‘I froze’: Filipina in Dubai recalls seeing Sheikh Mohammed at mall where she works

She got busy and thought she missed her chance to meet the Ruler, but it turned out it was her lucky day


Kirstin Bernabe

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Photos: Supplied, Instagram
Photos: Supplied, Instagram

Published: Fri 15 Dec 2023, 6:43 PM

Last updated: Sun 17 Dec 2023, 2:51 PM

What would you tell Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid if you see him up close?

All Maria Veronica Villalba was able to say were three words: "Good afternoon, sir." The Ruler of Dubai looked at her and her colleagues — and gave them a nod.

"It was surreal," Villalba, a Filipina expat, told Khaleej Times.

In an Instagram post, where she uses the handle @featherblue13, the longtime UAE resident shared a photo of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. He wasn't at any official event, though — he was strolling around Mercato Mall in the emirate's Jumeirah area.

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Villalba was working at the mall's management office that day so she and her colleagues got a heads up that Sheikh Mohammed was around. "We eagerly went down, hoping it was not too late."

On the way there, however, she noticed some work that needed to be done at the mall. She got caught up and didn't notice the crowd of people rushing to the supermarket.

Villalba thought she had missed her chance to catch a glimpse of Sheikh Mohammed — until she saw him walking towards her.

"I froze," she said. "Oh my gosh! It was too close," she exclaimed as she recalled the moment.

Since Sheikh Mohammed was accompanied by only a few people — and not a huge entourage usually seen around royals and VIPs elsewhere in the world — Villalba was able to capture a clear picture, showing how she was only a few metres away from the Dubai Ruler.

A post by supermarket chain Spinneys did confirm that Sheikh Mohammed visited its shop.

In a video it posted, the beloved Ruler is seen inside the grocery store, walking around the area where fresh fruits and juices are on display.

Here's the clip:

This wasn't the first time Sheikh Mohammed visited a Spinneys outlet, as the company said he was "spotted a few times" across its stores.

"It fills us with pride and joy to serve him time and again," it added.

For many longtime Dubai residents like Villalba, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid is an inspiration.

"I have been here since 2007 and witnessed the transformation," the Filipina said. "Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum leaves a profound impression with his visionary leadership, commitment to progress, and dedication to transforming Dubai into a global hub of innovation and prosperity."

Now that she has seen the leader up close, Villalba said: "My Dubai journey is now complete."


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