UAE: Filipina cleaner wins Dh100,000 Emirates Labour Market Award

She has a knack for recycling and turning trash into functional works of art


Angel Tesorero

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Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Published: Sun 17 Dec 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 17 Dec 2023, 10:26 PM

A Filipina expatriate, who works as a cleaning assistant at a private company in Abu Dhabi, recently bagged the top prize in the inaugural Emirates Labour Market Award. She was cited not only for her work ethic but also hailed as “a beacon of success.”

Maria Isabel Lacierda, 44, was beyond grateful when she received the award, and thanked her company, Emirates Business Group (EBG), for the nomination and the opportunity to show her “dedication and passion at work.”

“Working in the UAE was previously just a dream but now I am living and seizing every moment of it,” Lacierda, who is fondly called Isabel by her colleagues, told Khaleej Times. She won Dh100,000 and other benefits for topping the workforce category.

“I did not claim the award only for myself but also dedicated it to my boss, managers, supervisors, colleagues and all EBG personnel – who I consider as my second family in the UAE,” she added.

Her superiors and colleagues at EBG, meanwhile, did not only praise her dedication – she is always the first to come to work and the last to leave the office, according to her boss – but also for her knack for recycling and turning trash into functional works of art.

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Showing sustainability

Sustainability is not just a catchword or slogan for Isabel but she is showing everyone how it is done.

Using old newspapers, Isabel turn them into Papier-mâché and create boxes, trays and other ornaments for every desk at the office. Popsicle sticks and paper straws are turned into flower vases, mug holder, cellphone stand, and frames with a picture of Robert Kiyosaki and his famous quote, ‘The most successful people in life are the ones who ask questions. They're always learning. They're always growing.’

“I created them because I wanted to inspire my colleagues with this motto,” Isabel shared, adding: “No one asked me to do it (recycle things). It just came natural to me.”

Mutual kindness

Making office ornaments was also a way for Isabel to reciprocate the kindness shown to her by her colleagues. She shared: “One time my boss gifted me with Dh200. I looked for something to gift him but they were expensive. So, I made one instead – with my own hands – and he liked it because it was authentic and priceless.”

“Then I thought maybe others would become envious so I made one for each of them and secretly placed the trinkets and small ornaments on their desks. They were all happily surprised,” Isabel shared.

Natural charisma

Isabel’s resourcefulness has greatly endeared her with her colleagues. During a thanksgiving breakfast in her honour after receiving the award, Isabel’s boss called her as the soul of the office and praised her natural charisma.

“She makes things differently and beautifully,” Isabel’s employer added.

Isabel said being industrious was instilled by her parents. “I grew up poor but I always had a positive attitude in life,” she added.

Isabel first came to the UAE in 2011 and worked as a nanny for an Emirati family. After her contract expired, she joined a cleaning company in 2015, before moving to EBG in 2018.

She has two grown-up children who are now both working professionals. When asked about what she will do with the prize money, Isabel said she will invest it to buy a farmland back in her hometown in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, in southern Philippines.

She said she has no plans of retiring any time soon and will still continue to work in the UAE. She is also planning of bringing her son to the country to also work here.

Source of inspiration

In an Instagram post, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE), called Isabel as “a beacon of success, one who is showing a culture of excellence in all aspects of her work. Isabel’s story is a source of inspiration for all of us.”


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