This is the brief story of a Filipino migrant living in Dubai, Unites Arab Emirates.
I used to pass the kiosk of the famous chain SMS Restaurant and Confectionary at Al Rigga Station (They sell cakes, snacks and meals at metro stations of Dubai) every day. The affordable Mayfair Hotel in Dubai where I stayed for 3 days was close to Al Rigga, so my day used to start and end at the Al Rigga station. I visited Dubai and Abu Dhabi during Ramadan which meant, I could not consume food and water in public till evening, usually around 7 p.m. The sight of samosas stocked in the kiosk was irresistible after a long day of exploring the city, fueled by closeted consumption of food and water.
The kiosk sold tempting Indian food such as samosa, kachori, curries etc. I was addicted to their huge and delicious samosa. I would break my forced fasting with a samosa every day. I later learnt it is owned by an Indian, hence the authentic taste.
Repeated visits to the kiosk resulted in building a rapport with the kiosk attendant, Cheryl Laggui, a Filipino girl who would go out of the way to serve the customers with a sunshine smile. On the last day, I couldn’t help but strike a conversation beyond hellos.
She was busy as usual handling the shop single handedly. When I requested to talk to her, she readily agreed with her ever ready smile.
Below are the excerpts of our conversation
Me, “How many years you have been working in Dubai?”
Cheryl, “I am from Manila, capital of Philippines. In Dubai, going 8 years. Before I am working in Abu Dhabi for 3 years, then I transferred here in Dubai. Same business; food business. Too much Filipino people here. Because here you saw so many Filipino, so it feels like home. (sic)”
Me, “ Do you miss your home in Manila?”
Cheryl, “ I live here with friends. I have no family here. I am friends with people of Philippines as well as other countries. I don’t miss home much. You know there is internet so you feel connected. “ (sic)
Me, “So How long are you planning to stay in Dubai?”
Cheryl, “Maybe after I finish my contract here? I don’t know if we have to renew, it depends upon the company.”
Me, “So how often do you go to Manila?”
Cheryl, “Once in 2 years, I go home. The company gives us a free return ticket every 2 years. Besides, I am very busy here. I work 9 hours daily and I have once a week off. “
Me, “When do you plan to return to Philippines forever?”
Cheryl, “I am not married yet. I am not sure if I would want to go back to Philippines even after marriage. Because you know the salary here is good rather than Philippines. “
I could barely talk to Cheryl for 5 minutes when a customer showed up at her kiosk. She’s busy, hardworking and knows how to stay cheerful under pressure. She quickly but politely tears herself away from the conversation and takes the order. This quintessential Filipino quality makes them one of the largest migrant communities in Dubai along with Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans.
Out of approximately 7,00,000 Filipinos who work in UAE, 4,50,000 live and work in Dubai alone representing 21.3 % of Dubai’s population. At 7.8 million migrants, UAE had the fifth-largest international migrant population in the world. Filipinos in Dubai work in the field of construction ,telecommunications , real estate, retail, design engineering ,hospitality, architecture, cargo shipping, energy, IT industry, marketing, medicine and even as domestic helps.
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