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From FA to baker

Raffy Ayeng



Photo courtesy of Karine Louise Ysobel Santiago.

When some planes did not fly due to the pandemic, it sent the whole aviation industry grounded and many of its workers home.

Even the country’s flag carrier, the Lucio Tan-led Philippine Airlines (PAL), was not spared from the virus-induced catastrophe.

It announced on 12 March a major cut in its workforce by 30 percent. It’s about 2,300 employees who lost jobs via voluntary separation or retrenchment.

Among those who lost a dream career was Karine Louise Ysobel Santiago, a flight attendant from PAL Batch 16-08.

“In my last flight before the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine), as we landed in San Francisco, I was already running a temperature when we got to the hotel. I felt unwell and immediately called my mom. She calmed and told me to just relax, take aspirin for the fever and wait for the flight back,” Santiago said.

Her mom sent her to San Juan de Dios immediately after her return. She had an x-ray and was sent home for self-quarantine for 28 days.

“Then lockdown happened the following month but to my mind, it was going to be a temporary hiccup and things would return to normal. It didn’t. Little by little it dawned on me that the airline industry might get hit tremendously and fear of losing my dream job was very real,” she continued.

Santiago relayed that after some time, there were town hall meetings with the PAL officials offering a “golden handshake” or early retirement.

“I had always believed that when one door closes, another one opens, and God in all His mercy made sure that the one that opened for me was a huge one,” the former flight attendant expressed.


Bounty silver lining

Then she shifted to the cake and dessert business in the comfort of her own home where she is safe from the virus.

“I coped by starting a baking business (The Dessert Kart Ph) and that’s what made me even busier compared to when I was flying. I had never imagined that I would be earning ten times more than what I used to earn in a month,” Santiago stated.

She revealed that her baked goods catering to children were a gold mine because mothers were in a tizzy trying to find activities for their locked-down children.

“I never thought that my passion for baking would end up this successful. My small baking business is going great guns and that makes me really content and unafraid of what the future might bring. I now know I will survive,” she shared.


Another ECQ

“Every time there’s an imposition of ECQ, GCQ, MECQ, it is when my business takes off like crazy. I never took it as a blow but an opportunity to strike, get creative and sell more because kids (who are my target market) will just be at home, and moms will find something really interesting and new for them to do — hence the DIY (do-it-yourself) kits. Many have tried to copy but as I pioneered it, mine has become a household brand,” Santiago averred.

Asked for advice to those who find it hard battling the pandemic, she expressed that anxiety is real, “the fear of getting infected with Covid and the other variants which they say is highly infectious is so real, so think you can cut through it with a knife”.

“Fear paralyzes and fear kills. My friends in the airline industry should focus and pay attention to ensure that they are healthy mentally, emotionally, physically, and best of all spiritually. They need to find their passion or at least get a regular job in the meantime as our Union Officials advised us to do. If and when we get recalled, realistically speaking in 2-4 years time, while the travel industry is doing its best to get back up, we need to find something interesting to do and look for a new pursuit to keep busy while making money to tide us over,” according to her.