Teresita Bustamante Noble of Noble Travel Finds Her Niche
Alfredo G. Evangelista | Assistant Editor
There’s a lot of crazy reality shows on TV these days–including Married at First Sight on the Lifetime cable network. The reality show has the couple getting married without knowing each other at all and meeting each other only at the altar.
When Teresita Bustamante arrived on Maui on October 18, 1980 via a fiancée visa, she had already met her future husband John Noble. Six months earlier, John had traveled to the Philippines and was visiting Baguio and just so happened to stay at a hotel owned by Teresita’s aunt. Teresita, who was working for the Department of National Defense after graduating from the University of Pangasinan with a Bachelor of Science in Commerce, majoring in Accountancy, was also living at the hotel. Love blossomed between John and Teresitaon]
Teresita was born in Mabini, Pangasinan. Her father Gil was the Vice Mayor and later the Chief of Police while her mother Vicenta Taoatao was a homemaker, taking care of the nine children. Teresita was the seventh child.
John stayed in the Philippines for twenty one days and over the next six months the two love birds would communicate by letters and very expensive long distance calls. A week after Teresita arrived on Maui, they were married and have been together ever since.
The next year, Teresita began working at the County of Maui as a program accountant with the Department of Human Concerns, Office of Aging. In 1988, Teresita took a risk, left her secure County employment and started a business—a travel agency.
“My friend who owned a restaurant encouraged me to become his travel agent,” recalls Teresita. “But when I tried to register under him, I learned that he wasn’t a registered agent so I registered myself.” Teresita had to learn the ropes of being a travel agent all by herself. “There was no one to mentor me,” she explains. “So I learned how to be a travel agent on my own by dealing directly with the airlines.”
Teresita started as an outside sales agent for the airlines. “At that time,” Teresita explained, “Philippine Airlines would issue the tickets for all agents. Now, you have to be an ARC—Airline Reporting Corporation—licensed agent to be a consolidator and to be able to issue tickets.” Teresita earned her ARC designation in 1990.
Today, Teresita is the only consolidator on Maui for Philippine Airlines. In other words, other travel agents on Maui cannot electronically issue airline tickets for Philippine Airlines and need to have a travel agent on O‘ahu electronically issue their tickets. In Hawai‘i, Philippine Airlines has four consolidators—Teresita on Maui and three on O‘ahu. (When Hawaiian Airlines flew to Manila, Teresita was also a consolidator for Hawaiian Airlines.)
When Teresita started her business with just a thousand dollars, she didn’t know what to expect. “But I knew I wanted to help, especially newly arrived immigrants. Some of them were so helpless. I even interpreted for them, especially for immigration documents.”
Teresita really enjoyed helping others. “It’s really fun helping folks. That’s how I got to be involved in the community and my business grew. It’s very rewarding to help people. Plus I get to travel all around the world!” Teresita’s financial skills and reputation got her elected as Treasurer for the Maui Filipino Community Council, Binhi at Ani, and the Maui Filipino Chamber of Commerce. Teresita’s skills led her to be the official travel agent for the Filipino Chamber of Commerce of Hawai‘i’s Annual Trade Mission to the Philippines for over fifteen missions, with government leaders such as Governor Linda Lingle, Lt. Gov Shan Tsutsui, and various County Mayors leading the missions.
When folks started making travel arrangements over the internet, many travel agencies could not compete and closed. But Teresita withstood what would be her biggest challenge to date. She estimates she only suffered a ten percent loss. “The loss due to the internet was minimal because a lot of my client base are senior citizens who need help navigating the reservation system on the internet,” Teresita explains.
At her Market street office in Wailuku, Teresita oversees a well-run office with a full-time staff and two part-time staff: Sheila B. Leano, Winnie Calpito, and Joan Andia. She also has outside sales agents. “I’ve been lucky that I have good, honest and loyal outside agents,” says Teresita. Her fifteen agents bring in about 20-percent of her gross revenues. Teresita’s compensation is based on a certain percentage for each ticket sold.
With Southwest joining the Hawai‘i market, Teresita says “It’s healthy because it will be competitive and people will have a choice.” If Southwest connects with Philippine Airlines and offers better rates, Philippine Airlines will contract with Southwest and many of Teresita’s passengers (95-percent are Philippine Airlines passengers) will utilize Southwest to travel to Honolulu before boarding the Manila bound flight on Philippine Airlines.
Teresita doesn’t expect to retire soon (and Philippine Airlines doesn’t want her to retire). Her advice to those who want to enter the travel industry is a simple one: “You have to find your niche before you enter the industry. I’m lucky because we have the Filipino market.”
Alfredo G. Evangelista is a graduate of Maui High School, the University of Southern California, and the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law. He is a sole practitioner at Law Offices of Alfredo Evangelista, A Limited Liability Law Company, concentrating in estate planning, business start-up and consultation, non-profit corporations, and litigation. He has been practicing law for 35 years (since 1983) and returned home in 2010 to be with his family and to marry his high school sweetheart, the former Basilia Idica.