Saturday, 24 April 2010

Meeting the demand of hotels and restaurants

Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas
Philippine Daily Inquirer

AS BOTH DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN TOURISM grow at more rapid rates in the next 10 years, there will be an expanding demand for workers in the hotel and restaurant industries. The pressure on our technical training institutions to produce highly-qualified hotel and restaurant workers will be greater, considering that our local tourism industry will have to compete with foreign establishments that have gotten used to hiring Filipino workers. A large portion of our OFWs are actually working as chefs, waiters, food attendants, dining supervisors, bartenders, etc. in both land-based and sea-based tourism establishments all over the world. We have to produce for our own needs and those of the outside world. Filipinos are among the most sought-after workers in the international tourism industry.

A model technical school producing hotel and restaurant workers is the Punlaan School in San Juan, Metro Manila. It is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year and has produced hundreds of very high-quality workers for the top hotels and restaurants. It is a Tesda-certified school and has a track record of 100-percent passing rate of all graduates in the four competencies of Commercial Cooking NCII, Housekeeping NCII, Food and Beverage Services NCII, and Baking/Pastry Production NCII.

What is highly appreciated by its partner institutions is not only the attention to details of the students and graduates of Punlaan, which makes them excel in their respective specialized skills. Even more appreciated are the work attitudes and values inculcated meticulously by the faculty and staff of Punlaan, which is a project of the Foundation for Professional Training Inc. and whose spiritual direction is entrusted to the Prelature of Opus Dei. One of the many testimonials about the work attitudes of graduates of Punlaan comes from Martin Lorenzo, president of Pancake House Inc. In the school’s 16th commencement exercises, Lorenzo said in his keynote speech: “Punlaan is a unique choice because this institution imparts not only technical training. It also places an equally strong emphasis on character-building and work ethics which will serve you well as you move on to the next phase of your life. The lesson for us all in whatever field or industry we may choose to participate, our work must be directed towards a happy and fulfilled life with our families and loved ones.”

Those who are trained at Punlaan come from the lower-income households in the country. Thanks to the generous assistance of corporate and individual donors, all the students are on scholarship. To get a flavor of the type of students and the training system of Punlaan, let me quote extensively from one of the graduates, Doriegail Medel, who is now dining supervisor of the Chesa Bianca Swiss Restaurant in Manila: “I am the second among five siblings. My mother is a housewife and my father is a driver. My parents earned just enough for us to eat three meals a day. Unfortunately, my father got sick of tuberculosis so he had to stop working. Being the eldest daughter, I had to stop studying and look for a job to help with the expenses at home and for my father’s medication.

“In 2004, my father passed away. That saddest year of my life, God opened a window by showing me an opportunity to continue my studies through Punlaan School. Luckily, I qualified to be a scholar. In school, though I had difficulty coping with the intensive program, my vision to finish the course inspired me to persevere.

“At the moment, I am employed at Chesa Bianca Swiss Restaurant with the designation of dining supervisor—a challenging role for me .... I am now the breadwinner and pay for family expenses and help send my younger siblings to school. With this achievement and opportunity given to me, I am thankful and see myself serving the industry for a long time.”

This story has been multiplied scores of times with individuals in similar circumstances—like Lorielyn Stanislao (Hyatt Hotel and Casino), Josephine Torate (pastry chef, CAV Wine Shop), Teresa Mendoza (captain waitress in Manila Peninsula), Maribel Zamora (cruise liner), and many others. Young girls coming from families with meager economic means have received training, human and spiritual formation so that they have succeeded in obtaining dignified employment in one of the most promising industries in the coming decades. Punlaan’s dual training program, which combines classroom and theoretical instruction with actual on-the-job training at cooperating enterprises should be a model for other technical schools under Tesda’s supervision. This training method assures an ideal match between the curriculum of schools and the actual needs of industry. Those who are interested to know more about Punlaan can go to the website or call 727-0581 or email

Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas is senior vice president of the University of Asia and the Pacific. For comments, his email address is

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