29 years
Community Service
News Magazine
Operated by couple Eddie Flores and Orquidia Valenzuela
News and Views of the
Filipino Community Worldwide
Saying Goodbye to 2007 and to Some Friends

Vicente Collado Jr.
Doha, Qatar
January 22, 2008

The end of year is all about saying goodbye to the old and saying hello to the new.

On New Year's Eve, we said goodbye to 2007. No doubt, last year was filled with memorable events. The struggle with the worst winter in Doha, the arrival of help from Donna, the sweet escape to Kuala Lumpur, the transfer to a brand new villa, the unforgettable Independence Day celebration, the launching of websites, the one-month vacation in Vivere Suites, the new traffic law and the egg crisis in Doha, to mention a few, will always remain fresh in our memory. But, the one I will remember most was the exciting car registration that somehow reminded us of home.
New Year's Greetings to the Philippines

Car registration in Doha is pretty much like in the Philippines. It has to be renewed annually together with the insurance. This requires two trips, one to the insurance company and another to the Traffic Department. Going through long queues in both places is an ordeal but a necessity. I miss the system in Holland where road tax paid quarterly through the bank is all that is needed.

Our car registration expires every end of December. On the one hand, it is good because Carol is already on vacation and doesn't have to take a leave to attend to this matter. The car is registered under her name. On the other, it is bad because during holidays we prefer to enjoy uninterrupted sleep until 11am. To register the car, we need to wake up at 6:30 in the morning to avoid the long queue. On our first attempt, an empty parking lot and an empty office greeted us. Qatar Insurance Company extended by one day its Eid holidays instead of resuming work like all the other companies. We decided to go to the Traffic Department anyway just in case our insurance with still ten days of validity was acceptable. It was not. We looked around for stalls selling TPL's, similar to those surrounding LTO offices in the Philippines. They were inexistent. No choice but wake early one more time.

A long line already existed when we got at QIC the next day. Having brought along Sema's bag of supplies, we prepared ourselves for a wait perhaps a couple of hours long. But, a short while after, a Filipina at the counter noticed us and maybe our heroic struggle to control an unruly toddler. She immediately called us, ignoring the other 30 or so ahead of us. Either they gave preferential treatment to customers with kids or maybe Sema's screaming and jumping as he created a playroom out of the office were too much a disturbance for them. We didn't bother to find out the reason. But, what came next was an even bigger surprise. We got a QR1,500-discount for maintaining a clean record for two years, meaning no accidents and no violations. Of course, our car must have hundreds of small scratches and dents because of shopping trolleys and doors of other cars hitting us at the parking lot, but these do not seem to count. In fact, the Filipina officer was amazed at our perfect record. According to her, the majority normally come in with lists of accidents and violations. The insurance company penalizes their recklessness by charging a higher premium. Now we understand why each time we call Honda for our regular maintenance, the operator often says "Hello, service or accident?"

The experience at the Traffic Department was a stark contrast, however. Only twelve people were ahead of us; only four ladies were operating the counters, the others perhaps still on holiday. It only takes three minutes to renew a registration; we figured our turn should come after ten minutes. One hour later, the digital counter display said there were still 8 people ahead of us. Those who arrived after us had already left, business finished. We couldn't help but notice the busy activity of three or four people regularly jumping the line as if they were the owner of the place. Well, most probably they were because the ladies promptly processed their papers. When our patience grew thin, we approached one of the ladies, showed her our number and asked if we should instead come back four hours later when our turn would probably come. She didn't answer. She asked for our papers instead. A couple of minutes later, she asked us to pay the registration fee of QR65 and then handed us our new registration card and stickers. "That's it!" she smiled. After thanking her, we walked to our car feeling pretty much relieved, leaving behind eight people staring hopelessly at a digital counter that seemed to have gotten stuck.
Kick-starting 2008

We were reminded of the Philippines, to say the least. But, we tried not to dwell on it. After all, the favor given to us at QIC must have left some fuming with indignation. Instead, we preferred to focus on what we could buy with QR1,500. I suggested to the two, if I added QR300 more, I could get a 16GB IPOD Touch or I could go for the 8GB version and still have QR300 for our Christmas turkey. Or, better still, if I just added QR5,000 more, I could already get a powerful laptop exclusively for myself; right now, the two have priority over our desktop and laptop. Carol and Sema looked at me with raised eyebrows and told me to dream on. We had a democratic vote and I lost by a landslide, 1 against 2. We ended up with a 5-kilo turkey and more toys for Sema.

