Saudi woman’s quest for childhood nanny touches heart of a nation


There are sad stories and or shocking treatment but overwhelming majority of domestic workers in the Kingdom are treated well with respect in this country. Sad stories? Yes! But also many of them returned home with success stories of their own.” – BongA

Saudi freelance journalist Rawan Radwan

Saudi Journalist Rawan Radwan

When Saudi freelance journalist Rawan Radwan set out to locate her childhood nanny, she never imagined that her search would become an international news story, warming hearts around the globe.

Three years ago, the 29-year-old Saudi woman and her sister, Hadeel, discovered a deeply touching personal letter written to their mother by a woman from the Philippines 22 years ago.

“The discovery of that letter sparked my curiosity to find this person,” said Radwan. “She was our nanny, and her full name was Marie ‘Ning’ Bernardo. Many of our happy childhood memories are associated with her.”

With time and distance working against her, Radwan was frustrated time and again in her quest to locate the long lost nanny.

“I wanted to know where life had taken her,” she told Arab News. “She was very caring; it was she who instilled a sense of discipline in us; she was the one who read bedtime stories to us; she was the one who taught us English.” 

The Nanny

The Nanny

The then-youngsters were particularly attached to Marie because of the nature of their parents’ jobs. “My father, the late Mohammed Jamil Radwan, was a diplomat posted in Jakarta; my mother, Fatma M. Zain, was a lecturer in Jeddah. Both had very busy work schedules, and so we were left in our nanny’s care most of the time at that formative, impressionable age, and so everything good that she did for us remained deep within.” 

Radwan said she and her sister may have had 10 nannies after Marie, but “no one could replace her in kindness and goodness, and that is why I wanted to reach her.”  

With time and distance working against her, Radwan was frustrated time and again in her quest to locate the long lost nanny.

“I wanted to know where life had taken her,” she told Arab News. “She was very caring; it was she who instilled a sense of discipline in us; she was the one who read bedtime stories to us; she was the one who taught us English.” click  ArabNews to read more>>>

Extension of the Amnesty Period for Overstayers

Advisory No. 2012-006 (10 January 2012)

Extension of the Amnesty Period for Overstayers of Hajj, Umrah and Visit Visa Until 9 March 2012

The Embassy of the Philippines in Riyadh informs all Filipinos in the Kingdom that the amnesty period for those who have overstayed their hajj, umrah, and visit visas has been extended by another six months starting from 16/10/1432-H (corresponding to 14 September 2011). All concerned Filipinos are strongly urged to avail of the amnesty before the deadline on 16/4/1433-H (corresponding to 09 March 2012).

On 02 January 2012, the Embassy received Diplomatic Note No. 8/4/365161 dated 30/1/1433-H (25 December 2011) informing the Embassy of the Royal approval of the extension period for amnesty for violations of hajj, umrah and visit visas for another six months starting from 16/10/1432-H (14 September 2011). The six-month extension period will end on 16/4/1433-H (corresponding to 09 March 2012).

The Note did not include any mention of those with expired iqamas; those who came to the Kingdom for employment with a sponsor and have stayed beyond the validity of their iqama; or those who absconded from their original employer and seek repatriation. It is therefore clear that absconding workers or “ TNTs” are not included in the Royal Pardon or “Amnesty”.

The Embassy strongly advises all concerned Filipinos who have overstayed their hajj, umrah or visit visa to avail of the amnesty. According to the authorities, all overstaying nationals, including those availing of the Royal Pardon, will be blacklisted from returning to the Kingdom. Overstaying foreign nationals apprehended after the deadline will be required to pay a heavy penalty and may be subject to imprisonment.

The Embassy advises all Filipinos against dealing with “fixers” of any nationality, who claim that they could facilitate repatriation in exchange for fees. All concerned Filipinos are advised to proceed to the Saudi Immigration Office (Jawazat) in their region and complete the processing of their repatriation as soon as possible and before the deadline on 09 March 2012. ###

Saudization: A two-way process

For the past 20 years I have been in the Kingdom, we have seen a number of plans, programs and projects aimed at Saudization of the work force. In fact, the Saudi government has always aimed for a realistic average figure of about 25 to 30 percent Saudization in order to facilitate a smoother and viable transition.

