Before the close of 2016, Ilocana achiever Vagelyn Tumbaga-Federico was adjudged as CSR Champion of the Year for MENA in a regional search dubbed as Hozpitality Group Hospitality Excellence Awards MENA.
The search, a brainchild of Raj Bhatt, has earned global acclaim as the ultimate event for the tourism and travel industry in Middle East and North Africa. Vagelyn, a native of San Fernando City in La Union (Philippines) received the award, along with other awardees in various categories, during a Gala Dinner held at Dusit Thani Dubai.
Dusit Thani Dubai was also awarded as Hotel of the Year (Green Initiatives ) – Silver Winner. Other awardees from Dusit Thani Dubai were Alex Vasanthakumar, Lifetime Achievement Award for Finance and Abbas Kanso, Executive Sous Chef of the Year Silver Winner. The finalists were Manivel Solaiyan, IT of the Year; Arnie Guinto, Front Office of the Year; Naruemol Poolkuan, Specialty Chef of the Year; and, Sebastiao Ferao, Engineering of the Year.
It may be recalled that in the 2015 edition of the awards, Vagelyn was also adjudged as HR Person of the Year for Middle East and North Africa, First Runner Up.
Vagelyn’s story is a source of inspiration. From being a humble farm girl, to a secretary who had to make 13 exits in Kish Island, to being the youngest General Manager, at 28 years of age then, of a four-star hotel, this resilient Filipina has come a long way.
At 36 years of age, she has blossomed into a trailblazing lady of charity, community patroness and a world-class hotel executive.
Vagelyn’s life story was featured on long-running drama anthology Maalaala Mo Kaya (MMK) on January 2015. The story, which featured actress Maricar Reyes-Poon portraying Federico, inspired netizens who shared their views of the episode. Touching the lives of migrant workers across the globe, her story became a hit on social media.
Search for greener pasture
Leaving her post goodbye in the Canadian Immigration in her hometown of San Fernando City in La Union, she came to Dubai 13 years ago in search of a better life. She started her career as a Secretary with 1000 dirham salary in a construction company.
Opportunity came when there was an opening for the position of HR Assistant at Hotel JAL Fujairah Resort & Spa. With a solid legal background having earned degrees in Political Science Magna Cum Laude and Bachelor of Laws, she did well in recruiting good people. She was, thus, entrusted with bigger roles.
From then on, she was a pre-opening expert of seven local and international hotels – Ice Land Water Park & Snow Village Resort, Acacia Hotel, The Palace Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Residences, Dusit Residence Dubai Marina, Hotel JAL Fujairah Resort & Spa, now Radisson Blu Fujairah, and JAL Tower Dubai, now Radisson Royal.
Rise to success
“It was not an easy road for me. I was forced to make exits to Kish Island for 13 times for a change visa.”
This is a remarkable feat that only few, courageous women dared to triumphantly accomplished. In the United Arab Emirates, an expat has to go to exit either to Oman or Iran to avail of a new visa for a new job. Vagelyn was forced to do so because among others, her expertise was sought in the pre-opening of hotels in the UAE.
In 2008, she was hired as Assistant HR Manager of Dusit Residence, a 5 star hotel apartment in Dubai Marina and in the next few months, she functioned as Acting HR Manager. In 2009, she was named as Cluster Director of HR of Al Hamra Hotels.
In 2010, she was appointed as HR Director of Acacia Hotel, the largest inventory of rooms, with 371 rooms, in Ras Al Khaimah. The same year, she reached the epitome of success at a very young age of 28 when she was named the General Manager of Acacia Hotel. This time, she participated in the Great GM Debate and made history as the only Filipino General Manager in Middle East to have ever participated in such a prestigious event.
After two years, she moved as the Deputy Director of Ice Land Water Park and led the entire operation of this largest water park in the Middle East from 2011 to 2013. As a consequence of various promotions in work, Vagelyn was able to travel in countries outside of the United Arab Emirates – to Russia, Indonesia, Georgia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Qatar, Nepal, Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and Oman, among others.
She is now currently working as Human Resource Director, a top-level executive post in this leading international Asian hospitality hotel. She has been entrusted once again to be back in the company after she left 4 years ago as Assistant HR Manager in Dusit Residence Dubai Marina.
A woman for God and country, she has been actively involved in the Filipino community for many years. Despite her busy professional career, she selflessly devoted time to organize social, cultural, religious and fundraising activities for her chosen charities. She has committed herself to helping others not only for Filipinos but also for the mainstream expat community.
While many successful Filipino migrant workers abroad ventured into lucrative business, Vagelyn, who started out as a secretary, had chosen a more rewarding path. She sustained her lifelong commitment of providing jobs to Filipinos and expats especially those from poor countries.
She is the current president of FIL-HR (Filipino Human Resource Practitioners Association), an organization recognized by the Philippine Consulate and Dubai Municipality with more than 300 HR professionals’ member in the UAE. Even before she assumed the post, she volunteers during her spare time to help facilitate job placements for Filipinos in the UAE. She is Adviser for Growth and Development of the United Hoteliers of the Philippines UAE Chapter and member of Dubai Hotels HR Professionals Network.
She organized Job Fair 2015, the biggest of its kind held at Armed Forces Officers Club in Abu Dhabi and facilitated trainings and seminars for Filipino overseas workers like UAE Labor Law Trainings, CV Writing. She assisted hundreds of Filipinos in finding jobs not only through her company/ies – some of them are now holding executive and managerial posts across UAE, who sometimes surprises her with free meals in restaurants.
Better, stronger person
Among her major awards, the following are worth mentioning:
- Kabayan of the Year 2014, 3rd Anniversary of Kabayan Weekly
- HR Person of the Year for Middle East and North Africa, First Runner Up, Hozpitality Group Hospitality Excellence Awards MENA
- one of the 100 Most Influential Filipinos in the Gulf by Illustrado magazine
- Outstanding OFW, 7th Outstanding OFW and Balikbayan Reputation Awards (OBRA) held on December 15 at SM Megamall.
- Distinguished Alumni, 50th Golden Anniversary, Saint Louis College, La Union
Vagelyn never gave up and pursued her dreams. “I have gone through lots of challenges already which made me a better and stronger person right now. I saw failures and successes and I am proud that I made my own way up on my own skills and abilities through God’s grace. I have been on top and down the line but now she reached the peak of it and revolves on its light and brightness.” ◄
More about Vagelyn Tumbaga-Federico:
- Filipina honored at Hospitality Excellence Awards for Middle East and North Africa
- Filipina is finalist in the Middle East Hospitality Excellence Awards
- Meet Dubai’s “Hotel Professional of the Year
- Filipina honored with Clap! Clap! Clap! Award 2015
- Top 5 Most Inspiring Filipino HR Executives in the United Arab Emirates
- 7 Devoted Women of Change make waves in Dubai
- Exit to Kish 13 times: Secretary-turned-Hotel Director shares her story of survival, victories
- What experts say about finding better jobs in UAE
- Hotelier wins as Filipino of the Year in UAE
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THE BLOGGER. Ulysses Espartero is a journalist, historian and book author who traces his roots from two Philippine jewels – Laguna and Antique. While in Dubai, he enjoyed his expat life documenting the struggles and victories of migrant workers in the Gulf Cooperation Council states. He has released two books – Precious Gems in a Desert of Gold (2014) and Filipino Heroes in the Gulf (2016). Connect with him on facebook.