Former waiter now a chief fashion designer for a very influential family in the UAE


Like any person who works abroad, Shelfred Canaveras Surdilla’s ambition is to provide the best life for his family and to have a career and personal growth. Creating dreams and setting goals are his goals to challenge himself in life.

True to his words, Surdillas is now working as a chief fashion designer for a very influential family in the UAE, however, stepping on this position wasn’t trouble-free.

After graduating high school, at the age of 18, he started to work in Darussalam, Brunei as a waiter for a fast food restaurant while her mother was working as a domestic worker from one country to another. A year after, he has decided to follow his mother in Dubai and worked in an haute couture atelier as a helper finisher. He was only receiving AED1,700 monthly salary despite all the hardships and struggles.

“I always motivate myself that I shouldn’t be just like this forever. I never stopped pushing through my dreams and so I have to be inspired and learn more about the field in order for me to grow,” he said.

A couple of years after, the Filipino expat became the official fashion designer of various haute couture shops in the UAE. As he gained more experience along the way, he had established his own boutique, however, it didn’t last long due to some technical and personal issues.

“But I didn’t stop there because I was too blessed to get a great job offer from various top leading companies to work with them as a chief fashion designer and operation director. During my career growth, I always make sure that I still serve the purpose in life and this is to touch the lives of other people. I always use the platform of my faith to God to share His words and use life testimonies as an instrument to encourage others and mentor people,” he added.

For Surdilla, the most spectacular and satisfying moment in his work right now is to see the lavish couture pieces he made are being worn by various people. He added that one of the primary reasons why he opted to work in the emirate because it has grown steadily to become a global city and business cultural hub of GCC and the Middle East.

“It also offers plenty of opportunities, creates a good future, and helps build a good foundation for a person who wants to grow,” he further added.

Hurdles of the chief fashion designer

Surdilla revealed that growing up without his parents around was too difficult and depressing. His mom left him and his sisters while working abroad and feed the family. They were entrusted to his eldest sister, who was 12 at that time.

“We were also living in a new environment and culture when we moved from our province Davao City to Sta. Cruz, Manila. I am very proud of my two sisters who were there beside me in my ups and downs, and to my ever dearest mom for her courage and huge sacrifices for all of us, indeed she is the best example in our lives,” he added.

Plans after Dubai

As a person who loves adventures, travels, learning other cultures and be involved with different races, Surdilla is planning to save more money and work on what he has started from his current investments and build businesses that generate income even when he is not physically around so he can freely spend tome on his future plans that include being a missionary worldwide, reaching helpless people, being a motivational speaker, and inspiring and mentoring people and building his own foundation. 

This story has been featured on the fifth issue of The Global Filipino Magazine. To get a copy, you may contact +971503196856. If you have an inspiring story or know someone with one, please send an email at


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