It was in the year 1973 when Filipinos first came in Saudi Arabia. During those years, Saudi Arabia has become the job destination for OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers). With a flourishing economy and high wages offered, the fears and worries could no longer stop Filipinos in looking greener pastures abroad.
Leo, a hardworking, family oriented Filipino decided to avail his early retirement and applied through an agency to work in Saudi Arabia, luckily he was accepted for a job in a company recognized as one of the largest desalination plants in the middle east.
They were ten Filipinos who landed a job at the same company. Leo remembered the principles that must be followed while traveling in Saudi Arabia that if one will bring old bad habits, they should not come in this place. One must obey their laws and show respect to their culture, and you will not meet any troubles.
When they arrived at Riyadh airport, they were greeted and welcomed by the company’s representatives and have led them into a domestic airline that would bring them to Dammam. It was a very tiring destination considering the weather condition was so humid. Upon getting off the plane, they were escorted to a bus that will bring them to the plant site. Most of them have already visited Saudi Arabia, but for Leo, it was his first time to go in a foreign country. Nobody knows that it was Leo’s birthday when they arrived at the accommodation. At first they were happy with the fact that they were with their fellow Filipinos, being friends and all staying at the temporary apartment, and they were only for a couple of days to be together, and later will be dispatched to the flat which should be inhabited for the rest of their stay was a dismal moment. Leo and one Filipino whom he met during the pre-departure orientation in the Philippines has become his closest friend. It was the month of August where humidity was at elevated scale when Leo and his friend searched for their flat. The condition of the surrounding was moist, and unexpectedly Leo’s left knee struck pain uncontrollably. Leo almost squeezed his legs just to get a fix of the pain. The two Filipinos continued and did not want to delay the search for their flat; what made it harder was the numbering of the houses was confusing because it was inconsistent with the sequence of the houses.
When they identified their flat, they were very thankful and they were welcomed by their fellow Filipinos. In the flat, there were other three Filipinos that will be living with them. Leo has accepted the reality that living with others that were not blood-related would be difficult of getting comradeship with others.
Many months passed and turned into a year. Leo has accepted the fact that the rest of his stay will be empty and the painful truth of having an intangible communication with loved ones. But in all the more admirable news that gave the kindest regards into Leo’s existence was the vital information heralded by his wife that Leo will soon become a father. In Leo’s uncontrolled excitement, he told this to all his housemates and declared that all of them will be his son’s godfather, while everyone acceded, they shared the feast that Leo has prepared.
Just after a year and a half, Leo’s friend was not taking it so well to stay longer in his assigned department and not for long; Leo’s friend went on vacation and did not come back. Only four Filipinos were left in that flat. And just after three years another Filipino resigned and transferred into another company with a high salary and more attractive benefits. From the original five now down to only three Filipinos staying in the flat. After seven years, another housemate decided to join another Filipino in another flat and permanently moved there. Now only Leo and another Filipino named Rolly were left on the flat. In Rolly’s account that he will be soon retiring, only waiting for one year more and only Leo will be left in the flat. Rolly preferred to leave a good memory for Leo and he learned that Leo was not easy to get along with somebody who’s having bad manners; he decided to acquire a mynah bird and planned to train it to talk. He had taken one fledgling that had dropped from its nest and immediately took hold of it and run away from its mother chase. He brought it home, put inside the cage but apparently, the mynah bird was indisposed of its new home. Rolly tried hard to comfort the bird, gave it water and food to consume but the bird did not respond to the kindness and eventually died from intentionally refusing to eat its food.
That was the first attempt of harboring a bird inside the flat. Rolly was not giving up in finding another mynah bird, he looked again for another mynah fledgling, and someone taught him that a brood of chicks was easy to teach a language. One day, as Rolly opened a door leading to the terrace, he saw a fast flight of a mynah bird, when he looked around at every paved area of the terrace, just at the top of the door was a collected twig, leaves and grasses forming a cup-shaped empty nest. Rolly began to think that any time the mynah bird will come back and will lay its eggs. Rolly took time to wait until after a week he quietly made a furtive look at the nest while the mother bird was away foraging for food to feed its chick. Rolly was surprised to find a tiny unsteady chick. Rolly decided to take the chick out of its nest and brought it inside his room. This time Rolly changed his approach in taking care of the new bird. Every day he would sit nearby the cage and would talk to the bird, he even let the bird out of its cage and freely roamed around inside the flat; he also put a mirror to reflect its image and tricking it to be with another bird. The new fledgling developed its wings and builds and introduced the bird to Leo. Leo started to befriend the bird and every day he would introduce simple words for the bird to imitate. In the morning, Leo would greet the bird “good morning” and upon leaving, Leo would say “goodbye.” Leo let the bird knew its name, in every talk, he would say “hi mynah” and pointing to the bird, “your name” and pointing to his self, “I am Leo.”
Every day this has been the routine until the bird got acquainted with all of these. It was like another roommate had come to fill camaraderie. Leo started to feel complacency with the newly found friend. The flat was filled with fun for the three companions. Mynah was allowed to roam around the flat and whenever the two Filipinos will leave and attend duty for work, they will provide foods for mynah. After one year, Rolly reached his retirement age and it was time to exit. Leo and Rolly made a promise that they will see each other when back to the Philippines. That moment was so sad; Leo accompanied Rolly to the airport and parted ways. Leo returned to his flat feeling empty and all alone, but all the loneliness was relieved by the sound of mynah who greeted him “hello welcome back,” and that phrase made Leo come alive again with so much hope to sustain a longing companionship. Leo has still three years more to keep before his expected retirement, with his companion mynah, he made every single day ordinary and more interesting with setting a family talked on the other side of the phone or video call, it made him everyday struggle of homesickness into the negligible matter. After one, two and the third year and final year for Leo, it was time for his most awaited retirement and to be reunited again with his loved ones was also a feeling of melancholy for such an occasion that he will also be separating from his companion mynah bird. It was past three in the afternoon, all bags were packed and ready to go. Leo held mynah for the last time and whispered to the bird, “Thank you my friend, for the years that we established a good rapport with each other, but we have come to the point of our life that we need to part ways and say goodbye, we are both destined to meet and fulfill our dreams, our purpose and most especially finding what happiness really means to us, I have come to select you and be my companion and you by chance accepted the fact that I needed you, and in return gave you a gift that other birds won’t have and that was the ability to talk, keep that skills as unique just for you and maybe that will hold our communication alive again, who knows maybe we will meet again, for God is so kind to make everything possible, who knows.” Mynah bird bobbed its head and said, “Goodbye” “I will miss you.”
Leo held mynah and massaged its black hooded head and they both went to the balcony where there were many trees, and Leo put his hands holding mynah outside the window and softly released mynah from his hands and waved goodbye.
Leo picked up all the luggage, one more time looked around at every corner of the flat where he lived for almost 20 years and went down the stairs, but at the very moment that he will be embarking inside the car, he heard squawks of mynah just above the rooftop of the flat, again Leo waved his hands to mynah and went inside the cab. Leo saw mynah flew around making one more contemplating of the place and then vanished completely.
In our life journey, we have been accompanied by somebody and somewhere in an amazingly circumstances by an unexpected someone who by the good gestures of our great creator has been sent to us for a purpose.