I went to Batha, a place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where Filipino expats frequent to buy few groceries and trip to the bank, of course.
After I was done of my purpose at the grocery store, we passed by a Kabayan selling Filipino foods on the sidewalk. My colleague saw the saging na turon (banana wrapped in a lumpia wrapper fried and coated with caramelized sugar) and bought two pieces, one for each of us.
I saw this opportunity to have a chat with the guy and impart his story of survival and success as an expat in Riyadh. He is Ricky Nelson Cimafranca, 45 years old from San Fernando, Cebu, Philippines with children; Rinell, Nelsy, Nella, Abdullah, Nicky and Yasmin and is married to Mariam.
It was in 1991 when he tried his luck in Middle East and worked with a construction company for 10 years. After which, he has been in and out of the Saudi Arabia trying in different businesses until he decided to stop working for companies. He became a lecturer in Islamic Center in Batha since 2005. He is doing freelance jobs for construction companies like plumbing, electrical works, tile installation to name a few if he is not selling Filipino delicacies in Batha.
I asked him if the food that he is selling is on consignment basis. I was impressed to know that they are actually an entrepreneurial couple. Mariam, the wife cooks the banana turon, vegetable lumpia and the kwek-kwek (boiled quailed or chicken eggs coated with an orange batter and deep-fried until the batter is crispy).
Banana turon is sold at 2 pieces for 5 SR while the vegetable lumpia and kwek-kwek at 3 pieces for 5 SR.
On ordinary days, which are from Saturday to Wednesday, income is at 500 SR the most and during peak days, Thursday and Friday earning is up to 900-1,000. SR. Really, really not bad compared to working for a company.
Ricky and Mariam are an epitome of what couple should be; hand in hand working together for the good of their family.