They say it’s not always easy following in your parents’ footsteps when determining your career path, especially when the road is not an easy path to take. This is a lesson Aniceto “John” Bertiz 3rd learned the hard way when, at a young age, he made a decision to become an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) like his own father, without telling him he had done so.
It was a gamble he says he took then, given his family’s dire financial circumstances, and it was one that he is now grateful he had taken. Bertiz is the president & CEO of Global Asia Alliance Consultant Inc., one of the country’s biggest recruitment agencies that prides itself as a promoter of ethical recruitment practices in the industry.
Bertiz says his father belonged to the first wave of OFWs in the 70s that went to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where he worked in an auto dealership. After some time, he says, his father eventually went back home where he, along with his wife, put up a small meat dealership and sold meat to various public markets. But while in college, Bertiz says his mother got sick and his father was forced to return to his work overseas. At that time, he says, he and his three other siblings were all in school and the money his dad was sending simply wasn’t enough. So, he decided to apply for an overseas posting as a clerk, right before his graduation in 1992, and flew to Saudi Arabia when he was only 18 years old. As it happened, he applied in the same company where his dad was working at that time, yet he didn’t let his dad know, until his father was informed by their company driver in Saudi Arabia. “I felt I had no choice, because I see our family’s financial hardships, and I was the one who was trying to budget everything.”
He admits the experience of going to Saudi Arabia to work at a young age was a shock for him, as he knew very little then about his host country’s culture. He says his father cried upon learning he was going there, and went with the company driver to fetch him and a few others from the airport. He himself faced his first challenge upon landing at the airport, as he narrates, “I was sporting long hair back then, and because I had fair skin, I was taken aside by the authorities, interrogated and searched, because they thought I was a girl.”
Once there, Bertiz says he worked hard and got promoted fast. He also took on other jobs on the side, such as designing and drawing for construction and architectural firms using Autocad software. Soon, he transferred from one company to the next, eventually landing himself a job as an office manager reporting to the president in the automotive division of Al Jazeera– one of the biggest corporations in Saudi Arabia. It was also here where he honed his skills in the human resources department and gained a wide network, and he started thinking about putting up his own recruitment company back in the Philippines. He told himself, “If I’m going back to the Philippines, this is the business I would like to put up.” It was also around the same time that he wanted to start his own family.
Yet in coming back home in 1997, the first business that he put up was a hair salon. His venture became successful but eventually, he says, he was looking for something more, and gave the business to his wife. Soon after that, he was offered a job as a marketing consultant for a local recruitment agency that was about to close down. His job was to try to salvage the company by getting more job placements overseas. “In less than two months, I was able to put in at least 15 major companies,” he said. But he soon had a falling out with the company because he was not paid what was promised him. It was at this point that he decided to put up his own, called Global Asia Alliance Consultant Inc.
Since putting up Global Asia in 2000, Bertiz says his company grew fast until they became what they are now today. The company offers job placements both here and abroad and is one of the recognized leaders in providing employment in the hotel and resort industry as well. What makes his company different from most, he says, is that they promote ethical recruitment practices in an effort to help uplift the state of their industry today. “I want to try and remove the stigma that is attached to recruitment agencies, and professionalize it by leading through example.”
Soon, his work became his advocacy, becoming one of the spokespersons not only for the recruitment sector but also for the OFWs. Bertiz is now the official spokesman for the OFW Advocates Coalition, a coalition of more than 15 OFW advocates and organizations which has lobbied against several controversial issues. He was also recently given the Mr. Citizen of the World Award 2015 and 1st Kabayani Award conferred by Kabayanihan Foundation president Alex Lacson, in recognition of his remarkable achievement as a former overseas Filipino worker who made a difference in his chosen field.
Bertiz admits that being an advocate for OFWs is no walk in the park, but he feels compelled to doing it because he knows how hard it is to be a migrant worker. By doing what he does, he hopes to be an example to his fellow OFWs, that they too can be successful in putting up their own business ventures or in taking a new career path when they come back home. Because in the end, he says, although working abroad gives one the financial resources they need, there is really no substitute for working in a place where one’s heart truly is. And that, for him, is none other than back home.