By Rhonecelle Cabodbod
From Malbago, Bontoc, Southern Leyte, Ryan Sta Maria was left under his grandmother’s care as his parents said they were too young to be parents for him. As he felt he had the feeling of being a girl, Ryan’s family shamed him when he was young and even said he was a “pestilence” for being gay.
But it didn’t affect Ryan; he kept thriving until chances of success came to his life.
As founder of “Spice of Life Gourmet”, Ryan now spices other lives as he is giving back to the community.
During childhood, he had a very difficult life, many times going to bed without having eaten food. He also didn’t receive an allowance for school.
Some relatives believed schooling is a waste of time and wanted him to stop studying. They thought working in the fields to gain a source of livelihood in towns would be a better option.
Then Ryan met his teacher – Ms Erlinda – who taught him the value of working hard. Soaring higher, Ryan was able to finish elementary as an honor student through the help of a friend, who had him do tasks such as household chores, makeup, design, choreograph dances and others. That helped him fund his schooling.
Ryan did well in school, so much so that he earned a partial university scholarship for Business Management and Marketing. With a degree under his belt, he found himself working as a marketing assistant for fashion week in the Philippines, Thailand, and later in Australia.
Education brought better opportunities for Ryan in the past and, being able to study in Australia was no different. However, the difficulties he encountered overwhelmed him.
He studied in Brisbane, then moved to Adelaide. He looked for a job while studying as his savings was depleting. He couldn’t find any, which led him to depression and thoughts of suicide hit him.
He was also nagged by a housemate about being unemployed. And whenever he talked to his parents, they would always bring up religion and his sexuality. They also mocked him and urged him to follow the path of his brothers who became pastors. But Ryan surpassed all these for years through the help of a loved one.
He loves cooking but could not afford to enroll in a cooking class in the Philippines. When he had a chance to work in Australia, he continued to pursue his dream by studying commercial cooking in William Angliss Institute in Melbourne.
But then the pandemic hit and he had to stop studying since the course requires person-to-person contact.
Ryan realised that he did not qualify for any COVID-19 relief funding. He lost his job and this affected him. This situation, however, became an opportunity.
The name Spice of Life Gourmet is based on his experiences in life, from having nothing to still striving to pursue his dream. It is a social enterprise that aims to help end extreme poverty.
He used his tax refund to start his business Spice of Life Gourmet. Ryan is selling gourmet tuyo and other Filipino food products, with 10 per cent of the profits going to his former hometown school.
Ryan has managed to give a tray of eggs to each household in his hometown, as well as provided school supplies, washing sets and thermal scanners to some schools in his hometown.
Taking care of himself, Ryan is better now. What life has taught him is the value of hard work, education and belief in oneself. He is thankful to those who have helped him rise above the struggles in his life, leaving him inspired to continue paying it forward generously.
For more information about his products, visit www.gourmettuyo.com, or Facebook @spiceoflifegourmet, and Instagram @spice_of_life_gourmet.
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