In today’s times where the buzzword seems to be Saudisation or Emiratisation or Omanisation for that matter, it is often easy to overlook the contributions made by others who came to this vast peninsula of sand and paid in sweat and effort towards the development of this country, particularly in the last few decades. They usually remain in the background.
But that does not in any way imply that they remain ineffectual. And perhaps no expat community or guest workers can boldly claim the mantle of the influential movers within the expat community today as the Filipinos justifiably could. Whether in sports or in any other field, the Filipinos stand out as they seem to do extremely well in every line of work. Professional and courteous, they manage to while away at their jobs with a smile.
Be they doctors or engineers, nurses or technicians, service personnel or salesmen, these hundreds of thousand guest workers have every right to be recognised for the positive efforts they have exerted towards the building and running Saudi Arabia. And it is not just within the scope of their jobs that they have excelled in.
Even within their own community, they have built the network of a large family. One that proudly looks after its own. There are Filipino organisations and Filipino community leaders who use their time and resources to help other fellow Filipinos learn and refine the skills needed on their jobs, such as computer training, business skills, medical assistance, etc.
Filipino organisations offer free training
In Saudi Arabia, a Filipino-run NGO, the Overseas Filipino Workers Cooperative Council is one of those who helps tirelessly in providing continuing education to a lot of Filipinos through computer literacy programmes and how to organise, manage and create cooperative organisations. The expats may use these skills to start their own business when they return home for good. The seminars and training offered are virtually free of charge.
The Alyansa ng mga Samahang Pilipino sa Ibayong Dagat (ALYANSA) is an organisation of Filipinos that provides assistance for the OFWs’ welfare, such as in the case of the 13 Filipino fishermen stranded in Saudi Arabia recently. They were able to return home because the group was in constant communication with the relevant authorities and even helped them with their basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter. This organisation also helps OFWs who are abused by their employers and also, those who are in jail and need legal assistance and counselling.
CISA (Circulo Ilongo — Saudi Arabia) participates in a group of humanitarians who have been conducting medical mission. The project caters to providing free medical consultations with medical prescriptions, health education and awareness lectures, dental services, and basic laboratory tests and anti-meningitis vaccination drives.
The Filipinos here in the [Saudi] kingdom and elsewhere, just as the hundreds of thousands who had passed through this soil in earlier years have every reason to be proud! They have indeed given it all that they had.
Most of the recipients are Filipinos and other expatriates who cannot always avail of such services mainly due to the reasons that these people are not always covered by medical insurances that only big companies can afford.
These are but a few groups mentioned among countless others that are putting a lot of effort and free time and using their own resources towards other Filipinos. One of the key areas that many of the expatriate workers need help is in the legal system, particularly when their rights are usurped by unscrupulous employers. We have all heard of the tales of worker abuse at the hands of some really bad employers.
Even in local sports, there are many Filipino groups who are actively conducting and participating in leagues such as bowling, basketball, tennis, darts, chess, etc. One just has to read the Sports section of any local newspaper, especially to realise their impact on the domestic sports arena.
Such efforts are not only confined to workers from the Philippines. Indians, Pakistanis, Nepalis and others working in the Gulf countries have all formed similar institutions with the intent of helping out their compatriots in times of need, although on a much smaller scale. The purpose is to serve the dire needs of their compatriots. TN FIDET (Tamil Nadu Fishermen Development Trust) is another such NGO which serves Indian fishermen working in Gulf waters.
The Filipinos here in the kingdom and elsewhere, just as the hundreds of thousands who had passed through this soil in earlier years have every reason to be proud! They have indeed given it all that they had, and with a pleasant smile. And to them, we hold our heads in gratitude. Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.
And lest we not forget other nationals; to them too we say ‘Thank you.’
— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena