TAUSUG IN DOHA: A True Friend is a Lifeline for OFWs

DOHA, Qatar (MindaNews / 05 September) —  Perhaps anywhere in the world, the life of most OFWs revolves around work, home, eat, sleep, repeat. This is our daily routine. Going to work every day to perform our sworn duties as an employee is our main priority since it is the core reason why we are here overseas in the first place.

Pros and cons will always be there for every person and in any given situation wherever you go. As much as possible, always look at the positive side, but don’t neglect the negative one. Deal with both with good thoughts and actions. Never ruin your happiness by only focusing on the negative. Life is always balanced. Thus, at work, since we are dealing with people from all walks of life, we need to have good interpersonal skills so that we can always bring out the best in each other despite everything.

One of the most awaited days of the week is our day off because it is the day for ourselves, our rest day after a week-long full of hard-work. Also, it is the day to spend on house chores such as cleaning our accommodation, washing dishes and clothes, folding heap of clean duds, cooking viand good for three days or one week, among others. But when we are extremely exhausted from work, we just spend our day off sleeping all day making up for sleepless nights which can affect our overall health. Personally, sometimes, day off is a day with nothing to do aside from just dealing with my clinomania.

Furthermore, since health services are needed around-the-clock, health care workers are having either two or three shifts such as 12 hours duty a day (6 am-6 pm; 6 pm-6 am) with three days off per week, or eight hours duty a day (7 am-3 pm; 3 pm-11 pm; 11 pm-7 am) with two days off per week. Likewise, those non-medical workers who only work at day time have eight hours duty per day and two days off in a week. Days off for health care workers are often given consecutively or otherwise.

Moreover, there are those non-medical workers who are working for more than eight hours every day for six  days in a week but only get one day off per week. Friday is the most common day off for many workers here because it corresponds to the first day of weekend in the Middle East, which is Saturday in the Philippines.

Indeed, finding time for ourselves is crucial because we are also important! Consequently, after working tirelessly day-to-day and at times with only a single day off in a week, we occasionally go out to unwind ourselves and escape from the rat-race and hustle and bustle of the city life. We truly deserve to relax our bodies and minds from the weariness of our hectic lives as an OFWs. In doing so, we can also be socially, mentally, physically, and emotionally productive.

Every weekend wherein most of us are off from work, we spend some portion of our day off on outdoors such as going to the beach, boating, camping, and many more because it is the only time that we are free to do so. Of course, that is aside from other holidays such as during Eid. These are our humble ways to entertain ourselves so homesickness won’t engulf us. At least, even if we are away from our family and homeland, we can somehow alleviate our lypophrenia. ­

Mapaps at Sealine, Doha. Watching the sunrise. Photo by Arnie Asgal Lerios

The biggest thing that people like us who work overseas struggle with every single day is homesickness. We long for the company of our family. Hence, it is extremely crucial to find some genuine friends so we can somehow divert our attention and not get so affected by the mental agony of being away from our families and home.

“Genuine friends are important for us to be reminded of our purpose in life to worship Allāh. Meeting with friends is usually an opportunity where everybody can freely share their ideas and feelings about our situation both here and in the Philippines,” says Mark Dimon Santos, Tausug OFW in Qatar who works as a nurse.

Mark divided his time as an OFW into three: 8 hours of work, 8 hours with family and friends and 8 hours to rest/sleep, because he believes that time management is crucial. Well, I personally resonate with Mark. Every OFW must always value sleep as much as possible. A day full of hard-work deserves a full-night rest.

“To unwind, I go out with family or friends to parks, beaches and malls,” Mark added.

Weekends during the “old normal” days here in Qatar, there were some free Islamic classes organized by some Filipino groups in collaboration with local authorities here. Through it, you’ll be able to learn about Islam because numerous subjects are being taught by some OFW volunteers who have the sound knowledge about Islam. During these classes, it is a great opportunity for everyone to also meet new friends and other “Kababayan” who belong to the same tribe.

“Whenever I am free, I usually call my family, fiancee and friends because I don’t get homesick whenever I talk to them,” shares Ferdauzi Sajiran, OFW who works here in Qatar.

