MIA Faye del Mar Singson-Léon, or Mia for short, is one such embodiment of a gamechanger in the hospitality industry, being the general manager of Quest Hotel and Conference Center-Cebu since late January.
Having graduated as an occupational therapist set for the medical field, the thought of delving into the hospitality industry was furthest from her mind; yet after landing the position of training officer in Plantation Bay Resort & Spa back in 2003, she fell in love with the world of hospitality.
“It was really my love for training that got me into hotels because Occupational Therapy is a lot about adult learning. As soon as I got in, I realized there was a whole new life called hotel life. I just fell in love with it, and I never looked back,” she recalled. “I was actually planning to re-work as an occupational therapist but the call of the hotel life was stronger than life in the United States as an occuapational therapist.”
After college, she went to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York where she earned her certification in Human Resource Management. Heeding the call of the hotel life led to landing many positions as well as a slew of opportunities along the way. After her stint in Plantation Bay, she went to Thailand in 2008 where she handled luxury boutique hotels including ones located in Cambodia and Laos under Akaryn Hotel Group; first as training manager then executive director level.
But it wasn’t just work that led her there but also love as she talked about her relationship with husband Chef Jean Louis Léon, whom she met while working alongside him in Plantation Bay. “It was not love at first sight; it was fight at first sight for the first three or four months,” she said in between giggles. “But we got to know each other and started going out. When he moved to Thailand, I was supposed to be working on my visa for the U.S. to work as an occupational therapist but I made the choice to go to Thailand instead.” They tied the knot in 2010 and have two children, Lili and Youenn.
By late 2015, she decided to come back to Cebu and got an offer at Plantation Bay. After working as assistant general manager for a year in the resort, Chroma Hospitality came in to the picture offering her the position of general manager of Quest Hotel and Conference Center-Cebu.
Fast forward to today, in an industry as cutthroat as so many others, Mia recalled the experiences she faced head on which, while challenging, proved to be rewarding.
“During my younger years, I had some managers say, ‘You know, women are difficult to work with in the hotel industry because they get emotional.’ But everything is about emotion when it comes to hotels; you just need to know how to use it,” said Mia.
“Take from the emotions and show it in service. I always say, even when they don’t see you, they will feel your love. We’re in the business of making people happy, no matter how simple the gesture. In the end, what people look for is the emotion in each experience they have.”
Her passion for the industry has become like second nature as she shared a few silly stories like the urge to pick up trash like cigarette butts in malls or just simply that hospitable trait. “When you meet a hotel person, a hardcore hotel person, you will know. I swear, all of us when we’re outside, we are so tempted to pick up small things at the mall,” she said laughing. “At home, I would answer the way I would normally answer at the office so it sinks deep down into you. But all of us have similar stories like that. It’s so funny; the things we do.”
“I remember my father used to tell me: ‘Try to find something that you really love because life is short, you don’t want to be miserable.’ This is where my passion led me.”