While driving on our way to the Dubai Sports World arena late in the morning on June 17, I asked my wife how many more years she wants to stay in Dubai. Her immediate reply was 10 years. What! I was absolutely shocked. I was expecting her to say four years when our son Yuji would have then finished his college degree. And that will exactly be right after Expo 2020 which starts on October 20, 2020 and ends on April 10, 2021.
She told me that there are things in Dubai which are enjoyed by everyone regardless of nationality and financial status. She is absolutely correct. Just like Dubai Sports World which is now on its seventh year; the entrance is free and some facilities can be enjoyed for free like the ping-pong tables and workout machines.
There are the public beaches where outdoor shower amenities are free like the one beside Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Beach Hotel. The open beach at JBR The Walk vicinity is open to everyone, too, but prepare to pay Dhs20 per hour for basement parking and Dhs5 per 90-second shower, although the ‘mini-shower’ for the feet is free.
There are really 365 things to do during summer and winter in the UAE in general and Dubai in particular. All it takes are your time and money. Time for the free recreational things while money for the luxurious activities and high society events.
We arrived in Dubai in mid-2001 not out of economic necessity but more of an escape from the traffic, flood, pollution and crime in Metro Manila. We had visited Dubai before and we thought that while we were still in our early 30s we can try to experience living outside the Philippines and decide later on whether we should migrate to Canada or come back home if things do not work out well. I don’t need to say how it worked for us because we are still here and it is now 2017.
The past 16 years were years of wonderful opportunities, great experiences, terrible trials, huge challenges, timely blessings, professional triumphs, and transformative encounters. All readers of Kabayan Weekly will identify themselves in at least three of these categories where I had dealt with.
When I worked with ABS-CBN Middle East I had great experiences managing the sales and promotions of The Filipino Channel across the Middle East and overseeing the special events we had produced such as the premiere showing of ‘Dubai’ the movie in October 2005 and the first Rakrakan concert featuring Parokya ni Edgar and Bamboo in December 2006.
I had a wonderful opportunity yet with a huge challenge as an entrepreneur in 2009 when I partnered with an Emirati in establishing a PR and Events business unit in his holding company that registered under Dubai Media City. I thought at that time that companies which were already reducing their advertising budget due to the ongoing global financial crisis would opt for the much cheaper PR solutions like publicity in their marketing efforts. In the end, the Filipino companies and UAE-based firms targeting the Filipino community took the ‘wait-and-see’ option. My income came in trickles and definitely not in the desired amounts.
After being a full-fledged entrepreneur for more than seven months the terrible trials consequently happened from mid-2010 to early 2012 when I was thrice terminated by my employers. The first two were results of poor business environment when I was asked to leave in June 2010 and July 2011. Both were summer periods. The third termination came in January 2012 due to a sudden internal ownership change which prompted the CEO to immediately let go of all new managerial position-holders who were still under probation.
My darkest months without a regular income were the period of my transformative encounters when the only recourse was to pray and hope. Individuals whom we had helped settle in Dubai were extending financial assistance and were sharing their resources. Leaders and members of the Catholic Community where we were serving also assisted us who were the ‘least of their brethren’ at that time. Even entrepreneur-friends and relatives from the Philippines extended financial aid; so with my sisters from across the globe.
The timely blessings during those trying and challenging times came one by one. Having been an entrepreneur earlier had its long term effects. Company owners and decision makers approached me for special publicity and event management projects. Even without a regular job I was generating income just to pay for the monthly bills. The publisher of this newspaper, Mr. Atallah Habib, also contracted me as consultant for a number of months. I also wrote columns in the maiden issues.
In April 2012, I had my professional triumph when I was hired as Corporate Communications Manager of the Tristar Group, a designation I still hold ‘til now. It was a transformative encounter as I was realizing my dream job of being the officer of a big company given the responsibility in building the corporate image and enhancing the corporate reputation. It was the restoration by Almighty God of my whole being. And the transformation of a better me.
I am already a golden boy and I still have some dreams to realize aside from watching a concert of Earth, Wind and Fire in any country and watching one match at the FIFA World Cup in Russia in 2018. I can take a second try at being an entrepreneurial PR consultant here in Dubai. I can be a top officer in a major Filipino firm that will expand in the Middle East and be based in Dubai. I can be contracted to oversee the corporate communications and community relations activities of a major Filipino-owned firm or multinational corporation based in Manila. I can even serve the Philippine government here in the Middle East or in Manila addressing OFW concerns or being a key member in the government’s communications infrastructure.
Our plans might not be God’s plan for us. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy our stay in Dubai and pray and hope for what is best for myself, for my wife, and for our son.