DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: An overseas Filipino worker (OFW), who dropped out of college and thus only has a high school diploma to show for her credentials, now runs a salon in this city through a partnership with an investor.
Gina Fe Bariga Sanico of Balabagan, Lanao del Sur, left her home town and her new-born son to care of her kin in 2011 to work as nanny in Oman. She was 25.
Sanico had gone to San Isidro High School in Balabagan and was on scholarship at Mindanao State University Marawi City, a working student taking a pre-course semester to pursue a degree in civil engineering, when she decided, however, to leave everything behind and join the diaspora.
“Gusto ko lang kumita na ng pera. It was my choice po. Hindi naman ako sinabihan ng parents ko na tumulong ako. Pero mas gusto ko nang magtrabaho. Hindi naman kami sobrang kapos. Wala kaming sariling bahay. Papa ko, ang work nya ay vulcanizer/mekaniko; at ang mama ko nasa bahay lang; apat kaming magkakapatid,” shared Sanico.
She went to Abu Dhabi and worked, again as a nanny, in 2013 before moving to Dubai three years later for greener pastures armed only with her high school diploma.
“Na-apply ako sa kung anu-anong trabaho hanggang matanggap ako as sales coordinator sa isang seafood company – walang ibang baon kundi self-confidence, at ang aking ‘talking talent,’” she said, laughing at the part where she mentioned her “talent.”
“Hindi naman sa pagmamayabang, but yes I am good at words and numbers. And that was the start of my sales and marketing career. Without any degree or experience, naging eager ako na matutunan lahat: accounting, admin, sales and marketing work.
“Dito sa work na ito ko naranasan makipagkamay sa mga top executive chefs, purchasing managers at account managers ng mga five-star restaurants. I met different people from different countries and all walks of life,” Sanico said.
She would be working overtime and driving around the city to do sales field work and came to a point when she was juggling three tasks at a time.
Indeed, nothing, not even a dawn fire that recently gutted the shared accommodation she was staying at in Satwa and left her with only the clothes on her back, could dampen her plans.
Finally, in April this year Sanino, with help from an investor-friend, took over operations of a salon, which was also in Satwa. The arrangement was such that the investor, a German national, would take care of the finances; Sanico, for her part, will run the salon’s daily operations.
The salon officially opened on June 4 this year with Sanico, now having a trade license, at the helm with two OFWs, and plans to have a full staff of six employees.
Looking back, Sanico said the rollercoaster ride paid off.
“I am looking forward na mag-grow ang salon, not just for myself but to help my fellow kabayans here na magkaroon ng work,” she said.
Sanico, who turns 35 next month, also hopes to open a branch of the salon and a restaurant. “There are lots of opportunities out there,” she said.
“My plan is always as vast as the ocean. I know this is just the beginning. There will be more in the future. With hard work, determination, patience, perseverance and prayers, I can do more. This has always been my vision the moment I set foot here in UAE. At sana yung plans ko ay maging matagumpay para sa pamilya ko at para makatulong sa kapwa ko OFWs dito sa UAE,” she said.
“Continue learning. Continue growing. Huwag makontento sa kung anong meron lang ngayon. You can be more. Use all your extra time learning either self-study or go for a Friday class if you can. Always try something new and don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone. Maging stepping stone mo yan sa pag-abot ng mga pangarap mo. And lastly, keep praying.”
Satwa is a working class enclave with mostly OFW residents.