Yesterday afternoon in Batha, I sat down at a stool near the taxi parking area waiting for a ride. I usually look for a taxi driver na kilala ko considering that I have to travel 30 km. to reach 3rd Industrial Area. .
Lack of personal means of transportation is one of the problem why I can’t devote my community legwork during off days. That is why some community leaders lend me a ride or sometime I rented a car if it is really needed.
While waiting, a fellow OFW who sat beside me asked from where I am in Pinas. Asking from where you are is usually a greeting by our kababayan to start a friendly chat.
Sabi ko I am a Boholano by blood but living in Mindanao particularly in Agusan Del Norte, he was glad to know that we were both Bisaya because he is from Davao. I noticed that he was too old working as an OFW and he was too tired; and with him was a plastic bag that I thought his personal belongings. But later found out that the grocery he brought was not for him but for his runaway friend.
In our chat, I did not inform him first that I am active in the community. I learned from him that he is working in a farm with a monthly salary of SR 800.00 (P10,500.00) and for 20 years of working as a farmer he was able to send his 3 children in college and one of them working as clerk in Manila and the other had just finished studying and looking for a job in Davao. To make the conversation as pleasant as it is, I made some joke and told him that I visited Davao twice and it is a good place to live. Later I asked him why he is still working abroad and better for him to be with his family. He said that the youngest of his children still in college, added that “siguro dalawang taon na lang ang itatagal ko rito, patataposin ko muna bago ako mag exit”.
I was touched by his story, here’s an OFW a 60 years of age with a meager income of SR 800.00 still working for the future of his children. One more thing, with his income he was able to set aside a small portion of his savings to others in need.
Dito na ako nagpakilala at nag offer ng tulong doon sa kaibigan niyang run away. We waited for an about 30 minutes before his run away friend arrived. Kinakabahan pa ito dahil expire na ang iqama for 2 years at baka masita ng polis. I told his friend not to worry and I found out from him na marami pala sila sa isang bahay na tinitirahan at puro mga takas. Dagdag pa niya na sardinas daw ang pagtulog nila doon at ang iba pag nakakita na ng trabaho dina bumabalik pero bumibisita sa kanila paminsan minsan na may dalang pagkain. Ang iba naman ay umaasa sa mga abuloy ng kapwa natin pinoy sa Batha.
Sabi ko, hindi ako puwedeng magtagal dahil nakita ko na ang taxi ng kaibigan ko pero sabi ko sa Friday magkita kami muli at samahan nila akong makita ang mga takas na kababayan at ng makuha ang detalye ng problema nila baka sakali makatulong ako, sabay bigay ng cell phone number ko.
We parted ways with a happy heart. In the taxi I can’t help myself thinking about the OFW farmer. An OFW who sacrifice working in KSA for 20 years away from home for the future of his family and here he is without hesitation lends a hand to those in needs.
I am looking forward meeting the OFW farmer again and just in case he didn’t know yet, I will inform him that in Saudi Arabia an OFW who works in the farm is not entitled to End of Service Benefit.
I closed my eyes to take a little rest then i found the right words to described him “Ang Tunay na Bagong Bayani”.
Update: June 11, 2009
The farmer’s youngest daughter (now a nurse) called yesterday from Philippines to inform me that her father died last June 1, 2009. She said that his father mentioned my name and told her to inform me if ever something happen to him. The farmer became my close friend when he was still here. I always visit the farm where he was working every time I need a cool place to stay.
Thank you Manong Claro Ybanez sa mga oras na kasama kita, mga alaala ng ating sandaling pagsasama ay mananatili sa aking isipan magpakailanman. Ang mga mais at kamatis na dala ko palagi pag uwi galing sa farm ay hindi ko makakalimutan. Isa kang “Tunay na Bagong Bayani”.