What makes a Filipino, Filipino? Is it simply about having Filipino parents? Is it about growing up in the Philippines for most of one’s life? Most will define it by blood but this man proves that being a Filipino is way more than that.
Meet Saeed Al Mehairi, a half Emirati-half Filipino resident of Dubai. Despite being born and raised oceans away from the Philippines, Al Mehairi told The Filipino Times that the Filipino blood flowing in him is in no way less than those who are full-blooded Pinoys. In his own words: “I’m so proud to say, ‘Pinoy ako!”
Al Mehairi’s story began in 1984 when his Filipina mother, who hailed from Quezon City, met his Emirati father in Dubai while working as a Sales Assistant at the Dubai Duty Free. Years after, Al Mehairi was born in Dubai but his mother made sure that he will not forget about his Filipino roots.
As early as two years old, Al Mehairi’s mother took him to the Philippines for him to meet his relatives there and for him to personally experience what it is like in the place where his mother grew up. Good thing for Al Mehairi, his grandmother is a native of Isabela in the Cagayan region of Luzon while his grandfather is a native of Bicol. Al Mehairi never ran out of things to experience.
The visit was only the beginning. From one visit as a young kid, it became an annual thing for Al Mehairi and his mother.
“I was born and raised in Dubai and travelled to the Philippines for the first time when I was 2 years old. That would be the start of my “annual vacation” to the Philippines as my mother would always tag me along every year and at every opportunity that she gets to go back and visit our family in the Philippines,” Al Mehairi said.
Why he is proud to be a Filipino
It was during his visits that he began to completely embrace his Filipino roots. Among his fondest memories as a child in the Philippines include riding a carabao and climbing the mango trees in Isabela.
Beyond the personal experiences, Al Mehairi began to appreciate the deeper essence of being a Filipino – the culture and people.
“Those vacations certainly made a mark in my personality and endeared me to the close-knit family ties and culture of the Filipinos,” Al Mehairi said.
Al Mehairi added that the world-renowned talent of Filipinos in various sectors makes him even more proud of his Filipino blood. Among his personal idols are boxing champion Manny Pacquiao and broadway diva Lea Salonga.
“While it can be said that Filipinos are not newbies in their international recognition in the various aspects of sports, arts etc. they have excelled in, I feel a personal sense of pride for the international achievements of Filipinos in various fields mainly because I share the same Filipino bloodline as they do,” Al Mehairi said.
Moreover, Al Mehairi also took note of the sense of humor of Filipinos and how they are able to remain optimistic and poke fun of situations despite facing problems such as natural disasters and personal t*******s.
“There will always be one, whether a victim or a plain observer, who would crack a joke about the situation. Would it lighten the situation? Maybe. Would it aggravate the victim? Again a maybe. Call it indifference, call it resiliency, call it whatever crazy term you want. But one thing’s for sure, Filipinos have such a strong sense of humor that no situation is too serious not be funny. Or at least something worth to turn into a smile,” Al Mehairi said.
“Where others see rain clouds, we see the sun’s ray shining,” he added.
Al Mehairi, now 30 years old, remains as excited as he was a two-year old boy discovering new things about the Philippines. This time, however, he has a tighter grasp of what being a Filipino is. It is not simply about having a Filipino parent, it lies deep within the endearing culture of the Philippines.
Al Mehairi currently works as sales support manager for Emirates Airlines and is now married with one child. He said he intends to pass onto his son the value of appreciating his Filipino roots and the culture that goes along with it, including the Filipino language which Al Mehairi is fluent in speaking.
He also intends to return to the Philippines preferably during the Christmas season, which is Al Mehairi’s favorite time of the year in the country.
“Having spent numerous vacations in the Philippines during this season, that Filipino culture of feast-laden tables, gift-giving and the merry-making by the young and old alike that seem to go on forever will always be a part of me and are precious memories I forever treasure,” he said.
Al Mehairi said Filipinos in the UAE should be proud of their roots as they have big contribution to the growth of the country.
He said: “As an Emirati and a Filipino, I would like to impart to my Kabayans that the Filipinos have now become an integral part of the UAE in all aspects of society that you should proudly carry to your workplaces the Filipino culture while working hard in showing the best the Filipino can be. This will in effect show your appreciation and gratitude to the Emirati government and it’s people who have always shown it’s confidence and belief in the Filipino.”