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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Filipina’s search for her UAE father

Mylene Rapada is racing against time to find her Emirati parent – with whom her Filipino mother had an affair when she was working for his family – before her visitor’s visa expires next month.
“My dream is to find my father, become an Emirati citizen and bring my mother from the USA and my daughter from the Philippines to live with me here in the UAE,” says 22-year-old Mylene Rapada. Sarah Dea / The National
“My dream is to find my father, become an Emirati citizen and bring my mother from the USA and my daughter from the Philippines to live with me here in the UAE,” says 22-year-old Mylene Rapada. Sarah Dea / The National

DUBAI // Mylene Rapada knew from a young age that she was different to her friends. Growing up in the Philippines, she always felt that she stood out from other children in her neighbourhood.

“I didn’t look like other Filipinos,” said Mylene, who was raised by her grandparents at their home in Pangasinan province.

“I began to realise my father was not Filipino when I was five or six years old. I could see it was too painful for [my mother] to talk about when I asked her.”

Despite Mylene’s questions, her mother, Nora Rapada, would tell her that her father was dead and to forget about him.

“I would ask for a picture or anything, but she couldn’t talk about it,” said Mylene. “Every time I saw a happy family I wanted to see him. I felt incomplete and needed to know where I came from.”

It was not until she was 11 that she found out about her father’s nationality after an aunt said she looked like him and that he had tried to find her when she was a baby.

Nora had been working as a maid for the family of Mylene’s father in Madinat Zayed in the Western Region for less than a year when she became pregnant with his child.

Upon learning about her unborn baby, Mylene’s father had asked Nora to marry him, but the agency that had brought her to the UAE to work advised Nora to leave the country as soon as possible.

“I was young and scared and didn’t know what to do, so I decided to go back home and have Mylene there,” said Nora, who was 22 at the time.

She returned to the UAE a year later to work for another family but stayed in touch with Mylene’s father. However, she severed her contact with him when he began to ask her to bring their daughter to the UAE. Nora continued to work in the UAE while her parents raised Mylene in the Philippines.

When Mylene turned 21, Nora finally gave Mylene her blessing to look for her father. Now aged 22, Mylene has travelled to the UAE to find him in the hopes of starting a new life. But she knows only her father’s name and that he was living in Madinat Zayed.

“My dream is to find my father, become an Emirati citizen and bring my mother from the USA and my daughter from the Philippines to live with me here in the UAE,” she said.

Nora, now 44 and working in Texas, is confident that Mylene, who resembles her father and has his strong personality, will succeed in her quest , and she is confident that the UAE authorities will help Mylene.

“She deserves to know who her father is,” said Nora.

“I was scared to lose her when she was young, but now she is old enough and should know who her father is.

“If it was in the USA I don’t think the government would help as much, but I know that will not be the case in the Emirates.”

In 2009, the UAE Government created an ad hoc committee to conduct a global search to identify children born overseas to Emirati fathers and foreign mothers.

The Government was seeking to enhance the identity of UAE nationals who were born abroad and to facilitate their integration into Emirati society, said Maj Gen Nasser Al Menhali, the committee’s chairman.

But legal experts say that because Mylene’s parents are not married to each other, she would not be recognised as her father’s daughter under Sharia.

Regardless, Mylene, who is staying with an aunt in Ajman, is looking for a job that will allow her to stay in the country. But she says her search for employment is proving difficult because employers are unwilling to hire her for positions reserved for east Asians because she does not look Filipino.

Mylene fears that she will have to return to the Philippines if she does not find work before her visitor’s visa expires next month.

talsubaihi@thenational.ae