“Forget the risk and take the fall. If it’s what you want then it’s worth it all,” this adage inspires a distressed overseas Filipino worker who establishes and expands his bakeshop after availing the Balik Pinas! Balik Hanapbuhay! (BPBH) Program of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). BPBH is a package of livelihood support/assistance intended to provide immediate relief to returning member-OFWs (distressed/displaced) amounting to a maximum Php 20,000.00 as start up or additional capital for a livelihood project.

Rotche Naval, 38 years old, who worked as a baker in Qatar is one of the successful beneficiaries of the program. Aside from his desire to provide his family a better future, Rotche applied for work overseas because he wants to put up a small bakeshop. “It was really my plan to have my own bakeshop that’s why I worked hardWith hard work and dedication, my dream has realized.” he said.

Prior to his work in Qatar, he worked as a driver in Saudi Arabia where he was able to buy some baking supplies and equipment as his investments after completing a two-year contract. To realize his dream, he applied as a baker in Qatar and was deployed on June 15, 2016. Unfortunately, he was not able to finish his contract due to poor working conditions. He also got sick. Through the help of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, he was repatriated on January 12, 2017.

As a displaced overseas Filipino worker, Rotche qualified to avail of the Balik Pinas! Balik Hanapbuhay! Program and received P20,000.00 in October 2017. Said amount was used for the purchase of additional baking supplies and equipment. He started the business just at their home in Brgy. Igpit, Digos City and later transferred to a more accessible place in Digos City Public Market.

While working in Saudi Arabia, I spared a little amount from my salary to purchase oven, dough roller, trays and other bakery equipment so that I can start my bakeshop little by little,” he said. Prior to his employment abroad, Rotche worked as a baker in one of the famous bakeries in Digos City. His experience in the bakeshop industry motivates him to pursue his application for overseas work. “Though I was not lucky with my last employment abroad, I took it as my big break because I was able to enhance my skills as a baker. My experience has helped me a lot in establishing my own bakeshop,” said Rotche who personally manage and operate his business.

With a registered name “Elly’s Refreshment Parlor”, the business is located at the center of the public market of Digos City. With the support of his wife Alona, the business has been running smoothly for 1 year and 3 months now. Presently, the couple earns a monthly net income of P15,000.00 which is enough for their daily needs and other obligations. Aside from the bakeshop, he has one motorcycle cart filled with variety of freshly-baked bread distributed to the different barangays in Digos City. Rotche now employs 1 baker, 1 driver/distributor, 1 cashier and 2 salespersons. He hopes to acquire additional cart to supply the growing demands of his customers.

The livelihood assistance given to Rotche has helped him in fulfilling his dream. “I thanked OWWA for helping me after experiencing a distressful situation. Through the financial assistance granted to me, I was able to expand my bakery. At first, I only have my bakery at home, but now I was able to rent a space filled with variety of bread and pastries,” he said. “We baked and made tasty and affordable bread that’s why our customers kept on patronizing our products,” he added. The bakeshop also accepts order of cakes for all occasions.

Being a distressed worker didn’t stop Rotche to move on with his life. Instead, he strives more for the better future of his family. He encouraged other OFWs who were not fortunate with their employment abroad to keep their dreams and never lose their hope despite their sad experience. “The challenges and hardships I had before made me strong and with the support of my family I was able to recover.  OWWA’s assistance was the way for me to continue what I have started. We are happy and grateful with the blessings we received. I will work hard so I can generate more employment and help others,” he ended.

Naval is one of the successful beneficiaries of BPBH in Region XI. His story serves as inspiration to other OFWs who are not successful with their overseas employment. OWWA’s livelihood assistance is a way of helping the distressed/displaced workers start their own livelihood endeavor. (Maricel T. Sarabillo, OWWA XI)