I am a Red Dot Juanderer. And this is my Singapore story.

Working in the hotel industry may seem like it’s all glitz and glam. But for someone who has spent almost two decades in this line of work, it also takes guts and passion to stay afloat in the business — and more so — to rise to the top. Mico Calubayan, Sales and Marketing Director of the newly-opened Mercure Singapore Bugis Hotel, shares her story of challenges and triumphs in the world of tourism and hospitality.

My Singapore Story:

My husband who was working then for Pan Pacific Manila got offered a job at Pan Pacific Singapore in 2006. When I moved to Singapore with him, I also applied and got a job in catering sales at another hotel, Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay. Almost a decade later, I then transitioned to be part of Novotel’s sister property (under AccorHotels) in the pre-opening team of Mercure Singapore Bugis. I’m now on my 10th year working for AccorHotels.

Opening hotels is not an easy task and the journey I had was indeed a learning experience. We opened Mercure Singapore Bugis with only 128 rooms (out of the now-opened 395 rooms) back in June 2016 with no facilities (swimming pool, gym, etc.) yet to offer to guests. Despite having this as a challenge, we managed to pull it through.

The moment I saw the first guests walking in at the hotel, I got teary-eyed. 

There is never a dull moment working at Mercure. My day is always busy with meetings one after the other. Working as the Director of Sales and Marketing (DOSM), you would have to look at the bigger hotel picture — everything that you do in your job will affect the whole operations of the hotel. Holding this DOSM title is definitely my greatest personal career highlight so far.

Sales Versus Marketing:

As the Mercure Singapore Bugis’ DOSM, I’m more involved with profit generation. It’s my first time to oversee marketing for a hotel as I’ve always been purely involved in sales. You need good marketing to create a solid branding for your hotel. I think sales and marketing should complement each other.

Mercure As A Brand:

Mercure is always associated with local communities. The hotel brand is supposed to offer locally-inspired experiences. For Mercure Singapore Bugis, it blends well with the Bugis/Singapore community and you can see some design inspirations in our lobby, rooms, and even the sky deck where you have a good view of the city skyline and the neighborhood. However, Mercure is not just in the local communities as you can also find our hotels near the seashores and the mountains.

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What Is Singapore For Me?

Singapore has transformed from being just a transit city to being a unique destination on its own. For the last 10 years I’ve been here, I’ve seen a lot of grand transformations. There weren’t many things back then yet. Every time we come here for a holiday then, we’ve always wanted to visit again. It was always a wonderful experience traveling here. Even when we were on a holiday, we thought: “Oh, it would be nice to work in a hotel here!” When my husband received his job offer a decade ago, we didn’t have any second thoughts whether to move here or not.

Singapore has made me a better person. It has always been a melting pot of Asia: it has a lot of diverse cultures, beliefs, backgrounds, and religions. You basically need to adapt to this diversity. You can’t have just your own ways and beliefs. You need some form of respect for all individuals. For example in our HDB flat, I can’t just cook dishes with shrimp paste (bagoong) any time of the day because of its strong smell and my neighbors might not be used to that. Similarly, people can’t just bring durian everywhere. You have to think of others as well. I have become mature in that sense.

Importance Of Women In The Hospitality Industry:

I’m a member of “Women at Accor Generation Network” (WAG). They started this company initiative in 2012. In an industry where we welcome a diverse mix of guests, it just makes sense to have a diverse set of team members as well. It’s not just a male-dominated industry. There should be some sort of equality between men and women. Diversity and equality are always at the core of Accor.

Women At Work:

I remember there was one time I was already about to give birth to my kid and I still had to work the night before due to some client commitments. That day, I just came home to sleep for a bit and gave birth the following day. Aside from being committed, women can also multitask — not only at work but also at home.

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Rest Days With The Family:

Rest for me was never about lazing around. We spend family day by going to the park and playing with the kids (Philip, 12, and Max, 6). Boys will always be boys. You have to bring them to places where they can exert their energies such as basketball or in BOUNCE Singapore. We also love watching movies and eating popcorns together.

If I Can Build My Own Mercure Hotel:

Since the Mercure brand is about local inspirations, I think we should have a Mercure resort in Boracay, Philippines. Boracay is something we should be proud of because of its white sand and pristine beaches. I’m also thinking of Norway. My brother-in-law and mother-in-law are residents of Norway that’s why we’ve always wanted to go there. We have a lot of AccorHotels in Norway, and personally, it’s always on my bucket list to see the Northern Lights. It will be good to have one in Machu Picchu, Peru as well as its a world heritage site.

Top Spots In Bugis:

If you take a stroll at Arab Street and Haji Lane, you will find several unique bars and shops there. I also like Bugis Street a lot for shopping. I usually find my hidden gems there such as my fashion accessories and chokers at very affordable prices.

How I Define Success?

Success for me is using these 3 B’s: Be Grateful, Be Responsible, and Be Yourself. Be thankful even despite the challenges. Don’t dwell too much on negativity. Seize the moment. Learn from your mistakes. I always have the optimistic mindset that everything will fall into place. Take ownership of the tasks given to you. If you are not capable yet, ask for support. Be authentic and genuine.

Not everyone will be born to be a certain person handling a big role right away such as being a General Manager or Hotel Director. There’s always a first time for everything. Even as a Philippine President, you can only assume the position once and you can’t rehearse or practice it before becoming officially one. You have to be always on the ball. When you are already in that position, you just need to make the most of it. Learn from the ride and get expertise from other people.

I hear people sometimes saying, “You don’t have the experience yet.” But when will you ever get the experience if you are not given the task to try it?

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Misconceptions About Me:

People think that I’m just a fun-loving, outgoing, or party person. I used to be one, but not anymore now as I already have two kids. You need that sort of commitment to your family. No matter how busy I am, I make sure we always do things together like praying at night and storytelling.

If I Wasn’t Working In The Hotel Industry:

I would probably be a lawyer. I like the idea of being inside a trial court trying to defend someone who is oppressed. If they don’t have the voice, I’ll be their voice.

What I Do Outside Work:

I usually go for runs 3-4x a week. If I’m busy during the weekdays, I try to run on weekends instead. I always want to join half marathons or running events in Singapore. The latest one I’ve joined is the Singapore Zoo Run. It was organized to promote wildlife conservation. My other aim is to visit other countries and participate in their running events. Running stimulates my brain and keeps me fit and healthy.

What If You Could Bring To Life One Character From A Book – Who Would It Be:

It would be Wonderwoman. I believe I am a Wonderwoman in my own way.

About the Red Dot Juanderer:

We are constantly on the lookout for inspiring, aspirational, and relatable stories from our fellow Juans living and working in the Little Red Dot. If you know any Filipino in Singapore that should be our next Red Dot Juanderer, email us at randomrepublika@gmail.com // Interviews and photos by Paolo Avis; Assisted by Jaypee Quitco.


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About Author

RandomRepublika.com: Paolo Avis

Living abroad for more than half a decade now, Paolo works in Singapore as a sales and marketing manager for a luxury travel publication. His creative urges can’t always be contained, hence photography, video documentaries, and blogging are his go-to forms of artistic release. Since he didn’t get to pursue TV production after getting a degree in Communication, Paolo now turns to Random Republika as an outlet to keep himself updated and to share his thoughts on what’s happening in showbiz and beyond. Follow his other stories via Instagram (@bigbluefish).

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