Monday, May 18, 2009

I, Witness


May 15, 2009, 7 PM DUBAI. The day was so stretched that the sun was just about to kiss its burned citizens goodnight. Same time in some other parts of the globe, people were already having their dinner, watching their favorite television shows and relaxing after a busy day. Apparently here, people, particularly the hardworking Pinoy OFWs, were likewise busy but not in the comforts of their own homes. Back and forth, they came rushing from all directions heading home, not one without a paper bag or a plastic bag probably containing something to cook for dinner or stuff bought from a discount shop to fill that huge anticipated balik bayan box. Their lives as a slaved worker have just ended for the day and so begun their little time to be human, i.e., an opportunity to eat, to rest, to talk with friends and think of their loved ones back home.

I used to sit in that familiar place adjacent a mall every time the clock approached 7PM. That's the time when the whole area was littered with people to smoke, to coffee, to chat with friends and for car less commuters to wait for their car pool. I was once pretending to be one of them. In reality, I was trying to pass time – to waste it as fast as I could while others could only wish for a 30 minute break from their strenuous work. Having been an unlucky tourist during that time here in Dubai, or should I say a jobless shit to put it more blatant, thanks to the global crisis, it has already been a part of my daily routine to spend time in the benches to just enthusiastically watch as people of rainbow colors comes down and around. Their mobility and purpose never failed to make me feel so green and resentful. Even the sight of our lowliest kabayan, who just seems to work as some maintenance guy, always made my head down to tears and self pity. At least they know what they are doing here and they make their family back home happy and proud. As for me back then, I was still trying to find a job and perhaps trying to hold my purpose like grains of sand carefully slipping through my fingers.

I have sat there for so many times alone as people stopped, thought and waited a minute. In the many occassions that I was there, I have bore witness at the bite of reality, of the many stories of our kababayans’ struggles and sacrifices here in Dubai , inevitably when my ears and eyes felt like listening when fellow Filipino’s passion for “kwentuhan” comes to scene. Already, I have overheard: a young lady sharing to another how she lost her job after her company closed down due to the financial crisis, one guy talking to somebody over his mobile phone, apologizing for not sending his padala on time. He explained that he has lent his friend some amount as the latter needed it for a parent’s hospitalization. Then, there were the “car lifters” talking about the 300 Pinoys recruited from the Philippines and were promised a job only to find out when they arrived that they have been scammed. One of them could even joke how his wife had runaway with another guy while he worked hard here in Dubai so that he could send money to her. They were laughing in between his loud “PI’s”.
It’s pretty cool how they could just laugh about it
. There are many more tales of discomfort, of pains, of hopes and of dreams of our kabayans here in Dubai that remained unheard and resting on their chest box. Except on the pages of this blogsphere, mine is one them.

One time, I was sitting alone like all the other usual days. I was thinking if Dubai is still the place for me. Then an
old kabayan sat besides me. He was carrying a huge backpack that made him looked so tired and haggard
. “How are you?” he opened up. I smiled at him to say, “Pinoy din po ako”. “Akala ko kasi Nepalese ka eh”, he confessed to my delight. I thought of walking out right away because I suspected that he could just be another kabayan begging for some financial help. But I have no where else to go so before he could even tell me that, I let him knew ahead that right now I am still jobless and it has been pretty hard times for me since then.

Contrary to what I expected of him to do next, he started to
deliver some comforting and fatherly words of advices and wisdom
. He said that we are indeed in tremulous times and we just have to bear with it with faith and patience. He shared that he has been in Dubai for the last seventeen years of his life and he works as a maintenance guy of a real estate company. He just earns a very minimal pay but I can see that he is very happy and thankful. He furthered that whatever is happening to everyone, it’s just how God wants it to be. Hearing those words, I discounted that he could be what I’d initially thought him to be. He sounds so contended and able despite his job that I could only care about when I am dead.

