BICOLANO Leonor Mohammad F. Gile was 55 years old when he received the Bagong Bayani Award in 2008 in Malacañang Palace from then Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for his assistance for distressed Filipinos. Gile, a native of Sta. Magdalena, Sorsogon in the eastern Philippine region of Bicol worked as a flower arranger in Riyadh, Bara and Bisha all in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for 25 years.
He left for the Middle East in 1983. “I worked at the Rosa International Corporation, a landscaping and flower shop in Riyadh from December 1983 to August 1985. That was my first Christmas away from my family.”
Gile worked for two more years in the Saudi capital. After a four-year stint, he moved to Al Bahra. In 1990, he embraced Islam which paved the way for him to help more people. He recalled that he was always a favorite flower arranger for occasions and celebrations of the royalties. Because of this, he found himself in constant contact with the powerful, influential persons in the government and those holding prominent and sensitive posts in the business community.
In 2000, he moved to Bisha, 600 kilometers from the Saudi capital. While there, he continued his community and social services even earning the title as Consular Coordinator. Raffy Osumo of Arab News wrote, “When not arranging flowers for various occasions, he is out helping others. And he does that without reservation, oftentimes without regard for his own safety. He is not cowed by threats as long as he can help.”
Fight for your right
In an interview sometime in 2005, Leonor told Arab News of his guiding principles, “My creed has long been, ‘Kapag may katwiran ka, ipaglaban mo.!’ (Fight for your right!).
He thought that everything was in perfect shape until he met an accident while on vacation in the Philippines. But then, his desire to be of great service to his fellow Filipinos in Saudi prompted him to go back. While there, he continued working but unluckily, he was brought to the hospital because of medical complications. He underwent surgery. To his surprise, his hospital bill was shouldered by a Saudi prince, who personally knew of the good deeds he made to his compatriots abroad.
Now in his retirement age, Leonor says he still has time to give back for the many good things that have happened to him while abroad. He now enjoys spending time with his grandchildren.
The Buhay OFW, a program initiated by Marissa del Mar, noted that he distinguished himself among his fellow OFWs through his dedication to community and social work and chose him as Mr. Citizen of the World 2013. When he was presented the recognition, the organizers ran this story, “He has no regrets because he was able to help others. He just hopes that those people will also one day be able to help others as well just like he did for them.”
By: Yul Espartero