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In Saudi Arabia, the migrants should avoid the following: never smile and stare at people you are not familiar with, make low profile spending your free times walking inside malls and in the parks and other public places with unloose shirts, short pants, gold bracelets and necklaces (especially for men) the Muttawas or religious police might send you deep in hot water.
I still remember my co-worker who received his first and last Ramadan gift 7 years + (ago). The gift was unusual and it was a real nightmare for Dong and also for all of us working in the same company.
On November 11, 2002, a Filipino expat (we called him Dong – his real name is withheld) was scheduled to leave the Kingdom. But his departure was rescheduled on November 16, 2002. The reason was that, the person to approve for his release was not around.
Dong arrived in the Kingdom on December 03, 2001, to work as clerk/typist with the company where I am also working. He was friendly and a hardworking employee. Sometimes he had some arguments with his co-officemates but those were only jokes of the day with laughter and shouting.
Dong’s nightmare started on September 23, 2002 (Saudi National Day) also for that year the month of Ramadan was approaching. At 7pm Dong left our flat to buy bread at Al Othaim supermarket – a walking distance from our flat, but Dong was unable to return home. We got worried and surmised that Dong may have been abducted by some idiots and was desecrated and murdered. Usually when Dong goes out for shopping, in an hour or two he’s at home already. At around 12midnight we decided to report the missing Dong to the police and the police assured us they would look for him.
The next day at the office, we received a call from the police informing us that Dong was already in their custody handed by the religious muttawas, who caught Dong at Al Othaim supermarket. The police reports stated, that the Muttawas charged Dong with keeping earring, a small pendant cross and a small pamphlet of Christian bible kept in his wallet. Also he was suspected of being a woman/gay with his mushroom haircut, fair complexion and his smiles and preaching Christianity in the Kingdom.
Of course everybody in the office was surprised and believed that Dong was innocent of those charges. That same day Dong was released. We asked him if those charges were true but he told us those were only allegations.
Now we thought the case was over but on November 6, 2002, the police called us again and instructed our company to prepare Dong for deportation. They said that the religious muttawas brought the case to court and their request was approved by the high court deporting Dong out of the Kingdom immediately. It was so sad to learn about the news, as Dong will be deported soon.
On November 16, 2002, Dong went to the immigration department escorted by a police officer and our company secretary to get his deportation clearance but he was not cleared on that day. The reason was that the officer was in Makkah. The police officer insisted that Dong should be detained in their custody until such the time his clearance to depart out of the kingdom is materialized. And there, Dong was temporarily detained for days at Al–Batha Police Station, Riyadh City and later was transferred to the immigration office in Riyadh City . Finally on November 18, 2002, Dong received his early Ramadan gift; he left the Kingdom at 8:30 PM for Philippines .
There was fear and tensions in me at that time and thought what if it happened to me as well? What would I do? Whom I would ask for help, especially now our government is not responding quickly to help the many maltreated Filipinos in the Kingdom?
In Saudi Arabia alone there are approximately a million Filipino registered workers serving as doctors, nurses, skilled technicians, janitors, laborers, hotel staff, accountants, engineers, housemaids, drivers, teachers and trainers, barbers, and in every other imaginable field. Despite the homesickness, which is our constant companion, we adjust to different races, cultures and standards of living. A few among us have been able to save money, build a house or make some investments, but the majority are overworked, abused, maltreated and under paid or even unpaid.
Our government officials and political leaders call us, the Filipinos working abroad, modern-day heroes. That is an honor. But that is not what we are looking for from them.
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