. I am sure I will always be able to serve the communities here in Hong Kong. All these years, I have mostly used my own finances and income from my business to run the foundation, we don’t have any donors or third-party financiers. It was not that easy but thanks to the constant support I received from my family, my able volunteers, and Mr. Buttar, I was able to deliver as per the vision I had for helping the people in need.
Are there any specific programmes you would want to focus on in the future?
Actually, I want to open a dialysis centre for diabetes patients. My father suffers from diabetes and he is regularly undergoing dialysis. I can closely see the struggle. After the treatments, my father feels better because all the toxins are washed out of the body through dialysis. It can heal people, however, it is an expensive treatment and it can be very difficult for some people to afford it. Hence, aside from what all we are doing for children, single mothers, the underprivileged, and senior citizens, I want to open a dialysis centre.
Suppose you had the superpower to change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Oh, that’s a tough one. Superpowers are something we see in movies, in the Marvel world, it would be nice to have one but it’s just something in the movies. Here, we have to deal with the real thing. I always go back to my advocacy of protecting and helping women and children. If I could have a superpower, it would be being able to impart some skills to women and children so that they can be self-sufficient and never have to rely on anyone for anything. I would also like some superpowers that can help me save older people from suffering. To help them have more strength in their knees, more energy, and a stronger immune system, and all in all, they’ll be healthier. I would be very generous in using my powers for making this world a better place.
If you could give a piece of advice to youngsters on how to be better humans, what would it be?
I always rely on three things – God, family, and myself. In my lowest moments, when I was starting out in Hong Kong, I had immense faith in a higher power. It always gave me solace. Next, my parents and siblings have always supported and encouraged me. They have inspired me to live each day, to conquer each day. Even though I am physically alone in Hong Kong, they have been my constant companions. Last, but not least, rely on yourself. Even when you have other people’s support, you really need to believe in yourself. That is the only way one can accomplish everything. So this is my earnest advice — always believe in God, your family, and in yourself.
Tell us about the values and traits that one should imbibe to be able to serve the community.
We all have a limited time here on the planet, as they say, “we are all just travellers on Earth”. We should try and maximise our positive footprints in other people’s lives. Our aim should be to always spread positive vibes. If you really want to serve the community, start with always being kind. The kindness that one offers can make a major difference to the community. One never knows what the other is experiencing. Also, what one needs is the willingness to help someone without any expectation, to be able to bring a smile to people’s faces without seeking anything from them. Giving without any hope to get anything in return is actually rewarding. These are some values you must hold on to and keep spreading. Serving the community is a calling and a long-time dedication. One must continue trying, come what may.
How do you achieve a balance between being a singer and a philanthropist?
For me, singing is not just a career, it is a calling. We can touch the lives of people with several god-gifted talents. I have always tried to be very creative in building strategies and planning both things in a way that they overlap. Actually, both singing and philanthropy work together very well. For example, during outreach programmes or community initiatives, I am able to sing for the people while also trying to help them. It goes hand in hand and now, for me, singing is very much part and parcel of the philanthropic movement. I have realised my music is an asset to the foundation, it is instrumental in connecting with people. This is because music is a language everyone understands and loves. Initially, I thought it would be conflicting but both these things ultimately formed a beautiful synergy.
A heartfelt message for Hongkongers:
Around 20 years ago, I was new to Hong Kong. Since then I have worked very hard and I’ve also sacrificed a lot to be successful, all this while working from the heart. In Hong Kong, I received opportunities to grow personally as well as professionally. Hong Kong is not just a place, it’s home. I grew as a person here, I grew my business here, and most importantly, I found my calling here. Nearly two decades later, I can say that my journey here has been very heartwarming. All Hongkongers need to appreciate how beautiful this city is, and how promising, and progressive it is. Always strive for the best interest of the community. If we all work together, we can make great things happen.