Patria Puyat was recently appointed director of conferences and events at the luxurious InterContinental Hotels Group Dubai Festival City (IHG DFC). She has also been appointed director in the hotel’s executive committee, the first Asian in the top level team.
For sure, she and many other upcoming Filipino hoteliers are breaking the long held European and American dominance in executive positions in international hotels.
In a recent e-mail to her family and friends, Papat—as she is fondly called—expresses confidence in the Filipinos in the Middle East:
“Middle East companies have started to open their top level positions to Asians, including Filipinos, because of the tremendous talent and hard work they show. I am just an example.”
A scion of the industrialist Puyat family in the Philippines, Patria could have joined the family businesses or gone into politics where the Puyat clan also thrives. But she says a career in the hotel and hospitality industry was her childhood dream.
She is the eldest daughter of businessman and former congressman Gonzalo “Lito” G. Puyat II. Her dad, one of the business leaders who joined the struggle for the restoration of democracy in the Philippines in 1986, also served as president of the International Amateur Basketball Federation (FIBA) and helped form both the Philippine Sports Commission and the Basketball Association of the Philippine. She says it is her Dad who has a profound influence in her as a person and leader.
As a child, Papat and her family would enjoy their weekends at a posh hotel near their village in Makati. “As a child, I would frequent The Hotel Intercontinental Manila as it was very close to our home. It was the favorite place of my parents to unwind and conduct informal business meetings. The famous Jeepney Coffee Shop is where we used to hang out.”
“I still remember and will never forget those beautiful hotel lady employees or executives in black jackets and pinstriped skirts who would welcome and attend to their guests as they came in. These images are still vividly etched in my mind. At a very tender age, I thought it extremely glamorous to work in that hotel, and told myself I wanted to work at Intercontinental Manila someday,” says Patria.
Her parents thought she would have a much more comfortable life staying in the family’s businesses. But sensing her determination and strong will, her parents finally gave in and sent her to Switzerland to study Hotel and Restaurant Management, a year after she graduated from the Assumption College-San Lorenzo.
“Actually, a protracted debate with my father ensued after I told him that I was determined to pursue a degree in HRM. My parents hoped that I would enter a law or business school. Having convinced them that I could excel in my chosen field of endeavor, they decided that the best college for me was Le Roches,” says Patria.
By the way, Patria is the Spanish word for country. Her dad says that the name was actually derived from his beloved Lola Patria Gil, spouse of former Senator Pedro Gil.
After her studies in Switzerland, Papat came home to start work. After a series of interviews, she was hired by the InterContinental Hotel Manila as a sales executive.
Up the ranks
Over the next ten years she rose from the ranks through hard work. She served as senior sales manager, banquet manager, director of catering and later as food and beverage director at InterContinental Manila.
She tried another hotel as well, working as director of catering and conventions at the Westin Philippine Plaza from 2001 to 2005. It was during her stint there that she met and married her husband, Tinggoy Palanca. They have two children, Sebastian Gonzalo and Mikaela.
She also had experience in related establishments. From 2006 to 2009, she was general manager of the Manila Polo Club (MPC).
Towards the end of 2009, a former colleague at the Intercon informed her of an opening at The InterContinental Hotels Group Dubai Festival City (IHG DFC) that she might be interested in.
In January 2010, Papat moved to Dubai to take up the overseas job. As director of conferences and events for IHG DFC, she has become the point person of the hotel’s campaign to convince companies and organizations in the United Arab Emirates and around the world to hold their company events in Dubai.
She is also tasked to oversee the Event Center (InterContinental Crown Plaza) as well as the Al Badia Golf Club and Festival Park Concert on top of having full responsibility in banquet operations.
She was nominated in the Hotel Industry’s annual search for Caterer Middle East Awards 2012.
Papat’s family moved to Dubai with her. This gift has made her life in Dubai more enjoyable. The family enjoys going around the malls.
“In malls, people you meet or just come across smile and show their friendliness. Here in Dubai, you meet people of many nationalities—Americans, Asians, Europeans and Middle Easterners. Everyone just seems friendly towards each other.”
The family, however, was home for the holiday season.
Dubai is tops
Truly, Papat believes that Filipinos can survive in any part of the world as long as they sincerely care for each other. In terms of career opportunities, Papat believes that Dubai is like a gold mine ready to be explored.
“In Dubai, the career norms or standards are pretty high. While the atmosphere is more relaxed, cordial and even festive the whole year round, one cannot bluff one’s way through. One must have a solid grasp of his tasks at hand in order to proceed to the next levels.
Here in Dubai, the Filipinos can be at the top of the game. The rewards are immeasurable,” Papat declares.
Today, her proud father Lito is the first to say “There was never any iota of doubt in my mind that Papat would make it to the top. She gave up the comfort of working with the family business. She wanted to pursue her own career no matter how uncertain her path would be. She was willing to take on the work and the challenges that would come her way.”