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Jul 10, 2012
Although Melesa “Elsie” Chua had been a successful banker, manufacturing executive, and real estate developer in the Philippines, she still opted to become and OFW to seek greener pastures.
Now, she spends most of her time in the Middle East, selling homes in the Philippines to her kababayans (countrymen) in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), or any of 15 other locations around the globe. She has become the first licensed Filipino businesswoman in Saudi Arabia—“breaking the glass ceiling” for Filipina entrepreneurs hoping to do business in the oil-rich desert nation, as she herself puts it.
As president and CEO of CDC Holdings Inc., Chua runs the parent firm of a group of companies engaged in property development and management, sales and marketing, and hotel and serviced-residences management. CDC pioneered selling real estate to OFWs as early as 1992, when it set up shop in Japan under a previous corporate name. She started marketing to fellow Filipinos in 2007, offering to help them build their dream houses back home.
To Chua and her sales staff, doing so was “no walk in the park,” what with the region’s strict regulations on foreign-owned businesses and even stricter rules on women. She recalls: “The Middle East was not even on our radar because of a misconception that OFWs there did not have the earning capacity nor a comparable spending potential to that of Filipino workers in First World countries such as the United States.”
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