We celebrated our New Year's Eve with a barbeque dinner of steak and seafood. Carol threatened to walk out if another dish of turkey was served. After three days of recycling the Christmas turkey, she said she had more than enough for a year. It's a good thing Jess was more than happy to collect the leftovers, which until now, according to him, he has not yet finished.
Sema and Monique

New Year's Eve came quietly. It was as silent as the New Years Eve in the Philippines was loud. The preferred mode of celebration was dancing, singing and fine dining. Some officemates of Carol went to the Corniche hoping to see some fireworks but went home disappointed. A barrage of noise came afterwards, though, when people started coming back from their holidays. The planes decided to use our triangular-shaped compound as reference point for their landing. They flew so low one could wave at the passengers. In addition, they came in non-stop for three days at 10 minutes interval. Of course, we got used to them immediately and even enjoyed watching them.

On New Year's Day, we also said goodbye to Judy and to her colleagues, our friends working for a small supermarket at Landmark. It's owner had opted to sell out, certainly at a handsome profit, rather than compete with a giant supermarket that built its branch beside them. Judy and her colleagues were reassigned to sister companies. She is going to a branch close to the airport, virtually out of reach for us. Unless we bumped into each other fortuitously in the City Center Sema may not see her again.

Judy was one of the first few Filipinos we met in Doha. She works as a cashier. When we just arrived in Doha and still living near Landmark, Sema and I used to buy pan de sal there almost every morning after dropping Carol at the office. That's how Sema and Judy became close to each other. In Qatar, prepare to be noticed if you have a baby. Everyone will want to kiss and talk to him or her. Of course, you are obliged to do the answering. Eventually you, or rather your baby, become the friend of the town. Sema was only one year old then but he already had special fondness for Judy. He always insisted we paid our groceries at her counter. Bribed with giveaway candies or chocolate for his smile, he sure had sweet reasons to go to her.

For Judy, 2007 was turbulent from any angle.
Saying goodbye to Judy

First, we remember how early last year an absent-minded Caucasian couple walked out on her together with QR400 worth of merchandise. They asked her to cancel an item which she couldn�t do without going to another counter. When she came back, the couple was gone. She said she cried for several hours afterwards. The amount, almost half her monthly salary, would have to be deducted from her pay. Her eyes were still swollen when she narrated the incident to us two days after. Luckily, the couple went back for grocery two weeks later. She confronted them with the evidence. They said they might not have realized it and they paid back the QR400. But, by then, the emotional damage had been done.

The next blow came almost immediately after when what was thought to be her mom's severe arthritis turned out to be cancer. She was forced to go home to take care of her mom's hospitalization. Eventually, her mom's left arm had to be amputated. The hospitalization bill ate a huge chunk of Judy's savings.

After the operation, Judy needed to come back to Doha. That's when she realized she was in a much deeper hole. She was blocked by immigrations at NAIA. She couldn't leave the country unless she showed a copy of her work contract indicating she's being paid at least $400.

Three months before she went home, the new law mandating a minimum wage of $400 for all overseas Filipino workers (OFW) took effect. No exit is allowed for any OFW if this requirement is not met. Judy's salary as a cashier is obviously much less than that since she started working in Doha much earlier than the new law. In the first place, she couldn't produce any work contract at all. That was the last thing in her mind when she hurriedly packed her suitcase. She asked her employer to mail her a copy of her contract. Despite several promises from her employer, the contract never arrived.
Chance Encounter at City Center

Every OFW should have a copy of their contract. The fact that Judy didn't have any in her possession or that her employer couldn't send her a copy could mean that no work contract was ever signed. In this part of the world, this is not a rare phenomenon. Some employers are not really the epitome of justice, let alone kindness and mercy. They entice workers from abroad with attractive packages, but once here no work contract is made with them. In addition, even when contracts are drawn up, some employers really do not respect them. In fact, this is an issue international organizations regularly highlight as possible object of reforms; it seems the authorities will be coming out with some solutions soon.

