The Eastern Province is the largest province of Saudi Arabia and the center of most of the Kingdom’s oil production. It is the hub of the state-owned Saudi Aramco, the biggest energy company in the world. The Eastern Province is home to around 250,000 overseas Filipino workers.
Located in the east on the beautiful Persian Gulf coast, the Eastern Province is a favorite destination and stopover of those who are in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, who wish to relax at the beach or go to Bahrain, a major trade route. Just four hours away from Riyadh is the large city of Al Khobar in the Eastern Province. Here you can find the Al Shola Tourist Village the sun-lit setting for the 21st Filipino Community Day, Tourism & Trade Exhibit held recently by the Pinas-SAHI International Association, Inc. SAHI stands for Saudi Arabia Hiligaynon, Incorporated, which is composed of Filipinos from the Hiligaynon-speaking provinces in the Visayas. Pinas-SAHI has grown to be one of the largest and most active Filipino organizations in the region and has been a long-time community partner of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office-Overseas Workers Welfare Association (POLO-OWWA). The organization is known for its welfare assistance to distressed OFWs in the region and for promoting both investment-related projects in the Philippines and the homeland’s culture and heritage.
In 2005, Pinas-SAHI partnered with ABS-CBN The Filipino Channel (TFC) in the region to stage the TFC entertainment hour within the Filipino Community Day called, “Kantawanansa Al Khobar”, literally meaning “song and laughter in Al Khobar”. On December 5 last year, during TFC’s 20th anniversary, SAHI and TFC welcomed 12,000 attendees to this entertainment hour which starred TFC 20 Ambassador of Goodwill Gary Valenciano at the Cobra Amusement Park in Dammam.
Proving that the event and the Filipino population in the region continues to grow, “Kantawanansa Al Khobar 2015” held on December 4 at Al Shola Tourist Village with Philippine Concert King and ASAP 20 mainstay Martin Nievera and Your Face Sounds Familiar Season 2 contestant Eric Nicolas, who was joined by popular action star Robin Padilla courtesy of sponsor MoneyGram, drew 15,000 attendees who enjoyed the world-class musical performances of the TFC artists and the laugh-a-minute comedy acts and contests where audience members participated.
“The best way to describe the experience is that people had a truly rollicking good time! It was a high-spirited, fun-filled celebration where everyone let their hair down and enjoyed like family. Our countrymen were in a cheerful, holiday mood but dressed in spring or even summer clothing and enjoyed the sandy setting of the resort. This ushers a unique Christmas in the region and we at TFC are very pleased to partner with Pinas-SAHI to bring this warm, authentic camaraderie in keeping with the spirit of the season,” said ABS-CBN Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Managing Director Kai V. Rodriguez.
Rodriguez added: “More importantly, with this event, our Kapamilya experienced home right here in Al Khobar. This annual December tradition casts a spotlight on our Hiligaynon brothers and sisters in the Middle East who spearhead every year a day-long event that allows the Filipinos to celebrate our culture and connect with each other in the community. That unites, empowers and strengthens the OFWs in the Middle East.”
The 21st Filipino Community Day had the theme of “Dakilang OFWs: Kabalikat ng Bayan sa Pag-Unlad ng Turismo at Produktong Pilipino” (The Great OFWs: The Nation’s Partners Towards Progress in Tourism and Development of Filipino Products). Gracing the event with their distinguished presence are Philippine Consul Chris Aro, POLO-OWWA Officer Sitti Jaafar, ABS-CBN Managing Partner Engr. Fouad Taher, and Administration Manager Sami Al Milaify of Nesma& Partners, the partner sponsor of Pinas-SAHI.
“Our partnership with TFC is one of the reasons why the Filipino Community Day with Kantawanansa Al Khobar continues to be regarded as the biggest annual gathering of Filipino OFWs in the Eastern Region, if not in the whole Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said Pinas-SAHI President Alex Acanto. “They are true partners in service and we look forward to working with TFC every year in supporting and growing the OFW community in Saudi Arabia.”