Francis R. Salud, an OFW who made good in Saudi Arabia

    We have heard and read in the newspapers sad stories of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who worked in Saudi Arabia. But there are also those who made good and there are more of them.

    One of them is Francis R. Salud who worked in Jeddah, transferring from one company to another in search of better pay and benefits.

    He stayed there for 20 years until he called it quits in 2009. He and his wife, the former Marilyn Garaza Opina, and sons  Kevin and Kenneth returned home to start afresh in the Philippines.

    They had built a three-story house in Tatalon, Quezon City for P1.5 million at the time, with three rooms rented out for P3,000 a month each, which is a big help in meeting their daily needs.

    They also started a little store dealing in basic needs, with an initial capital of P10,000, earning P1,000 to P4,000 a day.

    The Saluds decided to increase their capital by applying for a loan of P100,000 from a cooperative to cash in on their burgeoning community.

    “We count on some 5,000 customers in the neighborhood,” Salud said.

    They amortized the loan weekly and renewed it after they had paid it up.

    Salud said he could not ask for more, as he recalled the difficulties he encountered as vividly as the little triumphs and joys his family enjoyed while in Saudi Arabia.

    “My two kids who were born in Jeddah—Kevin and Kenneth, now aged 30 and 29 – trained as graphic design artists. Now they have their own families,” he said.

    He said he and his wife did a bit of community service by giving free lugaw (porridge) to poor kids in the neighborhood although they had since slowed down a bit in their community service.

    They were also like frontliners during the corona virus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, which brought the world economy to its knees.

   “I and my wife alternated in minding the store during the height of the pandemic, as we were open 24 hours daily,” he said.

   One thing that contributed to Salud’s success was the fact that he married the right woman. Marilyn hails from Juan Ponce Enrile’s town of Alcala in Cagayan Valley and who attended the Polytechnic University of the Philippines College of Arts.

    While the family was in Jeddah, Marilyn would cheer up Salud when he felt dejected because of the unstable work conditions.

    She came home on vacations to supervise the house construction while turning over in her mind other things she could do for the family while on vacation or after going back to Jeddah.

     Salud studied journalism at the Far Eastern University and had a good career at News Today when he decided to work overseas.

    “When I saw fellow Filipinos leaving and arriving at the airport I also thought of working overseas. This desire was engendered by the sight of huge airliners taking off at the airport, leaving in their wake a whine that ramped up my wish to also leave for an overseas job,” he said.

    He quit his newspaper job and flew to Saudi Arabia, joining SAFE Company as secretary but worked there for only a year.

    He transferred to Jeddah Graphic Center with a much bigger pay and good benefits for the family. But he was an all-around worker, leaving him exhausted at the end of the day.

    The managing director, a British national, was a difficult boss, shouting and wanting for something to be done even if his previous command had not yet been carried out.

    “That was the reason why employees did not stay long in the company,” Salud said.

    Salaries started to get delayed as clients dwindled, until payroll could not be met altogether.

   He transferred to Team Young & Rubicam, an advertising and graphic design firm. He received a salary of SR4,000, lower than the SR5,000 he earned at the previous company.

    He also contributed articles to Arab News, a leading daily in the Gulf countries, and wrote a column for Pinoy Xtra, the Filipino supplement of Arab News on Sunday.

    Edited by this writer, it was quite popular among OFWs and lasted for 14 years.

   When Salud and his wife accomplished the main reason for working overseas, which was to build their own house and have a little saving, they decided to come home.

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