Family Fully Alive Articles


‘Our Faith Is Our Strength’

From a tricycle driver to CEO/President

By Yen Ocampo

Poverty is not a hindrance to success, but it can affect a marriage. This is the view of a young couple from the Philippines whose family backgrounds did not match.

Carlito Fernando and his wife, Laarni, were grade school classmates. Yet when it came time for secondary education, Laarni, from a prosperous family, went to a Catholic school, while Carlito’s family could only afford to send him to a public school. Yet Laarni was far from “out of sight, out of mind” for Carlito. He searched a phone directory for her number and they became phone pals.

Despite the difference in the financial status of their families, the two eloped at age 17. The couple was secretly married and then had their church wedding on Dec. 14, 1997.

The chance of failure for the young couple was enormous. For a while, Carlito was a tricycle driver, earning pesos by riding passengers with his scooter and sidecar through the busy streets. Laarni suffered a miscarriage and then gave birth to a healthy child. The bills piled up. At times, they went to a breadline for food. From this experience, they realized that poverty can cause problems in a marriage if the spouses worry or fight about money.

Yet their faith became their strength. They engaged in different parish activities and became involved with the Cursillo Movement, Family Life Apostolate and Knights of Columbus. As they faced life’s challenges, their parish community was a big help, reminding them that there’s a solution for every problem if they remain strong and faithful to God.

“One of the most important things when you engage in church communities, there’s always someone who will remind you that happiness comes from your family and it is the most important thing for me – my family,” said Carlito.

Carlito and Laarni are blessed with five children, including the miscarried child, named Angelito. Their other children are Lawrence Carlo (13), Lian Cyrel (11), Lara Christen (8) and 1-year-old Andre Catalina.

Even while working and caring for his growing family, Carlito took classes and excelled in his studies. He became a bank manager at the age of 23, and then was made a vice president at a large financing and lending company at the age of 26. Two years later, he and his wife decided to start their own business.

Carlo is now the CEO/President of a lending company that focuses on small loans for entrepreneurs. With 42 branches in Central and Northern Luzon, Philippines, the company aims at helping villagers in the provinces to manage their own businesses. The company provides business training, education in saving and credit techniques, and values formation.

Carlito and Laarni share their experiences and knowledge with their clients. They have hundreds of employees, who pray together before work and at 3 o’clock, and engage in Bible reading and worship.

“We are not just a company focusing on micro entrepreneurs or a company who wants to help others because we were deprived; but because we are family and our core value is honesty, integrity, team work and God centeredness,” Carlito said.

“Our faith is our strength,” Carlito said.

They return the blessings they received; one of them is giving scholarships (vocation/college) to deserving students thru the Knights of Columbus. Carlito and Laarni have received plaques of appreciation for their untiring support to the Church and Knights of Columbus activities.

They want their children to grow closer to God.

“We pray the rosary together, we also pray before and after meals,” Carlito explained. My perspective is for my children to appreciate the blessings of the Lord and share them with others.”

He added, “It is always a matter of choice on how you can be determined to change your life and to help your family, your community, the Church and the people who need help.”

Yen Ocampo is a professor at the Manila Times College School of Journalism and a reporter at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.