‘I can still see the same kindness in her eyes’

Rawan Radwan meets Marie Luningning Bebit in the Philippines.

Rawan Radwan meets Marie Luningning Bebit in the Philippines.

A Saudi journalist who was on a quest to find her childhood nanny has finally reunited with the woman who left the Kingdom 22 years ago.

Arab News’ sister publication Sayidaty magazine sponsored Rawan Radwan’s trip all the way from Jeddah to Manila.

“At first, I thought it was a joke when the magazine informed me that they would fly me out to the Philippines,” she said.

Radwan said: “I was very excited and counted the hours until I finally flew into Manila’s airport. Even then, I still couldn’t believe I was actually in the Philippines.”

She said: “The next day flew by fast as we toured the city, but I was extremely excited anticipating the meet between us.”

“Seeing her face as I walked toward her, I could see genuine love and I felt the same way,” she said.

“It was great to surprise her the way we did. It was an epic moment that I will never forget.”

Local Filipino show “Kapuso Mo Jessica Soho,” English for “one at heart,” organized a ceremony to recognize the accomplishment of Marie Luningning Bebit, now the only female town police officer, in combatting violence against women and children.

“I was given a great opportunity when I got to see the child that I helped raise over 20 years ago. I think I am being rewarded for my volunteer work,” said Marie.

“I am grateful for everything Rawan and her family had given me before and are giving me now. I will always remember them and will surely keep in touch,” she added.

It’s always great to meet people who are kind to their domestic workers, Jessica Soho, host of the leading news-magazine show in Philippines, told Arab News.

“Many of our countrymen work in Saudi Arabia and we usually only hear the negative stories. This is why it was very important for me to bring this positive experience to my audience.”

She said: “I think it touched and inspired a lot of us and it also somehow highlighted the heroism of our countrymen, especially mothers who leave their children behind and go to Saudi Arabia in search of a good job to provide for them.”

Radwan’s story went viral on Filipino social media sites, where people shared their positive thoughts and comments about the issue.

“Appreciating what ‘dada’ (Arabic for housemaid) did for them is the heartwarming story of the night,” said Arvin Castro, the show’s Facebook page administrator.

“We are really proud of this family and, of course, of overseas Filipino workers who are spending their time working abroad for their families,” he added.

Touched by the story, Saudi Arabian Airlines offered to sponsor the tickets to help Rawan reach her destination non-stop from Jeddah to Manila.

Rawan was also given a complimentary stay at the luxury Fairmont Makati Hotel in Manila.

According to Rawan, Marie still looks the same, only with shorter hair.

“I can see the same smile, the same kindness in her eyes and I still see the nanny who has lived with us for years under one roof,” she said.

“This trip was not only an amazing gift, but was also a learning experience for me. I was able to learn about Filipino culture by experiencing the local cuisine, attire, language, different landscapes and most importantly, the area where she lives. I got to see how beautiful and close-knit her community is,” she added.

Rawan and Marie pledge to continue communicating and reconnecting to make up for the years they were apart.


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