The "bayanihan" spirit (community spirit) is alive even more now in Qatar thanks to a Filipina pastry chef who turned into an advocate for helping her Filipino "kabayan" (countrymen) in need. To put it simply, "bayanihan" is the Filipino term for the act of helping fellow countrymen especially in times of need without asking for anything in return.
Rose Buds Sulla Purificacion, also known as "Chef Roza" and "Jerry D' Mouse", became known in Qatar for giving Mukbang Free Cakes to distressed OFWs in Qatar during the pandemic. But she has been helping countless fellow Filipinos in Qatar since 2019 by providing free tours to fellow Pinays, free cakes, free baking lessons, free roses, lending an ear to the distressed, and more.
In this interview, find out more about her journey and how she managed to help her fellow Filipinos in need.
Jerry: I was hired as Executive Secretary of Fantasia Design and Decoration, in 2012, owned by a Lebanese (Mr. Jamal Al Hariri) and Qatari (Mr. Khalid Al-Mahmoud). I was with my sister when I came here and we worked for the same company.
When I started working here in Qatar, I only focused on home and work so when I learned to drive and got a driver's license in 2016, I gradually discovered all the beautiful places in Qatar. It was one of the ways I coped with homesickness whenever I remember my family in the Philippines.
In May 2018, I filed for local leave, also due to the blockade since the company I worked for is not busy due to the crisis. I used that time to hone my baking skills and implement my Frozen Graham Cakes. That was when I met Mr. Nabil Askar, who owns a Lebanese Restaurant at the Marriott Marquis City Center. He let me make my product in the restaurant kitchen. For him, I was determined not to be an employee for life. But I didn't really know how to bake before. He told me, "I welcome you to the kitchen so that you can continue your ambition. You can use all the ingredients you need for free. I see you will have a Pastry Shop in the future".
My heart believed what he said. I imprinted those words on my mind. Thanks to my hard work, I learned other cake design techniques, I was also able to start selling cakes and I was able to save somehow and bought things that I needed in the kitchen. I learned how to bake and design the cake myself and eventually sell it.
My ambition was too high until a 16,000 cupcake deal in 2019 with Baskin Robbins didn't push through. It was as if I had died suddenly. My dream suddenly disappeared in an instant. Not only did I lose my dreams, but also because I ran out of savings. Just because I really wanted to get that big deal then. Unfortunately, they did not compensate for at least half of what I spent.
I left the kitchen without saying goodbye and I wasn't also able to return to my previous job. I became depressed but I didn't stop praying. I kept praying for my mother and that God will bless me with money.
It was during this difficult time that an idea occurred to me. "Why don't you go for a walk with your countrymen who are in the same situation as you? Do you know how to drive? Do you know how to bake? You have too much time for yourself. If you already have all that and still have problems, what about the other people who don't have all those?" That call started my advocacy of "Giving Joy and Happiness".
Jerry: My story above was the reason why I started my advocacy in February 2019. At first, I did not want to do the things that I believed were a mission of God to me. I worried about where to get the money and resources to start the mission because I used to pray for money to solve my family problems. I prayed that I would do whatever he wanted me to do as long as he gave me everything I needed for this mission. I am not very religious, but my faith in God is strong. I know in my heart that there is God.
Ever since I posted in a Facebook group for OFWs in Qatar offering a free tour for Filipinas, my cellphone hasn't been quiet since. I also helped depressed compatriots personally and online, they always talk to me, especially at dawn. Not only the depressed but also those suffering from anxiety attacks, those who wanted to commit suicide, those who feel like they have no one to talk to, and those who were hungry. I was always there for them until I felt they were okay and they were able to stand on their own two feet. I let them go once I felt that they were already okay.
The Sunflower Free Cake started when I fulfilled a wish of a cancer survivor to receive a sunflower cake for her birthday. I also gave free baking sessions to fellow Filipinas and my advocacy of "giving joy and happiness" didn't end there. God also used roses in my mission. I became better known for distributing free roses especially to the ones who are going through serious problems and suffering from depression. I always attached a letter to each rose, offering words of encouragement.
The free tour, baking sessions, cake, and roses have become instruments for me to properly handle my responsibilities to my compatriots. It was overwhelming sometimes, but I realized that there was no reason for me to complain about what happened to me and that I'm still luckier.
Jerry: My heart is pure, sometimes I don't see danger is coming. But thankfully I'm guided and protected by God from the very beginning.
One big achievement in my first advocacy of "Giving Joy and Happiness" was when I helped a brother of my student in baking class. He was depressed and when I saw him, I knew in my heart that he needed to be admitted to get proper medication. I gave him a rose with a letter and the next day drove him around. I was there with him almost every day from the day he was taken to the hospital until he returned home to the Philippines. I also met three others from different nationalities in the hospital who had the same problem.
That's what normally happens, they always remember me when there is a situation like this. I was the clown to make them laugh. I suddenly became a "doctor." A "doctor of happiness".
