Saturday Success Story #17: Joannalene Escarlos-Abayon

By Alpha Miguel-Sanford

As in my previous blog interviews, every time this chance arrives I am as excited as a young child on Christmas Day unwrapping Santa’s gifts. There is always something that makes me jump for joy and draw a smile on my face whenever I interview and write about these people that I admire. This is partly because I am truly enamored by all the happy-endings of every story, or the lesson learned, or the mistakes made and how these have transformed the person’s life. Each of these stories brings thoughts, inspiration and most all, just a pure sense of happiness. And every time I get to finish the interview and review the answers, I feel like I have just received a dusting of the fairy godmother’s pixie dust and I feel like it is my responsibility to sprinkle some of the magical dust on you, as well!

And this is what I am doing right now with Ms. Joannalene Escarlos-Abayon’s story –  a working mother of two, an executive assistant to a business honcho, wife and  a great humorist!

Her story was something I want to be heard. Her story is something that some recent college graduates need to know and people like you and I need to be inspired more. Her story is authenticated with the perfect blend of  life’s yin and yang: failure, disappointments, laughter, sadness, hopes, victory and then, love.

Growing up with her is synonymous to gas pains due to excessive laughter! I remember hanging out in their house with the presence of their house help/mayor doma (as what we used to call her), Manang Dioning, we would be served with food and most of all, numerous stories filled with happiness and amusement.  I always thought she was born with a sack of infinite jest and if needed for a moment or two, she can just pull out from that sack, a joke or something that will liven up the day! However, the best thing about her is despite her wittiness, she knows when to listen and when to be a friend. We’ve shared many days and nights dreaming about what we would want to be when we grow up – with two of our bestfriends, Marifil delos Santos and Josephine de Leon. At times when we were permitted, we would go up to her room where we could overlook the Camiling skyline – and talk about our future, and of course our crushes (we were always  careful of our volume when we talked about boys during that time). She is my childhood friend, whom  riding bikes and buying baked goods from Lalog Bakery was our favorite past time – not to mention going to their house, almost every week to watch the latest Hollywood movie.

Lhen, as we call her – has created many names to many people and has made many people laugh and smile. In fact, she was the one who nicknamed me “Mhegs”. She has that incredible gift with words and stories - and she continues to share not only her gift of hilarity but her many talents to the people around her.

This is her story:

AMS:  You and haven’t seen each other for a long time. What is new with you, Len? and of course, How are you?


Joannalene: I haven’t seen you in ages, Mhegs. If I am not mistaken, the last time we saw each other was July 2003 during my despedida (going-away party). You gave me a white hanky and a car keychain. You mentioned in your note that the hanky will help me wipe my tears in case I suffer homesickness and the car key chain will inspire me to have my own car soon which was a dream come true. I was 21 years old and single that time. Now, I’m turning 30, married and a mother of two adorable kids (Yona and Edric) although sometimes I consider my husband (Mr. Joy Abayon of Masbate, Philippines) as my eldest among my kids. I’m still same old wacky Lhen you knew since elementary although there’s a big change in me physically.

AMS: Could you please tell us your background? I know I can vaguely remember how you got to Abu Dhabi - could you please tell us how did you get to where you are now?

Joannalene: I’m a graduate of BS Accountancy from PSBA-QC and a Certified Office Administrator from New York Institute of Business Studies. Right after graduating college, I asked my mom regarding what salary I get if ever I decide to work in a bank based in our locality. She frankly told me that as a fresh graduate, I would get around 3,000 to 4,000 pesos monthly, net of tax. I got frustrated when she told me that because it’s almost the same as my monthly allowance during college. The only difference is that I work this time and not study. Since, I have an ambition in life and my dreams are bigger than I am I decided to leave the country in search for greener pastures. And I ended up in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. I was 21 years old, no work experience and looking for a job in a foreign country. I was lucky because my grandmother’s sister owns a company here so I started working there. After a few years of gaining experience, I moved on and joined several companies. I am now working for Baker Hughes as an Executive Assistant to the Vice President of the Gulf Geomarket. My work primarily is to assist my boss for all his business commitments and ensure that his focus remains on important tasks and that his time is productively utilized. I’m also responsible for the day-to-day business of our office and makes sure that we operate smoothly.

AMS: What is it like to achieve what you have now? Do you think your parents are very proud of you?


Joannalene: It’s fulfilling to know where I am and what I have now. Everything that I have dreamed of when I was a child is becoming a reality. Aiming for success is a long journey but I know I will get there. I know I can. I think my parents are proud of my achievements and also because I have given them two sweet grandchildren. That is priceless to them.

