As an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Manama, Bahrain, life for Rolando G. Buenafe,62, has not been as good as it should be.
However, it had its exciting moments, such as when he was told Thursday that he would leave the Kingdom at 8 p.m. the same day on a direct Gulf Air flight to Manila.
“Nagulat ako! Wala na akong pag-asa na makakauwi pa sa Pilipinas at direct flight pa ako, “he said in a text message on arrival at the airport on Friday morning.
(I was surprised since I was feeling hopeless that I could still come home to the Philippines. But I did and I had a direct flight!)
It is not uncommon for distressed OFWs to fly economy with a stopover or connecting flight in another country for a cheaper plane fare.
Last Wednesday at noon (Bahrain time), Buenafe was not sure what the future held for him. For the last seven years, he had not had a regular job and relied on friends and other OFWs, some of whom working in supermarkets, for help.
His visitor’s visa expired a long time back but he renewed it every year. His last recourse was to come home, with the hope of returning to Bahrain if given the chance. He had come to love the Kingdom.
Meantime, his immigration penalties had grown to Bahraini dinar (BD) 1,315 (P194,225) until the government declared an amnesty from Dec. 5 to 16 for visitor visa holders like him.
The Kingdom granted the amnesty on the occasion of its Independence Day celebration, Dec. 17-18. However, Buenafe still had to buy his own ticket, which cost BD 417 (P61,590).
He approached the MWO-OWWA (Migrant Workers Office-Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) for help but he was told it had only a BD207 (P30, 573) budget for him.
He needed an additional BD210 (P32,050).
He sent this writer a text message to ask for assistance
“Sinabihan ako ng aking MWO case officer Abdülrahim Agdy na ako ang bibili ng tiket,” he said.
(I was told by my MWO case officer Abdulrahim Agdy that I have to buy my ticket.)
Rafael E. Seguis, retired career ambassador, sent text messages asking for help from Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Undersecretary and Officer-in-charge (OIC) Hans Leo J. Cacdac and Ambassador Anne Jalando-On Louis of the Philippine Embassy in Manama.
Known for his prompt and brief but reassuring replies to requests for help on behalf of OFWs, Cacdac replied, “Tutulungan po natin siya (Buenafe), Sir!”
(We’ll help him, Sir!)
Jalando-On Louis said, “Airline tickets are very expensive now because of the Christmas season.”
“ATN and MWO will share the cost of the ticket so he can be repatriated immediately. He’s scheduled to leave for Manila on a Gulf Air flight tonight,“ she said.
Buenafe thanked Cacdac, Jalando-On and Seguis for their help.
“From the bottom of my heart, I thank DMW OIC and Undersecretary Cacdac, Ambassador Jalando-On and former career envoy Seguis,” he said. MWO OIC Celia Cabadonga, Welfare Officer Amelito S. Adel and Jeff Santos (protocol officer) saw Buenafe off at the new Bahrain international airport.