All expatriates I talked to here in Saudi Arabia came here for work. I never find anyone whose purpose is to have a missionary volunteer work. No one works here for free. Yet, there are some who did but not voluntarily. Unfortunate ones got delayed salaries or none at all. Some got paid, but with deducted working hours, vanished from thin air. Or say vanished from someone’s thick wallet. Some even mistreated with verbal and physical abuse.
Every pursuit has its own benefits and risks. Many people, including me, came here without knowing what we’re up to. Well, how can we know? Same as all the expatriate workers here, I already carried my own weights of heavy loads. I’m always thankful to God for protecting me from taking unbearable sufferings.
Now You Have It, Now You Don’t
My employer paid me in cash sealed inside an envelope. No need for any transaction from the bank to get my monthly salary. As most of my fellow Filipinos I knew, I send money as soon as we touch our salary.
I have a complicated step-by-step process in sending money home. First, I count the money if I’m paid accordingly. Second, I budget my money in my mind for about two minutes and four seconds. Third, I sniff the money and caress it like patting a pet dog. Lastly, I go to the bank. Yep, my relationship with my salary don’t last a day. At least most of the months.
We, Filipinos, as well as other nationalities, send money the same day we get our salaries. We go straight to the bank after work. If not possible, some of us leave from work. We love our family so much. We won’t let any delays in sending money for their needs. Not even for a day.
This is the way of life for most of the expatriates here. Except for extra means to buy wants (some reward for self like food, clothes, travel and electronic gadgets), all our money became part of history in a matter of hours. There are (hopefully many) who saves and invest for the future. They practice the art of delayed gratification. As of now, I’m not one of these wise men.
Some were blessed with good salaries and a car. Sending money for them is quite easy. I’m happy for them by the way. And I borrowed money from one of them once. 🙂
My Ordeals With The Banks
Without the help from the bank, I can’t send money abroad. Unlike in my home country, sending money here is an endurance test. A lot of patience and persistence should be at hand.
I have my first project in Jubail, at the time when my employer sending me money through banking.
The place where I work is one hour away from my where I live. The place where I work and live are both one hour away from the nearest bank. I don’t have a car, not to mention I don’t know how to drive. I’m just relying on the company vehicle going to bank every Thursday, the last working day.
The convenience of using ATM makes life easy. There’s one problem, every time I need to get my salary, I have to storm the long line of people. It took me not less than two hours to touch those precious ATMs.
I’m in awe, especially in my first time to learn how much people are willing to sacrifice for their loved ones.
Later on, the company brings me to Jizan Province, a southern part of the country. There I experience another ordeal. This time, I go to a bank with humans, I mean I deal with bank tellers. I chose this bank for a slightly higher exchange rate. I still need to fall in line for at least half of an hour.
One day, while writing the name of my beneficiary, the teller type two wrong letters on his computer. Maybe, I have a horrible handwriting in fill-up form. Talking in my broken Arabic, the teller tells me to come back tomorrow. I was pleasant and still smiling on that day. I have no idea it will take me five consecutive days of going back-and-forth. In the fifth day, there is still a problem! I can’t help, but to bump my fist in the front desk out of disappointment.
Instead of going straight to rest from work, I have to fall in line in a bank for repeated rejections. How does it end? I tell the teller to give back my money. It took another two days.
I told myself to never deal with this bank ever! I ate those words when someone asks me a favor to send money to his wife. Anyway, another long story.
Every Bank Have Filipinos
My story is just one of more than a million of Filipinos living here. As I mentioned, there are unfortunate ones which make me grateful. Of course, I’m not happy for their miseries. Just glad I’m blessed I’m in a better working place. Today, I don’t fall in line for hours. I did something different.
In the span of two years, I became familiar with the country. I now ride a taxi in the most unassuming days to avoid the line of people. I also discovered something more amazing. I’m not the only one who thought of this strategy. No matter what day and time I go to a bank, there’s at least one or two Filipinos. Hundred percent of the time!
Every single banking hours of every single day. At least one or two Filipinos are sending money home. The brand of the bank doesn’t matter as well. There is still at least one or two to see.
I admit I haven’t seen even one percent of all the bank here. And I don’t find a compelling reason to try. But I bet, every bank, in their every branch, at any given banking time, you can find Filipino. At least in Saudi Arabia.
The bank is the symbol of how much we love our families. It seems we’re just sending another piece of paper with buying power. We are also sending hope. We are also sending a message saying we are willing to forget ourselves for someone. We are sending the harvests of our blood, sweat, and tears.
Overseas Filipino Workers most of the time called saints and heroes of their love ones. Perhaps we are, but any good affirmation pales in comparison for a hug of the people who matter to us the most.
As love should be, there is always a need for sacrifice. We need grace to cope-up. We need your prayers. Help us with your prayers.
Thank you. 🙂