Ruth O. Gawili, 39, is a proud Igorot. She is currently working as a secretary for Geap Group of Companies. Before settling in and working as a secretary, just like the majority of Filipinos abroad, she, too, was tested in life and had to go through the eye of a needle.
Gawili, who was an orphan, started working at an early age. While finishing her two-year Computer Secretarial course, she was covering two shifts–working at a mall from 3pm to 8pm and 8pm until dawn for a Korean bar and restaurant. The pension she was receiving from her foster parents was discontinued as she was no longer a minor.
She was able to handle her studies and working schedules as she was in her last year of completing her vocation course and the only major subject was stenography. Upon completing the short-term course, she decided to quit at the restaurant and continued to work at the mall.
Though she didn’t dream of working overseas, she was convinced by a friend. As the process of application went on, there were tangled incident happened until she had no choice but to travel alone because of the debts she borrowed from her relative. She even got scammed by an agency, however, backing out was not an option. Her debts incurred interest that reached up to half a million pesos.
In 2007, she arrived in Dubai and her job was a cashier in a supermarket. Her adjustments as a first-time overseas Filipina worker (OFW) were handled in a short span of time. “It was probably because since I was 10 my mother died, and so I and my other siblings grew up independently,” she said, adding that a year after she graduated from high school, her father died. She recalled waking up early in the morning to cook, washed her own clothes, and prepare for the school where she walked to and from for two miles, five times a week.
Before landing a supermarket job overseas, she had to do part-time jobs in catering and hospitality on various events so she would survive. After three consecutive years, Gawili went back to the Philippines due to an unwanted pregnancy. For her, this was the most painful part of all her struggles in life. She had to back to the Philippines empty-handed, with piles of unpaid debts.
“The only people I can count on that time were my brothers and sisters which I am very much thankful for having,” she added.
She had to leave for Hong Kong in 2011 after her son reached one year old to work as a housemaid and nanny. “It was distressing. The feeling of leaving your son behind… was heartwrenching. I felt being homesick. With the challenges and struggles, all I had to do was to remain strong, stand firm, and have faith in God,” she added.
She stayed there for four years before coming back to UAE to work as a secretary. “I guess this was the start of my career growth in terms of knowledge, personal development, emotional control, financial education, as well as self-esteem,” she said.
She added that she felt lucky that she got back to the UAE after five years despite having a good employer in Hong Kong. She thought that ‘destiny’ brought her back to this land. “What I am happy about with my current job, is being able to apply the things I learned from my previous careers. At the same time, I also enjoy it because it is a different industry where I can learn more, as well as meet other people whom I can be trained to progress. I believe employment is also a process of continues learning,” she further added.
Currently, Gawili is an advocate and international promoter of the FRICH Revolution, a group of Filipinos that empowers OFWs across the globe to free and rich. “I am very grateful to be part of this organization in helping my fellow Filipinos to have financial freedom through investing. For those Filipinos who have also suffered like me, investing and saving is a good thing,” she said.
Entrepreneur in the making
Gawili took a Business Management course at Filipino Institute in an effort to start her own family business. She is taking baby steps, with the help of her niece, as she is also into baking. They are planning to sell baked products online as Covid-19 still spreads. According to her, she has already shared an amount to purchase baking tools as well as raw materials to start with so they could take bulk orders.
“This is one of the main things that I will be focusing on because I want to be with my son after he graduates from the elementary level and also as part of my advocacy in the future is to share my blessings to homeless children,” she said, adding that she also thinks of putting her own foundation centre to further help them.
This story has been featured in the 15th 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 to us at email@example.com.