My Journey to Becoming an OFW in Singapore

 

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Please excuse my excess baggage here. lol

This is my story almost 8 months ago. I know it’s super duper outdated but I just want to document it as it is one of the highlights of my career. (Kung meron man. Haha!) Many of my friends and acquaintances were shocked that I flew to Singapore to look for work. Well, only my closest friends knew my plans on working here. I don’t want everybody to know that I’m a failure if ever I didn’t find any job (that’s the spirit Joy!).

It was June 2014 when I decided to work abroad. I finally got tired of my daily routine, I work overtime but always underpaid. My salary is just enough to fund my “lakwatsa” every month. Since then, I always check for promotion on Cebu Pacific and luckily, I found one worth only Php 6,000.00 for a 2-way ticket. I immediately booked that day, even if I don’t have any money (thanks to my sister, Janet for lending me her credit card. haha!).  You can check www.skyscanner.com.sg for tickets.

Here are the few things that I did/settled 1 month before my scheduled flight.

✔️ A place to stay. Trust me, renting a room in Singapore is far more costly than in Ph. Most of the landlord/main tenant requires working passes and for us tourist-slash-job hunters, obviously we cannot provide it, yet. You can check room for rent ads by pinoys at kapehan.com or www.pinoysg.com/ For our case, we found one room in Woodlands for S$660, but the main tenant required us to pay for agent fee of S$165 cos we will not be paying for a deposit. So a total of S$825, PUB not included. (electricity, water, internet etc)

✔️ Important documents; Certificate of employment, diploma, transcript of records etc. And don’t ever try to fabricate important documents (from Recto) as they are checking the background thoroughly once you apply for working pass.

✔️ Submit CVs as many as possible to jobstreetjobsdbstjobsmonster  and to BCA list (you can drop a comment if you want the file) Mind you, it will take a lot of time for them to process applications, so it’s better to submit 3-4 weeks prior to your departure.

✔️ S-A-V-E. Most important of all. Believe me, lahat dito ginto ang presyo. As for me, I brought Php 30,000 that time for my pocket money (which is definitely not enough) but good thing my friend, Toms prepared a good amount of money with him. He was one of my savior. My 30k just stretched out for only a month of stay. Nganga na ako after nun! 

✔️ Prepare yourself physically, emotionally & spiritually. For me, I wasn’t ready at all, not ready to leave. But there’s no turning back for me, wala na akong babalikan pang company/trabaho kahit walang assurance na makakahanap kami ng trabaho. Ika nga nila, nag-risk ka na lang din, itodo mo na.

Fast forward to the day of our scheduled flight, 18 March 2015. Honestly, I was very nervous that time cos it’s my first time to travel abroad. Negative things were running on my mind that time, like what if the officers search my baggage and find my certificates and other documents needed when applying for a job, or what if they don’t allow me to board the plane etc etc.. …..

But ofcourse, we got through it:)

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Majogs, me and Toms after the immigration

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my last meal in Manila before the flight

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Picture picture inside the plane. It’s Toms’ first time btw. yey!

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after the 4-hour flight. (we slept all the way)

We arrived at Changi International Airport around 9am where my sister was already waiting for us. While on our way to Woodlands, we were at awe of how beautiful and organized Singapore is. It is far different than Philippines obviously, their transportation is far more convenient than what we have, and people here are very disciplined (well mostly)IMG_6695. We then met Kuya Ferdie, the main tenant of the flat that we rented. Then..

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We had a simple housewarming party.

The following morning, I was scheduled for my first ever interview (when I was still in Ph, someone contacted my sister and scheduled me for interview but it was postponed the day after my arrival) So there I was, excited and a little nervous. My interview was just around the neighborhood of Woodlands but I left the house more than an hour before the schedule cos I just want to be early as it is my FIRST EVER interview. After 20 minutes of waiting at bus stop near our block, luckily, there was no available taxi (ppffftt). So I still waited for a couple of minutes, most of the time i kept looking at my watch. 30 minutes left before my interview, I was like ok Joy, kalma lang, me darating ding taxi. Then 20 minutes…… 15 minutes… I kept telling myself that It’s still fine, that I can make it on time. But deep inside I was like

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Where did all those taxis go?? I almost gave up that time, I kept asking God, Is it a sign that this work is not for me?  But my guts tells me to give it a try. To cut the long story short, I took the bus and got lost for several time s and was late for about an hour. For a first timer, it’s difficult to understand the transportation here (especially buses, thanks to my sister who guided me).

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SG MRT/LRT

Good thing I didn’t take a taxi to my interview, cos I came to the wrong place. The company is a recruitment agency.

