My journey as an OFW started way back in 2007. I just graduated from UP that time, and to be honest, I had a lot of difficulty finding a job in the Philippines. I was turned down several times by most employers (specifically five star hotels) as they were looking for people with experience. So I asked myself, “How can I get the experience that I need if these companies do not let me get an experience in the first place?” That time, I did not want to explore other industries other than the field5yvyy that I studied in the university which is Hospitality Management (Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management). I told myself, “If I cannot get a job in the Philippines, I will try elsewhere.” which is what I did.
Photo Credit: Fairmont Dubai
My first job was as a Food Server in a five star hotel in Dubai, UAE called The Fairmont Dubai. It was interesting how I got this employment. As I mentioned earlier, I had difficulty finding a job in the Philippines. So, what I did was that I searched for five star hotels overseas. Why Dubai? Hmmm.. To be honest, I don’t know, no particular reason, maybe because during that time I just watched the movie Dubai starring Claudine Barretto, John Lloyd Cruz and Agah Mulach. I would say that I did not expect to get this job. I did not even remember applying to this company. When I did my search for five star hotels, I randomly sent my CV directly to the hotels. I was surprised when one day, I got a call from Fairmont asking if possible to interview me for the job. I got so excited that even the manager was just asking when I would be available for the interview, I replied “I am available right now, I can do the interview if you are free.” It was funny remembering that day as I actually was interviewed the same day. I did well in the interview and the company hired me. I would say that I was lucky because my first job was overseas and did not have to go to recruitment agencies to undergo the long process of applying for a job. Considering, the amount of time and money that I saved reporting and attending orientations with recruitment agencies. When I was hired, the company advised me that their partner recruitment agency (CAMOX) in the Philippines will contact me for the processing of my documents legally. The same week, the said agency called me and I was able to leave for Dubai within a month. My salary in Dubai was 1000 AED which is PhP 12000 that time, however, everything was provided by the employer including accomodation, transportation, laundry services, meals, medical insurance and wi-fi. Basically, I enjoyed my time in Dubai and I did not realize that time flew so fast. I did not even realized that I completed my 6-month probationary already. I think, it was because I was enjoying my job. I learned a lot of things, those that were taught in school I even understood them more. I gained a lot of friends and I learned how to live independently. I became exposed to a multi-cultural environment and was able to work with people from different countries like India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Spain, Canada, German and others. It was a memorable 2 years in Dubai until in 2009, I decided to accept a job as an Outlet Supervisor of a pre-opening hotel in Abu Dhabi. It was also the same time that Dubai was struggling due to the financial crisis so I decided to move to another place.
Abu Dhabi, UAE
Photo Credit: Yas Viceroy
My journey in Abu Dhabi was also interesting. I was part of the pre-opening team of The Yas Hotel and I found it to be very challenging and fun at the same time. Challenging because I needed to train a lot of staff mostly without any experience which reminded me of myself when I was just starting in Dubai. This experience made me a better hotelier as during those times I was mainly involved in establishing the standards in my outlet, creating standard-operating-procedures, sequence of service and others. I was also in the transition of becoming a leader from being a team member so I experienced a lot of ups and downs. That included me stepping up as a leader and separating myself from other team members in order for them to realize that I am their supervisor, and that I have a responsibility to correct mistakes and not to cover up for them. A lot of emotional things happened that if I would think about in the present, I would just laugh at it. In Abu Dhabi, I was able to serve several prominent celebrities and world leaders. I even remember serving Hilary Clinton in our restaurant. It was a very good experience, something that would say I am very proud. My journey in Abu Dhabi was just short. I left after 7 months of being there as I decided to experience working in South East Asia.
Photo Credit: Raffles Hotel Singapore
Two months after I left The Yas Hotel, Abu Dhabi, I joined the luxurious and iconic Raffles Hotel Singapore as a Junior Assistant Manager in 2010. In UAE, the company provided my accommodation and transportation going and leaving the workplace. In Singapore, it was totally different. I had to find for my own apartment to rent and I had to commute going and leaving the hotel. If in UAE, I had my own room due to my position, in Singapore, I had to share with 2 more people in order to save money. Working in Singapore exposed me to a different market which I thought I was very much familiar already after nearly 3 years of working in UAE. I would say that customers there are more demanding than the ones that I encountered in the Middle East which I totally understand. For example, if the customer’s glass is still half full of water in a restaurant and you are not able to refill it immediately, they will call you and will comment that the service is sloppy. I am not stereotyping but that is what I observed. I also experienced getting shouted of an irate customer, what the reason was, I do not recall. Hahaha! But of course, I did not take it personally and instead I learned from that experience. My role at the Raffles allowed me to develop more my interpersonal skills not only with customers but also with the higher management. I was assigned at the fine dining restaurant and this gave me the chance to have more interactions with the bosses in the hotel. I became more confident initiating conversations with them which I was hesitant before. There, I realized that talking with the higher management allows learning. Through their words of wisdom and decision making, I learned how to become a stronger leader. My journey in Singapore lasted for almost 2 years. Until I received an opportunity to work at the Carribeans, speciafically the Turks and Caicos Islands. Then, I filed my resignation and decided to go home to Philippines while waiting for my work visa to come.
