Brunei job trade-off: No night life


BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN—They pay much, much less for gas, and get subsidies from the government. But they don’t have a night life.

For the 21,000 Filipinos, there are trade-offs for the “privileges” they enjoy in this rich oil state on the northern coast of Borneo, a two-hour flight from Manila.

The 5,765-square-kilometer Brunei looks a lot like a developed countryside city with a lot of green. Traffic is seamless on landscaped roads, where motorists can race at expressway speed and buildings are constructed far apart. The streets are clean.

In downtown Bandar Seri Begawan, instead of gleaming malls, there is a cluster of old shops.

“There are only two malls here,” a young Bruneian said apologetically while driving a Malacañang media officer in a sleek Toyota Camry through the rain-drenched streets of the capital on Thursday night to his hotel. He said Bruneians hit the sack by 9 p.m.

“It’s quiet here. There’s no violence. There’s no traffic, and there’s no night life to speak of,” said Philippine Ambassador to Brunei Nestor Ochoa. “You watch movies. Otherwise it’s a home-to-workplace routine. That’s the kind of life we have here. Very simple,” he said. “On weekends, people would rather rest.”

Brunei is a predominantly Muslim sultanate rich in oil and gas with a population of more than 400,000. Forbes lists Brunei as the world’s fifth-richest country with a per capita gross domestic product of $50,500.

The sultanate’s laws prohibit public sale and consumption of alcohol, but non-Muslim visitors are allowed to bring in limited amounts for private consumption.

Otherwise, the Filipinos working here are “very fortunate,” Ochoa said.

“While their pay is not that high, they don’t have to pay taxes. The subsidized rice is very cheap. The gas is very cheap, only 51 cents per liter, or P17 per liter. The food is cheap here. You don’t have to spend much,” he told reporters at the Philippine Embassy in the capital’s Diplomatic Enclave on Wednesday.

Of the Filipinos working here, more than a 10th are nurses, doctors, engineers; nearly a fourth are domestic helpers, family drivers and gardeners; and the rest are waiters and waitresses.

Bruneians are so impressed with the work ethic of the multitasking Filipinos that even Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah employs many Filipinos in his palace.

Very professional

Even foreign executives fly to the capital in the hope of recruiting Filipinos for their businesses abroad, Ochoa said.

“They are dependable, skilled, very professional. They’re always smiling. That’s why they keep on recruiting nurses. They prefer Filipino nurses. They could easily adapt to the language and, of course, our tender loving care image is always there,” he said.

Jojo Hernandez, 48, a waiter who rose from the ranks to become manager of the Bruneian-owned Fratini’s Restaurant, said around 100 Filipinos were working under him in Brunei.

“[The] majority of the staff are Filipinos. Our boss trusts the Filipinos much,” he said in an interview at Fratini’s-owned RMS Restaurant on the edge of the Brunei River in the capital’s so-called Water Village, dubbed the Venice of the East.

In Fratini’s chain of restaurants in Brunei, Filipino waiters earn Brunei $1,500 to B$1,800 a month, or P48,000 to P57,600. A Fratini’s restaurant is set to open in Makati City before yearend.

When the two-day 22nd Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was in full swing on Wednesday and Thursday, the venue—the palatial Prime Minister’s Office—was crawling with Filipino workers.

Not all happy

Still, there are semiskilled workers who complain of not being paid for the extra hours they work.

A Filipino utility worker from the northern province of Pangasinan said he planned to fly back home after his contract expires so he could apply for work elsewhere where he could get a better pay than his current B$500 or P16,000.

“We work hard, but it’s a pittance we’re getting,” he said.

Complaints of overworking without just compensation among Filipinos are “normal,” Ochoa said. To address these, the ambassador claimed that the embassy would invite the employers or recruitment agents over to settle the matter with the worker.

In his two years as ambassador, Ochoa said he had received only two complaints of physical abuse from Filipinos against expatriates. “The Bruneians are very kind,” he said.

