Statistically speaking, Elvie Sanchez-Quiazon has two things going against her—she's a female, and she's a Filipino. But in an industry dominated by male expats in the top positions, she has risen above the ranks and has the distinction of being the first Female Filipino General Manager of a 5-star hotel in Metro Manila.
Elvie is literally on top of the metropolis, as Vivere Hotel in Alabang has a gorgeous rooftop al fresco restaurant that offers a 360-degree view of the metropolis. Even the name of the restaurant has a tangent with how Elvie envisions the hotel to be. "We call it The Nest, because we want our guests to feel like this is home. The word nest gives you an image of a place of refuge and bonding, which is in touch with our advocacy of building relationships and family bonding." Analysis would say that this is due to Elvie's feminine touch, which gives a feeling of warmth and welcome into a structure that functions primarily as shelter for guests after a hard day of work or play.
The hotel itself is homey, with touches of Filipiniana, from unique décor using local—and recycled materials. Examples of which are tree branches that have been lacquered and framed, to give the lobby and living space a touch of nature.
The idea for earth-friendliness is another of Elvie's initiatives. She is environmentally-conscious, to the point that her current dissertation for her graduate studies course at the University of Chester U.K.'s Southville Foreign University looks into hotel environmental sustainability and how it influences customer attitude and purchase intentions. "I want to make a difference. It is about making people aware of environmental sustainability, and not only in the hotel industry. I believe we are more conscious now as we just had our encounter with climate change with Yolanda. But I think we need more publications, more surveys and more dissertations from all disciplines. It has to be the whole nation, it can't be done in one hotel." She says she plans to make her study available to the Department of Tourism. In relation to this, she is also currently involved in a start-up group, the Association of Security and Safety Managers of the Philippines, which advocates disaster preparedness not only for businesses, but also in households, in the hopes of spread awareness staring at the Muntinlupa area all the way up to the national level. To top it all off, she is now also the newly-elected president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Muntinlupa.
One would wonder how she has the time for her advocacies and campaigns, since she is usually at the hotel at the crack of dawn—or even earlier. "Before, I used to start my workday at 4:30 a.m., now, because all my people are well-trained, I know they can handle the work until I do my rounds at around 7:00 am. They will call me only in extreme emergency cases, I believe that with the training that we provide, they are good at what they do. There are times when I still have to come in early, though, such as when I to have to meet a VIP in the lobby, or fetch someone at the airport at 1:00 a.m."
This is where I continue sharing what I have learned through experiences and from my studies. I am also part of the recruitment process—not for authority reasons, but to meet the people we will hire. Things that I look for are a smiling face and smiling eyes. They need to be approachable, and I have to see if the person is sincere." She adds, "With every hotel, the aim is always to please the customer—not only to delight, but exceed expectations. I think we are consistently on top because at Vivere, more than just having luxurious rooms, we offer human touch—personalized care and a sincerity in our service that makes it home."
"With every hotel, the aim is always to please the customer—not only to delight, but exceed expectations. I think we are consistently on top because at Vivere, more than just having luxurious rooms, we offer human touchâ€”personalized care and a sincerity in our service that makes it home."
She proudly shares that her staff have been so well-trained that there have been some who were recruited abroad, and land jobs as supervisors and managers, not as staff. She has been on the receiving end of such lucrative offers herself, but she graciously turned them down, upon the advice of her mother. "I have been invited to work in London, Australia, Vietnam, and the US, but I stayed. My mother told me to stay here and take care of my child, Edgard. I am glad I stayed because my son already passed away. At least I had time for him, so there's nothing to regret about it." Of her son, she says, "he taught me thoughtfulness and sweetness, the importance of humor and laughter, adventure, thinking out of the box, and gentle persuasion."
Her parents also played a part in molding her to be a perfect match for the demands of her job. "My mother, Custodiosa, was a disciplinarian. She would prefer that we do household chores even if we had a helper. She made us read books and memorize words from the dictionary. When I was in grade 3, I helped with her dissertation—I would do her tabulation and data gathering. If she was on stimulating the brain, my father Teodoro taught us about the importance of having a good relationship with prople, being diplomatic, and polite." She initially took up BS Biology, but shifted to Hotel and Restaurant Administration at the UP, "because I was trying to find a course that did not have math," she smiles. "In the end, we had 21 units of Business Administration—and I now know the value of that, because we prepare financial statements and budgets here at the hotel!"
Her first job was at the Manila Hilton, during the time of Richard Chapman, who was the youngest hotel GM at the time. "I started at the front desk, and moved up to Guest Relations. We were the first hotel to have that kind of position." From her own beginnings, she asks her staff to aim high. "I tell them, I want to see you as a GM one day!"
Unsurprisingly, challenges are something that she calls "sweet". "There is something nice and beautiful that comes out when you are able to resolve or go through the turbulence. A challenge is something I look for; I think that life will be spice-less without a challenge."
Her downtime is spent with her husband Paul, whom she calls her life-support, number one critic, number one fan, jester, and inspiration. "My husband understands me. In this, I am very fortunate. I can make my husband feel that I remember him through a phone call, a dinner, or an early breakfast."
She talks about being a woman on top. "I did not even think it would or should matter whether you are male or female. I know that most GMs are male, and most also are foreigners. But I think we are the same—with the same number of eyes, legs, hands... pareho lang naman. When it boils down to it, too, it is not anymore the nationality, it is more of the passion, magnitude or intensity of the desire to improve and grow. I didn't feel it was ever a gender case, and not even nationality. I have a high respect for foreigners but I also feel that we have the same amount of talent."