Filipina becomes American-style restaurant manager and shareholder in Taiwan

Melina Lim has a bachelors degree in behavioral science

Taiwan has become Melina's second home (image by Taiwan News)

Taiwan has become Melina's second home (image by Taiwan News)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Originally from the Philippines, Melina Imperio Lim left her hometown and came to Taiwan to seek a better life. She is now a manager at the American-style restaurant Malibu West in Taipei.

At the age of 25, Melina set foot in Taiwan for the first time. With a bachelors degree in behavioral science, she chose to work at a restaurant as a bartender to discover Taipei's nightlife.

“Due to many reasons, financial mainly, I chose to leave the Philippines and came to Taiwan where there is a better environment overall. Taiwan has more opportunities,” said Melina.

As she was busy working, she realized that the night shift did not suit her. She quickly became exhausted. Therefore, she decided to go back home temporarily to take a rest.

However, after being back in the Philippines for a period of time, her colleagues in Taiwan gave her a call and asked her to come back as soon as possible.

“The restaurant needed my help. My friends asked me to go back, and I gave them a hand to manage the place. So, I came back to Taiwan,” Melina explained.

Surprising herself, she stayed in Taiwan for 20 more years and began a new journey. Taiwan has become her second home.

It is inevitable for people to encounter challenges when starting a new life in another country. However, in Melina’s case, it was rarely a problem.

“When I first came to Taiwan, I fit in quite well. I don’t really have social difficulties or encounter hard times, due to my personality and the company I work for,” said Melina.

Melina explained, “I like to make friends and have a positive personality. Malibu West is an American-style restaurant where we can all communicate fluently in English.”

With her diligence and intelligence, Melina soon became a Manager at the establishment. Rather than serving tables and making drinks, she started to interview potential staff with her college-major expertise.

Melina studied behavioral science at the University of Santo Tomas, dubbed as the oldest college in the Philippines, having been built during the Spanish era in 1611. As the manager, she applied what she had learned while interviewing candidates for new staff positions.

“I found the knowledge I learned from behavioral science is quite useful when it comes to human resources. From the interviewee’s body language, I could tell whether they were suitable for the position or not. Basically, body language explains everything,” said Melina.

Even though Melina enjoys working, she has felt exhausted all the time. Hence, she is actively looking for new help for the restaurant.

"The job is draining. I am looking for and training new staff to take my place. I am trying to set a good example, and hopefully I can find the potential person as soon as possible,” said Melina.

As a manager at Malibu West, the management style Melina adopts is quite democratic and civilized. In other words, she treats her staff with respect.

“My staff are adults, and I treat them as part of my family. If their work performance is not as good as I expected, I will sit down and talk to them,” said Melina.

Melina further explained, “I will start by asking them whether they need assistance. Then I hope that after our discussion, they will make their own decision about what is best for them and also for the company.”

​Malibu West gathers people from home and abroad. (image by Malibu West)

Malibu West is located on the corner of Shuangcheng Street (雙城街) in the Zhongshan district (中山區). With a troical theme, the casual bar and restaurant serve up generous western-style lunches and dinners to a mixed crowd.

The pine paneling and wooden tables give Malibu West a beach bar feel, and it easily becomes the perfect environment to relax, drink, and chat.

According to Malibu West's official website, popular dishes include the Philly cheese steak, Chimichanga, and a very big burger. The chef prepares a special meal everyday to the delight of regular customers and those wanting something different.

Most importantly, the place gathers people from different countries. The majority of the customers are German, Japanese, and Taiwanese, said Melina.

According to her, some of the regular clientele said that, while relaxing in Malibu West, it feels like staying in their own cozy bedroom.

Additionally, most of the feedback from the customers mentions that they like the relaxing ambience, good food with fresh ingredients, and fair prices. Of note, their happy hour is really a bargain that keeps the people coming back.

Melina could have choose to live in another country, as all of her family members hold American citizenship. However, she chose to develop her career in Taiwan.

“My father is an engineer. My mother is a teacher. Also, I have three siblings who are younger than me. One of my two younger brothers is working in the American government, and the other is a pharmacist. As for my younger sister, she is an occupational therapist. They all stay in America now,” said Melina.

She added, America is a big country, so large that she has to drive to wherever she goes, and that this is inconvenient for her. On the other hand, the public transportation in Taiwan makes it much easier to travel around.

Even though Melina likes Taiwan, her children seemed to disagree with her due to the language barrier they encountered while visiting here.

“My children live in the Philippines now. They came to visit Taiwan once, during winter time. It was raining, and there was no beautiful snowing scene. The disappointing weather and language barrier made Taiwan less adorable,” Melina explained.

Like all the other countries in the world, Taiwan has attractive features and also the less fantastic parts needing to be improved, she commented.

In Melina’s opinion, Taiwanese people are mostly very friendly, and they don’t discriminate against people from other countries. On the other hand, lack of diversity is one of the problems that she thinks Taiwan is facing.

When traveling all around the island, she could not find many different kinds of activities that she could do or go sightseeing on the trip, she said.

Additionally, as a manager and a shareholder of Malibu West, she thinks that the Taiwanese government needs to adjust employment policies. Currently, the government seems to protect laborers more than the employers, Melina noted, suggesting that adjustments should be considered.