WHEN I first met the general manager of DMI Medical Supply Co., Inc., Ms. Gina Espejo, she was a highly active business woman with a purpose in life, to make MX3 products a household name.

At that time, I was an asthmatic photojournalist lugging my camera bags filled with gears plus two inhalers. We started a business relationship before a friendship blossomed in 2010.

Throughout this journey, I became an accidental endorser. I was the official photographer for those whose testimonials were placed in the ads you read. She didn’t want celebrities; she opted for real people whose health improved as MX3 users.

I took portraits of doctors, cancer survivors, businessmen, lawyers, young professionals, pastors, senior citizens, judges, foreigners and children who were afflicted with lupus and brain tumors. Each one had favorable results after a regular treatment with the health supplements.

I was already taking capsules, tea and coffee, when I noticed something after a year. I was not using my inhalers and nebulizer anymore. I mentioned it to her, and she happily exclaimed, “You are the next endorser.” Indeed, my bronchial asthma subsided after having suffered irregular sleepless nights since the age of 7, growing up and frequenting a hospital’s ER for years.

For four years, my endorsement ad was plastered in airline magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, brochures; my voice was blaring on radio ads; and then I had this locally produced TV commercial where I was riding a chopper while drinking coffee.

It was not as glamorous as we would have wanted but we made do with an air force chopper, and a taxi boat in lieu of a speedboat we wanted to rent, with really awkward scenes of me reenacting my nebulizing days. But this is how she is -- she wants real people to tell their stories. She wants DMI to be helping people with health issues, and I was one of them.

Fast forward to today -- DMI has built a good reputation in health and wellness as a fast growing company distributing high quality natural food supplement, pharmaceutical products and natural-based tea and coffee.

For Ms. Gina, there was more to the success than the profit. DMIRIE Foundation was created to provide charitable works, scholarship grants, spiritual and feeding ministry, donations, financial, material and manpower support during accidents and calamities, external assistance for individuals and families, and constructing care facilities.

One of these is the huge building called Capernaum Care Facility built at the back of Southern Philippines Medical Center as a halfway home for indigent patients with other diseases. DMI has established itself with core values that extend to spiritual growth for all employees with a weekly Bible ministry and fellowship – Ms. Gina sees to it that everyone remembers to pray, give thanks and glory to God.

Today, I may have moved on to other endorsement deals and product ads, but surprisingly most people still recognized me as an “MX3 Girl” from as far as Cabanatuan City when I went there. I still am a regular user, but because of age and work schedules, hypertension, stress and anxiety attacks have replaced asthma. MX3 coffee still keeps my energy high (or according to friends, hyper) without palpitations whatsoever.

Ms. Gina has just celebrated beyond her 50th birthday last December, and I was present with her DMI growing staff. Simultaneous with DMI’s Annual Thanksgiving held in Capernaum Care Facility, SPMC, she went on a feeding activity for patients inside the hospital before the celebration began.

Prizes were given away for the MXtraordinary Christmas Tree Challenge nationwide –both in cash and trips to Israel. The program was hosted by Joey Concepcion and directed by Beling Rodriquez. Ms. Gina’s events are always supported by two giant networks (she once invited me to London for a “Kapamilya" event (ABS-CBN) as well as to a GMA blitz of festivals around the country).

Ms. Gina still prefers to keep a low profile when asked for interviews on her success story – this she attributes to her humbling devotion. Through years of challenges, trials and losses she has undergone, her unconditional faith and giving back to the community have kept her grounded and unwavering throughout her undertakings with a loving family.

Last year, Ms. Gina has given me the best birthday gift in my entire adult life – a Holy Land Tour for 15 days – a mission she has been doing for the past five years with family and close friends, traveling across Egypt, Israel, Palestine and Jordan through the Christ Commission Fellowship (CCF). It was an unforgettable, eye-opening spiritual journey which spans cultural multiplicity, fascinating traditions, stunning archaeological and Biblical settlements, and the life-changing origins of faith.

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(Jojie Alcantara is a long time photojournalist and workshop speaker based in Davao City. Proudly writing for SunStar Davao for more than two decades, in this nest she has grown to become an avid traveler and photographer. Email at jojiealcantara@gmail.com or visit kodakerdabawenya.com.)