‘I grew up with limited options; I don’t want this to happen to my own kids.’ Cep
You will not meet a more motivated person in all of Abu Dhabi with a life story that is more interesting than his. Please meet Cepriano Camosis Dimaculengan III – or Cep for short – representing the estimated 90 million people of the Philippines.
As a father of two, he is a role model for sacrifice and helpfulness. From a trip home to see his children for example, he even made space and carried back a bunch of books for a library that in the end I never set up for his fellow countrywomen in Abu Dhabi. There had not been a single moment of hesitation in his readiness to help.
Born and raised in a town called San Pablo, a diocese only 84.3 km south of the capital Manila, he was raised on one of the 7,107 islands (!) in the South Pacific. Like about 80% of the Philippine population, Cep and his family are Roman Catholics. He went to school for 10 years, graduated from San Pablo City National High School and started college in order to become an IT- specialist. However, when the family found itself in financially trying times and there was no more money for education, Cep had to drop out of college. Since his father had left the family, his mother had to work-migrate to Fujairah in the UAE where she labored in the hotel business. She supported her son and the two daughters from thousands of miles away as best as possible, yet, she couldn’t pay for their secondary education.
In 2002, when Cepriano was 18 years old, his mother asked him to contribute to the family’s welfare. It was her who motivated him to get out of his comfort zone and to thrive for his goals. Cep followed her call to the UAE, arrived on a tourist visa and liked the chances offered to him so well that, without second thoughts, he applied for a vacant post in housekeeping right at the same venue. Without returning home to the Philippines to pack his bags, he first traveled to Kish Island, Iran, and then re-entered the UAE on an employment visa just a few days later. For the next two years, Cep then worked alongside his mother.
What was his motivation / Why did he come to Abu Dhabi?
It was only a few years later that the determined man went to Ras Al Khaimah and started a career at Rotana hotels. After two more years, he went to Dubai and, still a Rotana employee, worked in the food and beverage department for six months. He came to live and work in Abu Dhabi in 2011, by that time already a certified hotelier. As a receptionist in the recreation area, he sold memberships to customers, promoted the beach club – and gave out smiles and warm greetings to everyone who passed his reception on his or her way up to the gym, the pool or the squash courts at Khalidiyah Palace Rayhaan by Rotana Hotel.
In 2010, at the age of 26, Cep got married in the Philippines. For the love of his wife Leiser Parado he resigned at Rotana and tried to make a living back home. And, fair enough, he found a job in a call center and sold medication to people in the USA over the phone. But the job wasn’t fulfilling and future possibilities were few. So, for the sake of a better future for his family, he left his wife and Johan, their first son, and returned to the Emirates. Being a father and the sole breadwinner of his expanding family, the decision to go abroad made sense, but was certainly the easier part of the deal.
“Being away from the kids is very challenging” he humbly summarizes the situation.
However, being able to send home money twice a month and knowing he could do what was best for his two sons was a true reward for all the hardship. Having both kids enrolled in school and leaving them in the care of his mother-in-law, Cep was very proud that he could even have wife with him for over a year, even if this meant sharing a room in an apartment with strangers. The couple tried to make the most financial benefit of their stay for the sake of the children. ‘I grew up with limited options; I don’t want this to happen to my own kids.’ His determination is exceptional, I think.
Please describe a normal workday.
At 4 1/2* Hotel Khalidiyah Palace Rayhaan by Rotana, Cep works five or six days a week according to a monthly rotation of 1-2-1-2 off-days per week. On a normal weekday on morning shift duty, he starts at 6 o’clock. In order to be on time he gets up at 4 am, catches the bus #10 at 4:45am and rides it for 45 mins to the far west end of Corniche road. Now, sitting on the bus allows him 30 mins of extra sleep. How refreshing that kind of a nap is, on the other hand, remains to be scrutinized. But then Cep’s first break is already at 6:30am and that sounds like a decent time to have (hotel!) coffee to me!
