As a young girl, Sylvia Galanza Orlando’s family was finding it hard to make ends meet. She and her seven siblings were born in the town of Gamu in Isabela, Philippines. Her mother was a simple farmer and her eldest brother Timoteo later had to quit school to help their mother with farm work to be able to pay for the daily necessities and school fees of his younger siblings.
Sylvia and her siblings walked miles every day to go to school because they could not afford to pay for transportation. They took lousy food to school, and sat under the citrus tree to eat their lunch so that the other pupils would not see what they were eating since they were embarrassed by the fact that they could not afford better food than that. She was a very good pupil, but Sylvia only attended school until year four of secondary school. Regardless of her mother and eldest brother’s efforts, poverty was apparent in the family.
She wanted to better her life, and the beeline she took was not an unusual one. She took the one that most girls in her position would have chosen. She wiggled and danced into the marriage that she thought would bring an end to her struggles. Sylvia soon found herself in a hellish marriage where she was subjected to harrowing domestic violence and subjugation. Yes, it was domestic violence to the fullest!
The father of her children battered and kicked her like a rag doll. She often sustained injuries that alienated her from the community and she was ashamed to go out of the house because she was forever bruised. The father of her children binged drank and made it a habit to beat her up. He was the most grotesque human being and a deadbeat dad.
Sylvia said a prayer and boarded a plane. She left her children, who were then at very tender age, in the care of family members. The young mother risked it all for financial independence and a better future for her children. We often hear stories about Filipino women who go to the Middle East to work in their families but end up being enslaved, physically abused and even killed.
Despite all these experiences that Filipino women go through in the Middle East, Sylvia took her chances and went there regardless of what might have potentially happened to her. She soon experienced bitter abuse from employers in the Middle East – she was starved, locked up in a small room, and left without a drink nor food for a whole day. Some employers would not pay her wages and threatened to kill her if she ever left the Middle East.
Even the children that she was looking after as a nanny threw tantrums and equally abused her. As a religious person, Sylvia’s faith kept her grounded and determined to work hard. When she finally left the bristling energy of her employers in the Middle East, she headed to Hong Kong.
She was ready to help anyone who needed her help even though she was going through hard times. She was working her fingers to the bone, looking after children, cleaning, and cooking. Her employers asked her to recommend someone who could share work with her. Sylvia recommended her niece, and soon it was obvious that they could not work for one employer. Sylvia avoided conflict and soon found herself unemployed, risking the possibility of deportation if she could not find another job swiftly.
Out of twenty applicants, she got hired to be a nanny to a baby boy whose parents were Europeans living in Hong Kong. She faced more humiliation and abuse by the mother of the boy she was looking after, who was originally from Essex in the United Kingdom. She yelled at Sylvia, and she was over meticulous. She shoved Sylvia’s head inside the tub and even went as far as telling her to cook her rice in the toilet.
These particular employers were not both bad. The father of the boy was not as bad. He pleaded to Sylvia to be patient with his wife and his little boy and offered that she take a two-week holiday to go and see her children in the Philippines. This was a breath of fresh air, unlike her Middle East employers who did not allow her to have a break and was not allowed to make telephone calls to the Philippines, and she did not receive her wages for as long as eighteen months in the Middle East.
When she went back to Hong Kong after two weeks, her employers asked her to join them to take a vacation in the United Kingdom. Her employers visited their family and friends in Essex, Cambridge, and the Midlands. In all these places, Sylvia slaved away! Somehow the United Kingdom felt like home to her because people were more welcoming and friendly. They complimented her cooking and enjoyed every meal she prepared for them.
During the third and last week of the vacation, Sylvia asked her employers to let her go and see her in-laws who lived in Manchester. Sylvia changed her mind and did not go back to the place where her employers were waiting for her. Although this felt like freedom, it was also a setback for Sylvia since not going back to her employers meant that she could no longer send money to her children in the Philippines. She had nowhere to live, and she was once again unemployed in yet another strange country.
A Filipino lady helped Sylvia with accommodation and basic needs for six months and gradually, she got the hang of the United Kingdom life. She started working, but this time, her employers were extremely kind and helpful.
She worked hard to the point where she bought her first house in Dagenham, East London, in the United Kingdom. Sylvia’s children joined her in London in the United Kingdom. She opened her first restaurant called Shanghai in the centre of Romford in Essex. Sylvia, her children and her Brazilian husband, Luiz, worked hard to make the restaurant successful.
After two years, Sylvia started giving jobs to several diverse nationalities. She left Shanghai to be managed by members of her family in London and went to the United States of America where she bought a restaurant called “Sundance” in Arizona. As the property was already paid-for and mortgage-free, she eventually decided to rent it out to Filipino entrepreneurs in the area and move back to the UK to run Shanghai Restaurant and Karaoke Bar.
Afterwards, Sylvia opened a restaurant called “Braza”, also in Romford.
Because properties are good investments, she bought some houses and flats to rent them to create a small property portfolio. Her real estate ventures are not limited to the UK as she also owns a number of properties in the Philippines that she rents out.
Sylvia is always thinking about new ventures. Three years ago, she opened another restaurant called “Galetos”, which served charcoal-grilled chicken peri-peri. She created the dishes and menus loved by the customers.
From her factory in Essex, she also has created a Galetos line of sauces made of 100% natural and premium ingredients. There are now available in some supermarkets and online through their website www.galetossauce.com. She plans to market them globally and is currently in the process of exporting to her home country, the Philippines.
To share her many blessings, Sylvia built a church for worship called “Assembly of God” and a school for financially-disadvantaged children called “La Dolce Vita” at Bethel Christian.
Sylvia Galanza Orlando rose above impecuniosity, harrowing domestic violence, and bristling employers. Through sheer willpower, Sylvia Galanza Orlando has become a successful entrepreneur in her own right.