Mabrook, Saudi Arabia

The Founding Day of any nation is an occasion for jubilation and remembrance. Appropriate preparations are made, befitting its historical struggles, glorious past, and present-day greatness. Per diplomatic protocol, dinners and receptions are hosted by the embassies of the celebrating country.

There is much to celebrate when the country endured cultural and political headwinds in its march toward a stature of prominence.

The Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia celebrated its 93rd National Day last 23 September. That was the day when “the two kingdoms of the Hejaz and Nejd were united as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

It had good reason to mark the momentous day with elaborate festivities.  Its journey from being a mere speck of an oasis in an expanse of barren desert to becoming a major political and economic power in the Middle East, if not the world, is nothing short of remarkable.

As the de facto capital of Islam, it wields enormous influence over billions of Muslims. The saying goes that when Saudi Arabia sneezes, a major part of the world catches cold. A little tweak of its oil production and supply shakes up the world economy.

Securing its enviable place in the geopolitical world was not a walk in the park. There were hurdles and barriers along the way. Its Founding Father and First King of the Kingdom, Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, had to do battle against other monarchs and tribal chieftains.

In modern history, the Kingdom played its political cards wisely and astutely in a geopolitical game against the Western powers whose hegemonic dream had brought them to distant horizons like the desert lands of North Africa and the Middle East. The exploits of Lawrence of Arabia, depicted in a top-grossing movie, romanticized the attempts of the Western powers to influence events in the Middle East.

One family, the House of Saud, kept the ambitious Western political and economic powers at bay.

As the Kingdom celebrated its 93rd National Day, people whose lives it touched joined in the jubilation.

On top of the festivities was the traditional dinner reception hosted by the embassy in the Philippines for friends of the Kingdom and officials of the host government. The Secretary of Foreign Affairs or his representative was expected to attend as he would offer a toast for the continued health of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques,” and the Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammad bin Salman. He would also toast the robust diplomatic, political, and trade relations between the Kingdom and the Philippines.

The reception is one of the most awaited events when issues affecting the interests of nationals of the host country, like the concerns affecting our overseas Filipino workers, are discussed, free from the strains of the protocol.

Allow me to digress a bit. When I was Ambassador, we took advantage of the presence of the high officials of the host government (Egypt) at different receptions we diligently attended to follow up on our request for executive clemency for a Filipina overseas worker who was serving a prison sentence for killing her employer in a fit of anger and hopelessness. It paid off. She was granted a pardon.

As the Kingdom marked its Foundation Day, the millions of Muslims who had enjoyed the amenities, security, and assistance provided by the Kingdom during the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages joined in the felicitations. The same went for the recipients of the Kingdom’s regular worldwide assistance to marginalized Muslims, especially during the Holy Month of Ramadan, and the victims of calamities and war.

This narrative will not be complete if we fail to acknowledge the exemplary stewardship of the Kingdom’s Embassy by His Excellency Hisham Sultan Abdullah Alqahtani, the Saudi Ambassador to the Philippines, a diplomat par excellence loved by Filipino Muslims.

A mild-mannered man, Ambassador Alqahtani is credited for the robust relationship between the Kingdom and the Philippines, promptly addressing possible irritants that could mar this relationship, especially on issues affecting the interests of our OFWs.

Mabrook, or Congratulations, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia!


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