The process is such that a visit visa OFW rents out a bedspace and lives a transient’s life while looking for a job and well into the first few years of getting employed – this, if there are no relatives already in the UAE to take him or her in.
Over time, the OFW starts moving – “shifting” is the local term – from one shared accommodation to another, even looking to rent “partitioned” rooms as he or she becomes more financially able because debts incurred in visa paperwork and flying to the UAE have already been paid.
There are also instances where a group of relatives who arrived one by one in the UAE get together and rent a room – but this usually comprise a fraction of the approximately one million OFWs in the country.
Indeed, nothing lasts forever, as that clichéd Pinoy “hugot” goes, and as living in accommodations has become a way of life in the UAE for most OFWs – in fact, for a large segment of the expat community – moving, or shifting as it is more popularly referred to, is as integral to living in the country as working, dining out on a payday, or even weekend laundry, is.
Why? Because one doesn’t stay in one place for long; usually a new accommodation is found, which has better offers or is in a more convenient place considering work… the list goes on, including “levelling up.”
Here then are the top reasons why OFWs don’t stay in one shared accommodation long:
7. Malfunctioning facilities. Most OFWs interviewed counted this as among reasons why they moved out of their previous shared accommodation.
These include clogged toilet plumbing, where, as Antonio Sablan, a burger joint service crew said, “kailangan mong bilangin ang buhos mo ng tabo dahil ‘pag sumobra, babaha na ang lapag.” (You need to count the number of times you pour water on yourself else the floor would be flooded.)
Also included are broken AC units, refrigerators and laundry machines, the repair of which is charged to occupants.
6. Unruly or slob flatmates. Midnight karaoke indulgence on a regular day; leaving done clothes in the laundry machine; Spitting in the kitchen sink; letting leftovers to grow molds in the fridge; urinating in the toilet with the door open; Phone calls with Manila relatives while in bed in the dead of the night… the list goes on. Makes you wonder which one of these broke the camel’s back. “Isa sa mga dahilan kaya ako umalis ay madumi o dukyot yung mga nakatira kaya,” said award-winning photographer Ferdz Bedaña, who said he has moved nine times since 2010.
5. Bedbugs. Erwin Abrantes Lladoc, Jr., trade service officer, who said he has moved eight times since he arrived in 2007, calls it “surot madness/bedbug attack.” A lot of OFWs left the shared accommodation they were leaving in because of bed bug infestation.
4. “Snipers.” This refers to flat mates who steal someone else’s food – usually prepared by the owner for lunch at work the following day – from the fridge. A common issue in shared accommodation, the term was coined to refer to those who makes a hit from nowhere, pretty much like real-life snipers, but with a variation to mean food. “Mananakaw na flatmate kaya ako lumipat,” said Allan Castro, who have moved six times in his 11 years’ stay in Dubai.
3. Caretakers who don’t turn over payments to flat unit owners or real estate companies. Another reason why OFWs leave shared accommodations in search of a better one is theft of rent payments. “Minsan, sapilitan kaming pinalayas lahat kasi hindi binabayad ng landlord yung upa namin sa real estate kaya na-chugi kami,” recalls Dors Cruz, an administrative staff, who said she has moved 14 times in her 10 years’ stay in Dubai.
There is also the case of unscrupulous flat owners who make suspicious accounting of utility bills. “Mandaraya ang landlady sa computation ng DEWA, magician,” said Cruz.
As well are cases where the flat owner did not renew the unit’s contract as with Ronald Robles, graphic designer and videographer who has moved eight times in 13 years.
2. High rent. This was listed in 95% of the survey respondents, referring to when landlords would increase the rent arbitrarily and give tenants an option to pay up or leave. “Ten times na akong nakalipat,” said Milo Torres, professional photographer. “Usually,” he added “tumaas ang upa kaya ako umalis.” (I have moved times. Usually, my reason for doing so is that the rent was hiked.)
1. Proximity to the work place/metro station. This tops the list of almost all 2,000 respondents to the survey.
Vagelyn Tumbaga Federico, Dusit Thani HR director at Dusit Thani, was transferring from one bedspace and shared accommodation to another from 2005 to 2013 before she got her present job.
“Naka-ilang lipat bedspace din ako,” Federico said, adding: “My main reason for moving is that it has to have price tag I can afford and be somewhere near my place of work.”
Federico’s remarks echo that of a lot of OFWs, among them, Hirman Perez, store supervisor who have moved six times in six years.
“I look for the cheapest partition or bedspace; yung all-in na, kung baga wala ng mga hidden charges pagdating ng katapusan ng buwan,” he said, adding that location is a top consideration as well. “For almost three years, paikot-ikot lang ako ng Satwa. Now nasa Burjuman na ako,” he said. (I go for the cheapest all-in rate, no hidden charges when the end of the months comes for the payment.)
“Sa Ajman po ako. Naka-13 lipatan na ako Unang problema po pag taas ng upa at yung sumunod po yung malayo sa trabaho. yung dalawang unang rason lang talaga yung main reason kung bakit ako palipat lipat,” said Noeh Jay Galaura. (I stay in Ajman where I have moved 13 times. My problem is when rent rates are increased; location from work is an issue, too.)
Geraldine Somera, for her part, echoed the same considerations saying: “Location and accessibility – mas malapit sa workplace, or sa metro or bus stop, malapit sa groceries and money exchange. (It should be near the workplace or metro or a bus stop, as well as groceries and money exchange outlets.)
The same with Jessica Dimaano, quality control officer who has transferred 10 times in six years, who said it’s all about low rent and location.
Somera said she has been in the UAE for about nine years and in that length of time has moved 16 times in Ajman, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Deira in Dubai.
Jellai Dee, who has moved nine times since she came in the UAE, explained: “Yung location ng work ko, kung malayo sya, kailangan kong lumipat sa mas malapit sa work place ko para tipid sa pamasahe at time saver na din: hindi na ko kailangang mag madali pagpasok.” (If the flat where I’m staying at is far from y work, then I would need to transfer somewhere near so I save on transportation cost and at the same time, would need to rush for work every day.)
“Sa tuwing lumilipat ako ng work ay lumilipat din ako ng bahay,” said Yuri D. Cipriano, quality, health, safety and environment manager. “So far, for the past 10 years ay six times na akong lumipat ng flat. Accessibility sa work area at rent ang major considerations, kasunod na lang ang amenities,” he added.
The same with Ma. Anna Garcia Lagman, admin staff, who had moved six times since she arrived in 2008. “Yung unang lipat ko ay dahil sa surot; pangalawa ay dahil malayo sa work; yung panglima ay dahil nalipat ako ng work, napunta ng Sharjah,” she said. (My first transfer was because the previous place had bedbugs; the second one was because it was far from my place of work. The last one was because I have moved to Sharjah for work and so needed to transfer there.)
“Less expensive and comfortable” it is for Boyet Manuel Sanchez, performer.
Bedspace usually starts at Dh750 depending on how new the flat is and its location, with those near metro stations costing more. Some flat owners charge extra for the wifi. Partitioned rooms start at Dh1,500 also depending on the same factors as bedspace rentals.