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PIA Press Release

Jordanian fulfills tribute for Pinoys' kindness

by Ben Moses Ebreo

Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya (29 June) -- All is set for the formal opening of the P40-million Rizal Shrine that Jordanian Mahmoud Asfour made for his admiration of the values of the Filipinos and their national heroes.

Built in barangay Casat, some 7 kilometers from the national highway here, the Dr. Jose Rizal and National Heroes Shrine constructed on top of a hill infront of his mansion is also a venue to other charitable institutions for Novo Vizcayanos such as children's park, food processing, flower making, cosmetology and saloon, eye and dental clinics, physiotherapy and sports injury clinic, livelihood training center and function halls on the first level.

The second level offers amenities such as two huge fountains, wide skating rink, tile chairs, gardens with assorted flowers, areas for gathering and helipad. The uppermost level features the Rizal shrine, which Asfour claimed as the biggest in the world surrounded by 15 other national heroes with marble tiles.

"I built this project to help poor families by way of providing them jobs and for cultural learning on the teachings of Dr. Jose Rizal," Asfour, 59 said.

An official of the Order of the Knights of Rizal, an organization that seeks to promote and emulate the values, virtues and services of Dr. Jose Rizal, Asfour said the Rizal shrine including its base measures 38.6 feet in height.

He said he personally designed Rizal's head and enhanced its durability to become an "earthquake proof edifice."

"This area is covered by a faultline and therefore I do not want this to be destroyed," he said.

Rizal's body is built with fiber glass covered by a metal layer with bronze color. The body weighs 1.2 tons while the base weighs 1.3 tons, according to Asfour.

The other heroes were built in their normal sizes but with huge concrete bases. They weigh 800 kilos each, Asfour said.

Even before its completion, the Rizal shrine which has become a tourist attraction in the province has been visited by Asfour's friends, local officials, high ranking national government dignitaries and ordinary tourists.

Beside the Rizal shrine is the 6.5 hectare plantation areas for assorted fruits and trees, such as 138 mango trees, bananas and coconuts in preparation for fruit processing ventures.

"I will start these projects next year," he said including cogon manufacturing and pottery making.

The project, According to Asfour will be formally inaugurated on June 19, the birthday of Dr. Jose Rizal.

A mobile teaching school will also be purchased inorder to teach the values of Rizal among children in the villages, he said.

Asfour who settled in this town in 1991 married Marriam, now 47 with their children Abdullah, 21, Hakim 19, and Abeer 10. Abdullah and Hakim are taking up computer engineering course at the St. Mary's University here while Abeer is on her 6th grade.

In 2001, the provincial board here has recognized his deeds and services and passed a resolution adopting him as a son of Nueva Vizcaya.

For Asfour, funding livelihood projects and sponsoring scholarship grants were his ways of repaying a debt of gratitude to one Filipino.

His good impression of Filipinos began when his car bogged down in the middle of a desrt in Saudi Arabia before the Gulf War. Stranded in the desrt for two days, he said he was already dying from hunger and thirst when a Filipino truck driver found him and gave him water, shared a sandwich and then brought him home.

Since then Asfour started to pay Pinoy's kindness by helping Filipino overseas foreign workers, sponsoring scholarship grants, provided livelihood projects, donated pump wells, farm implements, built houses for the poor and financial aid to fund raising projects.

He also pays salaries of several teachers, health workers and hospitalization of sick indigent families in the province.

A former vice president of Citibank International and a former official of the International Monetary Fund, Asfour was a member of the IMF team that studied the country's application for a P128 million loan.

In July 2005, Asfour's bid for a Filipino nationality was issued by President Gloria Macapagal - Arroyo after it was concurred by both the houses of congress and senate.

"If I see abandoned children and their parents, I help them. I reconstruct families by giving them something to work with for their income," Asfour said. [top]

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