Cooking up dreams after hopes are shattered

DUBAI - A multi-skilled technician from a far-flung area in the Philippines came to Dubai to make a fortune, but fate willed otherwise and the technician had to settle down with a cook's job to eke out a living. Through bitter experiences he realised that reality was different from dreams.

By Lily B. Libo-on

Published: Sun 3 Aug 2008, 1:32 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 4:59 PM

Juanito Semana, 39, from La Union, five hours by bus north of Manila, came with high hopes and great expectations two years ago. He took the risk of coming with just a visit visa, a round-trip ticket and Dh2,000 cash.

Struggling to survive for three months, Juanito, who worked as AC technician for eight years in the Philippines, made a living by doing part-time jobs, ranging from cleaning and AC repairing and carpentry.

“Back home, I used to think that those working abroad must be earning lots of dollars. So, I decided to take the risk of coming when a friend of my wife, who is working here, helped us by buying me a ticket and paying for my visit visa,” he said.

From my part-time jobs, which our “kababayans” (fellow countrymen) gave me, I saved money to buy a ticket to Kish, Iran for exit and re-entry into Dubai. It was a risk because I had no relatives in the UAE. Before I got a permanent job, I used to make partitions in apartments and villas and repair ACs,” he recalled.

After the third exit and re-entry, Juanito was able to find a job as a kitchen helper. Luck turned in his favour two cooks were sacked from the company for some violation of contract. His boss then gave him a little salary raise and gave him the cook's job.

“I have undergone so many hardships, and I have lost my wife due to long separation. My only consolation is my son, John David, who is now 12 years old, and the new life experience as a cook. I won’t stop trying big because I have been a cook for two years. In the coming years, I have many choices now, to work as an AC technician, as a cook or as an auto mechanic or as an electrician - the last two skills I possessed before coming to Dubai,” he added.

Juanito, who lived with nine other Filipinos in a villa during his first few months in Dubai, had experienced staying without electricity after the Dubai authorities carried out inspections in their flat in Jumeira.

He claimed that he has not realised his dreams. Even the future seems bleak for him. “My Dh1,200 salary is mostly spent on food and accommodation,” he said.

To him, gifting his son with a house and a lot more is still an elusive dream. But, he is still willing to endure another round of destiny in Dubai with his culinary skills for the next two years.

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