FILIPINOS overseas are inordinately proud of their heritage and culture. It comes as no surprise then that they want to rise above the rest in their adopted homeland and strive to make a mark in the local workplace.
Patricia Ortega Encarnação (pronounced Encarnasau) is one such Filipino who never hesitates to call herself “a proud Pinoy.” She has been based in Portugal, the birthplace of her husband Pedro Encarnação, for five years now.
Learning to adapt
After graduating from Maryknoll (now Miriam) College with a bachelor of arts degree in communication, Patricia worked for a year as a marketing trainee at Dale Carnegie and Associates in New York City. She then returned to Manila and further honed her sales and marketing skills as corporate sales manager at the Westin Philippine Plaza (now Sofitel Philippine Plaza), international sales manager at Megaworld Properties and Holdings Inc. and senior sales account manager at Mandarin Oriental Manila, which shut down in 2014.
In 2001, she moved to Singapore, where her career flourished even further, working for other international hotel chains Ritz Carlton, Inter Continental and Raffles the Plaza. “That gave me the opportunity to learn, understand and adapt to different cultures,” Patricia says. “It taught me to be flexible and anticipate the needs of my clients from whatever background they came from. At the end of the day, it is the quality of service you deliver that is very important.”
In the Lion City, friends introduced Patricia to Pedro, a graduate of marine biology and aquaculture. The couple wed in March 2011 in Bali, Indonesia in front of family and friends, who flew in from different parts of the world to witness the event. They soon launched a business called “Alentasia,” promoting Portuguese -made products in Singapore. The name was a portmanteau of Portugal’s Alentejo region, where Patricia’s spouse hails from, and Asia, representing her.
“After achieving my dream (of making it) in the hospitality industry, I decided to start my journey as an entrepreneur,” Patricia says. “I headed the company, which introduced gourmet products from Portugal that the market was not familiar with at the time.” To provide the full Portugese experience, the couple also opened the first Portuguese restaurant in Singapore, which, unfortunately had a short shelf life and ultimately closed down. By then, the Encarnaçãos had left to take advantage of “a job offer that Pedro couldn’t turn down,” Patricia says.
The Portuguese and Filipino cultures share many similarities, Patricia attests. “The Portuguese are family-oriented, laid-back, and they enjoy quality of life. They are people-oriented, always willing to help and very hospitable.” Sounds familiar? Such traits made it a breeze for her to adjust to the Encarnação clan and life in her new homeland. “They were welcoming and considered me a part of their family from the beginning. My life did not change much after marriage because my husband and I share the same values and passions, and we like to enjoy life.” Patricia herself belongs to the prominent Ortega clan of La Union. She is the fifth child of lawyer-politician Joaquin “Kining” Ortega and Cleofe “Pet” Balingit Ortega’s brood of 10.
The only wrinkle, so far, has been learning Portuguese, which she describes as “complex.” Lessons and constant integration with the local community have paid off. She says: “I can understand the language more, and speak it with confidence now.”
Patricia’s first stab at employment in Lisbon, Portugal’s capital and the second oldest city in Europe after Athens, was managing luxury properties around the country for a large real estate firm. That gave her time to adapt to the work environment. After a year with the firm, Patricia took that proverbial leap of faith and set up Ortega Realty and Management, paving the way for more challenges to sharpen her sales and marketing skills.
But why real estate?
“Real estate is a growing business in Portugal, which lacks the type of service that I am capable of offering,” Patricia says. “My passion for sales, impeccable service and trustworthy relationships drove me to to work in the real estate industry.” The industry was not really alien to her, as her father also ran a real estate enterprise. Exposure to the business, she adds, “made it easier for me to decide to enter this arena, and I had always been fascinated by his projects.”
Admittedly, it took time for Patricia to find stability, having to source for partners and associates who affirmed her values. “However, I can say that I am currently happy and satisfied with people I now work with, as we share the common goal of providing impeccable service,” she reports. “My bespoke company has been ideal, especially for Filipinos investing in Portugal, making them eligible for the Portugal Golden Visa (the government program that grants them residency in the country and access to other European countries). We guide them through everything they need to know before and after they invest. That’s how we are starting to build our reputation.”
When work gets out of her way, which is rare, Patricia and Pedro go nature tripping. “We like to go out of town and enjoy the beach or mountains,” she reveals. “Portugal has beautiful scenery, and we like to explore the countryside just outside of Lisbon, walk on the cliffs along the shoreline, or just enjoy a deserted beach.
“We are foodies, and it does not always have to be an expensive meal [to make us happy], but we make sure it is a quality one. Anywhere you go in Portugal, you will always find great produce.” Patricia is also conscious about keeping fit and likes going to the gym and engaging in reformer pilates.
Patricia’s proudest moments continue to be those instances when she sees a satisfied client and her business growing by word of mouth. “Through research and constant socializing, I was lucky to find the right network of people in the business,” she says. “And when clients become my friends, I believe that’s the best part of my job and one of my most fulfilling accomplishments.”
This is certainly one transplanted Filipino who not only found her stride in a new environment, but is also thriving beautifully while doing so.
My dad Joaquin “Kining” Ortega for his integrity, intelligence and confidence; my mother Cleofe “Pet” Balingit for her passion for life, charm and resilience
To bring Portuguese products to the Philippines
FIRST PAYING JOB
Marketing associate at Dale Carnegie and Associates in New York, for which I was paid $1,400 monthly
Check my messages and email on my phone
Networking and establishing relationships
TIME SPENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA
An average of two hours a day
SOURCE: The Manila Times > https://www.manilatimes.net/2020/01/19/business/sunday-business/leap-of-faith/675606/