For the last 27 years, Jeremias Catmco Lopez has been living and working in the Middle East, and if there is one thing he learned while abroad it is to love your work and never stop learning.
Growing up in a suburban community in Cebu, his family led a simple life–no electricity and went on foot about four kilometres to school. Being the eldest among the nine siblings, the provincial boy, once in a while, join his mother in the market to sell sweet potatoes and vegetables, among others, to purchase their basic needs.
With their economical situation back then, his father, a farmer, and his mother, a housewife, couldn’t support his dream to be a successful engineer. With his insistently strong desire to be an engineer, his parents agreed that he’d take a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. They had to sell their carabao for him to be able to enroll. The struggle didn’t end there. He had to budget his P20 weekly allowance. Whenever he felt hungry, he just drunk water, and when he got short of money, he had to walk for about 4.5 kilometres from his home to school.
Lopez also recalled his parents selling carabaos every year so he can pay his school fees. When he was in third-year college, he started to support his studies as his parents could no longer afford it since his sister was also in college. “It was really tough as I have to shift all my classes in the evening. There were lots of pressure and difficulties in managing my studies and work but instead of surrendering, I used them as a motivation and inspiration to keep my spirit alive and always praying for guidance, asking for strength and wisdom for all the challenges and trials that came along the way. Coupled with strong determination, hard work, and prayers all, those hardships have paid off,” he said.
The stars have finally aligned–he finished his course in less than five years, passed the board exams, and became a licensed and registered mechanical engineer a year after graduation. “It was a fulfillment and I considered it as one of my greatest achievements in life especially to my parents who are so proud and happy proving that poverty is not a hindrance to succeed,” he added.
It was 1993 when an opportunity to work abroad came. Leaving his family was difficult, but he had to fly to Saudi Arabia as a safety engineer. It was his dream to provide a better future for his family and support his parents and siblings for their education. After 12 months in the company, they’ve already moved to their dream house although it was not complete yet at that time.
For over two decades, Lopez worked in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain. He also worked for two years in Malaysia as a safety engineer. Currently, he is connected with Al-Khafji Joint Operations in Saudi Arabia as a senior safety engineer. His main job responsibilities include reviewing tender specifications for the construction, modifications, studies, and advice on safety measures or requirements involved in their design for the new facilities or equipment.
He is also providing technical support during construction and commissioning and start-up activities to ensure all works are carried out in a safe manner and in accordance with the approved procedures.
“What I really enjoy about working in Saudi Arabia mainly the working environment and the knowledge and experiences I gained working in an oil and gas company (onshore and offshore) and the substantial salary and employment package and benefits that include my family members,” Lopez said.
When the retirement time comes, he said he’ll go back to the Philippines and man the 30-hectare land he purchased and manage their real estate investments which are currently earning passive income sufficiently enough for their basic needs when they go home for good.
Love your job
If he were to share a piece of advice to his fellow OFWs who are currently in distress is to love their job and never stop learning new things and be compassionate with others.
“Be smart in managing your finances especially when it comes to saving money. Always keep something for them and invest wisely for their future. Be firm and clear on your goals, always be reminded of your purpose of working away from your family, and above all never forget to pray for guidance and wisdom,” he added.
This story has been featured on the eighth issue of The Global Filipino Magazine. To get a copy, you may contact Mr Orli Gayeta at +971503196856. If you have an inspiring story or know someone with one, please send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.