THE GLOBAL FILIPINO MAGAZINE Issue 11 A journey of an OFW in UAE: From storekeeper...

A journey of an OFW in UAE: From storekeeper to executive director

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For Gilbert Besario Tolentino, no matter one gets rejected and stumbled, one must always continue to plan, execute, and move forward so when the opportunity comes, one is in the right position. For the last 12 years, Tolentino has been living and working in the UAE. 

He recalled embarking on an overseas journey in 2009 as a storekeeper in one of the leading F&B companies in the Middle East. A year after, following his exemplary work performance, he was promoted as the warehouse supervisor. Subsequently, it opened an opportunity for him to move into another function in the supply planning department as a supply planner. A consistent team player, Tolentino was then promoted as the planning supervisor. Continuously rising through the ranks, he was then finally promoted as the S&OP and planning manager until he left the company last year which he served for 11 years. 

Currently, the supply chain professional holds a multiple job role as a business consultant, market insights officers for both organizations based in Ajman and Dubai and engaged with international business development and at the same time as operations manager for a retail company based in the Philippines, which is he is one of the co-founders. Dedicated and passionate about his jobs, the entrepreneur is also actively participating in various activities that benefit social development. 

“UAE has a mix of cultures and a diverse population and I really like interacting and working with diverse culture people that you will learn about different cultures, ideas, and philosophy. This is a land of opportunity and rewards,” he said, noting that he himself can manifest it after gaining several international professional certifications that helped his career. He also shared that even during the course of the pandemic, when the UAE government imposed the movement restriction, he has acquired more than 10 certifications in different fields in marketing specialization, operations management, and technical skills. 

The start of a long journey

Tolentino arrived in the region during the time of a global financial crisis. He remembered coming to the UAE on a visit visa and his only family member in the host country is his wife and their godmother that helped us through their struggles. 

“The first six months were tough and I faced different struggles. When I came here I was not familiar with the places and during that time, I was searching for a job using a map which I always kept inside my pocket to guide for job interviews,” he said. 

One month had passed and Tolentino hadn’t landed a job yet. His visit visa had already expired so he had to leave UAE to change his visa status in Kish Island in Iran. He was on the island for 45 days, trying to survive by shelling out AED15 every day to pitch in for their food with other Filipinos who were also waiting for their UAE visas. 

There, he experienced fishing and cooking their food under a tree as he could not avail of a single hotel meal. 

“Most of us were new in the UAE and waiting for the opportunity to return to the country and find a job,” he recalled. 

Tolentino, while still in Iran, accepted several interviews through international and overseas phone calls, and finally secured a job as a storekeeper. 

“It was very challenging at first due to the language barrier and working for a long period of hours. I remember sleeping at delivery trucks several times because there was no available transportation to go back to my accommodation and I needed to catch the first trip of track that leaves very early,” he continued. 

Two months after accepting the job, his father died after suffering from multiple strokes. Tolentino was not able to see his father for the very last time, not even visited him during his wake and funeral. 

“During those difficult times, I learned to become stronger,” he added. 

When asked about his advise to his fellow OFWs who are currently struggling, he said: “Always plan, be persistent and learn the passion to execute and be courageous in our decision. How often we reject and fail, we must continue to plan, execute, and move forward so should be in the right position when the opportunity comes.” 

This story has been featured on the 11th 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 tgfmfi@gmail.com.

Ryan Namia
Ryan Namia spends most of his days reading over drafts of new written content and determining which ones make the final cut for online and print publication. He received his Bachelor's degree in Journalism in 2015 and has been writing since 2016. Got a story to tell? Email him at eic@theglobalfilipinomagazine.com. Or follow his IG @rtnamia.

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