Ferdauzi said he loves to eat because “whenever I’m under stress, I eat too much. During my day off, I love to hang out with my family and friends here in Qatar. It makes me feel so happy if I am with them,” he added.

Just like most of the OFWs, work is the main priority for Ferdauzi. Likewise, time management is too much crucial for him. “I usually manage my time by prioritizing first my work. Whenever I’m done with everything, that’s the time I plan for myself,” he further added.

Being away from home means you need to take charge of your own self, too, not just your work. Being highly independent indeed is crucial, too. When you are sick, you will be the one to nurse yourself. Although if you got good company in your accommodation, somehow someone can assist you.

“For me the importance of having genuine friends is that you don’t feel alone. In your sadness, they are there to help and comfort you. You will always feel happy together with them,” Ferdauzi believes.

As an OFW, you need to be friendly because inevitably, whenever you’ll be having a problems while you are away from your immediate family, like for example you will get sick, apart from Allaah, at least you have someone who can take care of you or at least help alleviate your difficulty.

“With my erratic work schedule every day, I always make sure that I can sleep for at least six hours a day; and with the roster which is being released a week before the start of the month, I can always plan ahead of time, but normally I don’t stay in Doha that often. Usually, when I am off, I go to the park and run and at time I meet up some college friends and colleagues. I consider genuine friends as family. As an OFW it helps lessen the stress and loneliness for my family in the Philippines,” narrated Khedehl Rabin L. Tan, another Tausug OFW.

Khedehl was stuck in the US during the COVID-19 pandemic and wasn’t able to return to Doha then. But according to him, he had learned a bfew things in life since he was away from his original line of work.

Alhamdu Lillahi, in times of need, there are still few rare kind-hearted people who will willingly and sincerely help alleviate your worries even if you didn’t ask for help from them. May Allah reward them with goodness in this world and in the hereafter.

Worth remembering that my late paternal aunt Elizabeth Tulawie Quijano, who was once an OFW, had a lot of friends who turned out to be her family who loved and valued her so much. They treated my aunt as their own mother, elder sister, and best friend. Qadar Allah, during her vacation, she wasn’t able to return back to her work in Saudi Arabia because she perished in Zamboanga City due to heart ailment.

I am forever grateful that I have friends here who didn’t just treat me as a pal, but also like a sibling. Our camaraderie as brethren Fillah becomes stronger since it was not difficult for us to get comfortable with each other.

Camping at Sealine, Qatar. Photo by: Arnie Asgal Lerios

One of the best things about us is that we treat each other with respect, honor, and dignity, being more than genuine buddies because we are like our own true brother to each other. Although, spontaneously, we comfortably enjoy to bully each other fondly at times but without harming or hurting each other in the process. Nothing personal, just clean and pure fun. Likewise, when there are plans to hang out and relax, everyone simply agrees.

Moreover, our group is fond of food trip. We love to eat native food so much. Luckily, many of us know how to prepare and cook it. So, once craving attacks, it’s just easy to cook it!

Well, we want to always enjoy the company of everyone while there is time. Every moment with family and loved ones is extremely crucial because tomorrow is not guaranteed. These unforgettable moments that we have shared with them will merely remain just precious memories someday that we will treasure forever.

Again, true friendship is one of the sweetest things that one can enjoy in a lifetime. It is the glue that binds our social lives together and provides an immense amount of meaning for us in both the short and long term.

I take pride in saying that our staunch bonding in the group does not go through hazing like others. Perhaps, we are just on the same wavelength.

Gratefully, had Allah not joined our hearts together, we would not have been -by Allah’s Grace- become brothers in Islamic Faith. Being united as ONE HEART via Islamic Faith is such a priceless Gift from Allah and so we are all obliged to nurture and guard it well.

(Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their experiences in their adopted countries. Gamson Jr Mawallil Quijano of Sulu is a registered Radiologic Technologist who works in Doha, Qatar. He was on his way to Sulu supposedly for vacation with his family when the  COVID-19 lockdown was imposed in mid-March in Zamboanga City. He is back in Doha)

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