I’m back from the land of perpetual sand, heat, dates, and good-looking guys. I haven’t said much on this blog but I was totally apprehensive prior to my departure for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. While far from being a jetsetter, I could say I have been around. However, this is the first time I will set foot in a foreign country that has a lot of restrictions. Truth be told, being a woman, I initially feared for my safety because of the numerous reports of abuse and crimes inflicted on Filipino women. Nevertheless, armed with years of traveling and professional experience, confidence, my gadgets, my abaya and hajib, and other whatnots, off I went to that arid part of the world.
Turns out, as with my other foreign trips, I went back chock full of new memories, fresh insights and learning I will forever treasure. My senses were on high alert as I savored and absorbed everything I saw, heard, smelled, felt and tasted. It was a total feast! I cannot of course, cram all of that in one go so I am chopping my posts in pieces, and hopefully, I get to cover everything–from the food, to the places we stayed in; from the peculiarities of other cultures, to the feeling of home because of the ubiquitous Filipino everywhere I turn.
In all those four cities I visited–Jeddah and Yanbu in Saudi, and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the UAE, I was sure to bump into a kababayan. I now realized that it is true: that the Filipino has gone global! I have been studying and eating and drinking and breathing the phenomenon of Filipino migration in almost thirteen years now. And I have conducted dialogues with Filipino communities worldwide, but seeing the diaspora in the Middle East has brought it to a whole different level. I have never seen them almost run a foreign country! It may be a little exaggerated but I thought that so many establishments and companies will greatly suffer should the Philippines pull out its numbers. Really. I think Filipinos are that important. They may get other expatriates to run their businesses but they will never get the same results as when Filipinos have run them. Never get the same competence, care and compassion. They make businesses and industries thrive in their own unique ways. They need not pretend, put on fake accents, or try to integrate hard or blend in. They just do naturally. Too bad, they aren’t doing it for their own country. It was really an eye opener for me. I never felt more Filipino pride when outside the country than during these last two weeks.