DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Doing the job with a smile has taken this Filipina from arranging liquor bottles on store shelves to managing the customer service department in one of the busiest airports in the Middle East.
As manager for customer service at the Dubai Duty Free, Lilian Vargas, 54, manages a sales staff 1,600, 400 of which are Filipino.
"We [Filipinos] have a good work attitude. If it's a decent job, we do it. We find ways to make work fun, even when displaying liquor bottles," Vargas said in an interview at the Palm Jumeirah Hotel, during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's visit.
The President met with a group of Emirati employers, including Vargas, when she was here in late January to launch a hedging facility and an investment road show for overseas Filipino workers.
Vargas moved to the United Arab Emirates in 1984, after starting a family in the Philippines. She first worked as sales assistant at the liquor and tobacco section of the Dubai Duty Free.
She then rose from the ranks, getting promoted to shop controller, to retail manager, before becoming customer service manager.
"I make sure that everyone going to the airport has a fantastic shopping experience. I think we have become one of the friendliest airports," she said.
Vargas said she recruits staffers from the Philippines, China, and Uzbekistan. She said 25 percent of the entire operations department of the Dubai Duty Free is Filipino.
"Customers love us for that, when we pay attention," Vargas said, when asked if the trademark Filipino hospitality was a plus in her line of work.
The shop floor is unmistakably Dubai, with palm trees and white tent roofs, but the counters and store shelves, even nearby fast food outlets, are run mostly by Filipinos, who greet shoppers with a smile.
Nearing retirement age, Vargas is not about to slow down just yet. She said she wants to stay on until the Dubai Mega Airport finishes construction.