|26 The Renaissance of
Tilapia Farming And The LikesIn the past, with the consulate and school cooped
up like poultry in between the clotheslines of neighboring buildings, the community had to
expensively rent into hotel and restaurant areas or private compound facilities, greatly
hampering a Filipino renaissance. The 1996 location transfers however led from one social
gathering to another and in no time, the Philippine consulate was hosting big Filipino
community events, seminars, clinics, cooperatives, even literary, drama and other cultural
shows in Jeddah.
It was as if a bad curse was lifted from
the castle of Sleeping Beauty. To this day, the frenzied activities continue. It is now
increasingly becoming difficult to reserve a weekend to use the consulate grounds for one
purpose or another. Whatever reasonable activities could not be accommodated at the
consulate are being held at the re-unified school facilities. There are now even talks
about a larger Filipino community center.
Just recently, a very active Filipino
civic organization called the OFWCC sponsored a well-attended K-2000 livelihood seminar on
prawn and tilapia farming.
I did not attend it myself, but having
attended one or another similar event in the past, this kind of gathering would typically
schedule something to start in the early morning or early afternoon or early evening. One
hour later it would formally start, while participants and attendees keep on trickling
into the hall till the closing of the session in another four hours or so. During the
camaraderie periods, prior, in between and after the sessions, nurses and doctors and
engineers and artists and sports enthusiasts and what-have-you would have the chance to
update themselves about their latest housing or transportation allowances or the
non-payment of them, about the happenings of their children in the Philippines or here in
the Kingdom, about the recent vice-squad raids in Balad, about the distressed workers at
the Labor office, about who got terminated from job recently, about who arrived from
vacation recently, about the hot issues from TFCs Magandang Gabi Bayan. If you have
been in one of these gatherings, you would certainly know that this is quite a nice but
very nervous crowd.
To the planners and shakers in the
Philippines, I say this to them: Stretch your imaginations far and wide, because out here
in the driest deserts of Arabia, you have compatriots dreaming about tilapias and
prawns happily frolicking in little ponds.
According to the prolific Rasheed
Abou-Alsamh, a Saudi-American journalist writing about the seminar in his popular Manila
Moods column of the Arab News Feb. 11, 1999 issue: "This is a good sign that more and
more Pinoys are already becoming serious about starting a business of their own when they
finally return home. These are the people who should get encouragement and assistance from
the government because they would soon be employing fellow Filipinos. Of course their
motive would be profit-driven (who is crazy to go into business with the aim of losing
money?) but these people are willing to take the risk."