‘My day is always busy” he plainly states and then he explains why. Gym-fetishists show up as early as 6 o’clock in the mornings (probably trying to work out before their minds realize what the heck they are doing that early). The latter (rather indecent) comment is mine – morning athletes are never mocked by hotel staff- on the contrary! They always receive a motivational comment and a smile from Cep.
A little later than that, the first batch of hotel guests arrives at around 7 am to reserve pool benches before breakfast (Germans, of course :-)). Cep gets the guests set up by providing towels and guiding these firsties to find a good spot in the recreational area of the hotel.
At the reception he answers other inquiries, either from inside or outside the hotel. He collects payments and makes reservations all morning. At noon, around 12:30 to be a little more exact, the second batch of guests arrives at the beach club and requires his full attention. Cep takes a second break of 30 mins somewhere around 1:30pm and hands over the duties to his colleague at 3:30 pm. He finishes work at 4 pm, but has to wait for 20 mins for the bus #10 to take him home. This makes for a ten-hour workday with an extra 180mins commuting time. Talking about morning shift…
How many times a year and on what occasions does he back to his country and to see his family?
Cepriano goes home every other year, when his company pays for his airfare. How long his stay in San Pablo is will depend on how many off-days he has been able to collect over the 18 months on duty (he’ll be given two free days each month). I am not good with numbers, so I cannot figure out how many workdays he has until he gets some time to spend with his family, please excuse my dyscalculia. But to cut things short – Cep works a lot more hours than I do and he complains a lot less – you don’t have to be a math geek to figure that out.
What does he do when he feels homesick?
Cep doesn’t get homesick. The resilient personality that he is, he got used to being away from a beloved people as a teenager ever since his mother used to work overseas. He misses his children dearly, but skypes with them often, as they are always online, when at home. ‘I sometimes even watch them sleep’ he laughs. Knowing the kids are up and well helps with the cruel nostalgia, yet, there is a tiny fly in the ointment. Sharing a room with his wife and three other people doesn’t allow for much room for privacy, let alone for tears of homesickness. On the other hand, this keeps both parents sane at the same time. ‘What I do miss is my back porch at home, where I usually sit every morning, with a coffee in my hand, the mountains in my eye and the smell from the banana tree in my nose. Invaluable!’ His eyes glow at the thought of his house. He carries that image in his heart and changes it into a personal reward for enduring the hardships of living from family. But until he goes home, his motto is life: ‘Giving up is just not an option!’
What has his work-experience here in Abu Dhabi taught him about life in general? What has he gained from being in the UAE personally?
‘I have learned so so much when working for Rotana’ Cep is very certain. He not only improved his English but most of all his intercultural skills. ‘Speaking with people from all over the world teaches you to find out what they really need’ he smiles. He has also enhanced his computer skills generally by learning to use the hotel’s computer system. But most of all he has learned patience. ‘People are unique – they are really all very different’ he observed. But to stay calm even in the most strenuous of situations is the key to respecting and getting along with everyone. ‘For Germans, small things are big things’ he explains. I laugh and tell him we often do we ‘turn mosquitoes into elephants’, as we say! But no, that’s not what he means. ‘They love it when you do small things for them. They are very grateful then.’ Well, that is certainly the nicest thing anyone has said about my bunch in a long time. I’m so grateful ;-).
So what do I learn from Cep? His biography is beautifully colorful. He was thrown in at the deep end of work as a very young man but managed to move on in his life regardless of the odds. The sacrifices that he takes to ensure a better future for his children are nothing less than touching, his motivation to press on and the fact that he always stays positive spurns me on to let go of my silly complaints. I have never set up the above mentioned library and I am afraid it is now too late to even give it a second thought. Unlike Cep, who would’ve just done it when the time was right. I wish him and his family all the best for the future, his motivation and enthusiasm for life has always enhanced my day!