100 % Saudization

Even at this low target, all the previous programs failed miserably, simply because Saudis have not been able to motivate themselves to grab the positions and opportunities offered to them, almost on a silver platter, and to top it all, at double to triple salaries and benefits paid to the expats, working in the same position and carrying out same duties. Other than banks and other essential government services, for which Saudis have been deemed as must, most of the private sector has been constantly struggling to meet government quotas of Saudization fixed by the Kingdom.

Sometimes this pressure on the private companies have led them to resort to illegal ways and circumvent the laws.

I feel, and I think most of us do know, that Saudization cannot be a one-way process. No matter what programs or plans are put in place, unless Saudis respond to it through their own motivation and eagerness to work, the government will continue to review and revise old or existing plans to Saudize.

When we will witness many Saudis working as mechanics, landscapers, carpenters and masons, A/C technicians, tailors, salesmen and restaurant workers, then only we will begin to realize that Saudization is taking root. The onus is on the Saudis to grab offers of jobs being made, accept salaries according to the average living standard, and most of all shun all the stigma connected with the idea that working with our own hands is below the dignity of a Saudi. In truth it’s the other way round. Saudization is a two-way proposition. Saudis are the only people in almost the whole world, to be lucky enough to have myriads of opportunities lying at their feet, and a very generous government to give them the chance, if they are willing to accept and work.  (10 July 2011)

Tidbits: Saudization & Transfer of Sponsorhip

Saudization 1990 up to present

ArabNews Editorial: Saudization plan

Wielding the stick does not work when employers know they can find a way out

It is refreshing to hear Labor Minister Adel Fakieh stating a few home truths about Saudization — that the number of unemployed is probably higher than the official figures, that the number of expatriates in the Kingdom is in fact growing at double the Saudi population growth rate and that, so far, Saudization had not worked.

Saudization is crucial to the well-being of the country. Jobs have to be found to meet the aspirations of the growing population. If they are not, the consequences could be dire.

The harsh truth is that Saudization has been an abject failure. Despite two decades of government campaigns, companies in the private sector continue to employ foreigners rather than Saudis — indeed do so in ever increasing numbers.

That is because expatriates are far cheaper to employ than Saudis. They can also be sacked easily. There is an issue too about Saudis’ work ethic. There may be plenty of voices protesting that Saudis are as dedicated workers as anyone else, but there is an undeniable problem. If there were not, why are there Saudi companies that refuse to employ Saudis? (Saudi men, that is; Saudi women are welcome.) Or employ them so that the numbers look right on the books, but tell them to stay at home? It happens. read more>>>>>

Online News, A year Ago – New Rules for Foreign Workers in Saudi Arabia

This online news was posted a year ago. I want to share this news to our readers,  for them to be enlightened about the rumors of a “new rules for Foreign Workers” in the Kingdom that they heard around the expatriates community.

Please note that there was no ban or law issued by the Saudi government for expats not to return  (come back) to KSA after a clearance or EXIT was issued to them by their employers. If an expat has a  good employee-employer relation and decide to apply for an EXIT and the employer approve the request;  and clear the expat  from all monetary obligations  plus an employment certificate, expatriate can come back to KSA with  new employer and can work in other GCC countries as well.

Transfer  of  Sponsorhip (online news below) means – a worker who transfer from one (original) employer to another (new) employer. The worker during the transfer must be still/within the Kingdom.  The other term for Transfer of Sponsorphip  is  Transferrable Iqama.  

Please read below online news with link:

Foreign workers in the Kingdom are now required to wait two years to transfer sponsorship to a new employer.

On March 24, the Labor Ministry announced that expatriates will have to work a minimum of two years with their current employer in order to get the approval for their sponsorship to be transfer to another. Until recently, workers were able to change jobs after six months with their employers’ consent. (Ministry of Labor Resolution 730/1 dated 29/3/1431 H).

This extension in waiting periods, enforced since April 15, aims to stabilize employer-employee relations and reduce negative impact expat movements were having in the job market.