Agencies will be the one responsible for searching an employer for you, it sounds great but unless you have plenty of bucks in hand, you might as well think again. They will charge you S$20 for scheduling an interview with an employer (regardless if they’ll hire you or not), S$200 for applying for Work Pass (if ever you’ll get hired) and if the Ministry of Manpower approves your application, the agency will charge you two times your salary before starting to work (if the employer offered S$3,000, you will pay S$6,000 to the agency) Grabe lang diba?

I got disappointed that day. I still gave my best during the interview (though the interviewer noticed that I’m not interested when he explained the fees)  I wanted to grab the offer of the agency  cos I’m desperate but I don’t have enough money to pay for it. Well, it was too early for me to be bothered and worried. It was only my 2nd day in SG.

The following days were very exhausting. I wake up at 5am just to send applications to all posible site, then start our tour-de-singapore after that (btw my friend Majogs went together with us here just for vacation) and we’d be back late at night. For 1 week (except Sunday), that was my routine. But it was a good thing din, I lose track of time (cos we only have 30days visit visa), forget the pressure in job-hunting and enjoyed at the same time.

Highlights of my first week

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My first meal here. Turo-turo lang

 

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sugarcane juice

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trying Thai food and Thai Beer in Chinatown

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with Bert, Cookie Monster & Elmo @ USS

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Everywhere in the world, there’s always Chinatown 😛

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my fave on the left

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assorted

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Sushi @ S$0.50

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With my sisteret

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@ Chinese garden

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with my gym buddy (free outdoor gym dito, nakaka amaze!)

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My first ride on a Double Decker bus

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Suki ng Pasamalam

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Ice kachang

After a week of tour-slash-job hunting, the time has come for our friend Majogs to return to Ph, and it meant that vacation days are over. Honestly, I felt more pressured when she left. Me and Toms are the only ones left. We need to be more serious, more focused and we need to double or triple our effort. No one called me in that span of one week which meant that I still have 3weeks left before my visit pass expires.

After Majogs left (I remembered it was Wednesday), I still continued what we used to do, watch movies, jogging and going to the gym. There were several companies who interviewed me through phone. I was happy back then, even though they informed me that it will take 2-3weeks for them to schedule me on a formal interview. I kept my hopes high. Still.

Then came Friday, when I was about to go for my usual jog, my phone rang. A soft voice of a lady called and asked if I am still looking for a job. She asked several questions (it’s very difficult to understand her way of speaking) and the very clear thing I heard, she was scheduling me for interview the following morning. I couldn’t contain my happiness that time! After a week of waiting, finally. Good thing she sms to me the address and the company name (as i couldn’t understand it at all!) The lady who called was from FOSTA PTE LTD and they are looking for a Quantity Surveyor. I asked my sister regarding the address of the company and luckily, it was only a few bus stops away from her office! (it is near Eunos MRT, and I live at Woodlands which is quite far)

It was Saturday morning, I woke up very early (I allotted 3hrs before interview) my sister waited for me on a bus stop and together we searched for the place. It was 8am when we reached the place, too early for my 8:30am interview. I was very nervous that time, as if it was my last week before my visa expires (yes I’m that paranoid!) I need to get this job, the only thought in my mind. I’m tired of doing the same old routine. Waking up early to email CVs, tired of waiting for calls, tired of thinking of what other things to do to aside from applying, jogging etc.

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My lucky drink before interview. Iced Milo in plastic. haha!

There were 2 interviewer, one is a Singaporean man (which is the director of the company) and a Burmese woman (QS manager). The interview went well. I felt awkward at first cos there were 2 of them, but I got comfortable as we got along, comfortable that I got to tell them jokes sometimes. haha! The questions were all that what I expected except at some situational ones.It went smoothly that I didn’t noticed it was almost 2 hrs past already. They told me that they will contact me the following Monday if I will be hired or they need another 2nd interview.

I left the office with a positive feeling.  I didn’t tell everyone here that I had interview (only my sister and Toms) cos I don’t want them to be disappointed too. The following Sunday we met Kuya Herbert, who is very kind and generous. He treat us and gave some tips and advises even if we are complete strangers to each other (we only met him here in SG, he’s the friend of Toms’ acquiantance back in Ph). Later that afternoon I went home early cos my sister will come by our house. As usual, we had drinking session. Haha! I was very drunk that night, I haven’t woke early the following day to send application. I woke up around 10am, checked my cellphone and was surprised by a text from Fosta asking me to come to their office at 2am for the 2nd interview. Shocks bakit ngayon pa kung kelan senglot ako 💤😵. I immediately prepared myself that time, kahit hilong hilo pa ako.