Not Meant to Be
I recently mentioned that I received an opportunity to move to Turks and Caicos Islands when I was in Singapore. Apparently, some unforeseen instances happened which caused me this opportunity. Would you believe that while waiting for my TCI visa to be delivered to me, my passport was accidentally included in my laundry and was washed in the washing machine? Yes, you read it right! My passport unfortunately swam with my dirty clothes inside the washer. This actually caused me to process a new passport and update my employer that it would delay me joining them which they actually acknowledged. When I received my new passport, I immediately notified them. I did not receive any reply from them until one day, I got an email informing me that I have to fly to Turks and Caicos Islands in two days. I was shocked as I did not expect that they would be notifying me late and would not give me enough time to prepare. I asked if possible to request for another two days as our family already planned a reunion on the day that they wanted me to depart. Unfortunately, they did not agree to my request and I had no choice but not to attend our reunion and I advised them accordingly. I was waiting for the employer to send me the new ticket and instructions regarding my said departure which I did not receive. Two days have passed and I received finally an email from the HR confirming if I boarded my supposed flight. I was surprised and immediately replied that they have not sent me the flight details yet. At once, the HR replied and said that my previous ticket was still active and the flight details were there. So I immediately checked t online and saw that I was supposed to depart last night. Upon informing them about what have happened, they blamed me and informed me that they will get back to meof what will happen. I never received any email from them so I told myself that it was not meant for me. Good thing while I was in the Philippines, I entertained a phone interview with an employer in Oman. An application which I did not really take seriously yet they offered me a job as an Outlet Manager. This continued my journey as an OFW.
Photo Credit: Six Senses Zighy Bay
In 2012, I became an Outlet Manager in a five star luxury resort in Musandam, Oman called Six Senses Zighy Bay. I was 25 years old that time and I am very proud that I was able to reach my goal earlier than the time I set it. When I was in Dubai, I told myself that I would become a manager at the age of 30 years old. I became very focus on achieving my set goals and I kept telling myself that it would be possible if I would work hard and learn as much as I could. With Six Senses, I looked after the restaurant which serves international cuisine. The experience that I had in Oman is a lot different from my previous experiences. My previous assignments were all with busy business hotels which require fast and efficient service at all times. With this one, it was totally the opposite. Service has to be elegant and guests could not feel any rush in any part of the service. The environment needed to be relax at all times. This allowed to have a lot of opportunity to engage with customers and get to know them even better. This is where I understood more the difference of working in a business hotel and a resort. Attention to guests’ needs and taking care of their privacy are the most important requirements of the service. This experience allowed me to see famous personalities, celebrities and and even royalties which developed my knowledge on how to serve these type of people. And I would not forget winning two awards for guests recognition which made me receive extra 400 USD.
After years of working overseas, I told myself that maybe it’s the time to be back to the Philippines and experience working in the hospitality industry there.
In the Philippines, I joined a big entertainment resort with hotels, casino and an entertainment center. I was assigned to be the manager of the restauarant within a theme park. It was something new to me as I never had this experience to work in that kind of environment. To be honest, I did not really find it appealing to me. I thought that my experience did not fit the profile of the outlet I was assigned to so I decided to join another luxury hotel in Makati as an All Day Dining Manager. I realized that it is really good to work in your own country as I get to see my friends regularly and attend several family gatherings. Things that I did not get to do when working overseas. On the other hand, income tax was terribly high at 32%. Good thing it is now reduced due to the new TRAIN Law. Also, I hated the terrible traffic in the city which actually caused me around 5 hours of traveling time daily. These were some of the factors that made me consider to work overseas again. After more than two years of working in the Philippines, I decided to take another assignment overseas.
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Currenly, I am working as an Outlets Manager here in Papua New Guinea. Wondering where is PNG? Hmmm… don’t confuse it with New Guinea in Africa as this country is located at the Pacific Ocean, north of Australia.
After this, where will I head to? I already have something in my mind, but I will let you know once it is finalized.
Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Recently, I got a job offer in Canada and this gave an opportunity to land there as an immigrant. I already received my visa and I am so excited to see the beauty of this wonderful county. I expect to fly to Canada on August.
Today, I have been with the hospitality industry for nearly 11 years and most of my experiences are all as an OFW. I climbed the ladder from being a server to what I am right now as an Outlets Manager. Not only my position evolved, but also my personality. I learned a lot of things along the way that I believe made me a better person. Experiences that I would not get if I stayed in the Philippines when no one wanted to hire me in the beginning. One important lesson I realized is that we should never give up when things don’t go the way we wanted them to be. Instead, look for other ways to pursue our dreams. We should always keep in mind that it is not always a straight path towards our destination, there will always be obstacles that will push us to stop or take alternate routes which in the end will still lead us to where we want to be, only if we will persevere.