Good things we do live forever

    Good deeds pay off.

    This comes to mind as I still receive requests for assistance from distressed Filipino domestic helpers (DHs) who think I could still help like I did when I was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

    But things have changed. Events have been overtaken by massive changes in the wake of Saudization taking place in the Kingdom, like Saudis taking over expatriates’ jobs.

    One thing remains, however. What we have done is or are now part of history and will remain in the mind forever.

    When Antonio P. Villamor, the late former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Yemen, passed away on March 26, I received text messages about him for some time as people reacted to articles on him on the internet.

    These came from people from all walks of life whose lives he had touched or who had heard about him.  Two of them were prominent overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) – one an engineer and the other a journalist.

   Francisco “Boy” Naval, an engineer who had a long stint with the National Guard in Khasm Al Aan in Riyadh, noted how supportive Villamor was  and that he learned from him.

    Ma. Rosa Sitoy-Ocampo, who used to zip over to various countries in her travel coverage, said Villamor was a good man.

Both Villamor, as a diplomat, and Rosa, as a journalist, were posted in Hong Kong.

    During the years I covered the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh when he was chief of mission (2006-2011), I gathered a lot of information about him that I included in reports posted on the internet. But some were left out.

   If I repeat some information here, it is just to illustrate a point.

    I used to call on him at the embassy or at his residence, which was just across the court inside the chancery premises.

   In his office he pointed to a souvenir from the Philippines.

    “I bring little things like this if I know a Saudi official I intend to visit would like it,” he said.

    Without him saying it, such little things helped him prepare his Saudi host’s mindset to be favorable to the Philippines or OFWs.

    “He hardly said no to an OFW’s request,” said Resty C. de Jesus, a community leader working as accountant and cashier at the Saudi International Trading Company (SITCO).

    An example was a request for Villamor to help two Pinay DHs who were raped in Abha, which was under the jurisdiction of the Consulate in Jeddah. The rape victims wanted to escape.

    After a week, both women called to say they were already at the Bahay Kalinga (BK) while awaiting repatriation.

    After Villamor was recalled, he returned to the Kingdom to help Celestino “Dondon” Lanuza raise funds to complete the amount demanded by the family of the Saudi the Filipino killed in self-defense, so  he could be released.

    Villamor loved life, as we all do, up to the time of his passing at the age of 88. Probably many do not or did not know that he was meticulous regarding the food he ate. He had a salad, which he prepared himself, for his own lunch or dinner

    One time, I visited Azizia Panda Supermarket in Takhasussi Street. He was at the vegetable section with a basket and told me he was buying vegetables for his salad.

   His being meticulous regarding his food could probably explain why he was still strong at a very advanced age, convincing leaders like then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to recall him from retirement to serve the country. He had earlier retired in 1999.

    One interesting detail he shared was that he met his would-be wife Rose in Spain where she was studying.

    “I wanted to visit her in the Philippines but how could I do that. Her house was in Forbes Park (an affluent and exclusive subdivision in Makati City),” he said with a smile.

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