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  • tekateka

    I just hope that in the future, Filipinos will hire foreigners as their housemaids and servants! For now, I just hope that all politicians drop Dead!

    • kanoy

      LOL!! as I read that article I thought….wow this sounds like a report from a dog show….the dogs behaved so well even the Sultanite kept its own private kennel….GOOD BOY,,,ROLL OVER…BEG….WAG YOUR TAIL….GOOD BOY….HERE’S BONE

      • shane oy

        you think ofws are dogs? wow here is somebody who thinks he is human and talks as if he is. Maybe just maybe you are human. take a good look at yourself in the mirror, i hope you could see a semblance of humanity on the otherside.

      • $5699914

        You are the best example for a bwakangina mo, hindotka, tangnamo person.

    • Marx Louis Wang

      Magkakatutuo lang yan if our attitudes will change for the better.

  • boybakal

    Even foreign executives fly to the capital in the hope of recruiting Filipinos for their businesses abroad, Ochoa said.
    “They are dependable, skilled, very professional. They’re always smiling. That’s why they keep on recruiting nurses. They prefer Filipino nurses. They could easily adapt to the language and, of course, our tender loving care image is always there,” he said..

    Very true…That’s where you are proud to be a Filipino when you read a comment like that.

    • kanoy

      Funny to see a country whose main source of income comes from HUMAN TRAFFICKING not only exploits them by promoting the world to ”COME ONE COME ALL GET YOUR SLAVES RIGHT HERE” boastful attitudes while watching millions of families being torn apart and not even lifting a finger of financial help,,,,arrest or charge anyone here with HUMAN TRAFFICKING

      THIS>> they got good teeth strong backs eat little talk less kiss a$$ lick boots very cheap

      so degrading detrimental to raise the kids to be world slaves tsk tsk

      • rock_steady

        Slaves? Since when has being employed meant slavery? You must be jobless.

      • It’s Up To You

        how do you define HUMAN TRAFFICKING? maybe you have your own definition. why don’t you share it to the world?

      • shane oy

        oh here you are again. so pretending to be human is not enough huh. what virus are you spreading now? Oh that one – you are eating gold and spews gold as your sh it. A wolf pretending to care for the family but despises the humanity of those who chose to fed their families by going elsewhere other than hanging by the sticks given by these so-called honorable humans.

        what’s the color of your blood, is it blue?

  • riccisan

    Almost all Islamic governments are like that. less prices on food, transport, and all other basic commodities. if the spanish didnt come here, maybe we are a Muslim state by now.

    • rock_steady

      we were predominantly muslim until the Spaniards came. But being islamic does not mean it’s all good. Look at Iraq and Afghanistan. Brunei can only afford to be that generous because they are sitting on petroleum.

      • danny cubillas

        bakit un iraq libya syria may mga langis din pero bkit magulo ang bansa nila?

      • It’s Up To You

        dahil nakikisawsaw ang mga bansang america, russia, iran at china sa internal affairs ng bansang binanggit mo. nasaan ang weapon of mass destruction na hinahanap ng america sa iraq, wala kahit anino wala.

      • Mark

        Kung wala ang America, ung buong GCC (governed by Sunni muslim) ay under na ng IRAQ (Shia muslim). Hangang ngaun ang buong GCC ay naka depende pa rin sa proteksyon ng America laban sa Iran at Syria.

      • It’s Up To You

        Kung hindi dahil sa GCC walang nakapagtala sa kasaysayan ng mundo ng may pinakamaraming napatay na KANO sa iisang araw, ayon din mismo sa america mo, kundi ang 19 highjackers na mostly taga GCC.

        ngayon paano kamo nakasalalay ang buong GCC sa america kung ang america mismo hindi kaya protektahan ang kanilang sarili. lalo pa sa mga movie, school massacres at bombing everywhere, aber!

      • Mark

        Wala bang massacre sa GCC?

        Masakit bang tangapin na ung sinusuka mong America ay ang bansa kung saan galing karamihan ang mga sandatang pang depensa ng mga GCC?

        -Kung saan may US bases sa GCC.

