‘Dada Marie!’: Saudi reporter reunites with nanny in Quezon

HAPPY ENDING — Saudi reporter Rawan Radwan and her Filipino nanny Marie Ning Bernardo-Bibit cherish every second of their reunion after 22 years at the Tayabas Western Academy in Candelaria, Quezon, yesterday. (Danny J. Estacio) (MB)

Candelaria, Quezon — Who’d have thought that a nine-paragraph story run by the Manila Bulletin would launch a frantic search through social media to find a Filipino nanny sorely missed the last 22 years by her former wards in Saudi Arabia? [caption id="attachment_177047" align="alignright" width="240"] HAPPY ENDING — Saudi reporter Rawan Radwan and her Filipino nanny Marie Ning Bernardo-Bibit cherish every second of their reunion after 22 years at the Tayabas Western Academy in Candelaria, Quezon, yesterday. (Danny J. Estacio)[/caption] When Marie Ning Bernardo-Bibit was found a day after the story saw print last August 1, the story had already caught fire on the Internet with hundreds of comments on Yahoo! News, which had picked it up and 4,255 shares and 755,000 likes on Facebook. Famous TV anchor Jessica Soho got a piece of the story in the days that followed with her “Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho” program linking Bibit with her former ward and searcher, Rawan Radwan, now a freelance journalist of Arab News, via Skype. Yesterday, through the initiative of the program aired on GMA-7, Radwan’s wish to be reunited with her “Dada Marie” came true. Bibit, 50, a village watcher in Barangay Masalukot 1, vice president of the Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) in this town, and model former overseas Filipino worker (OFW), was being awarded as “Outstanding Alumna of the Year” at her alma mater, the Tayabas Western Academy (TWA), here, when moments later Radwan emerged onstage. It was a priceless moment for both Bibit and Radwan and a tear-jerker for all who witnessed the reunion. Soho will be airing a segment of that reunion in her program. LETTERS FROM DADA MARIE Ms. Eva Palma, Quezon Public Information Office (PIO) staffer, still recalls how thrilled Bibit was when she walked into the PIO clutching a photo album of her 1987-1992 pictures with the young Radwan sisters, Rawan and Hedeel. It was Palma who received Rawan’s request to facilitate her search for her “Dada Marie.” Palma sought the help of this reporter to have the story published in the Manila Bulletin. Rawan’s e-mail correspondence with this reporter revealed that her urgency in finding Bibit stemmed from her discovery three years ago of letters written by her Dada Marie to their family. It was by accident that she found the letters kept by her mother, Fatima, prompting her to quiz her mother why she had kept Bibit’s letters all these years. Fatima only had good words to say about Bibit, who served in their family at a time when their diplomat-father, Mohammed Jamil Radwan, was busy traveling between Jakarta, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. “She (Bibit) was part of our family and a dear one at that,” Radwan wrote in her email to the Manila Bulletin, explaining how Bibit was mostly responsible for taking care of her and her sister during those years. She recalled that during that time, they had a number of nannies and domestic helpers but none were as loyal and trustworthy as Dada Marie and so her mother had kept letters from her as a treasured keepsake. WHY A REUNION IN PH? Time and again, Rawan had tried to search for her Dada Marie. “I think because of the frustration from not being able to reach her or find any trace of her on the Internet, I grew more persistent,” she said. “To my luck Ms. Eva Palma was the one who answered my call (to the PIO) and actually listened to my story and agreed to help me,” wrote Rawan in one of her emails. She said she was excited to learn from Palma that the Manila Bulletin was running the story. “To my luck, someone really did see the article and that’s when the feelings started to be a mixture of excitement, anxiety and fear,” Rawan said. She wanted feedback as soon as possible and grew anxious because she was yet unsure if she could expect Dada Marie to be equally longing for their reunion. “I would say fear because no one knew how she would react; if she remembered us, if she wanted us to contact (her),” Rawan said. She said she thought the search would last two months and got surprised to receive a call that the search was over in less than two days. “My family was as enthusiastic as I was, all waiting and anticipating things,” Rawan said. But it was through their meeting in Skype, through the initiative of Soho, that all the fears and anxieties were lost. “The raw emotions that came of us and her as well were genuine,” Rawan told the Manila Bulletin. She added that after that conversation, she knew she had to open up her hectic schedule for a trip to the Philippines to see her Dada Marie. “I knew then that this person was very dear and is and will always be a part of our family just as she once was,” Rawan said.