I wrote on March 2014 on Dan Palami’s Facebook wall this:

“Dan Stephen Palami – Manager of the Philippine men’s national football team AZKAL. Credited for his contributions to the revival of football in the Phils due to the national team’s performance at the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, he is hailed as the Savior to the Phil Football Team. A loving son, a cherished brother to his 15 siblings, a doting dad to 2, hope to many and a helpful friend to most. Dan Palami was born in Tacloban City. I am honored to cross path with this man.”

Yes, Dan Palami is a lovely man, a good provider to his family, a loyal friend and a highly talented and intellectual person. He is loved by many and misunderstood by a few who can’t get pass the mystery of his very giving nature.

These are the kind of words that always flood when someone like Dan hits a birthdate on social media, often because people feel they have to say those things and rightly do a birthday greeting. Words are flowing thick today with well meaning wishes as we remember this good man as an important figure in our lives, and a little bit of hypocrisy perhaps from foes too maybe allowed on his social media timeline.

But when I say that Dan is a lovely man and all that positive accolades of a person and a very sincere friend, I mean it with all my heart.

There is really more to this person and I am here to tell you how a Dan Palami have changed my life.

I met Dan when he sponsored one of my biggest concert in Leyte for Zaibatsu Events early months of 2007. Soon after, I actively supported his campaign in his bid for politics to work on his personal brand. Beyond that, he became a really good friend up to this day.

Very few people really knew how Dan in one way has really helped me to where I am now. Time I speak up, even if he doesn’t want me to. Sorry birthday boy, but this will be a good one.

On your birthday, I choose to tell my story. Hope it will inspire everyone reading this as much as you have inspired me of not giving up.

When I decided to travel to the Middle East or UAE, I really didn’t have anything on me. Zaibatsu (the restobar that I owned in Tacloban) after it’s second renovation hit losses and a trail of debts.  Worst, I was betrayed and hurt badly by some people who think they are something of a god. It was the darkest time in my life and there was no other way but out.  A fresh start as you say.

I messaged only 2 people of my plan to move out of Tacloban.  I was so insanely depressed and there was nothing going on with me at that point to a place I have called home, my adopted city. I really love Tacloban and I have gathered really meaningful and crazy friends from there.  It is a bittersweet memory for me to even think of it.

So I messaged my sister Mareza who lives in New York, and my friend – well, Dan Palami.  These two people would in turn be the greatest force that helped me fuel my drive to what I have planned my next step would be.  And both did for only one reason; they both believed in me.

‘I want to go to Dubai’, I wrote the two via Facebook messenger. An exchange of conversations followed suit and not before long at the end of it all, they both replied, “What do you need that we can help?’ ‘ Help’, this one word pop out from my messenger would in turn trigger emotional tears in my eyes.

Both my sister Mareza and Dan was baffled on why I would even want to go to a country where I don’t have a single relative to begin with in my quest for a better future. Mareza would rather that I be in America and Dan without hesitation offered me a job immediately. But I was insistent that I go to Dubai and I really just want to get out of Tacloban at that point.

All I could think really was how I can continue better my life and Kyles’ (my son). It is never easy for single moms and you do what you have to do. Sacrifices has to be made and decisions must be faced fearlessly. To work abroad was my only key.

So I went on to settle some debts, sold some stuff and prepared myself to move to Dubai with barely anything left on my back.  Somehow, I really never got scared to go into the unknown. I just badly need change. It was also a journey I would soon call my self-discovery.

Then thereon, I would ask from my sister for air tickets and from Dan, any amount he can give as an ‘allowance’. Only two people I called out at my time of need. Only two people that changed my life completely. It was as it turned out enough for me.

Unconvinced with their suggested alternatives, my sister bought me my air tickets, and Dan would soon give me a cash reserve of Php 40,000 ($870). Believe it or not, I got to Dubai with only that at hand. I myself couldn’t comprehend to this day how I survived with so little. With hardly any money on my pocket but with a matching big persona’ to beat, I embraced UAE. I would appear like a million bucks in events, dress up, flash that smile – and continuously think how I am to budget that $870!  No one would ever think I only have that for no one will ever believe it if I say it. And there was really no reason for me to look so desperate even if I was. I was branding myself as confident as I can to a tee!

Angels came in many forms. People from Tacloban upon knowing I arrived in Dubai would open their homes to me, feed me, and showed me around. Even strangers (Filipinos) that I randomly meet would soon offer any form of help. That’s so heartwarming for me to see fellow kabayans sincerely helping you without second thoughts.

They say it is never easy on your first years as an OFW.  That somehow is an understatement and holds so little weight from someone who actually experienced an out-of-the county life change. Or maybe I really just didn’t have anything to start with.  It was really maddening hard. Yet I kept cool and was composed through it all. No one would have ever guessed, I guess.

The saddest point came when I ran out of money just short of 2 months after I set foot UAE. I remember I was crying in the middle of nowhere and a good Samaritan came in a form of a taxi driver. He thought I was waiting for a cab in the middle of an empty block of warehouses where I dropped my CV’s and stopped. I mumbled out sobbing like, “I don’t have any money to pay you.” I was just crying uncontrollably my heart out from that seemingly hopeless moment. He asked where I wanted to go and I can’t remember what I said but he ended giving me money enough for a bus ride home. I realised from that point, I don’t want to ever have empty pockets and I have to do something fast. I was cooking some strategies in my brains on how to make it in this strange and difficult land away from home. I was just crying dauntlessly on that bus ride. To that taxi driver, may Allah bless you whoever you are.

That very following day, I got a job offer in Abu Dhabi. The rest as they say, is history.

I would laugh now remembering how my first year was. It was a matter of accepting that nothing ever comes easy and for you to not just survive in an unknown country, but also thrive.

I have always been known to cross bridges even on a blindfold by my closest friends.  And I would risk choosing the unconventional and just take it from there and be different. I am a big believer of fate and an unwavering faith that supports it. This one was like jumping out of a plane without the chutes. And yes, I survived.

I came to Dubai April of 2013 and two years later, a Media organisation named me ‘The Person to Follow on Social Media in UAE’. On my third year (today), I got the Social Media Superstar status by peers in the industry and was nicknamed the social media genie of UAE. With hardly less than 300 on my network when I first arrived in the Middle East, I have grown a following of 200,000 combined to a social media account I helped developed in less than three years. They said no one has ever done that in such a short period of time. I did.

All these I would attribute to two people who believed in me and supported me from start, my sister Mareza and of course Dan Palami who opened that door for me. To both of you, thank you. I can’t seem to say it enough, really.

On this day on Dan’s birthday, I SPEAK UP and truth be told. This is one man who helped changed my life for the better.

Dan is indeed a lovely man and a talented, honest, and a very supportive man. He is a very sincere person to those lucky enough to be in his selected circle of friends. I would ran out of good words to describe this man. He is after all, the Dan Palami we all love.

Happy birthday Dan!

by Cristina Magallon
Tweet @UAEDNAofficial

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