Marhaba! Perhaps you are wondering what “Marhaba “ means. It is an Arabic word for “hello”, or “greetings”.

Last Dec. 2009, I had the opportunity to go to the Middle East as member of the Board of Electrical Engineering, under the supervision of the Professional Regulation Commission. Together with the other Professional Regulatory Bodies (Mech. Engg, Electronics Engg, Civil Engg, Architecture and Accountancy) we went to Doha, Qatar, Jeddah, Al-Khobar and Abu-Dhabi to give written and oral examinations to our OFW professionals in the Middle East.

As this was the first time that the newly instituted (through Executive Order No. 835) yearly Special Professional Licensure Board Examination (SPLBE) was going to be held for the benefit of qualified overseas Filipino workers, we were all quite excited, despite the pressure and effort the work entailed in these countries of different culture and traditions.

Being a former OFW, I immediately reminisced the past upon setting foot in the place. I remembered the difficulty of being away from home and leaving a growing family just to provide for their needs. I remembered many sad moments when I got so terribly homesick. Please do not get me wrong, the Middle East is indeed a beautiful place but being a rich nation, the quality of life is totally different from that of the Philippines and I really missed my own country.

Returning back to the Middle East was something that I never dreamed would happen again. But God had a different plan for me to experience this trip.

When we started the oral interviews, the examinees were all tense and anxious. Their expertise, readiness and technical report seemed to be in order. However, my “pride” tended to compare them to my standards, rather than basing their ‘expertise’ on their competencies and skills. During the interviews, I became so strict that I totally forgot that I used to be an OFW. I forgot to consider the emotional investment these professionals had put into their work.

After the 1st day of the oral examinations, I was ready to pass only about 50% of the applicants. However, as we gave them a probationary rating, there was much sadness in the applicants’ faces. There was even one applicant who was not able to talk for a few minutes, when he learned that he needed to be re-interviewed the next day. I then discovered one thing in common among these applicants – they had each requested their family back home to pray for them while undergoing the oral examination. One examinee who was a Muslim also prayed hard to pass the oral interview.

After a long day of interviews, I got to sleep early. As I slept, all those emotions, prayers of the families, and anxieties were all in my dreams. I could see the agony, the hardships, the frustrations of each and everyone of them in my dreams. God was giving me a clear message!

The next day, as we continued the oral interviews, I began to see the applicants with different eyes and I heard their explanations and answers to the interview questions with the ears of my heart, rather than with the ears of my pride. I sought to understand their hardships and their experiences as an OFW. I should know since I used to be an OFW myself.

Finally, when I submitted my report to my colleague, I gave them all a passing mark. My colleague was very happy because he also wanted them to give each one a passing grade. We both felt that they really deserved to pass the oral examination.

When we made the announcements, I could feel the joy in their hearts. There was such an atmosphere of happiness in the place, especially as they each called home to share the good news.

I praise and thank God for his guidance in this task. And for His guiding both the examinees and the examiners, especially me, through the interviews and examinations. The necessity of prayer and being open to God’s way of doing things is now much clearer to me. Surely our prayers work wonders in each one of us! Praise God!

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