‘‘What am I doing with my life?”
This is probably the one question we avoid the most, yet subconsciously pops up whenever we are faced with a difficult choice. It also comes up every time we feel frustrated and confined within the four corners of our cubicles, just waiting for the end of the workday.
Just like a lot of young people, you may have also visualized grand schemes on how you’d like to live your life. More often than not, such dreams involve fame, success and a lot of money. How you’d get there, however, is often the blurriest part.
LJ Moreno-Alapag is no stranger to this question and up until recently, it was a question that she had always been asking herself.
Moreno did not have grand plans when she first moved to the Philippines from the United States. Moreno, who was just 16 years old back then was surprised at how different things were in her motherland as compared to her fast-paced, athletic life in the States.
“In a way, na culture shock ako,” she recalls of her first few months in the country. “I used to be involved in a lot of sports back home and when I came here, I didn’t have the same luxury of choosing one sport per season.”
Moreno also found herself having difficulty adjusting to the school system in the Philippines, which was why she chose to be home schooled.
It was also during that time that her aunt, actress-turned-politician, Alma Moreno encouraged her to try acting.
“Tita Ness encouraged me to join show business but my dad didn’t like the idea and instead wanted me to focus on school—so I ended up moving in with her.”
Her teenage rebel years turned Moreno into one of the hottest stars of her generation. She became part of the hit weekly show, Kool Ka Lang while also appearing in several films and landing endorsement deals.
Despite her quick success, Moreno still knew education is important, and with the encouragement of former Miss Universe and co-star Gloria Diaz, she completed high school through home study. This decision helped patched things up with her father who was very happy with her accomplishment.
Unlike other celebrities, Moreno did not stop at a high school diploma, and was determined to complete her college education. Her only problem was deciding what degree she wanted to pursue.
She initially decided to take up Business Administration and Mass Communication, but knew in her heart that they were not the courses for her.
Moreno took time off to think about the things she was passionate about and stumbled upon it accidentally.
“I was the assigned tutor of the family. My siblings would even visit me on the set so I could tutor them. It was when RJ (her youngest brother) was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder that I realized that I was passionate about teaching because on my own, I was constantly researching methods that would help me teach better.”
Moreno then decided to take up Education at OB Montessori in Greenhills eventually earning a degree by the time she was 26.
Always known to be determined and a major risk taker, Moreno pursued teaching with fervor, and spent two years as a teacher at Little Gym.
However, Moreno was still lured into show business. She made a comeback but felt she no longer fit in.
In August of 2010, Moreno took on a new real life role as wife to multi-awarded Talk ’n Text Basketball player Jimmy Alapag.
Moreno enjoyed taking care of her husband and supporting him in his games, but the fiercely independent woman still found herself constantly praying, asking God what steps she should take next in her life.
The answer came to her rather accidentally once again. While preparing for her wedding in California, Moreno had spent a lot of time at the bakeshop where she had her wedding cake made. There, she came across cake pops for the first time.
“The baker who made our cake had them in her shop and I was wondering, paano niya nagawa ng bilog? But that was at it, I didn’t think much of it them because I just wanted to eat so bili lang ako ng bili until after the wedding.”
Once she returned to the Philippines, Moreno found herself craving for the treats she enjoyed in California. She searched all around the Manila for anyone who made cake pops but disappointedly found neither a bakeshop nor baker who did. It was then she channeled her frustration in learning how to make them, which apparently rekindled a childhood passion.
“Nung bata pa ako mahilig na talaga ako mag-bake, I just didn’t have the time,” she revealed.
She then invited two friends over after baking her first batch of “lollicakes” ever and was soon giving them away to friends and family.
The next thing Moreno knew, she accepting orders, and in what she calls a “light bulb” moment, introduced lollicakes to the Philippine market through social media. She created a blog, and Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“The response was more than overwhelming,” she recalled. “In just an hour and a half, I had so much inquiries.”
Her first big order was a batch of 60 pieces. “I recall Jimmy telling me that I looked flustered when I received that order.”
Moreno wholeheartedly took on the new business, applying the same passion and determination that made her a success in her first two careers. She knew that in order for her business to grow, she needed to study and learn more about baking so she’d have more to offer her fast growing clientele.
“My clients were asking me to make actual cakes, but at that time, ayoko pa kasi I never had formal training. So what I did was I went back to school with Chef Heny Sison and took the cake decorating classes. Chef Heny encouraged me to finish all the additional courses so I could be a certified pastry chef.”
What initially started in her home kitchen has turned into a colorful storefront and a commissary in Bgy. Kapitolyo, Pasig, which offers character cakes, cupcakes and of course her lollicakes that come in unique flavors like Green Tea, Red Velvet, Peanut Butter and Chocolate.
Today, Moreno, along with her team makes as many as a thousand lollicakes in a day.
When asked how she was able to successfully transition from one career to another, Moreno replied with a smile, “Lagi ko kasi kausap si God, I’ve never been the type to worry, I just know that God has a plan and I just take it day by day.”