Eight's been a while in Dubai

  • Thursday, December 04, 2014
  • By Ion Gonzaga
  • 0 Comments


Before I even step afoot here in Dubai, I told myself to just give it 2 years max and I'll return home. Without any idea of what's waiting for me in the land of gold, I was firm on my stand. I could've saved enough by that time, I said. TWO YEARS LANG.

I was so busy enjoying my life in the Philippines when my dad called me up (and my mom) to visit Dubai and eventually find work and stay with him. It wasn't an easy decision to leave what I was passionately doing back then. I was building a startup web development business; I was happily leading a youth-oriented program, Voice of the Youth Radio and the group, VOTY.  We have many plans - to change the country, really, one man at a time.  We're doing rounds of community missions - local and international, campus tours, radio and TV appearances to promote our advocacy - we were encouraging and inspiring the youth to make a difference.  We were about to have our own TV show. It's kinda not easy to let go all of those stuffs and jump to foreign land clueless.

To cut the long story short, I was eventually convinced to "try" it... for the family.  Dubai was so beautiful, safe and full of promise, and there's always a kabayan in every corner and street so it would be easy to get along I guess. The number of active Filipino communities surprise me.

I've slowly embraced the lifestyle of an average expat amidst the glamorous aura of the Emirates. I've also learned to accept what it can't give me.  And as I discover and get to know UAE more, I've fallen in love with the country. Philippines remain my first love and UAE my beloved mistress - put it that way.

There were significant shares of ups and downs along the road... achievements, heartbreaks, challenges. I have crossed-out some on my bucket list and still happily chasing the rest in it.

Let me share 8 random highlights of my stay in Dubai, and 8 low points that actually became springboard to better grounds.

8 HIGHLIGHTS
  1. Finance. I have no credit card til this date and we're happy. Okay, okay, I'm using one, but it's a prepaid card - which I only top up whenever I need to purchase something online. So I don't really consider it as a CREDIT card.
  2. Speaking. I was a representative of World Bloggers Day for UAE, and a guest speaker at Geekfest Dubai 2.0 - talked about 'Being a Relevant Blogger and Influencer.'
  3. Family. Married and now I have a 2 year old girl, and a daddy blog. The story of our engagement and marriage was featured in Gulf News and ABS-CBN's Star Studio.
  4. Fan mode. (1) Been to 2 historic Eraserheads reunion concerts and side by side with Filipino music icons Bamboo and Ely Buendia. Actually 3 Eraserheads reunions including one in Manila. (2) With my idol NBA superstar Kobe Bryant in one roof and being able to ask him a question that brought the house into laughter is one for the books, and (3) Seeing tennis superstars Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, the Williams sisters and the lovely Ana Ivanovic. Fan mode I told you.
  5. Passion. Commissioned to write radio ad scripts for TAG 91.1. I always wanted to be involved in the radio by any means, to somehow continue where I left off in Manila, and will always be very thankful for the opportunity. (Ano kayang bagay sa bagoong rice...)  
  6. Investment. We have completed our own lot in Antipolo, Philippines in just 2 years.
  7. Learning. Completed a short course on Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship by Ateneo School of Government. Also completed a mastermind session about 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by Team John Maxwell. And 2 other diplomas in IT.
  8. Writing. I became a regular contributor to the premier Filipino lifestyle magazine, Illustrado; and a few contributions in other Filipino publications in the past.
There are quite more but I had to stick to 8. Running close next is how happy I am to be able to share my talents as a volunteer - creating websites for various causes and advocacies for charities and NGOs in the region.

And, I launched BoyDubai, got recognized and nominated around the world - I guess that's the ultimate starter.  And did you notice that my mainline wasn't in the highlights? Yeah, noticed that too. :-)

I'm thankful also that we joined the CFC community. It's like having a huge extended family.

8 LOW POINTS
  1. Got locked up in a room by my boss of a job I got within 2 weeks upon arriving in Dubai.  I was stupid to not know it was happening right away. I had a verbal tussle with him over the phone and never returned the next day.  His reason? I was still on visit visa and not allowed to work, so he'd better lock me up to be safe from baladiya.
  2. Had 10 visa runs - 7 in Kish, one each in Qeshm, Salalah and Muscat. Had to settle once to sleep in a stinky carpeted hotel floor in Kish due to unavailability of rooms.  Had to eat salty rice because they use salt water to wash/cook it.
  3. Had a fight with a cab driver after an attempted grope. These cabbies are so proud that they know how to call our genitals in Tagalog and thought they'd get along. Some stupid kababayans unnecessarily share these nasty stuffs to them.
  4. Business birthing pains. No salary for 6 consecutive months - Well, that's part of the risk I agreed to take when we started a small IT business.  Eventually I decided to go back to corporate world as I still need to support my family then.
  5. Filed employment dispute complaints to Ministry of Labor twice (both about delay of salary) and won on both occasions - off-the-court settlements - that was after I got a word from POLO OWWA discouraging me to pursue my plan because according to them I WILL NEVER WIN. Happy camper.
  6. After the disputes, I resigned and eventually jobless for 7 months.I was depending on the wife... nah! not really. Thanks to the gratuities and savings, and her salary. But thankfully during this period, I got quite a good number of freelance works as well.
  7. Wrong investment. I put my money in a networking business scheme which is not really my forte. Never got it back. I don't deem these businesses, it's just not really for me.
  8. "Find a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."
All these valuable experiences and the success stories happen because of my dad. I'm glad I heed his call. I'll always be thankful.

So will I go back to the Philippines anytime soon? No. Not yet. I have various ways to connect and reach out anyway. 

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