By: Laarmy Bautista
I think people who work in the airline industry, like me, were the first ones to be affected by COVID-19. I can still remember when China was the only country affected and the President decided to ban flights going to and from it. I remember how it affected the airline I was working at which had a direct flight from Kalibo, Aklan to Wuhan, China at that time.
Now, in a really tragic turn of events and despite the government’s efforts to prevent it from aggravating, the virus has spread and eventually reached my country too. This breaks my heart in two ways. First and foremost, it breaks my heart as I witness people dying and suffering from the virus. And the other, it breaks my heart because I am someone who has always had a passion for flying. It is something that I genuinely love doing and would love to continue doing every day of my life if I were given the chance. But in our current situation with domestic and international flights being banned consecutively by the President, it pains me as my fellow flight attendants and I are temporarily unable to fly. As you go through my testimony, you will understand and know more about how much I love my career.
This is not only for flight attendants or flight crews who're resting their wings for now. This is also for aspirants who, in God's time, will have their time to fly. I hope and pray after you read my testimony, the love of Jesus will prevail and hope will arise in you.
Year 2015: As soon as I graduated from college, I started going to open days, sending resumes online, and doing walk-in applications. I remember the first airline I applied at. I did my best to prepare for it. I thought of possible questions and readied myself with answers. I even practiced in front of a mirror. I also watched make-up tutorials, videos about interview tips and searched for other information that could help with my preparation. The day of the interview eventually came. I summoned all the confidence I had when I arrived at the site. I got in front of the building and was surprised at what I saw. There was a very long line outside, a queue made up of what looked like hundreds of applicants. I immediately stood behind the last person in the line and patiently waited for my turn. The wait was so exhausting. The line was too long and it was too hot since I was still standing outside the building. I eventually got inside and thankfully, there were designated chairs for applicants. I will not go into details about the process and interview because I know there are already a lot of good articles and Youtube videos about those. So I’ll just leave that to them. The interview went on and I answered the questions as best as I could. Unfortunately, despite all my efforts, I still got rejected. I didn’t let that discourage me though. I was still hopeful and looking forward to other opportunities. What I did not know was that this would mark the beginning of continuous rejections.
I kept applying and applying to various airlines for almost a year. Sadly, I was still unable to get an FA job. I thought of enrolling in a flight attendant school, but God made me feel that I just needed to have a stronger faith and make use of whatever I had. So I decided against it. Besides, I figured this would help my parents and I save money. I just spent it on other stuff I needed for applying (e.g., gas, toll fee, printing pictures/resumes, fare, snacks, etc.). I continued applying and praying hard, but I still got rejected. I remember the times when my mother prayed for me before the day of my interview, how my brother wished me good luck after I asked him how I looked on the day of my interview, and what my father would always say to me every time I got rejected, "It's okay. You're still young and beautiful." They are my main support system and the reason why I kept going.
Because of countless rejections, I decided to apply at a hotel. I just thought maybe God was telling me that this was not yet my season to become a flight attendant.
March 2016: I got accepted at the hotel I applied for and had my first job. I decided to temporarily stop applying for FA jobs and focus on my work.
One day, I received news that Qatar Airways would be holding an open day here in the Philippines. I didn’t want to let the opportunity pass. I knew I had to try and apply, so I did.
November 2016: I attended the Qatar Airways open day. I was ecstatic because it was the first time I applied there. I passed the reach test and initial interview and got an invitation for assessment day.
Unfortunately, I didn't reach the end of the application process because I got eliminated from one of the stages which was the declaration of scars, birthmarks, and tattoos. Although the interviewer didn't say the reason for my rejection, I felt it was because of the small burn near my elbow. I got it months before the interview, but I immediately went to the dermatologist to get it treated. She told me the best method to lighten the burn mark was to undergo several sessions of chemical peeling which I got. Nevertheless, I went home together with my new friend.
March 2017: It had been almost a year since I started working. I had to decide if I would renew my contract and continue working at the hotel. I realized I was happy, but deep inside, I knew that my heart didn’t belong there. It still was and will always be with flying. In the end, I chose not to renew my contract and dedicated all my time to applying for FA jobs, improving and preparing myself again. And yes, sometimes I lost confidence because of my imperfections especially my burn, but I tried hard to change this way of thinking and convinced myself that these imperfections did not define me.
As I looked back in my 2017 journal, I saw how I tried to cheer myself up.
"Do not give your scar the power to define your ability to make your dream come true."
I am pretty sure I heard this on TV or a youtube video or I read it somewhere, but I forgot who said it.
