First Officer Lorenz Montinola always dreamed of becoming a pilot, but was hesitant because of how people might treat him due to his sexual orientation. Still, he persevered to reach his goal – and in 2020, he started working at Cebu Pacific.
“At first I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “But then as I progressed, I felt really blessed that I was given the chance to work with Cebu Pacific.”
The local airline has a long-established policy of embracing the diversity and uniqueness of its employees. “We understand, accept, and value differences in race, culture, age, religion, marital status, abilities, gender identities and gender expression,” Cebu Pacific’s policy statement reads.
While Cebu Pacific has a non-discriminatory hiring policy, all applicants must pass a stringent set of qualifications to make it onboard. Every year, the airline receives thousands of applications and only the best of the best make the cut.
Crew members like Mikee Vitug, one of the first trans woman flight attendants in Cebu Pacific, go through training, difficult exams, and learn how to provide excellent customer service for months before joining the team.
Mikee said she had reservations about applying as a flight attendant after experiencing discrimination in another workplace firsthand. But she was relieved when Cebu Pacific accepted her application.
“From the initial screening and interviews, the staff, the employees, and almost everyone in the company have been very welcoming. They regarded me as ‘Miss’ and treated me as a woman. This is a very big deal for a trans woman like me. They gave me the freedom and liberty to be the woman that I am,” she said. Mikee was accepted in the Cebgo cabin crew in November 2019.
A culture of empowerment and inclusivity
Cebu Pacific prides itself on being a diverse and multicultural company. It’s a staunch ally of the LGBTQ+ community, ensuring that the company is a safe space for everyone to express their authentic selves.
“I believe that Cebu Pacific walks the talk. They make us feel that we are supported and celebrated. Their care and support for our community is genuine and as an employee I can really feel that. They celebrate Pride month yearly and that for me is already an important thing. In terms of employees, we’re seeing more diversity too,” Lorenz said.
First Officer Chezka Carandang, who identifies as lesbian, shared that the company “[organizes] campaigns that highlight what their employees in the [LGBTQ+] community believe in, like in the recently concluded shoot that we filmed.” Chezka and Lorenz were featured in Cebu Pacific’s “Fly High With Pride” and “Story of Pride” videos, respectively.
Mikee emphasized that Cebu Pacific treats every employee equally and doesn’t give them special treatment. “They treat and respect me equally as the others. Even though I am working in a professional environment, I feel like I belong in a big, loving family.”
Likewise, the LGBTQ+ crew does their part in promoting inclusivity, educating the people around them about SOGIE and treating them with respect. During flights, they ensure that everyone – from cabin crew to passengers – feels safe to express themselves.
“At this day and age, more and more people are becoming aware of our existence and our contribution to society. It is important for me to educate people about the difference and the significance of SOGIE to inspire them to create an LBGTQ+-inclusive workplace,” Mikee said.
“As part of the Cebu Pacific family, my goal is just to simply be my authentic self, so I can inspire others beyond the walls of our company to do the same and celebrate who they are,” Chezka added.
Growing with Cebu Pacific
Lorenz shared that one of his goals is to become a captain in the future. Meanwhile, Mikee is interested in enrolling in cadet pilot training. These opportunities are open to anyone who wants to work and grow with Cebu Pacific.
“In Cebu Pacific, we believe in the ability of our crew to provide excellent service to every Juan and the hard work that they put in, regardless of their SOGIE. More than anything, we want everyone, especially our LGBTQ+ crew, to live their truth while pursuing their dreams with us. That way, they will be able to work confidently, serve wholeheartedly, and inspire their peers,” said Candince Iyog, Vice President for Marketing and Customer Experience.
While workplace discrimination is still a valid concern for many LGBTQ+ people, especially the youth, Mikee’s advice is to just go for it. “You will never know unless you try. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your dreams. You may fall and falter, but never forget to stand up and fight back harder.”
“Do not look down on yourself just because you feel that you are different. You matter. We all matter. If I can do it, so can you.”