It was by accident that I worked abroad. My younger brother asked me for placement fee. Unfortunately, he was illegally recruited, so I ran after the recruiter. As payment for my brother’s being gypped, the recruiter referred me to an employer in Saudi for a job in accounting. I was immediately interviewed and hired, without going to through POEA. Since I already have a passport, I was able to leave for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in a week’s time.
I left for KSA in February 1980 to work for a small-sized Saudi-owned travel agency as an accountant. I was 27 years old then, completed a BS in Accounting. I have been working as an accounting clerk all through my college years until I left for Saudi Arabia. I have just taken the Board Examination the year before. I was already in Riyadh when I heard I passed.
I was young and idealistic. I wanted to work like I’ve been working professionally here in the Philippines and do things in KSA the way things are done in the Philippines. But I found out that Saudis are too hands-on and by nature do not trust others. At first, I did not realize that I had to keep a low profile especially since I come from a Third World country. They expected me to do only as I was told. The first two years of my employment was worst than I could imagine. I was very miserable mainly because of the clash of cultures. Fortunately, before the two years were up, I was able to find another employer. When I was about to leave my first Saudi employer, he must have realized my worth and capabilities in spite of our bad start since he tried hard to make me stay on.
My Early Years in Saudi Arabia
Many Kapampangans are migrant workers, in Manila or elsewhere in the Philippines or abroad. Hence, when I decided to work in KSA, working abroad was a common thing in our province. What made me decide to work abroad? My salary was not enough to buy a house and lot and send my children to good schools. Few OFWs then would have long-term plans because Saudi jobs are very temporary. One usually gets to work for one renewal of a contract, totaling to about four years, then one need to look for another job. I was one of the few who worked there with practically no break for 25 years.
After my vacation, in the Philippines, in March 1982 I worked as an accountant in GAMMA Services LTD., another Saudi-owned but Western-managed company, which is into health care management. It was a progressive company and I was able to show my best. I rose through the ranks, first as senior accountant in 1983 then as accounting manager in 1985, as assistant corporate comptroller based in the head office in 1987 until I retired in 2005. While with GAMMA, I was also involved with its various companies and subsidiaries and was always a part of the opening crew or start-up team assigned to organize the finance and accounting department of its various projects so I went around and traveled a lot. As such, I held the position of Chief Financial Officer in the interim and stayed on until the project stabilized. When they hired my permanent replacement I went back to the home office.
... to be continued