The absence of a contract could also mean Judy was recruited as a permanent employee. According to Qatari laws, no contract is necessary if an employee is hired as such. But, if this is Judy�s case, shouldn't she at least have a certificate stating her status. More importantly, are the immigration officials in NAIA aware that there is such a thing in Qatar.

Judy was stuck in Manila, a victim of vague changing policies, just when she needed to earn money the most. We never thought she would ever come back. Four months later, though, we could not contain our joy when she suddenly greeted us at the vegetable section. Against all the odds, she managed to get through; her lucky break stemmed from the fact that some immigrations officials in the Philippines were still unaware of the new law.

The festive end of year provided no consolation for her either. Eight months after her mom's operation, the doctors discovered some cancerous lumps in her kidney. "Every time I think about it, I end up crying. But, there is not much I can do now," she said. Indeed, she is totally helpless. She works 15 hours a day, with only Saturday afternoon as her break. She probably gets QR1,000 a month. Given the huge cost of another operation that has no guarantee of being successful, all she can hope for now is a miracle.
Sema gives Judy something he calls flowers.

But, the worst is yet to come. Should the inevitable happen, she would be faced with the cruelest of options, a sort of Sophie's choice. She could either go home, accompany her mom during her last moments and run the high risk of being stuck in Manila permanently this time, or stick to her job here and never see her mom again.

We hoped to say goodbye to her for the last time yesterday, before their store is dismantled. Unfortunately, she was not around. According to a colleague, she has been visibly depressed lately, thinking about her mom and her worsening condition, and not knowing what to do.

We also bade goodbye to all the other Filipinos in the store who because of their fondness for Sema have also become our friends.

We let go of the old and welcome the new, hoping new doesn't mean new problems and difficulties. The first rains in Doha have fallen, flooding the streets, muddying the cars and creating traffic chaos. However, the rains have also washed away the grime and dirt of houses and trees, revealing their bright and beautiful colors. Bathed by sunshine, they all look new. This year, that's the kind of new we wish for, for ourselves and for everyone.

See Also:
MoreHelping in One’s Own Way
Vicente Collado Jr.

Stories and images of the unprecedented misery and devastation caused by Ondoy left no one untouched. And, based on the...
MoreArt Capital of the World
Vicente Collado Jr.

I remember how frustrated I was four years ago surfing the net and even driving around in search of art...
MoreSummer Entertainments
Vicente Collado Jr.

“We cancelled our summer holidays in Europe because of the swine flu,” a Qatari officemate of Carol recounted one day...
MoreReminiscence on a daughter’s 55th birthday
Julia Carreon-Lagoc

My daughter Randy Raissa Lagoc-Dingus turns 55 on March 11, 2018. I have no better idea of a birthday gift than to reminisce and share an aspect in a young woman’s life that happened 25 years ago — an incident that showed innate confidence, courage, conviction. And most importantly, compassion in the doctor-to-be. Read on:...
MoreA lavish party as Arnold Paco celebrated his 50th birthday with family and friends
Angel Axinto

Aloha!  Under a spectacular Polynesian backdrop, Arnold Paco marks his 50th birthday with a big bang.
Mga Gintong Kwento ni Rene Calalang

Last December 31, 2017, after working for almost thirty six years at an Aerospace Company (I started when...
MoreAGAPI goes green for St Patrick’s day
Evelyn A. Opilas

A sea of green greeted guests as AGAPI marked St Patrick’s Day with an advance celebration 10 March at the...
MoreFilipino Centre Toronto Sets Induction of Executive Council Officers & Board of Directors for 2017-2019
Tony A. San Juan

The Filipino Centre Toronto - FCT slates the induction of its Executive Council  Officers and  Board of Directors on April...

Contents posted in this site, muntingnayon.com, are the sole responsibility of the writers and do not reflect the editorial position of or the writers' affiliation with this website, the website owner, the webmaster and Munting Nayon News Magazine.

This site, muntingnayon.com, the website owner, the webmaster and Munting Nayon News Magazine do not knowingly publish false information and may not be held liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, consequential or punitive damages arising for any reason whatsoever from this website or from any web link used in this site.