Richelle: Cooking is my passion
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Richelle Mae Aliligay-Villanueva. I am 37 years old and from the Philippines. I live in Oulunkylä Helsinki, Finland. I am working full time as a Cook at Bistrot Helsinki, Helsinki- Vantaa International Airport. I am the owner of Villanueva Cleaning Services, a consultant of SaladMaster, and Chairman Of the Filipino Community in Finland.
How long have you lived in Finland?
I lived here in Finland for almost 14 yrs. I am a mother of two boys: Zheian Rhilley ( 4yrs old) and Zhion Grey ( 1 & 8 months old), and a proud wife of Ryan Villanueva.
How did you reach Finland? Tell us about your story?
Tero and Riikka, whom I met in Istanbul, Turkey, offered me a job in Finland. They were also my mother and sister's employers. Tero and Riikka offered me a job as a nanny in Finland and Sweden when they moved from Istanbul. My Finnish family helped me when I opened the cleaning business in Finland.
How are your Finnish language skills?
To be honest, it's improving. I know basic only, but I'm still learning that's why I took a Finnish language course. The Finnish language is not easy, but we can all learn if we are serious about it. It took me many years to learn since my job is not really in a mandatory Finnish-speaking environment (Airport). It is not too late; we still have time :-)
Do you have work at the moment because of the pandemic?
No, we are laid off because of the pandemic. There are not many passengers. But I have my own cleaning company which helps us a lot, and also I have the work of SaladMaster. This is what I'm doing right now.
How did you get to know about SaladMaster?
Celine, a family friend, started first, she cooked for my mother, and my mom recommended it to me. She asked her to cook for me too so that I get to know about SaladMaster. Both of them asked me to join, and since I love cooking and it is my profession, I got interested.
Did you like this job at SaladMaster?
Super! SaladMaster changes my life and more people who see it. As a cook and as a mother, I highly recommend it.
Do you like Finland? Do you plan to stay here or move elsewhere?
Yes, I love Finland, and I want to stay here. My family is here, and we are all working hard. My children go to Päiväkoti (kindergarten), and they love it.
You have two kids. Do they speak Finnish?
Yes, I do have two small boys, ages four and almost 2yrs old. The eldest goes to Päiväkoti and speaks little Finnish now, and the little one also will start soon.
What do you like about Finland most?
It is safe. That is the reason I want to stay here.
What didn't you like here at first? Or did you find it challenging?
Maybe the dark weather... Coming from a tropical country to very dark and cold is not easy. But over the years, we learn to adapt, adjust and love the country. We chose to stay and live here. Weather is not an issue anymore. If you like it, stay! If you don't, leave 😅 joke! Any challenges for us? Maybe the language at first, but not anymore also...
Have you kept in contact with your family in the Philippines and Filipino people living here?
Yes, thank God for the technology. We managed to call and video chat almost every day. We do have a good Filipino Community here in which I am the chairman. We have a Facebook page, we communicate through there. We also have some regular activities, a food bazaar and so on.
What are the happy and unforgettable moments of your life here?
A lot! Like, when I received my Permanent Residence permit, Got a Regular job at the Airport, Having a business, Got married, and gave birth here—meeting a lot of High Ranking Officials, politicians, and business people. It is a wonderful feeling.
Tell us about the meaning of integration? What is it for you?
We need to be together, not only with our Filipino community but also with Finns. We must learn the laws and rules here in Finland, respect them, and socialize with Finns.
What are your favorite Finnish dishes?
Makaronilaatikko and mämmi.
What is the Salad Master business?
SaladMaster is a health and nutrition company. Healthy cookware, safe, and No toxic.
Do you like this job in SaladMaster?
Yes, I do love it. At first, we thought the Finnish market was hard, but we were wrong. A lot of people in Finland are actually health conscious. Filipinos and Africans are leading in this movement since we both share our love for cooking.
What is the biggest challenge for you at this work?
The pandemic is now a problem because some people are scared and don't want to meet us for cooking demonstrations.
What is the most important thing you learned out of this business work?
We meet other people, and it is very nice to get to know more people. Our boss is a very nice and supportive person. We are like a family, and we help each other.
What do you think about your future at this job?
I hope it grows more and better. With the salad master, I see myself there, and I want to stay at this job. I want to cook more and share with many more people.
Do you have any messages for foreigners who live here?
Don't give up; challenges come, problems might come, but you must go through them, solve them, and don't give up and look forward.
Foreigners must be encouraged to learn about the values which Finns have and learn to respect them. When you get successful, never forget where you came from.