Who is Rey Navoa?

Rey Navoa
Filipino Bar Manager of the High Seas

There is a saying which goes, “It’s not what you know but who you know…” well I am blessed in this life time that I crossed paths with people who have eventually become my mentors or people who I look up to. In our beverage industry here, rarely will a genuine person open up and allow his life to be read by the public.

This interview will give you a clear idea of what I mean.

PB: Please tell us something personal about yourself.

REY: I was born April 19,1959 in Caloocan, Manila. I studied high school in Lakandula High School and took my college in Feati University as an Aircraft Maintenance Engineering student. I tried to study flying in PATTS since I really wanted to be a pilot but when my father died I had to stop.

PB: I see. So after college what was your first job?

REY: Well, I started as a tinsmith/solderer, then in SSS as a processor after which I worked as a clerk in SM Makati which is where I met my wife.

PB: So how did you end up working in ships?

REY: ShoeMart Makati was close to Manila Garden at that time. And out of curiosity, I resigned in SM Makati and looked for a job in hotel and luckily I was hired in Silahis Intl Hotel as a janitor for 4months. Then I tried my luck abroad(Kuwait) as a Butler for 2 years (1979-1981). Then I came back and applied again same company ( Silahis hotel) but this time as a banquet waiter (1981-1982). I would say I was at the right place at the right time.

During my slack hours I would work as a busboy in the Piano bar of that hotel. And because of a very untimely incident which turned out to be a blessing, I was removed from the banquets and got promoted as a barboy(1982-1983) in that piano bar. I really had to start everything from scratch for I had no knowledge of bartending but I was a fast learner and I could easily pick up. So for 1 year (!983-1984) I got promoted as a bartender. But at that time I was bent on working on cruise ships specifically Holland America Lines for my other batch mates in the hotel were already working there.

In 1985 I joined a bartending competition organized by the hotel and fortunately won. The management already had heard that I would be resigning so they tried to promote me as Bar Captain.

PB: So did you accept the offer?

REY: I was really determined to work on ships so I declined. I started 1985 in Holland America Line thru United Philippine Lines which was the crewing agent.

PB: What can you say about your first time on ships?

REY: It was a big adjustment on my part. Nobody was there to teach me how the ships standard was. There was no “buddy system”. But I focused on the job.

PB: Did you feel homesick?

REY: No. Actually, the more I was motivated to work when I was surprised to get “tips” in dollars Even my wife was happy since I send her money. I just did my job everyday and after my first contract I was fortunate to be promoted as Bar Supervisor.

From 1985 to 1994 I was Bar Supervisor and in that year I was the 3rd to the last Filipino that got promoted as Assistant Bar Manager.

PB: Wow! How did you feel about your promotion?

REY: Well of course I felt glad but I was just doing my job consistently and I am happy that they noticed it. And here’s more…in 1995 I was asked to launch the Ryndam ship as ABM and after it set sail the head office offered me Bar Manager position! I was the first Filipino Bar Manager in Holland America Line. I was the trendsetter so to speak for hiring other potential Filipino BM’s in the fleet.

PB: The First Filipino Bar Manager on the high seas!!! Congratulations. So what happened next?

REY: From 1995-2005 I continued my job as BM in the company until 2005, Seattle head office came up with a new structure. All of the BM’s were asked to step down as ABM’s. But after 15 days they put me back as BM in Ryndam for they got some letters coming from other officers in other ships asking why I got demoted.

PB: Saving grace?

REY: Actually I didn’t even know they protested until Corporate BM Roman Koppler and Sandra Scraag both from Head office in Seattle told me. I’m just happy that even officers acknowledge my hard work. But in December 2006, I asked Seattle if they could give me a 5 year vacation. In January 2007 Mr. Fernandino Lising, President United Phil. Lines offered me a teaching job here in Antipolo.

PB: Which leads us to this next question. How is teaching as compared to managing?

REY: It was also a major adjustment for I didn’t see myself in this position. But if there is one person who I would have to thank it would be Mr. Dax Jaurigue. He was the one who encouraged me and told me that I can do the job. So I researched, took trainings, talked to people and I told myself that I can do it.

PB: Mr Rey you have a very interesting and inspirational life. Can you tell us the secret of your success?

REY: I just do my job well and I make use of the gift that God gave to me. I am very personable. If I see my people are happy then I am happy.

PB: How about investments? Can you say you have saved enough money?

REY: In that department, I can say technically I don’t need to work anymore. In 2004 I was able to put up a building apartment. I have properties in Sta Rosa Laguna, Baguio, Valenzuela, Malabon and Antipolo.

PB: This is definitely an article worth reading by all the other seafarers who want to be like you. Any words of wisdom for all the seafarers out there?

REY: O yes. Spend your money wisely. Do not be a one day millionaire. Invest your money.

PB: On that note, thank you very much for your time, Sir.

3 Comments on “Who is Rey Navoa?”

  1. I am from India. Your story has inspired me. Not that I can achieve what you have. Not a cake walk. I am planning to be a lecturer for Bar tendders. I am zero in bar tender knowledge you can say. Tok up other jobs to make ends meet. But now it is time to follow my dreams, like you. Please advise links on the net to learn the trade of lecturing. Trennyjohn@gmail.com

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