The Pink Tarha: Seriously, they're kikay

Saudi Arabia is not all mosques and minarets, vast deserts, and rugged mountains. It is not as backward as depicted by the Western media and as mistakenly construed by people who really haven't been to the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia is in fact, a thriving rich country with interesting places to visit, good restaurants to dine out, and yes, various huge malls to buy branded items from.

Quite similar, the lives of Filipino expats in Saudi Arabia are not all-dreary nor all-blue. Some Pinoys in Saudi (I included) cherish their existence in this so-called land of sun and sand (and the much overrated oil, of course!). One such positive-emanating blog is The Pink Tarha, a blog written by four 20-something, sassy Pinays about the what, when and where of all the good that is in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Well-written and witty, it really reads like Riyadh's comprehensive, in-depth, been-there-done-that lifestyle guide for expats (men and women included; sassy or not!). The PT blog recently won the PEBA 2009 Top 2 Blog Awards and a lot more accolades from fellow bloggers.

Where it all started

They're officemates and friends (not necessarily in that order) who love shopping, or rather, enjoy the bonding moments that go with shopping. That was actually the eureka for the PT blog, where everything really began.

The ladies narrate, "It was a Saturday and we still had a hangover over the weekend, not from drinking, but from shopping. It was January and it was the middle of the year-end sale and we were all chatting about our shopping escapades when one of us suggested we blog about our purchases the same way fashion and beauty bloggers do. The big difference though is that we're blogging from Saudi Arabia. Ideas then flowed to incorporate how it is like living and working in the Kingdom as a Pinay."

One of the outtake photos they used for their first banner in silhouette (taken December 2008).
Shoegarfreeruby, Sundrenched, Maryhadalittlehump,
and Eyecandy

They, in fact, wrote in their very first entry: "For what is left for us ladies to do here in this city but shop, eat, and shop some more? From the high-end to the ukay-ukay grounds, I guarantee you that the line 'Shop 'Til You Drop' totally applies in this area code. (What?! Did you actually think wearing the abaya and tarha can prevent us from looking fabulous and doing what we want?!)."

The title The Pink Tarha was a collaborative brainstorming effort among the four authors. (Tarha, known as hijab in Arabic, is the Tagalog slang term of the black veil used by women in Saudi Arabia).

"We have a dozen of initial titles to choose from but Pink Tarha wasn't one of them. There was Sunny Side Up, Desert Roses, Just Desert, etc. but none of them sound catchy enough. None of them could sum up the lives we are living and represent us. There were so many ideas until Mary came up with tarha. Then someone suggested we color it pink to become kikay."

Initially, their concept was just to narrate their shopping experiences, but soon realized that there are other things worth writing about apart from shopping and fashion, hence, the ladies decided to include their restaurant, food and travel experiences, too. The concept thus became "LIFESTYLE"... of Filipinas in Saudi Arabia. They added the word 'kikay' to animate the tone of their writing.

"We pledged to write the lighter side of living in the Kingdom because we know how Saudi Arabia is seen by the world. With its conservative culture and restricted society, it doesn’t really have a good reputation. The bad news is already being covered by other blogs and the newspapers so we don’t want to discuss ‘em further. We wanted to show a different perspective. And so there, we avoid topics such as politics, violence, crimes, etc. We want that after people read the Pink Tarha, they feel good and go on with their day with good vibes."

Meet the ladies

In their blog, they write as Shoegarfreeruby, Sundrenched, Eyecandy and Maryhadalittlehump. During the first year of the blog, the ladies wore blinders in all their photos for anonymity. Recently, they've decided to 'unveil' themselves to their readers.

Maryhadalittlehump, from Bulacan, is a hospital assistant and a self-confessed Koreanovela fanatic. "The last koreanovela that made me crazy was Boys Over Flowers. I even watched it thrice in Youtube! I slept at 3am just to see this koreanovela's ending. Even in my dreams, nakikita ko si Jun-Pyo!," says Mary. She dreams of visiting Wowowee and playing hep-hep-hurray 'to beat the amazonas'. She's also the most OC among the four. She would check their doors and windows and their gas stove in their house ten times in a single night to ensure that they're secured. Seriously.

