MANILA, Philippines – Unlike most stories from the Middle East, this one is something happy from sad. After chef Federico “Rico” Reyes died of an apparent heart attack in Jeddah last September, his widow Laarni not only had to grapple with the grief of losing a husband, but also with the prospect of looking for a job so that she can raise on her own their two daughters, eight-year-old Gwyneth and four-year-old Gian Maeko.
Then came a phone call from Reyes’s local recruiter Mabuhay saying it received an email from Rico’s immediate boss that their Arab employer had decided to continue sending Laarni her late husband’s P28,000 monthly salary.
“As per instruction and decision of Sir Sultan Al Dahkil, our ex co-worker the late Federico Reyes will still stay in our payroll list as part of his benefit being an employee of Zn Lounge. The amount he will get is to support his children’s education and personal needs. We will inform you through e-mail whenever we send the money to his family in Manila,” according to the email from Jerry Anesco.
“Sir Sultan Al Dahkil” is Sultan Ahmad Abdul Aziz Al-Dahkil. He owns Zen Food Services in Jeddah.
In an interview with InterAksyon mid-December, Laarni said she does not know until when she will continue to receive the money. “Baka hanggang matapos ang contract niya na two years (Maybe Sir Dahkil will continue sending to complete Rico’s two-year contract with them),” she said. Rico’s work contract ends May 2015.
The local recruiter here said it may be until the children have finished schooling. “Galante si Sir Dahkil at mabait sa mga tao nya. Di natin alam, malay mo (Sir Dahkil is very generous and very kind to his employees. We don’t know),” said one of the recruiter’s staff.
In any case, Laarni is already looking for a job, not expecting the good fortune to continue endlessly.
Laarni used to work as a saleslady in one of the malls before she married Rico, who wanted her to stay at home and look after the children. She said she will go full blast with her job-hunting after the school year ends in March. “Di pa maiwanan ang mga bata (I cannot leave them on their own yet),” she said.
Sultan Al Dahkil is a great employer, truly caring for his staff, said Laarni. “Madalas silang mag-usap tungkol sa mga bata, na maliliit pa (Maybe he decided to do this because Rico used to tell me that he and Sir Dahkil would talk about the children, how young they were, how they were doing).”
Rico’s body was repatriated in record time of one week, after much intervention from Sultan Al Dahkil. Normally, bodies of OFWs are repatriated two to three months after their death, bogged down in clearances from their employers.
According to the local recruiter Mabuhay, Sultan Al Dahkil is engaged in the restaurant business, owning not only the Japanese restaurant Zn Lounge where Rico worked but also the bigger Asia Fusion upstairs. Most of his crew and staff are Filipinos, with a Vietnamese Thai cook and a Lebanese floor manager.
Rico had recently renewed his contract with Zn Lounge but had failed to renew his insurance policy, that’s why Laarni is more than grateful for his employer’s generosity.