Title: ‘Domo arigato Dubai!’

Filipina from Tokyo moves to Dubai, opens a successful Japanese restaurant

Dubai, this city that never sleeps has never ceased to attract dreamers from all over the world for the promise she holds dear to her heart: life-changing moments.

Among them is Virginia Sorongon, a Filipina who grew up in Tokyo and moved to Dubai seven years ago, leaving behind a mollycoddled life to find her proverbial place under the sun.

“I wanted another challenge so I started from zero and worked myself up. I went through all the pain and so many trials,” Sorongon told Dubai Vibes Magazine in a rare, exclusive interview.

Sorongon started out as an all-around staff –  cleaner and waitress –  at a Japanese dining venue in Dubai back in 2014, making AED1500 a month. 

“On my first day of work,” she recalls, “I was asked to clean the toilet.”

“I was crying on the job. I’d go home at 4am and would be back at work by 9am. I didn’t give up,” she added.

Sorongon would become manager only a year later.  By 2016, she was making it good as consultant for Japanese restaurants.

“I started investing. I was not anymore a wage earner. I have become an entrepreneur,” she said, beaming with joy. 

What made her have it all in spades is the 20 years that Sorongon has spent living in Japan, where she grew up, acquired the culture, learned to use chopsticks, became fluent in Japanese and – perhaps most importantly, fell in love with the food.

Needless to say, Sorongon knew the art of Japanese culinary delights like the back of her hand – and, putting her mind at work, put this to her advantage.

“I told myself, ‘Hey! I can do this. I can make it happen,” she said.

By 2018, Sorongon already has her own Japanese restaurant, which is located in upscale Dubai and where she maintains a steady following of local and expat customers. She employs 13 people including fellow Filipinos. The restaurant seats 52 people during pre-covid times. It also has an average 80 daily take-out orders.

“We dream and we learn to chase that dream,” said Sorongon, who is now planning to open a restaurant branch in the Philippines.

“In the end,” she added, “we go back home and extend what we’ve learned working abroad.”