Ahmad bin Buyong, the long-time official driver of Philippine Ambassadors to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, came to work for the Philippine Embassy as a young man in 1968.
Known for his “service with a smile,” Ahmad finally received his well-deserved recognition last month, a news release of the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur said.
Hajji Ahmad (as people in the Embassy call him) is regarded as institution as old as the Embassy itself.
He served Yusof Abubakar, the country’s first Ambassador to Malaysia, and his nine successors, including the incumbent one.
Ahmad is a veritable source of historical information for Embassy personnel, as he has witnessed the changing landscape of Philippines-Malaysia relations, from the often tense years in the 1960s to its renaissance during the Ramos-Mahathir period, to where it is now.
Born on July 3, 1947 in Kuala Lumpur, Ahmad came to work in the Embassy as a young man. He was the only local hire—and a foreigner at that—to receive the award personally this year.
After almost 45 years, three children, a score of grandchildren and nearing retirement, he remains the efficient, endearing and highly courteous man that present and former and Embassy officers and staff have cherished.
Going about his work in his quiet efficiency and a forever smiling demeanor, he at times regaled them with stories of years gone by, of then Prime Minister Mahathir’s attendance at the Embassy’s trade exhibits and all that.
As driver, he knows more than the usual share of secrets – both official and personal – but is discreet and can be relied upon to keep others’ confidence.
Hajji Ahmad has endeared himself to Embassy personnel, past and present, and epitomized the DFA credo of “service with a smile”, that current Ambassador J. Eduardo Malaya nominated him early this year for the DFA outstanding employee award.
Upon learning that he has not yet been in the country he has served all these years, the Ambassador also promised him that if Ahmad was selected for the award, he will receive it personally in Manila.
When confirmation was received that he was to be conferred the DFA Outstanding Employee award the following day in Manila (another Embassy staff, Faith Planas-Bautista, was also selected for the award), Embassy staff members immediately made arrangements for his plane ticket and other logistical concerns to enable him to be present at the awarding ceremony on July 26.
Former Embassy officers and staff now based in Manila pooled together their time and resources to ensure that Hajji Ahmad will receive the best in Philippine hospitality during his stay, including looking after his spiritual requirements especially at this time of Ramadan. After all, this was his first time to visit the Philippines.
After a quick trip to the Malaysian Home Affairs Ministry for his passport (he did not have a passport all these years!) Hajji Ahmad left Wednesday midnight for Manila, where he was welcomed by former Embassy personnel at the airport.
From there, he was taken to a serviced apartment and his residence for the next few days, before he went to the DFA for the award ceremonies.
When Hajji Ahmad, garbed in his batik, was called to the stage to receive the Outstanding Employee award, he received thunderous applause. Former Embassy officers and staff cheered for him, including former Ambassadors to Malaysia Jose Brilliantes (now Foreign Affairs Undersecretary, or Deputy Minister, for Special and Ocean Concerns) and Victoriano Lecaros (Assistant Secretary of the DFA Legislative Liaison Unit.).
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary (Minister) Albert F. del Rosario was all smiles when he handed Hajji Ahmad his award, and gamely posed with him for photos. “Thank you for your 44 years of faithful service,” Secretary del Rosario told him. – AM/VVP, GMA News