        -Kung saan sa America naka depende ang kanilang seguridad.

        -Kung saan mula kotse, alak, damit hangang pagkain paborito ng GCC ang galing America

        -Kung saan pag may sakit ang mga hari, principe, sheik at iba pang VIP na mula sa GCC ay sa America sila nagpapagamot.

        -Kung saan ung mga mayayamang bata mula sa GCC ay sa America nag aaral.

        Murahin at kasuklaman mo man ang America, hindi mo maaalis ang America sa GCC dahil mas kailangan ng GCC ang America kaysa kailangan ng America ang GCC.

      • It’s Up To You

        Wala bang massacre sa GCC?
        – masakit man tanggapin pero wala! kung may alam ka man di ko alam paki share naman. GCC kamo ha, tsaka GCC citizen dapat kamo ang gumawa ng krimen.

        Masakit bang tangapin na ung sinusuka mong America ay ang bansa kung saan galing karamihan ang mga sandatang pang depensa ng mga GCC?
        – di ko naman sinusuka ang amerika mo, ang totoo niyan taihan ko, sukahan ko at ihian ko ang amerika mo dahil doon ako namamasyal maliban pa sa europe kada taon.

        Kung saan may US bases sa GCC.
        – patunay na ang amerika mo ay nagsisilbi lang o para mas maintindihan mo security guard ng GCC ang amerika dahil yun ang nararapat sa kanila magsilbi sa kaharian ng mga GCC.

        Kung saan sa America naka depende ang kanilang seguridad.
        – tama! naranasan mo na ba pumasok sa jollibee na binubuksan ka ng guwardiya sabay bati sa iyo ng good morning sir. yan ang ayaw na ayaw ng guwardiya na pasukin fastfood chain. kaya yun din ang turing ng GCC sa amerika mo. Guwardiya na taga bantay di ka nagkamali.

        Kung saan mula kotse, alak, damit hangang pagkain paborito ng GCC ang galing America.
        -nnnggggkk!! Mali. FYI japanese (vips) made na car ang favorite ng taga GCC sunod korean made (commoner, rent-a-car) last and the least amerika mo made na car para sa mga police (ford) guards (gmc & chev) kita mo ultimo kotse ng amerika mo pangguwardiya din ang dating. alak?! lalong mali. dahil walang tunay na taga GCC na muslim ang umiinom. damit?! fyi mixed dito ng france at italy ang may fashion taste hindi amerikano mong products.

        Kung saan pag may sakit ang mga hari, principe, sheik at iba pang VIP na mula sa GCC ay sa America sila nagpapagamot.
        – tama kasi yan yung specialty nila. katulad halimbawa nung mga naghuhugas ng puwet ng kano di ba pinoy. tapos ang kano naman taga pag-tutuli, taga bunot ng ngipin, taga-tiris ng tagihawat, at taga hugas puwet naman ng taga GCC ay walang iba kundi ang mga amerikano mo.

        Kung saan ung mga mayayamang bata mula sa GCC ay sa America nag aaral.
        -iba lang hindi lahat. tama ka na naman kasi yan ang papel nila sa mundo turuan ang mga mangmang na taga GCC kasi yun ang hanap buhay nila. ang taga GCC pupunta sa amerika para magwaldas ng pera para gumastos at kumita naman ang amerikano mo (tulad ko kapag napunta ako). ang amerikano mo pupunta sa GCC para magtrabaho, magbunot ng buto dito at kumikita naman sila sa pera ng GCC in return.

