IT’S not easy being popular, but Miguel ‘Mike’ Bolos Jr. seems to manage the fame attached to his name quite well. A 57-year-old entrepreneur, the story of the former overseas Filipino worker (OFW) inspires many migrants who would one day also want to come home for good.
Reputedly the highest paid Filipino in Saudi Arabia, Bolos decided to head home and put up his own business here in 2005. Never mind that he might never earn the same income he had as an accountant and chief financial officer; all he wanted was to invest the money he had earned for 25 years in his hometown of Guagua, Pampanga, a bustling town north of Manila.
THERE WAS no saying no to Ramon. He invited me to his one-room apartment one day in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan. There was no work for a week and most shops were closed during the day. There was nothing to do but watch television. Ramon, a Filipino who had worked in Saudi Arabia for 10 years, was my driver, guide, and friend. He said he wanted to show me something that I would enjoy.
THE SINGLE-windowed post office in the Manara District of Jeddah opens only between ten o’clock in the morning until around three o’clock in the afternoon. That would cover the time of day when the heat from the desert sun is at its fiercest and just standing outside already feels like being inside a furnace. But until a few years ago, there was always a long line of men sweating it out in front of the post office. More often than not, the line would be made up mostly of Filipino workers, literally suffering a slow burn while waiting for their turn to mail letters and voice tapes to their loved ones back home. Mailing letters was probably the only advantage female OFWs had over their male counterparts, since women did not have to fall in line and were allowed to approach the window anytime and drop their letters.