May 6, 2017: Here's a photo of me and my new friend when I attended the Cebu Pacific open day. I was able to make it until the initial interview but didn't pass. Despite that, I was so glad my new friend got hired! Yey!
There were thousands of applicants who attended, and I was applicant number 649!
May 11, 2017: I saw a post from an aspirant that a start-up airline was going to hold a one-day hiring. I decided to apply and arrived at the site around 0900H. There were a few applicants. The interview consisted of four stages: filling up application forms with some essay-type interview questions, getting your BMI that should be appropriate for your height and weight, panel interview, and discussion with the management. After I finished the process, they asked us to wait in the lobby for further instructions. I was surprised when the staff told me that I needed to stay for a discussion with the management, but the other applicant who was with me during the panel interview went home. At first I felt confused because I didn't want to assume anything yet, but at the same time I was happy since I was not asked to go home. So I just waited patiently at the lobby with my new friend who was also advised to wait. The longer I waited, the more applicants came, but only a few applicants were advised to wait like I did. Around five in the afternoon, all the panel interviews were over, and it was time for the discussion with the management. When they said, “Congratulations! You are selected as the next batch and will be deployed once you pass the training,” we all screamed with happiness. The airline advised us that they will call us again within 3 months or so. They also advised us to stay healthy, prepare for the practical exam in swimming, told us that once we go back our weight should be still proportional to our height, and fix other important stuff while waiting. I was still shocked as I went down to the first floor of the office. I was speechless. I did not know what to tell my father who accompanied me to the office and was also waiting for the results. I was at a loss for words because of the happiness I felt. When I saw him, I felt really emotional. I couldn’t hold back my tears as I thanked Jesus for guiding me. I remember thinking to myself, “So this is how not getting rejected feels?”
On our way home, I was still teary-eyed as I texted my friends to share the news with them. I felt nervous about what would happen next but was still looking forward to it. I was very excited to prepare.
May 18, 2017: I immediately started preparing. I enrolled in swimming lessons to improve my stamina because the management explained how our practical exam in swimming was going to be. I finished my sessions on June 10, 2017. Shout out to my parents who still supported me here.
The next thing I did was visit my dentist because I had an appointment for prophylaxis. The dentist discovered that I had three wisdom teeth that needed to be removed. We scheduled an appointment for the extraction of my wisdom teeth. I did not hesitate in agreeing as I figured if I had it removed now, it would no longer bother me during training and deployment.
June 20, 2017: I thought of doing a garage sale because of continuous expenses for my application and preparation. I am so blessed to have parents who supported me even in matters like this. They even helped and guided me in selling my stuff because it was my first time doing it. Shout out to my aunt who was very kind to let me use her garage for free! Thank you so much po!
August 2017: I discovered the beauty of earning money through selling, so I decided to continue with it. But this time instead of selling preloved stuff, I sold self-made tassel earrings and keychains. It was also a very productive way to pass time, as I not only got to have fun and learn something new, but I also earned extra income from doing so. Shout out to those people who supported me! Thank you so much po!
I also attended PAL express open day. I passed the BMI, color vision, and far vision test but for the succeeding steps, I got rejected.
September 23-25, 2017: I received news that Qatar Airways was going to hold another open day but this time, it was going to be in Singapore. At that point, my desire to become a flight attendant was too strong, so I decided to go the extra mile to achieve my dream. I travelled to Singapore and attended the open day. I heard some aspirants were doing the same thing I did – travelling to other countries to apply – and got hired. This encouraged me and made me decide that I wanted to try it myself. I had mixed emotions and a lot of “what if’s” in my mind, but I reminded myself why I was doing this – because it's my greatest dream. The support of my family, my dream, and especially my faith in Jesus were the things I brought with me there.
The process was the same as the one in the Philippines, but the number of applicants was a lot fewer.
Unfortunately, I still got rejected.
October 13-15, 2017: I gave my dream another chance. I had no choice but to be positive and fight for my dream. That's why I travelled to Cebu to apply again at another Qatar Airways open day. Unfortunately, I got rejected again, but a part of me was happy because I gained new friends.
October 16-31, 2017: The airline hadn’t given us a go-signal yet, so I decided to apply for another job. I felt hopeless about my dreams because of everything that had been happening. I remember I always woke up with a heavy heart. But I was still selling my self-made tassel earrings and keychains on the side. Again, I just convinced myself maybe this is not yet the season for me to become a flight attendant.