It was a pleasant exchange of stories at the start.
Someone not only listened to my tales but assured me that sooner it’s going to be fine.
Then he began to explore beyond the boundaries of our own personal dilemma. He started to ask questions that challenged my deep comprehension. “What is the name of the one true god?”, “Can anyone still salvage us from the dark times that we are in?”, “What do all these financial crisis, war and violence mean?”, “What does the future holds for us?” he asked in succession without expecting me to answer. He explained each. He was starting to sound preachy and I started to feel bored and annoyed. Honestly, I have such a very low tolerance when it comes to religious conversations in the perspective of a particular group or sect because I believe that faith need not be branded. I could have stopped hearing any further discussions on spiritual truths by telling him that I needed to go but I hesitated. I tried to eavesdrop intently to his words and cite my opinions once in while and it’s not bad though. We might have some differences in religious preferences but bottom line is, we still have the same God that hears even those that the hearts couldn’t say.

It would have been unfair if I just walked out simply because what he’s sharing was outside of my interest. While everyone else was busy crumbling to get home and as I watched time flies waiting for someone to heed my tales, someone came along to lend an ear and offered more. If I deserved a little time to be heard,
this man deserved something more than an equal opportunity, but respect and admiration for extending his arms far beyond his reach
. He was just a janitor, tired from work and yet still has time to share, inspire and listen. Not every kabayan would be willing to do that. The act itself of devoting a piece of his time in this place where it is regarded as priceless is something to be admired and appreciated way up high whatever topic, objections and misinterpretations we might have discussed along the way, be it the end of the world or about the curse of man. Dubai can be such a cruel and cold place to live in, how ironic, but with people like Manong, as what I addressed him; he just makes it a little homey and bearable. Before we parted ways, he pulled something out from his bag and gave it to me, it’s a leaflet that reveals more about the “truth” and I thanked him for the time. It’s what he has been carrying all along.

There are wonders if you wander, says one blogger and it doesn’t take a genius to know if it’s true. I have been unlucky to have remained jobless here in Dubai for almost eight months,
but being a tambay has nonetheless opened my eyes to the wonderful discoveries that have unfolded before my naked eyes, things that I haven't known when I was still busy with work and with the many tangible things that used to define my “life”. I have been a witness myself to the many struggles and sacrifices of our kababayans. I have been a witness on how we Filipinos always try to perfect our craft no matter what it is, despite some discrimination and indifference we may have from other people or from the work itself. I have been a witness, from that spot where I used to loiter at sunset, on how our kakabayans here in Dubai rushed to get home and be just who they are apart from being a devoted worker ready to endure everything for the sake of their loved ones back home. Finally, I have been a witness on how an old nameless Manong, against the tide of limited time and chances of rejection, was trying to make a difference in other Filipinos lives by sharing and imparting the values of patience, perseverance and faith.

Now, I am lucky to have employed myself to a new job after almost eight months of being a tambay. Sadly, I can no longer afford to sit in that familiar place adjacent the mall to watch with time as people of rainbow colors comes down and around. Like the rest of the many Filipinos who rush to get home in the evening after a very tiring day at the office, I no longer have the luxury of time to eavesdrop to a kabayan’s heartfelt sharing to another or to meet another manong to share his wisdom and inspirations. I supposed somebody else now sits in that spot where I used to loiter every time the clock approaches 7 PM. I suppose the witness now gets witnessed and another soul has taken his turn to see for himself what goes beyond the fast and dry life that defines Dubai. As for me, I would say that I have learned a lot about the sacrifices and struggles of Pinoys OFW by being a tambay for so long but bravely in a sense; there is no better testament to know the truth behind the evening rush and manifold dreams of the eleven million Filipino overseas contract workers than to be ONE OF THEM. There is no better spot to appreciate their greatness and legacy to the country and to the whole world than to be IN THEIR SHOES.


  1. Thank you joining PEBA. THank you for a very nice post. Hope you'll be able to find a job soon.

  2. Huli na pala ako sa plano kong inu-nominate ka, bro. o",)

    Talagang mahusay ang post na ito! Kahit mahaba, worth namang basahin. (,"o Hooo! Ilang thumbs ba meron ako, at itataas ko lahat.

    Good luck sa job hunting, Chico.

    [Parang may dalawang words na nagkabaliktad sa first sentence ng last paragraph. I know nalito ka lang, o ako ang nalito?! 3 nights na kasi akong kulang sa tulog.]