AMS: Who are your inspirations in life? What motivated you to become who you are today?


Joannalene: My family especially my kids (Yona and Edric) inspire me in everything I do. They’re my life. What motivated me? Until you have asked me this question, I have not thought about what truly motivated me to become of who I am today. I value my family and I guess that forces me unconsciously in everything I do. I always want the best for them.

AMS: When you were trying to achieve where you are right now, did you experience some disappointments and failures? What are they? Can you explain how you overcome these circumstances?


Joannalene: Not everything in life is easy. I failed to become a Certified Public Accountant. It’s a depressing stage of my life especially when you know that your family is counting on you. It’s hard to accept that you failed them. But I never gave up finding a better path for me. I have faith that God has something better for me. And it does…..that is if you believe. That failure became my driving force to become successful.

AMS: Has anyone of your friends, relatives ever told you what qualities they admire about you? What are they?


Joannalene: My boss and I had a recent talk regarding my performance. And it’s flattering to know that I never failed to impress him with my work. Resourcefulness is innate in me. Madiskarte at maabilidad nga raw ako sa buhay. (According to him, I am very resouceful and smart in life.) I can handle pressure and I have the ability to deal with difficult people. They say my good sense of humor makes it easy for me to deal with them.

AMS: Can you share to us your philosophy in life and how this affected your success.


Joannalene: A few things here:

1. Always have faith in GOD.
2. Love the people who treat you right and pray for the ones who don’t. Apply the “Law of the Garbage Truck.”
3. Always think positive.
4. Believe in yourself. Be confident.
5. Lahat ng problema may solusyon, kung walang solusyon wag mong problemahin. (All problems have solutions; if there is no solution to it, then don’t dwell on it.”
Just a few of my favorite quotes in life. When you are optimistic in life, happiness and success in everything you do follows.

AMS:  What do you think are the three most important things/skills that a person who is aspiring to be successful in their chosen career?

Joannalene: FOCUS – Set your goal and stick to it. ; CONFIDENCE – Always believe in yourself that you can do it.  and KNOWLEDGE - You need to work smarter and not harder.

AMS: As a Filipino working in a foreign country, what has been some of the most influential events you’ve experienced? Can you really say that Filipinos are really great and take pride in their work?


Joannalene: Nothing much to share about influential events. There are many Filipinos in UAE. They work as engineers, nurses or hospital workers, accountants, office workers, construction workers, house helper, restaurant workers are just few to mention. And I am proud to say that Filipinos are really talented and a smart breed of people. As per my personal experience in the workplace, a Filipino will always want to excel in everything he does. And no matter how bad things get, we always seem to find something to smile about to keep us going.

AMS:  Did you have a mentor or a teacher or somebody in your family who has given you some words of wisdom? Can you tell us about this person and how he/she impacted you?


Joannalene: Aside from my Papa and Mama’s (Mr. Marlo Escarlos and Ms. Delia Agustin) words of wisdom. Ate Lorna Al Yaqobi, is my mentor. She’s like a big sister to me. She’s from Vigan, Philippines a mother of three children and married to a local. As an expat, I consider her husband as one of the most influential man in the UAE. I admire her for what she has gone through to be successful. As the old folks say, if you want to be successful, you should rub elbows with other successful people.

AMS: What would be your next goal – for your professional development? For your family?


Joannalene: I wanted to study or take another professional qualification to progress in my career. But I’ll have to wait until my kids are independent. I wanted to enjoy them while they’re still young. My kids are still very young so my goal is for them to enjoy their childhood. There’s no greater joy for parents than watching their children grow up happy and become good human beings.

AMS:  Did your drive for success and life change after having two babies?


Joannalene: Yes, it’s a tough job to be a working mom especially if you have two young kiddos. You need to strive harder in order to meet your goal. But I’m glad to have them while I’m young because I have the energy and strength I needed to handle the responsibilities I have in my job and in my family.

AMS: What is the most challenging part of being a Mom and also a full-time career woman?


Joannalene: It’s finding the right balance of being a mother, a wife and a full time career woman. Parenthood is like a spinning blender without a cap on. It’s an unimaginable situation that you go through everyday in your life. Until now, I’m still trying to get the right balance.

AMS: Finally, what is your definition of success.


Joannalene: I can define it with one word – Happiness! To be successful you need to be happy. Without happiness, material success is not meaningful at all.

To read other inspiring Success Stories, click here.