During the pandemic, I went around distributing food to those affected by the crisis. It's also during the pandemic when I started Mukbang Free Cakes and Food on Wheels #UnitedQatarOFWforCovid19.
Jerry: I started distributing Mukbang Free Cake on March 21. Ever since the operation of restaurants and pastry shops stopped, I thought there was an opportunity for strong sales due to the shift to online, but I did not use that to earn for myself.
My flight was scheduled for March 15, but I did not return home. Suddenly my plan changed. Then I also couldn't get out because it was still a bit scary at that time that I might get infected too.
Since I still have the ingredients for the cake, I baked a recipe that I have been mastering since 2018. My first bake, alas miracle, the result was good! I baked a lot so that I could give free cakes until I ran out of the remaining ingredients. I gave Mukbang Free Cakes not just to make people happy but to reach out to those affected during the pandemic including those who lost their jobs or were terminated and those stranded here in Qatar. Even after my ingredients at home were finished, Mukbang Free Cake still continued thanks to the help of fellow OFWs. Another example of "Bayanihan". I baked all day and night until my oven exploded.
Mukbang Free Cake is an additional instrument that God has used on my second wave of the mission. I'm in my second year now.
Jerry: We started Food on Wheels (#UnitedQatarOFWforCovid19) last April 6 and is comprised of so many sponsors, not just Filipinos but also other nationalities. From frontliners (medical personnel), restaurants, online sellers, bakers, maids, engineers, flight attendants, COVID patients, transportation groups, and other Filipinos. This is the group that worked together to extend help to our countrymen and other nationalities who are affected by the pandemic. Also another example of 'bayanihan'.
For me, it's a miracle that people remembered me. They didn’t forget how I made them feel last year. I thought they were just a few because my followers are mostly housekeepers. I turned out to have a few silent followers as well. One by one the silent followers approached me, I almost didn't even know them. An online seller came first, who was overwhelmed by the distribution of relief goods so he handed me the responsibility. That's where the Food on Wheels started.
The other sponsors, they told me, "you're the only one I can trust to distribute goods to the countrymen." It was a huge responsibility indeed for me. Until now the sponsors have supported Food on Wheels. I just keep on initiating because I don't want to disappoint them and I couldn't bear to see the countrymen who are having a hard time.
For my part, as one of the initiators, I also had to leave the house and be able to provide food myself after a three-month stay at home. The volunteer drivers have stopped because they also need to earn money. I have to sacrifice and be really strong until the pandemic is over. There are still thousands on the list. Too many people are affected. Some of them were able to go back to the Philippines through repatriation but some of them are still here and we're still feeding them.
Jerry: My heart rejoices when I help people. Baking, time, and driving are the strengths I have. There is peace in my heart and mind when I do those things. I use everything I have to fulfill my mission and calling, I make these deals with God. I prayed for these, so I have to do it well.
When I am sad, the first thing I do is make other people happy. I rejoice when I see them happy. It is as if my heart is enveloped in joy. That is when I feel most alive.
Jerry: I still have not been able to return to my previous job since 2018. All I do now is develop cakes for my future business. My job is my own passion. I also earn a living through it because it earns somehow. I have freedom of time.
I have time for my passion (work), and I have time for personal things. But so far 85% of my time has been spent helping. For five months, it seems that the distribution of help has become a job. People ask me if I still sleep. I can no longer differentiate between work, passion, and personal life. They seem to be one and the same. I am doing it all three at the same time.
My passion is my “job”, and at the same time, that is my life.
Jerry: Thank you for loving the Filipinos.
The helpfulness of the people in Qatar is amazing. I salute you because when there is a disaster, there you will see the beauty of the country.
Nothing is impossible as long as you work together. It is also natural for Filipinos to work together during a crisis. So they will always notice especially on social media that we are doing "Bayanihan". I hope people in Qatar would understand that.
Jerry: So far, I have not thought about what to do next. Until I really finish my mission in this crisis. Right now, I'm focusing on supporting my countrymen who are affected by the pandemic.
I don't like too much pressure; I just want to enjoy what I have now. Then I do that support with vigor, in a way that other countrymen will find it very easy to do. My mind is always occupied with what to do the next day. Thoughts like, "How can I feed my countrymen tomorrow?".
For me, if I did not start in 2019, maybe I will not be able to help others during the pandemic. I realized that this pandemic is the big mission that God has for me and one that He was preparing me for since last year. For now, it will take until September to distribute food to the needy. Gradually, everything in Qatar became normal. Even after the pandemic, I will not stop helping my countrymen. It is up to God to give a sign when my mission with Him ends. And before I end this story, God answered my prayers for a long time.
Have you heard of Chef Roza/Jerry D'Mouse? What do you think of her advocacy? Isn't it inspiring? Do you know of someone who’s got an exceptional talent or is making a difference in our Qatar community? Drop us a line in the comments below and you could see them highlighted in Qommunity Voices!
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