6 Things I learned from my Iraqi Friend

I’ve been working with my friend, Mustafa for a year or so with Independent Skies Magazine. It was his first time to visit the Philippines; what makes his visit different among other foreigners maybe is that his purpose was not to tour around Manila and experience how it is indeed more fun in the Philippines but to conduct our workshop we’ve been working together that aims for the Filipino youth to create their own initiatives to address various issues in the Philippines, and we call it #ProjectMNL.

He is originally from Iraq. The place where ‘terrorists’ live (as majority perceives them), where people fear about their security and safety, where social unrest is deemed normal and other chaotic casualties one may cite and recall. These things are real, unquestionable or even some are pure allegations coated with generalizations, stereotypes, lies and racist remarks.

Our workshop was successful. Participants came from different universities and colleges in Manila. We were happy, satisfied and even more motivated. Like others, miscommunication and misunderstanding could never be avoided while you are in the process of preparing everything. We get annoyed to each other (I know it) when silence is what we only hear.

Here are the 6 things I learned and realized from this mofo:

1. Take risks even if you are clueless on how things will turn out

Maring (typhoon) arrived the same date my friend landed in Manila. The next day, he received a text message from the airline which he booked his return flight informing him that his flight was cancelled. So, he rebooked it on the next day. Tuesday comes, it’s been raining for four days and some areas in Manila is already flooded. Since I want him to be aware, I warned him, “You’re flight might be cancelled.” But since I see his eagerness to really come for his flight even the news said that areas going to the airport are impassable, we did call the airline, the airport and his parents for the possibilities that he might not make it that day. Still, he was eager and decided to leave. He waited for a taxi at the hotel and asked the driver to bring him at the nearest point near the airport so he can just run or walk through the floods. (I know it sounds crazy). So I decided to come with him. I won’t tell what happened next. The photos below will tell the story.

Terrible traffic going to the airport

Terrible traffic going to the airport

Mustafa and I at the top of a manual-tricycle to cross through flooded areas

Children pushing our pedicab through floodwaters

Children pushing our pedicab through floodwaters

Mustafa carefully carries his luggage

We safely made it!

It was probably the worst yet the best experience ever to catch a flight

2. Always live a YOLO-ic day

Always remember YOLO man!” This is what he always tells me on things I say no. Who would even try going to Luneta Park during a typhoon? I know it was a crazy idea but I realized that doing things that sometimes limit you from experiencing it could be the best part of your life.

Enjoying the Luneta Park while it’s raining

Hit by a laser beam

3. Appreciate others’ religion & culture

“I will just pray to Allah for the typhoon to leave so people at the evacuation center can go back to their home.” Words from him that I did appreciate coming from an Iraqi national. Made me even realized more that religion has nothing to do with conflict. Religion by nature is peace. And the only reason of war is never because of religion but of human acts.

He probably doesn't even know that I took a photo of him praying

He probably doesn’t even know that I took a photo of him praying

4. Don’t settle for “I guess”. Do it perfectly

We get annoyed at each other really. One night, we were doing the certificates for the participants and the paper we bought doesn’t totally match with the kind of certificates we wanted. So I was really tired asking the guy at the computer shop to test-print the whole thing, tried again and do another one. “Do you think this is perfect?” he asked. I answered with sleepy and tired voice, “I guess it’s okay.” And he replied with a more annoyed voice, “Don’t say I guess. We’ve done the preparations almost perfect, so we should do everything perfectly.”

Day 1 of #ProjectMNL Workshop

5. Stereotypical judgment is never the basis to know a person

We label people based on what we see on global media, we categorize them based on what we think they are, we judge them because there people have done shitty things; without even thinking that regardless of race and nationality, we humans are capable of doing it.

Mustafa with the peanut vendor in Sta. Mesa, Manila

6. All things, in sha Allah

Everytime I hear him speak with his parents, I always hear him say, in sha Allah. So i asked its meaning he said, “In God’s willing,”

Follow me on Twitter: @rjamesbarrete



  1. Almustafa M. Khalid · August 21, 2013

    I am absolutely speechless…. this is way beyond my expectations… Much love.

  2. Emy Ruth Gianan (@kyemeruth) · August 23, 2013

    Hahahahaha! Nice article! He should come back to Manila, he has to eat at Binondo! 😀

  3. jayzel nicolas · August 23, 2013

    well what can i say haha clap clap my friend… XD

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