by Laliebeth Petancio
I was hesitant to accept a hand offered by an Arab guy as a welcoming for me to a special meeting, knowing that for Muslims this gesture is not pleasant for a woman to shake hand with a Muslim man. But I was certain about responding to his greetings with Wa Alaikum Assalam [Peace be upon you] before we settled for an interview in a cozy restaurant.
Sitting next to him in dainty white kandoora & delicate ghathra draws me to a strange feeling yet with a curious instinct asking what inspiration this man has to bring for the Filipinos. I got no ideas!
‘’My name is Salem. I was born to an Emirati parents living in Abu Dhabi for many years now’’, he begun with bits of his family background.
And before I could ask my next question, he continued straightforwardly.
“We had a Filipina nanny who worked and lived with us for 30 years. She was never another person to us, but I look on her like my own aunt as she treated my mum like her own sister. My entire childhood was nurtured with an essence of Filipino attitude, care and compassion. She has influenced my upbringing as a person.’’, the 39-year old Salem claimed gratefully.
I choked with amazement for a second and attempted to ask several Why’s. But this man was sincere about relating a life scenario when his mum was ill.
“I think, I cannot find a person who can take care someone not their blood like the Filipina nanny who is willing to sacrifice for other family. The way they care for others is different, very genuine’’, he exclaimed saying that he was only a little boy to see and appreciate these good cultures of Filipinos.
As he grows to become a man, met many men from all walks of life, from different countries, he acclaims with a quote.
Salem Abdullah Mohammed Majid Almehairi
‘’ In my encounter in life with Filipinos, I say, they are the kindest and friendly people in the world. They seem to be always happy, they keep smiling even when they have reasons to worry about and they care a lot like you are their brother or sister. They are the kind of persons you can surely trust. I love the Filipinos for being amazing’’, grateful Saleem.
I came to learn that his family helped their nanny build a good house back in the Philippines, provided financial support for a business and helped other family members land a job.
Salem, who has his own family now, also got a Filipina nanny who takes care of them. As a head in the family, Salem ensures that this person finds home with them, secured and well-provided. And like his childhood nanny, she is treated like a sister-in-law, a sister, an aunt, as a respectable woman.
Giving Back to Filipinos
His story did not stop there.
Being grateful to the kindness of the Filipinos around him, Salem found an initiative to give back to them, not just for the few but as many Filipinos as he can.
He navigates the Philippines, builds network of local suppliers of quality Filipino products, forms trade with them to bring products to the UAE and sets up a business dedicated for Filipinos.
His heart leaps with joy realizing that in this way he is able to help the Filipinos in their country and satisfying those residing in the UAE by promoting Philippine products at a price lower than elsewhere in this Emirate.
He is opening a Divisoria Baqala in Abu Dhabi with 100% Pinoy products, which name tells what it’s for.