“Some companies recruit workers in order to transfer their services to others. This practice had a negative impact on employment of Saudis,” said Abdul Rahman Al-Bawaridi, deputy minister for labor affairs. read more>>>>> 

Re-entry to any GCC Countries:

 العودة إلى أي من دول مجلس التعاون الخليجي:

Employees convicted of any violations in any of the GCC countries which includes violations of any labor or immigrations rules, will not be permitted to re-enter ANY GCC Country. Example : Employees going on vacation and not returning and then trying to re-enter another GCC country will be banned.

الموظفين المدانون بإرتكاب أي مخالفة في أي من دول مجلس التعاون الخليجي و التي تتضمن مخالفة أي من قوانين العمل أو الهجرة , لن يسمح لهم بالعودة لأي دولة من دول مجلس التعاون الخليجي. على سبيل المثال : الموظفون المغادرون في إجازة ولايعودوا, وثم يحاولون العودة إلى دولة أخرى من دول مجلس التعاون الخليجي سوف يتم منعهم.

Another Filipino worker accused of drug charges freed after 7 months in detention

APRIL 29, 2011, RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Another Filipino worker in Saudi Arabia accused of drug charges freed today early morning, according to OFW Congress, an OFW advocacy group based in Riyadh.


Citing a report from the Philippine embassy in Riyadh, the Filipino, whose identity was withheld upon request of the family, was apprehended on September 2010. The Overseas Filipino Worker  were accosted in an entrapment operation by Saudi authorities on an alleged tip off  that the Filipino was engaged in selling shabu known as poor man’s cocaine.

On November of 2010, the Filipino along with his companion was charged of Drug Pushing. A heinous crime in Saudi Arabia by which if proven guilty will receive  harsh judgment by the Saudi court and that includes beheading.

OFW Congress wrote a formal request for assistance with Philippine Embassy prompted the Assistance to National section of the Embassy to verify the case.

For the past seven months, persistent diplomatic efforts were made to follow up the case in order to avoid severe judgment from the court.

The Philippine post exerted more effort and pressed for royal clemency. The embassy included the name of the OFW in the list submitted to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, for the grant of royal clemency.

The Embassy’s efforts was favorably acted upon, the OFW was eventually released from jail and flown back to Philippines early morning of Friday, 29 April 2011.

Clemency  in drug related cases however, prevents the OFW to return back to Saudi Arabia for employment and to other Gulf  countries in the Middle East as well.

The Filipino worker is the 4th Filipino freed on drug related cases in Saudi Arabia in the first quarter of 2011. Just recently a Filipino sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia was released successfully through the embassy. Earlier, Michael Roque was released from prison in February 2011, while Nonito Abono was released in November 2010.

The OFW Congress-Riyadh and the OFWempowerment blog  is thankful to Charge D’ Affaires, Consul General Ezzedin Tago and to the Assistance To Nationals section of the Philippine Embassy particularly, ATN head Atty. Roussel Reyes and post representatives Jerome Friaz, Mr. Macapundag and Mr. Haris for the job well done.

To the recruitment agency of the OFW in the Philippines and to his employer who made an important contribution for the early resolution of the case.  -end- BongA

OFW Congress will initiate OFW Contingency Plan

OFW Congress will initiate OFW Contingency Plan

18/04/2011, RIYADH: OFW Congress-Riyadh will initiate OFW Contingency Plan and seek approval from our Philippine Embassy. The said OFW Contingency plan will serve as model contingency plan in any crisis such as natural calamity and other form of uncertainties in the future detrimental to the lives of OFWs in the region.

The group formed a committee assigned to draft and formulate mechanism for an effective contingency plan in the whole area of Riyadh or Central Region as a whole.    