        Murahin at kasuklaman mo man ang America, hindi mo maaalis ang America sa GCC dahil mas kailangan ng GCC ang America kaysa kailangan ng America ang GCC.
        – yan ang pananaw mo? mali ka kabayan! kung ang india, china ay sobrang takaw sa langis dahil sa dami ng bilang ng kunsumo nila sa kanilang pagunlad hindi nila maisuka ang GCC, ay mas higit lalo na ang amerika mo dahil mas malaki ang pangangailangan nila ng langis. hanggat mayroon patak ng langis dito sa GCC hinding-hindi yan malalayasan ng amerika mo dahil sipsipin nila kahit huling patak ng ihi ng langis mayroon ang GCC.
        – subukan mo hanapin sa google nang minsan ng sabihin ni haring faisal na sanay ang mga arab uminom ng gatas ng kamel at kumain ng dates sa gitna ng disyerto nung panahon ng oil embargo crisis. eh ang amerika mo sanay kaya di kumain ng tatlong beses sa isang araw? sino kamo ang sumuko at natakot na mawalan? ang amerikano mo!

        Conclusion. Kahit ano pang sabihin mo di na kitata pagaaksayahan ng panahon. dahil habang sinasagot ko itong pang-grade school mong alam tungkol sa GCC at amerikano mo ay napatunayan ko na wala ka pa sa 1/8 sa kaalaman ko. kawawa ka di ka kasi nag-aral ng husto. tsk! tsk!

      • Mark

        “Conclusion. Kahit ano pang sabihin mo di na kitata pagaaksayahan ng panahon.”

        Sa haba ng sinulat mo, eh ayaw mo pala akong pagaksayahan ng panahon, tnx na lang sa reply mo pre.

      • Marx Louis Wang

        The quality of their oil is not like that of Brunei.

      • Panhik Panaog

        What? The quality of their oil is somewhat connected to the decades old conflict in the middle east? #smh

      • Panhik Panaog

        For the most part, middle east countries were formed by alliance of several tribes. These tribes fought and killed each other for centuries. They combine their forces to fight a common enemy (Europeans in the middle ages – religion; Europeans and Americans now – yes oil).

        For example Saudi Arabia was formed after a bloody war between two tribes (Bedouins and Rashidis). They kicked out the Turks and formed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The peace the occurred afterwards paved the way for discovery of oil, which ironically, brought in more outsiders (which they violently killed and died for).

        Iraq and Libya is going through what the Philippines went through after the Marcos regime – only with more dead bodies.

        The Sunni’s and Shiites are fighting it out in Iraq and Syria.

        Brunei has been ruled by the same family for more than a century now. They had civil wars before and minor conflicts with neighbors (Indonesia and Kumintang conflict). There are some ramblings inside Brunei years ago when the state coffers were being used by the younger brother or the Sultan as his personal piggy bank. He was quickly reprimanded by his brother. Other than that, no real big issue. People are wealthy and lives a good life.

      • It’s Up To You

        you will understand fully what religion islam is when you’re one of them. besides ricci santiago said Islamic governments care for citizens.

      • rock_steady

        i have nothing against islam or any religion. what i’m saying is, religion does not define a country’s economic status.

      • It’s Up To You

        first, i commend you for being open minded towards religion. however, i want you to know how God is so powerful, but i won’t quote any verse from any religion’s divine revelation so as not to aggravate my argument…

        let me start, if any employee believes, obeys and follows his/her company’s (group) rules, master (employer)… etc… he/she will not just get bonus, benefit but might even get promoted for being loyal, outstanding employee… etc… irrespective of loser employees.

        a successful company has achieved success because of its well organized RR, policy & etc. that employees adhered to, followed and implemented irrespective of clients in default.

        in other words, if a ceo of a big firm is able to handle his/her company’s affairs, success & etc. of course, without any DOUBT, God can make His religion defines any country on earth economically productive IF people believe, obey, worship Him… etc. irrespective of few disobeying slaves.

      • Panhik Panaog

        Some of the world’s successful corporation are/were run by atheist. Bill Gates is one of them. There is no connection between a company’s success and religion.

      • It’s Up To You

        I just elaborated that if man can succeed his affair then it must be no doubt that God can get any country succeed through his anointed religion.

        You got it?

      • Panhik Panaog

        You explained your belief in a supreme being (Allah, God Father, Buddha etc). That they can do anything including making your life better financially. That’s what you said, right?

        “God can get any country succeed through his anointed religion.”

        Please explain the Philippines vs Japan (over half of the population does not believe in a deity).

