Filipino Excellence by Art 'Popoy' Los Banos What is/are your most memorable experience/s in the UAE?

What is/are your most memorable experience/s in the UAE?

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This is my 8th column and this time I would like to engage with you, dear readers of The Global Filipino Magazine, to type in the comment box your answer/s to this question: What is/are your most memorable experience/s in the UAE?

Let’s see if we had crossed paths or are somewhat in the same field of experience or interest. Here goes my memorable experiences encompassing my full being.

Health: I completed for the very first time running non-stop in the 10K course of the Dubai Marathon on January 25, 2019 clocking 01:21:51. Not bad for a Golden Boy. A year before I joined the same 10K course but ran for more than two kilometers only and walked all the way to the finish line which took almost two hours in total.

What enabled me to run non-stop and faster was the Yoga sessions my wife and I had been attending since May 2018. I actually stopped attending by mid- 2019 while my wife continued the whole year. The breathing or pranayama exercises helped a lot.

With a few practice runs two months before the 2020 edition,  I decided to register in the 4k course only which I was able to complete in 24 minutes. Twenty two months after, at the first Expo Fun Run on November 19, 2021, I ran the 5k course in 37 minutes, with only four practice runs every Saturday morning at the Barsha Pond Park. And then there was a bonus fun run along Sheikh Zayed Road on November 26, 2021, which was a challenging incident as you cannot run non-stop in the 5K course because most of the participants just walked and recorded their TikTok reels.

Faith: I served as Extra Ordinary Minister of the Holy Communion on February 5, 2019 when Pope Francis held a mass at the Zayed Sports Stadium in Abu Dhabi. It was reported by the authorities that 180,000 people came from all the seven emirates and even neighboring countries as it was the first time a pope visited the UAE and the whole Arabian Peninsula.

I used to serve at St. Francis of Assisi Parish Church in Jebel Ali from 2012 to 2015. All active and retired lay ministers were called for the historic mass. It was indeed an honor to partake in the biggest Holy Eucharist celebration in this part of the world. Thank you UAE Government for declaring that those who will attend will be exempted from work with pay.

Passion: I celebrated my 10th  year with the Tristar Group on April 29 this year. I was recruited by the Founder and CEO a decade ago to join his Senior Management team to be in charge of Corporate Communications. This was my professional dream job when I was in the Philippines.

In 1998, when then Unilab President and COO Carlos ’Do’ Ejercito asked me what was my professional goal when he was interviewing me for the position of Corporate Affairs and Communications Manager, I said I am looking at being the head of the department which at that time was held by a vice president. Well, it did not happen there in Unilab because in May 2001, out of our desire for an adventure, we relocated here in Dubai to restart our life as a young couple. Our son Yuji then was only three years old. Now he is a professional, too.

It took me six years to resume my PR consultancy work because I had been involved in sales and marketing responsibilities during my first six years in the UAE. First with World Image, the special events arm of the Singaporean-owned Pico Group, and then with The Filipino Channel. I resigned from my comfortable and high-profile job with ABS-CBN Middle East in early 2007. My take home package was less than what I was getting as a ‘Kapamilya’ with the first two PR agencies I worked with in 2007 (Asdaa) and 2008 (TRACCS), but it was all worth it as I needed to go back to my passion as a PR Man. 

Entrepreneurship: I ventured as an entrepreneur which is always a big risk especially if one has a regular and secured income. It is a fulfilling experience, however, if you are able to overcome the financial difficulties and finally succeed. I failed as an entrepreneurial PR consultant in 2010 so in 2011 I was hopping from one company to another for short-term projects. I earned decently but the amount from all my clients and projects if averaged monthly was very far from what I was earning from the third agency (Venture Communications) I had worked with in 2009.

I do not have any regrets taking the entrepreneurial and less traveled road. I learned to be resilient. And I did not allow my frustrations and financial incapability to distract my pastoral service in our CFC community in Jebel Ali during that time. Once in my life I can proudly say I was an entrepreneur – even for a few months.

Advocacy: I conducted a PR lecture, with the assistance of start-up event management company Lighthouse EO, on September 22, 2008 before more than 30 professionals, entrepreneurs and community leaders, including mainstream media professionals. I told them that it was high time to widely and systematically publicize and promote Filipino products, enterprises, and events in the UAE mainstream media. By doing so our reputation as an enterprising, professionally-oriented, highly-qualified and socially aware ethnic group will be considerably noticed, recognized and appreciated. And if we can sustain this ideal reputation then we will also be doing our low-salaried ‘kabayans’ (compatriots) a service as locals and the expatriate community would probably, and hopefully, treat them fairly and with more respect. This was the rationale of the lecture and the birth of the concept of Filipino Excellence in the UAE.

On October 26, 2010, the Filipino Excellence in the Middle East or FEME advocacy was born when my wife, broadcast journalist Rachel Salinel, and I co-hosted a radio show on Dubai Eye 103.8 FM every other Tuesday night till February 2013, a month before TAG 91.1 FM was launched. We invited guests from various economic classes and professional categories, including entrepreneurs and Philippine government officials, to share their struggles and best practices. We wanted our listeners to be inspired by their stories, to be encouraged to overcome their own challenges, and to empower them just like how the guests were able to stand up again and become triumphant. FEME is simply to Inspire, Encourage and Empower.

Consequently in 2016, we launched the FEME Connect free directory of professionals, entrepreneurs and talents and the FEME Forum, a by-invitation small gathering where subject-matter experts on business enterprise and promotion, and on other issues,  interact with our selected guests. We have partners in these two initiatives. The FEME Forum has been conducted seven times in six years and the 8th edition will be organized after the summer period.      

Again, dear readers what is/are your most memorable experience/s in the UAE?

Note: Art ‘Popoy’ Los Banos is a 21-year Dubai resident with his wife, broadcast journalist Rachel Salinel. He is currently the Senior Manager for Corporate Communications of the fully integrated energy logistics service provider Tristar Group, where he is the only Filipino in the senior management team. He was the former 2008 Philippine Independence Day (PID) organizing committee chairman in Dubai and the Northern Emirates. Art ‘Popoy’ and Rachel were named as one of the Most Influential Filipinos in the Gulf for four years, starting in 2015. In December 2019, he received the Philippine Pride Awards in Public Relations from the Philippine Business Council-Abu Dhabi chapter for his ‘exemplary leadership and tireless efforts to continuously support, boost and campaign for excellence to uplift the Filipino image.’ Recently in June this year, Art ‘Popoy’ was named as one of the Philippines’ Top 30 Leaders on LinkedIn.

Art 'Popoy' Los Banos
Art ‘Popoy’ Los Banos is veteran PR consultant with a combined 24 -year PR experience in the Philippines and UAE. He is currently the Senior Manager for Corporate Communications of the Tristar Group and is the only Filipino in the senior management team of the Oil & Gas logistics company. He was the former 2008 Philippine Independence Day (PID) organizing committee chairman in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

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