Shoegarfreeruby, from Pampanga, is the group's 'ate' and the only married gal in the group. She works as an Editorial Assistant and she will kill for shoes (not literally). She wrote in her unveiling entry: " attachment to shoes bring back fond memories...I remember vividly how my husband’s red and grey Nike shoes looked like the first time I met him, or my favorite pair I wore almost everyday as a kid until they bore a hole and fell apart. If you’ll ask me to choose between shoes or travel, I’ll say shoes without hesitation." She plays drums and dreams of pursuing a career in dancing. Seriously.

Eyecandy, who grew up in Riyadh and studied college in Laguna, is a desktop publisher who has the prettiest and friendliest of smile among the group. "A smile is the universal symbol for peace, love and happiness and I think we should carry it and share it wherever we go." She's into "twirls of prose and heaps of histrionic endeavors" (she graduated from UPLB) and would lovingly live in a bookstore or library if she could. Seriously.

Sundrenched, from La Union, works as an editorial assistant and is the lead of the PT blog, a "persistent and sly editor-in-chief", as the other three PT ladies say (I: ditto!). She is a well-read gal saying that "reading has become my solitude when I went here (in Saudi)." She used to write for magazines in the Philippines, and is serving as the Kablogs Journal's managing editor (and also its brains and conceptualizer). She hates crowds and is easily embarrased when speaking in public. She's a pack rat and is perceived by friends as super conservative (earning her a tag as 'Mother Superior'). She confessed though that she's not; she just appears too serious sometimes.

The tie that binds them together

The posh Sundrenched, avant-garde Eyecandy, and classy Shoegarfreeruby.
Even if they like fashion, they also like wearing their abayas. They like living in Saudi Arabia.

The truth is, shopping and dining out are only secondary reasons why they stick together. The main force that truly binds the PT ladies is the fact that they are the second generation of overseas Filipino workers. They are children of fathers who were part of the early wave of migration during the 80s.

They were the children left behind who grew up in a different kind of home where "(our father's) absence reverberates in every corner of our houses and echoes in every hollow of our hearts". While the three ladies grew up in the Philippines (who only annually see their fathers for a duration of one month), Eyecandy, when she was six, migrated to Saudi Arabia with her OFW parents.

Says Eyecandy: "I can’t help but notice that most children who grew up abroad develop a sense of entitlement without a cause..." who never really learned the meaning of hardship and bereft of motivations to be more determined, street smart and/or thriftier.

Their childhood were therefore different from most of us.

"We felt like we never knew our fathers at all, and that they never knew us. We were aware though that our fathers were away to provide for us and there were some instances wherein we felt wealthy, one of the few middle-class families in our neighborhoods back then. We had the newest toys and we were happy but there was an indescribable empty feeling. We were well provided but we were incomplete."

Experience did teach them well. Like a circle coming in full cycle, they are now OFWs themselves who have really grown -- err, bloomed! -- where they are planted.

The Pink Tarha, simple ladies who love life!

They said: We salute our fellow OFWs for their sacrifices, and we are honored to be a part of this community now. We know that most of us, if only we have our choices, wouldn’t want to be in this situation but still we persist because of our families. Your sacrifices do not only help your families but help the nation as well. Mabuhay ang mga Pilipino sa buong mundo! Sumasaludo ang Pink Tarha sa inyo!

To end, I leave you with a line from one of their entries which, in capsule, truly speaks of the PT blog: "...even though Saudi Arabia is seen as a country of ironies, there's a lighter side to it. The Pink Tarha is convinced that although we can't change things, we can change our view of things. After all, even if Saudi Arabia is seen as the country for men, the PT ladies believe that "real men read pink!"

Indeed, we do.

Written by Nebz Bandiez.

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