We all hear the usual love at first sight story, but that was not Ben Dailan’s. His love came after his first child.
At the age of 22, Ben Dailan was thoroughly enjoying his youthful years in Cavite, Philippines. He had thick, long hair that fell down to his waist. His left arm was tatted up. His drinking and drug habits were at a peak. His rock band was doing well. All in all, Ben was just your average, carefree, 20-something year old.
Until the day 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 feels something for me,” Dailan recalls on their first meeting. However, he did not reciprocate these feelings at all.
15 years later, Dailan has lost his hair, his drug use has stopped, his drinking has been limited and his tattoos are slightly faded. He and Claren are married with three children. While the couple lives in Qatar, their kids study back in Philippines and live with their maternal grandmother. Dailan now works as a waiter for Zaater w Zeit, an Arab restaurant, in Souq Waqif. Although everything now seems to have turned out like a typical “happily ever after” story for the couple, this was not the case to begin with.
“In Philippines, we are open. We drink and then…uh…something happen[ed],” Dailan stutters through while he talks about the night after he first met Claren. “We don’t have relation but something happen[ed] because she like[d] me,” he adds.
That first night changed everything for Dailan and Claren dramatically. Claren got pregnant and Dailan, out of fear of commitment, left her. “I don’t like to commit because I don’t have a stable job, I’m [a] drinker, I’m [a] drug user. Even my own life, I cannot survive,” Dailan says, explaining his actions.
However, once the baby girl was born, Dailan could not stay away from her. “I want to see her every time but I don’t want to commit,” he says while recalling his emotions at the time.
But Dailan recalled 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 mom’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 of the baby,” Dailan explains 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 adds while wiping tears away 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 explains with a massive grin on his face. Dailan wants to try to have a fourth child soon. “I want balance; two girls, two boys,” he chuckles. “If the last one coming is girl, [we’ll] make more [and] try again to [have] a boy.” He jokingly adds he would be willing to have 12 kids as long as he could have another son.
Despite having had three kids and being together for 15 years, Dailan and Claren only got married last June… that too because of a legality issue. “If you’re not married here in Qatar, but you’re together in one room, this is a problem,” Dailan explains. “That’s why we settle to get married.” However, he jokingly adds 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 “50-50” at the time. He eventually agreed to do because it would be “better for [the] children,” because they were considered illegitimate up to that point.
As hard as it is to be away from his kids, Dailan still believes “Now everyone [is] happy,” because he knows he is away from them to be 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 says. He adds that his older daughter wants to grow up and become an air hostess.
“I cannot take college because money problems,” Dailan recalls. His younger siblings, from his mother’s multiple marriages, only made it to grade one or two before they ended their schooling. Dailan is the only high school graduate in the family.
But he is determined to make sure his children go beyond. “But now, my children, [will] not [be] like this. I want [them] to finish all [their schooling].”
22-year-old Dailan could never have imagined the life that 37-year-old Dailan now lives because; who could ever have guessed the kind of happiness that love at first child could bring?