BY MARIVIR R. MONTEBON
What you see is what you get with Luchie Vivas, currently Vice President of Finance for the Manhattan-based Assured Guaranty Corporation. This glamorous mom refuses to acknowledge that she is an impeccable fashionista and a community leader, but her looks speak it.
Luchie said would rather be regarded as an active community member in New Jersey and New York which had been her second home after finishing graduate studies at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business in Manila in July 1983.
At the young age of 22, she prodded her father to send her the US to study at the New York University. She has gone a long way since she left her hometown in Tanauan, Batangas, triumphant, first and foremost, of what immigrants feel as sheer loneliness because of being away from home and finally climbing the corporate ladder.
Today, being a mom of two young second generation immigrants who have both done well in school, alone spells success for Luchie. Her daughter, Winifred Leona V. Changco (Cheenie) is 24 years old and will graduate in May this year as a Dean’s Lister with a degree in Business. Her son, Luwin Antonio V. Changco (Boomer), 18, is taking Architecture and is in the Honors Class at the NJIT.
Not even her reputation of being a fashionista in the Manhattan Filipino-American circles bothers Luchie at all. It doesn’t get into her head, she wears glamour and friendliness in a natural manner.
What led you to the US and what were your early struggles as a young professional?
I came to the US 29 years ago. As soon as I finished Graduate School at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business, I asked my father to send me to school in America and that is where New York University came in. It has always been my dream to study in the US and although my father asked me to stay in the Philippines for three more years, I pushed to go already at age 22.
It was a bit of a struggle right there, missing my Mom and Dad, my siblings and my friends. It was a lonely 2 ½ years of living alone as I don’t have much friends here and the thought of living alone was depressing.
After my schooling, I thought it was time to go back to the Philippines until my professor from NYU suggested that I submit my resume to Equitable. Luckily, I was hired as an Associate in the Trust Department. I stayed on for a couple of years until 1987.
I moved to Financial Security Assurance Inc., now known as Assured Guaranty Corporation. I am currently Vice President of Finance.
What is the most challenging part of work as an immigrant?
I was young, I was driven and I was challenged as I believe in my push and determination. Everyday was a challenge, my decisions are always a gamble and God is good. I listened, I worked hard and I learned more from people.
Is it a rewarding job? In what sense?
If you love and enjoy what you do, work is gratifying. I am inspired up to this time. I only consider it work in a sense that I love to sleep and that is my weakness. (Laughs)
I can work seven days a week as long as I get to stretch and get up whenever I feel like it.
I am a single-mom of two beautiful children, to be able to care for them and be financially independent is enough gratification for me from my job and to God and my parents. I’m forever thankful.
What drives you to be a fashionista? You are a highly visible one, and it is something which people call you, not you wanting to be named as such.
I don’t regard myself a fashionista or actually, I don’t even know the real meaning of the word. I love fashion and I can be stylish, I should say. I love to dress up whether I’m going to a ball, going to work, parties or just a back yard barbeque.
I don’t think one is being driven to be such lover of clothes, fashion and style. It is I believe innate in all of us. The most important thing for me is that I feel beautiful and confident inside out.
What projects are you doing for the community in the US and the Philippines these days?
My company, the Red Lantern Ventures LLC, (the “Company”) just finished producing Renee Salud in Focus which was held last March 9 at The Ramada Plaza Hotel. It was a very successful show as I believed I had put Filipino American events and shows in a higher level by showcasing the creation of the Icon of Philippine Fashion, no other than Renee Salud. It took us months of preparation but the bottom line is that it was all worth it. The Company promised an unforgettable show that will be remembered and coveted and I believe I was able to deliver. I was very proud and happy and I hope the audiences were too.
I will be leaving for the Philippines on May 24 and the Company will donate medical supplies and medicines to the Laurel District Memorial Hospital in Tanauan. In addition, I am starting a yearly project called “Munting Handog” catered to the seniors of Santor, Tanauan, Batangas to be held between Christmas and New Year annually.
For my next project, I will be meeting with three top designers from the Philippines which the Company plans to produce in the early part of next year. We are also planning to bring in a few Pinoy entertainers as well.
As a community leader, what drives you? Who inspires you? Why do you have to do it, considering your busy schedule at work and family?
I don’t consider myself a community leader. Better yet, I am a community member, willing to volunteer my time and effort. I do it as it gratifies me to be able to give back.
It was only six years ago that I started getting involved with the community. My children were small then and I simply cannot afford to even do anything for myself. I had to check two home works every night, I had to tutor two of them if need be, I needed to teach and review two kids with review questions for tests and all, not to mention dinner, tennis lessons, karate, piano, etc.
As soon as they developed their study habits and they have earned my trust to give them the liberty to decide a little bit for themselves, then I got some free time to do community work and more.
As a woman, what is your best role or that which makes you truly happy? Being a professional, mom, wife, leader?
Nothing can beat the gratification of being a mom to two kids. I thank my Mom and Dad, second to God, for giving me all the opportunities necessary to be professionally contented. With that, I was able to single-handedly take care of my children, give them shelter, food and education. My children are my life and I love them beyond eternity. Nothing can ever surpass the happiness that my children bring to me.