Initial steps were drawn up for an effective OFW contingency plan as follows:

a)  OFWC  will initiate, draft and formulate OFW Contingency Plan or OFWCP.

b)  OFWC will request Philippine Embassy to invite Filipino Community Organizations (Philippine Embassy to host the meeting at the Embassy grounds).

c)  OFWC will request the Philippine Embassy to hear their side of contingency plan. 

d)  OFWC will present their Contingency Plan (Detailed Power Point Presentation) to FILCOM Organization in Riyadh.

e)   OFWC and FilCom agreed  OFWCP should be approved by our Philippine Embassy.

f)    Upon approval, the OFW Contingency Plan should be submitted to Overseas Preparedness and Response Team (OPTR) in Malacanang.

g)  OFWC/FilCom and /Philippine Embassy will request the OPTR to create a “STANDBY EMERGENCY FUND” that can be used in time of the actual needs based on the submitted OFW Contingency Plan (OFWCP).

OFWC Executive Vice President and Committee Chairman,  Engr. Faisal Sarque said irrespective of the nature of their group, all OFW organizations must join the OFWC initiative contingency plan – whether they like it or not,” adding that “the said contingency plan is for the general welfare of the OFWs in the mentioned area.” 

OFWC will identify area coordinators in areas, like Industrial Areas in Riyadh where huge concentrations of OFWs are found. 

OFWC VP-Economic Affairs, Engr. Allan Macabangkit said that 70% of OFWs who are not member of any organizations are covered by the Contingency Plan.” 

The group also urging Filipino Community Organizations to support the Philippine Embassy/POLO/OWWA’s advisory to register all OFWs online. This can be done by compiling all their members information and register it at once via online. (END)

A statement by the ministry of interior

To: Fellow Filipinos in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

 The Statement below from the Ministry of Interior in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that was posted in their website ( ) is clearly an information and a reminder to the public especially to Saudi Nationals that laws in the Kingdom strictly prohibit all forms of demonstrations, marches and the like.

Therefore, the mentioned statement doesn’t constitute as an alarm to panic that there will be untoward incidents that will happen in the future.

Please be informed that the Saudi authorities are now very strict in implementing all necessary measures to assure that there will be no such illegal activities that will takes place in the coming days to come.

Therefore, fellow Filipinos should be very cautious and refrain from joining any crowd that the Saudi authorities might sense as a gathering intended for unlawful purposes.   

Further, fellow OFWs should refrain from sending, forwarding and disseminating information which likely cause fear and alarm to the Filipino community, knowing or having reason to believe that the statement, rumor or report can cause panic among Filipinos and other nationalities in the Kingdom.

Please be advised that the OFW Congress and other Filipino Community leaders in the Kingdom are closely in contact with our Philippine Embassy.

From: OFW Congress-Riyadh Executive Council  


SAUDI’s are basically good at heart

It is just like, all Germans are as bad as Adolf Hitler,  but we know they are not.

People have wrong idea about  Saudi’s  because of  what we heard and read;  but to tell you frankly SAUDI’s are basically good at heart.  – Bong Amora


Marilou Lorenzo Ramirez with her sponsor Khaled A. Abdul Qader, Philippine Labor Attaché David Des T. Dicang and two nurse escorts at the King Fahd International Airport in Dammam on Saturday. (AN photo by Sadeq Al-Ahmad)

ALKHOBAR: Although there have been many cases of housemaid abuse reported over the years, a vast number of household helpers across the Kingdom are treated like family members.

Such is the case of Marilou Lorenzo Ramirez who likely will lead a longer life thanks to the generosity and concern of her Saudi employer.

The 41-year-old housemaid was hired in the Philippines two years ago by Khaled A. Abdul Qader, a senior planner at Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) in Jubail. Ramirez worked in the household for a year and won the hearts of Abdul Qader’s family with her dedication and hard work.

Five months ago, a brain hemorrhage paralyzed Ramirez. Abdul Qader first took her to Al-Mouwasat Hospital where he bore the complete costs of her treatment. Realizing the gravity of her illness, Abdul Qader requested the Ministry of Health to get her treated at a government-run hospital.

read more>>>>> 

Good news from Amnesty International

Good news from Amnesty International.

Dear Supporter, Today is Human Rights Day – and we bring you some reasons to be cheerful. The news headlines seldom seem positive, yet looking back on 2009, we have found much to celebrate – we’d like to share a few of these highlights with you.

Thank you for all your support during the year.


Kate Allen


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