Ben Dailan, a waiter at Zaater w Zeit in Souq Waqif, knows a thing or two about growing up.
At the age of 22, Dailan was thoroughly enjoying his youthful years in the Philippines.
He had thick, long hair that fell down to his waist. He decorated his left arm with tattoos. His drinking and drug habits were at a peak. His rock band was doing well.
All in all, he was just your average, carefree, 20-something year old.
Then he met Claren. Claren was a friend of Dailan’s colleague and she and his friend were visiting Dailan’s town.
“She saw me and she (felt) something for me,” Dailan recalls on their first meeting. However, he added that he did not reciprocate those feelings.
Fifteen years later, Dailan has lost some of his hair and his tattoos are fading slightly. He has stopped using drugs and limited his drinking.
And he and Claren are now married with three children, with a fourth on the way.
While the couple lives in Qatar, their kids study back in the Philippines and live with their maternal grandmother.
Although everything now seems to have turned out like a typical “happily ever after” story for the couple, that certainly wasn’t the case right from the start.
“In Philippines, we are open. We drink and then…uh…something happened,” Dailan explained when he talks about the night after he first met Claren. We didn’t have a relationship “but something happened because she liked me,” he added.
That first night changed everything for Dailan and Claren dramatically.
Claren got pregnant and Dailan, out of fear of commitment, left her.
“I (didn’t) like to commit because I (didn’t) have a stable job, I’m (a) drinker, I’m a drug user. Even my own life, I cannot survive,” Dailan said, explaining his actions.
However, once the baby girl was born, Dailan said he could not stay away from her. “I want to see her every time but I (didn’t) want to commit,” he recalled.
But then he thought about his own broken childhood. His parents divorced while he was still in the womb. Soon after he was born, his mother remarried, and Dailan was left with his grandparents.
To this day, Dailan does not know who his father is, and pities his six siblings (from his mother’s multiple marriages) for the situation his mother left them in.
“I don’t have father. I’m from a broken family. I know the feeling,” Dailan explained in talking about why he eventually decided to commit to Claren and his baby girl, Kyle.
Looking back, the decision to commit has been one that he has never regretted. “Now I have new family, I have new life,” Dailan added, wiping away tears from his eyes.
Within five years of that first night, Dailan and Claren found themselves parents to two more children after Kyle: Clardia and Levis Colt Dailan.
“Levis from the jeans and Colt from Colt .45 gun,” Dailan explained, grinning.
To his delight, the couple is now expecting a fourth child, a son.
Despite having had three kids and being together for 15 years, Dailan and Claren only got married last June, for legal reasons.
“If you’re not married here in Qatar, but you’re together in one room, this is a problem,” Dailan explained. “That’s why we settle to get married.”
However, he jokingly added that Claren proposed to him because “I’m only one in a million.”
But Dailan was still hesitant to get married, describing his feelings being “fifty-fifty” at the time. He eventually agreed to do so because it would be “better for (the) children,” because they were considered illegitimate up to that point.
Though it’s hard to be away from his kids, Dailan said he believed that “now everyone (is) happy,” because he is able to give them what he did not have.
His purpose in Qatar now is solely “to work and to send money” back home for his children.
“All their needs, we give,” he proudly said. He added that his older daughter wants to grow up and become an air hostess.
Dailan is the first high school graduate in his family, but never attended college because he couldn’t afford it.
But he is determined to make sure his children have a better future.
“I want (them) to finish all (their schooling),” he said.
Twenty-two-year-old Dailan could never have imagined the life that his 37-year-old self now lives because who could ever have guessed the kind of happiness that comes with love at first child?