      • It’s Up To You

        Good point:
        – Japan, Germany, USA, South Korea… etc. have been successful because they work very, very hard to make ends meet. What do you think if they stop working, manufacturing, producing… etc. their talents, inventions, crops… etc. where they should depend their stuff that melts in mouth.

        – On the other hand: did you not realize that these lazy arabs, who do not know how to wash their own dishes, car, toilet are blessed with abundant oil and gold graciously. Malaysia, and Brunei itself have oil.

        Can you differentiate why these happening, because God is so powerful beyond, human being, our intellects.

      • $5699914

        No we were not. That is only a myth.

        Only Mindanao were predominantly muslims, but not the entire archipelago.
        Look, there are those lumad, negritos, igorots, mangyan, etc.

      • riccisan

        its not a myth, just analyze the phil. history books, especially those in Sibika. the people from nearby Islamic countries like Malaysia, Indonesia etc. are already trading with us for a long time. the Spaniards just became aggressive on spreading Christianity. The Negritos and other tribes you are talking about are minorities which can be turned into Islam, but was left behind .cheers.

      • $5699914

        Not because we were trading with them it would follow that all of our ancestors hugged their religious belief. At the same time, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. were under the majapahit empire, which were not initially muslims.
        And I do not see the igorot/Ifugao and other northern-Philis inhabitants as minorities.
        Hence, it is still a myth.

      • Cobra

        Iraq has a higher standard of living than Brunei before tha Yanks made sure they are back to the 18th century,Afghanistan has been under the influence of different western nations,but also Russia,Vietnam only progressed after the North Vietnamese drove the Americans away & re-united Vietnam.So don’t believe in too much western propaganda either.Iraq is sitting on one of the largest known oil reserve but due to the war imposed on them & now the troubles,has to queue for petrol & people are starving while foreigners are sucking up their oil.

    • Al Fred

      tuition fees in schools being run and managed by catholic priests are exceptionally expensive and unreachable by average-earner filipinos . . .

  • Yet Jua

    i worked in Brunei Shell Petroleum in the 90’s for less than 3 years and the pay was very good as compared to those in the Middle East.I was in an off-shore assignment as a NDT Technician and then became a Welding Inspector.The good thing in my work was that it was a 1 month- on and 1 month- off schedule (1 month-off fully paid as a 1 month vacation).So i happened to go home to the Phillipines every other month all paid including the airline ticket.Yes its true Brunei was such a boring place. But every week we gather in one of our friends rented house in town and have a couple of drinks and karaoke just to take away that feeling of loneliness.

  • Marx Louis Wang

    400,000 population? Maybe if their religion is R.Catholic like PH baka 4,000,000 na ‘yan!

  • kentjohn

    mqay tgay nman dyan ..tanduayy andy player lhat galing pinas mayroon mAHAL LNG KADALSAN GLING SA MALAYSIA DHIL ILOG LNG ANG PAGITAN MY MGA RUNNER PA ORDER KLANG///

  • boybakal

    The only sad in this story is….
    The Sultan of Brunei becomes the Richest Man in the world while The Sultan of Sulu is the poorest man among Sultans.

    The Sultan of Brunei stuck to his kingdom and stayed while the Sultan made his way to Sulu and left his kingdom Sabah to the British.
    The rest is history….The Sultan and the Pauper.

  • mabyrik

    I’ve been to several countries as a consultant and the most memorable and most pleasant and enjoyable was in BSB. Ambassador Ochoa is correct. Bruneians are very nice people, friendly, and accommodating.
    I spent 4 good years in Brunei (BSP where Yet Chua below said he worked for was one of our clients) and those 4 years were the best I had while outside the Philippines. I was in Lagos, Nigeria, Jakarta and Bangkok (these are also nice), Jeddah, Benin Republic, South Africa, but my experience in these countries were forgettable. Now, I’m in the US. But life here is not as easy as one may think.
    If given the chance to go to BSB again, I will gladly do so. It’s worth the homesick.

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