I reached their office 30mins early. The director was the only one who entered the room. He was carrying papers, which turned out to be CVs. There were 3 CVs, one was mine and the other two were from two Filipina applicants. Shocks, anung meron?  He explained and compared the other CVs to mine. The other applicants have experience working here in Singapore (which is a plus points for most employers here), and as for me, obviously, still an entry level. From that moment, para akong nalugi. Ano ba to, rejected na ba agad? He continued to compare our educational background. The other applicants was from UP-Diliman (shemay!) and PUP (4r4y ko Bh3!) which is the top 2 and top 5 schools in Ph. (seriously sir, do you need to rub it in??) and made emphasis on my school being in the top 15 only. ok, uuwi na ba ako?  That moment, I felt very hopeless that I just want to go out of the room and go straight home and cry.

But..he continued.

He have some certain reasons why he considered me for the position. (My ears suddenly became big so I can hear every detail of it. haha!) First, he can sense a positive disposition in me (that’s why I was named Joy after all, sir! haha!) Second, I easily expressed what I wanted to say (the interview lasted for almost 2 hours and thanks to my previous Chinese bosses in Ph, I got used to talk in english) and lastly, he said I have a quick response/thinking of everything that he asked me during the 1st interview. My heart was yelling from the inside! After all his positive comments, he went out of the room. All the positive vibes are running all over me that time. I can sense that they will hire me that day, but at the back of my mind, there’s still the pessimist side of me that says don’t expect, don’t assume unless you’ll sign the contract.

After a couple of minutes, he returned and he was carrying a piece of paper. He explained to me the contents of it. I was very happy inside that I couldn’t focus on what he was telling. I just got the words “medical leave, office hours, probation”  etc etc. Wait, what?? I looked closely to the piece of paper that he was reading. It seems very blurred to me so I interrupted him as he explained. “Wait sir, am I hired?” He was very surprised on my question and said “you are indeed very interesting” . Then he simply said YES with a big smile in his face. Shiiiiittttttt!!! I couldn’t contain my happiness that time that I immediately shook his hand and thanked him.

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It’s like I’m the luckiest girl that time (to think that he didn’t choose the two pinays who have experience)

The HR immediately filed an application to the Ministry of Manpower (MoM) for my IC (Btw, there are many kinds of work passes and permits here in SG. For more info, http://www.mom.gov.sg/passes-and-permits). The director asked me if I can start the next day, but I didn’t feel like working yet (yes I deserve a little break after the 2-week stressful job hunting. haha! )

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first day high!

I decided to start working on the 1st of April (I signed my contract on 30 March) so I had 1 whole day rest. At first I was hesitant if I go to work without the approval of my pass (you’ll get in big trouble if the MoM finds out that you are working without IC) but my Burmese manager assured me that it’ll be fine. So there I started my first day of work on the 1st of April (April fools! haha) then on the 2nd of April, the result of my application for pass came out (it took 4 days for the result which is normal, but nowadays, it will take a lot of time). After a few days, I also had my medical check-up which is one of the requirements of MoM (Xray and blood test only) and the following day I already got the result. Then after the scheduled appointment in MoM, I finally got my IC.

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hard work paid off (excuse my chaka face)

With God’s will and guidance, I finally got my way here and survived. Thank you Lord! 🙂

So here I am now, though it was hard for me for the first couple of weeks at work, I still made it. It was hard to understand some of my colleagues’ way of speaking (no offense meant, especially Indians cos they talk very quick) but now I got used to it. I am happy that I was able to adjust (life and work) here in just a couple of weeks, though sometimes homesickness strikes but I still have my sister and my crazy friends here. They make me feel that working and living overseas is no that bad at all.

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By the way, me and Sepideh (Geologist) were hired the same day and we both started on the 1st of April. We will be 9 months at work this January 1st. Hooray!!

To those of you who wish to go here to look for job, just do it. You’ll never really know your fate if you don’t give it a try. There are hundreds or maybe thousands of people who didn’t make it, but it doesn’t mean that their fate will be the same as yours, right? Everything is possible, you may be able to find your luck just like what happened to me, or maybe not. But atleast you tried. I was like that before, scared and hesitant to try cos of the negative things that some of my acquaintance tell me. That it is difficult to find a job, that the SG government become strict when it comes to foreigners etc. Yes it’s true that it’s hard to find a job here nowadays, yes it’s a waste of money if ever you won’t find one, but just the experience of being here in Singapore and be able to see all the beautiful places is worth all the money. So go for it! Indeed, life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Well, there you have it. I hope this post somehow help/entertain you. Till next time! Ciao! 

 

 

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