Smiling faces filled the room when a lady ushered in a 3-by-3-foot photo frame of Filipinos posing for a group picture in front of McDonald's in Manama, Bahrain.
"That was our first deployment in Bahrain," said Leonardo de Ocampo, chairman of Omanfil-International Manpower Development Corporation, whose voice resonated with pride as he told stories of how the people of Bahrain love Filipino workers.
Based on their record, Omanfil now has 865 skilled workers deployed to Bahrain, with engineers, accountants and support staff serving in different businesses and government agencies.
Among these agencies and firms are Al Ezz Trading Company, Al Noor Opticals, Bader Models, Bahrain Maritime and Mercantile International, Bahrain Training Institute, Civil Service Bureau, Decor Plus, Gloria Jean's, Gharib Engineering, Gulf Garments Industry, Gulf Petrochemical Industries, M and M Interiors, McDonald's Bahrain, Orient Ironworks, Suncity Ventures, and the Philippine School Bahrain.
According to De Ocampo, most of the people they've sent to Bahrain opted to stay and are still working in that Gulf state.
As he pointed to a guy at the far end of the group picture, De Ocampo said, "Yan si Rick, nandyan pa yan, sya na ang operations manager ng McDonald's sa Manama."
De Ocampo asked one of his staff to call Rick Pilongo, and he handed me the phone so I could talk to him
"Ok naman po kami dito, except dun sa kahapon na marami talaga hindi lumabas, pero so far, ok naman kami," Rick said.
According to Omanfil, Rick has been in and out of Bahrain and has been working at McDonald's since 1994.
De Ocampo said the deployment ban in Bahrain won't affect OFWs already in Bahrain, but Filipinos here at home wanting to work there.
For their agency alone, 4 OFWs who were set to leave were put on hold until the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) lifts the ban.
"We just advised them that we can't do anything about it, we can't send workers until the ban is lifted," said De Ocampo.
But, he stressed that Filipinos need not worry about the ban because the Gulf region's demand for skilled workers is not limited to Bahrain.
Oman is one country in the region that needs the services of skilled labor from Philippines, De Ocampo said.