November-December 2017: I started training for my new job. It was going well and I was okay with it, so it was totally unexpected when, in the midst of it, I received a message from the airline that I applied to months ago. Suddenly I was caught between where I was right now and what I’d always wanted. I asked God a lot of questions, but the first one that entered my mind was, “Jesus, why now?”
I told this to my parents and they advised me to stay where I was right now – where Jesus placed me – and to have faith in Him. I remember having a deep and emotional conversation with Jesus. I told Him that whatever His reason was, even if it breaks my heart to decline the opportunity, I will still trust and love Him.
There was a one-month training that I needed to pass for my new job. I focused on studying for several exams. I did my best to be familiar with the system we used. My co-trainees were also very kind to help me, but in the end I didn't pass the training. During this time, I felt like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. I remember crying hard on my way home.
December 29, 2017: “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” I am reminded of this lyric from a famous Leonard Cohen song, as I write this part of my testimony. The airline where I got selected before held an open day again. The process was different from before, but I was still able to pass the BMI and the initial interview, and I couldn't contain the happiness I felt. The interviewer advised us that the next and final interview would be in the first week of January. I thought this was the plot twist of my 2017!
I immediately prepared again since in just a few days, it would already be the first week of January. I kept telling my family and Jesus that I only have one wish for my birthday (which was on January 5) – to be a flight attendant.
When I looked back in my journal for 2017, I saw my goals for the year 2018.
January 2, 2018: This was the day of the next and final interview. The first part was called group dynamics, and this was the first time I experienced it in my whole history of applying. I prepared for it. But I still felt nervous. After the group dynamics, we waited outside the room for further instructions. When my name was called, I entered the room again and had my final interview. I passed and the interviewer advised me to settle all my requirements and get my medical exam done right away because the tentative date of training was January 15, 2018. When I left the room, I was greeted by the friend I made during my previous interview. She was with her batchmates because they were already having their training by then.
And I happily told the good news to my family.
January 15, 2018 - March 2018: Here's a screenshot of my post during my cabin crew training and when I passed my checkride
I was about to have a schedule for my productive flight but an unexpected turn of events happened. The government announced that they would close Boracay for six months for environmental rehabilitation. Since my base was in Kalibo, Aklan, a gateway to Boracay, the productive flights for our whole batch got postponed for some time. I asked my senior what was the best thing to do while waiting. She advised me to review my notes so I won’t forget the things I had learned, spend more time with my family since my base would be very far from my home which was in Laguna, and suggested that it would be better if I could get a short-term/part-time job. So that's what I did.
May 29, 2018: I made my own vision board to keep me motivated on achieving my goals.
For every problem in her life she has one simple remedy. "For this," she said, "I have Jesus."
June-October 2018: I applied at a manufacturing company as a receptionist. The contract was only for five months. In the interview, I thoroughly explained to the supervisor the reason why I was applying – that I only saw it as a short-term job as I was just waiting for the resumption of airline operations. I was blessed that she completely understood my situation and gave me the job!
But still, this was not what I truly wanted, and I immediately resigned when my supervisor from the airline told me that we were going to have a refresher soon
October 2018: A cabin crew who had not participated in flying duties during the preceding six months should undergo and pass refresher training. Shout out to my batchmates!
November - December 2018: I spent most of my time reviewing my notes and praying hard for my upcoming checkride which happened exactly on my birthday, January 5. Once again, my only birthday wish was to be a flight attendant.
January 5, 2019: Checkride done and released! + My birthday!
And to this day, I have not forgotten the people who supported and encouraged me and my 2018 goals. Little by little, I am getting closer to accomplishing my goals.
January 5, 2020: I celebrated my birthday and my first year of flying!
One of the highlights of my first year was seeing my parents extra proud because of what I have achieved.
And up to now, I can still see the beauty of the sky, still feel the same happiness I felt when I first wore my flight attendant uniform, and I still feel so impressed whenever our pilot is performing their take off and landing, especially if a lady pilot is in command. hehehe (because these are the critical stages of flying, and operation of the aircraft is performed manually!)
I hope and pray that you don't lose the spark inside you. COVID-19 will not stop me from achieving my dreams, our dreams, to fly again and to give safety and provide quality service to our passengers. We have Jesus and over the noise, let's listen to His voice.
And to all aspirants who have applied numerous times and still haven't been able to achieve their dreams, I just want to let you know that I was once in your shoes. I even had a habit of recording the number of times I've applied for this career in my journal. All in all, 22 attempts, 21 failures!
Let me end this with what I read on a facebook page called "She writes for Jesus."
"Whatever it is, someday it will be your testimony. Someday, you'll use this experience to show people how faithful God has been for you."