  3. Well written like a masterpiece! Is this your entry to the PEBA?

  4. Thank you for joining PEBA...

    wish you all the best chico.

  5. We are grateful that you have find your way to PEBA, and I love reading your entry, its a beautiful work of art.

    And yes, I hope and pray na sana makakuha ka ng trabaho.

    A blessed afternoon.

  6. you made it again sam. nice masterpiece kahit nga madalas e ayaw mo ipabasa ang original manuscript.

    marami sa atin ang tulad ni manong and we really have to sacrifice lots of things to be able to help our family and fulfill our dreams, no matter how it costs us. sometimes, it is very easy to reach that dreams but oftentimes we encountered difficulties along the way. tulad mo, i know how you are striving so hard to get a job and be of help to your family and live decently here in dubai. don't worry i am always praying for you and will be on your side no matter what.

    talagang me puso ka kung magsulat though you won't accept it at times. i feel for you coz i've been to that same situation some few years back but as what i am always telling you, there are things in store for you. you just have to wait patiently and pray intently.

    basta, kudos to a well written entry to PEBA.

    sensya na mahaba na naman, kulang pa nga e hehehehe

  7. Hope you win! I know He will give the right job. Ingatz lagi:)

  8. i was scared to read this kasi ang haba kala ko mabo-bore ako haha pero inspiring i could not believed na natapos ko basahin!

    i get easily uncomfortable when someone talks about religion or preaching too

    goodluck on your nomination.

  9. hello im DGB bagong blogger po sa Dubai pwede ba kitang add sa blogroll ko at makipagpalitan ng link? salamat

  10. I'm amazed at your perseverance in a foreign country looking for a job. After almost 8 months unemployed, others would surely have just lost it.

  11. i really appreciate kababayans in diaspora sharing their experiences as OFWs...i am wondering, does the government provide unemploynment benifit until one finds another job? does one survive there finacially without working for months?..

    i too have my share of stories of racial discrimination living and working here in Australia..but we Filipinos are gifted with wicked sense of humor ;) that we are able to laugh off even the most painful experiences...take care of you..oxoxo..

  12. @ hazel's design,

    wala pong tulong ang uae government sa mga taong walang trbaho. ang masakit pa, naka tourist visa lang kami at the most, two months lang ang duration ng visa kaya kelangan lumabas ng uae para mag renew na naman ng visa para makabalik.

    sariling sikap po talaga. kung wala kang kakilala ng tutulong sa yo, mabuti pang umuwi na lang ng pinas. in my case, nabaon po ako sa utang, at least ngayun, may work and i am starting to repay some.

    salamat po, ingat din po jan sa america!

  13. Chico, salamat sa pag reply mo sa mga tanong ko. Hindi ako nakatulog ng mga ilang gabi magmula nang magbasa ako ng mga OFW blogs..

    Your blog left a mark in my memory as i have sons in your age group and i just felt so so bad to think that one of my sons is out there facing uncertainties in life away from home. Although even here in what they call "the lucky country", young people are facing difficulties finding jobs.. My second son just finished Uni but struggling to find job that he likes and doing nothing depresses him..The government gives unemployment benifit which in my opinion does not help some of the young ones because it makes them lazy to find work.. I reckon that if they are not receiving this benifit, they will be forced to take on jobs anywhere, even in food processing or labouring while they are looking to start jobs in their chosen fields ..I don't believe in paying anyone for doing nothing...In America, unemployment benifit is only up to six months, here in Australia, it is given for as long as a person is out of work..It's crazy because some people take advantage of the system and we are heavily taxed to support them...

    May you continue to inspire others through your writings..I wish you all the best and may you never be out of work..and may you be safe always..take care..oxoxo..

  14. Good luck sa job search! God bless!

  15. Very inspiring naman po... Kailangan lang talaga magsumikap para makabangon...

  16. very inspiring. i just started to read about ofw blogs, kakalungkot mga stories but at the same time nakakahanga sa inyong lahat. keep up the good work chico. may god bless us all.

  17. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!