No pancakes after 10 in the morning?
By: Jason Chan
“May I have two pancakes?” I asked.
“No,” crooked face, eye glancing around, the resort’s staff abruptly and flatly replied.
“It (pancake) was only for breakfast,” the words hung in the air as he was hustling away from the dining area. I was gazing at all the pancake materials inside the kitchen in disbelief when the clock stroke 10 in the morning.
“All the materials are right there. How hard can that be?” I wondered in silence.
The Filipinos have always been known for their warm and friendly manners, whether to natives or foreigners, which I have experienced throughout my brief stay. Obviously, there were times that I did not get what I want but it always ended with laughter. Thus, it surprised me that some staff from some resorts/ pension houses, where the highest standards of hospitality were expected, were either unnecessarily rigid or occasionally, discourteous to walk-in customers like us.
It is short-sighted to conclude that Filipino hotel services are bad simply because of some bad experiences. Just as some resorts imposed additional charges for wifi without any prior notice, another waived my cost for drinking water. As Simon Sinek has reiterated time and again “people don’t buy (care about) what you do, they buy (care about) why you do it.” It is pointless in comparing the best and worst experiences I had. Rather, I am curious to know why some staff are more motivated, positive and friendlier than others.
Cherry (pseudonym) – a bite of the cherry in Dubai
Cherry was scribbling on an accounting book when I saw her. She has been a cashier/ receptionist for one and half year. One week ago, despite declining to provide the pension house’s wifi password, she helpfully directed me to the neighbouring restaurant that had wifi. Her face lit up when we met again.
2 years ago, she persuaded her husband to resign from being a debt collector, a job that was too dangerous and risky. To support her son and daughter, she left her role as a housewife and applied as a room attendant. She ended up with her current occupation due to her excellent mathematics and English.
Conversing with Cherry was interactive and interesting, as if I was talking to a close friend. What motivated her to be her best every day, she believed, was her son and daughter. She wanted to give them a better life. However, I had my doubts. This was because her fixed wage meant that she would earn the same amount whether or not she helped me with the WiFi.
What really drove her to smile at rude customers, apologize for wrongs that was not her fault and stay passionate despite all the mundane administrative work throughout her 10 hours shift, I believe, was her reluctance in satisfying with the status quo. Stable income, interacting with foreigners every day and living closely to her family, Cherry had every reason to stay in Jagna. However, she wanted to became a lady driver in Dubai. Life begins at the end of one’s comfort zone may be one of the clichés for the millennials. Cherry might not have heard of it, but she was definitely living along it. I guess what motivated her every day was knowing that someday she would explore the Palm Island, the Dubai Mall and many more attractions.
Diana (pseudonym) – blue black butterfly who flew around but eventually found her passion near home
A tiny terrier was biting at my flip-flop when I started a conversation with Diana near the bar table. 15 minutes ago, she waived my cost for a bottle of water after finding out that I could not afford it. She was once a legal secretary for her owner’s brother who passed away 4 years ago. She is a receptionist/ book-keeper assistant, which involves recording the number of inventories and some administrative work.
Diana enjoyed her work because she could interact with foreigners every day. However, what interested her the most was also the most challenging part. There were times that she needed to deal with moody customers. Some of them were rude, others were unreasonable. What inspired her to get through the day?
“My boss is the best person to work with. I can go to him with my personal issues and he will help me the best he can. Also, I do not want to lose my job because I want to support my son.” Diana has worked in Manila and Hong Kong. After working and living in highly urbanized areas, she opted for Jagna because she can spend more time with her family and her son. Striking a great contrast with Cherry, Diana who spent some time abroad, yearned for Jagna. Perhaps for Diana, after all the exploration and adventures, she finally knew what kind of lifestyle she preferred.
A great employer who valued her opinion, a stylish working environment that is 20 minutes away from her home and a loving family. Instead of counting the days, she has every reason to present the best side of herself to her boss, guests and strangers like me.
Jasmine (pseudonym) – appreciation, harmony and simplicity
5 minutes away from the highway, the guest house where Jasmine served as a manager was situated next to a large patch of grassland. The reasonably priced chicken set and the scenery gave me enough reasons to frequent there. As we get to know more about each other, Jasmine, knowing I am the only customer throughout the day, would always gave me an extra chicken drumstick.
“It’s ok,” she responded to my confused look.
Jasmine worked as a room attendance and entertainer in Japan for 15 years before coming back to Jagna. Her employer, whom she worked for 4 years, is her elder sister. Despite being responsible for handle everything – from buying food in the nearby market, cooking to cleaning the rooms and handling guests’ inquiries, she enjoyed her job because she could see new faces every day. The harmony and tranquility offered by the distant bleat of sheep and the relaxing breezes were perhaps the best retirement plan for her.
After going through the stages of Cherry and Diana, Jasmine, who was once a young and energetic woman that longed to adventure into the unknown, then paid more attention to her family as she grew older. After all the ups and downs of her life, especially the prolonged time she had in Japan, she chose to simplify her life. Instead of paying attention to every single detail, she lived a relaxing life by appreciating and treasuring every acquaintance she came into. Life without calculation, profits or plans, perhaps that was why she wore a glee every time she met her customers.
The other day, I entered the dining area at 1pm. Sitting at my usual spot, I causally asked the same question, fully expecting a no.
“May I have two pancakes?”
Instead, a part-time waitress answered “What flavour, sir?”
I guess, with enough patience, more and more Cherry, Diana and Jasmine will appear someday. With enough patience, Jagna will be full of entrepreneurs like Angelo. With enough patience, things will get better. Thank you and good luck to everything, Jagna!