Kenneth Farley De Villa and his ballroom dance partner, holding their medals, together with the judges and board members at a dance competition back in April 2019, in Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai. Overseas Filipino worker Kenneth Farley De Villa lives in a small room with big dreams for his family back home in the Philippines. This is his story of love, sacrifice and hope.

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De Villa isn't your typical Dubai office manager. Sure, he handles the daily grind by day, but his evenings are a whirlwind of ballroom dance competitions, mascot gigs, and the constant thrum of ambition for his family in the Philippines.

De Villa is living in a modest partition room in Deira, a far cry from his workplace in the glitzy Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT).

De Villa's story is one of countless Filipino overseas workers who shoulder the weight of family expectation with unwavering determination. Living in a modest partition room in Deira, a far cry from his workplace in the glitzy Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT), De Villa exemplifies resourcefulness.

Simple living

He said: “I pay Dh1,800 per month for a partition room with balcony in Al Rigga, Deira. It's a half room partition where I sleep on a loft bed and underneath I have a mini desk and a laptop for entertainment. It's practical to live this way. It is manageable, as the space fits very well for me since I am all by myself. I save a bigger chunk of my salary, and the owner even covers utilities such as wi-fi and Dewa. I prefer to live in Deira as it’s very lively here, it feels like I am home in the Philippines, as mostly everything (made in the Philippines) you need is here, and most of my friends live here.”

Kenneth Farley De Villa
De Villa, standing at his balcony in Deira, is missing his family back home in the Philippines.

De Villa was born in Abu Dhabi in 1989, but he went back to the Philippines for schooling in 1996. After graduation, he decided to come back to the UAE. Although De Villa, 35, is working as an office manager for nine years in JLT, and can very well afford to live in a studio or one bedroom apartment by himself, he prefers to live a simple life in a small quarter.

Sacrifices for family

But the real sacrifices happen far from his small room. As a breadwinner, half his salary journeys home, supporting his family in the Philippines.

He said: “Fifty to sixty per cent of my salary goes to my parents and my family, including my wife and daughter. I have to budget my trips, food and other necessities monthly, but I am thankful for the company I work in, as we receive our salary on time and they treat us as one big family.”

Dubai, however, isn't just a source of income. It's a stage for De Villa's hidden talents. By night, he transforms into a dancer, choreographer, and even as a Batman mascot and a clown, squeezing in extra income for emergencies and ‘Balikbayan boxes’ (repatriate boxes containing different items including food and clothes) filled with love for his family.

Kenneth Farley De Villa
De Villa wears a Batman costume for his mascot gigs in the UAE.

De Villa said: “Through dance competitions, I had an opportunity to explore and experience other places and cultures. Besides, I earn extra money for savings and for emergency, and am able to send ‘Balikbayan boxes’ to my family back home."

De Villa as clown and his Filipino friends made some funny acts for the children to smile at an event in Sheraton JBR in February 2024. Image Credit: Supplied

He added: "I met my wife when we were students at a ballroom dance class in 2016, after our graduation we competed against each other in a dancing competition, where she became the champ, and I got the third place.”

Kenneth Farley De Villa
De Villa is holding a trophy for winning his first hip hop competition as a choreographer back in October 2019 in Deira, Dubai. His students were equally happy to receive the award.

Since he stepped on the dance floor in 2016, De Villa has acquired 14 medals and two trophies as a choreographer and a dancer. Competition was fierce, yet a connection sparked between De Villa and Cheyeene Crescini. They waltzed from rivals to best friends, their hearts finally falling into step on July 21, 2017. She moved to the Philippines in 2019 to raise their daughter named Jumeirah Ex Crescini De Villa.

De Villa and his ballroom partner placed second runner-up during the ballroom dance competition, under basic student category, at the Batch 71st Graduation of Ballroom Class in October 2016 at Pullman Hotel Deira, Dubai.


His family is equally enterprising, running a sari-sari store (neighbourhood sundry store) and a milk tea shop back home, slowly but surely building their own success story in the Philippines. De Villa said: “My parents and youngest sibling are managing a sari-sari store in our house in Tarlac, but apparently business is slow as there are only a few costumers. Their earnings in store are not enough to pay the utility bills and for their everyday needs, so I have to support my parents to survive. Meanwhile, my wife and I have a milk tea shop in Sipicot, Camarines Sur, Bicol. It maybe earning slow for now, but we're getting there to make profits.”

Kenneth Farley De Villa
De Villa with his family on vacation in Camarines Sur, Philippines.

Dreams for family

De Villa has big dreams for his family, and eventually a reunion under one roof. He said: “My dream is to have a better career, a good education for my daughter to have a bright future and finish building our dream house in the Philippines. And of course, I would love to live with them in Dubai, and then I would feel complete.”

De Villa's tale is a testament to the enduring Filipino spirit. It's a story woven with threads of sacrifice, family, and the unwavering pursuit of a brighter future. For De Villa, the UAE is a launch pad for his family's dreams, fueled by late-night hustles and a whole lot of heart.