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Bawal bang mahalin ka?

7 Apr

Pinoys just like any other may engage in love types which may challenge sanctified societal conventions. The distance from the nuclear family and the ‘openness’ of the host country foment an opportune climate for experimenting a new way of expressing love. Some of them are embroiled in forbidden love, some engage in same-sex affairs and others in interracial relationships. There are those whose way of coping with love is to demur and defer it opting for single-blessedness. Some of these are well-taken while some others view them with supercilious contempt.

The Pinoy lover, just like nature, abhors vacuum. There’s got to be love one way or another. And they cope with it either by approach-approach whether acceptable or not or they may try the avoid-avoid. After all, love still makes the world go round. The Pinoys abroad are no exception. The emotion of love draws out the genius in every Pinoy. They love all they will and they love all they can.

Pabalat ng ika-7 isyu ng Ang Bagong Filipino. Upang makakuha ng kopya, i-click lamang ang link na ito: Ang Bagong Filipino numero 7

Wow Titser!

30 Mar

(Ed. Note: Entrevista con Nata. In this section, our correspondent Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna shares with us his creamy and delectable stories, 100 % inspiring yet zero in fat.)

“Ms. Delos Reyes, when are you getting married? You might turn into an endangered specie.”

Resisting not to laugh, Wowie  gave the curious owner of this question a wide smile.    After all, being a teacher of young innocent and imaginative minds, questions like this can always turn up unannounced. And she always comes prepared.

Wowie or Rowena Isabel Delos Reyes, who hails from Puerto Princesa City, Palawan,  graduated Psychology at the Silliman University and  took up Professional  Education at the University of the Philippines.  Later on, she decided to take a Master in Special Education at the University of Southern Philippines.  In 2001, she got a scholarship to study in Valladolid, Spain.

She has always wanted to be a teacher.  It was her maternal grandmother who inspired her to pursue her dream of becoming an educator. For her, her grandmother did not only teach her how to read and write but also handed her down values.  This time, it is her turn to share and teach those values to her students.

“I come from a family of educators. My grandmother taught me to read and do arithmetic in a very fun and easy way.”

She has been teaching for 18 years now,  where she has  taught in the pre-school, elementary and high school in Manila and Cebu. She also taught Spanish at Poveda Learning Centre in Manila.

Wowie with her students at Southville International School, Philippines

What kind of a teacher are you?

“I always try to be fair and firm with my students. It is my responsibility to encourage my students to continuously develop and improve their knowledge and skills about things they’re interested in and good at, to become lifelong learners.”

She can no longer count with her fingers those memorable moments she had with her students inside or outside the classroom.

“I always have a class that giggles a lot. One of my favorites is when one of my students came to class and exclaimed, “I heard a bad word said in the play I watched yesterday!” To prevent a bad word to be said in my class, I reminded my students that bad words aren’t appropriate. They’re not accepted in my class. But one of them insisted, “Come on tell.”  Before anybody could say something I declared, “No bad words should be said here. This is my domain. You do what I say.” One asked, “What is domain, Ms. Delos Reyes?” and before I could say something another one said, “I know that! That’s the barber of my grandfather. That’s Mang Domeng!”

Giggling students, Cebu International School

In  2008, she moved to Ankara and worked for the Bilkent Laboratory and International school.

“I have a Filipino friend who used to teach in an international school in Istanbul and told me lots of beautiful things about Turkey. This was  my first overseas teaching job .”

How were your first days in Turkey?

“Turkish people are hospitable and sweet. It was so easy to fit in. Although it was miserable on my first Christmas in Turkey, because we Filipinos spend Christmas with so much festivity and there were no carolers, no Christmas trees, no Christmas decorations at the department stores, no Christmas songs over the radio and  no Christmas cards!, I decided to get my family and friends birthday cards.  For me, one reason why we celebrate Christmas is because we celebrate Jesus’s birthday. Some of my friends find it hilarious receiving a birthday card for Christmas!”

There are about 6,000 Filipinos in Turkey. Most of them are employed as household staff of diplomatic communities and rich Turkish families.  Furthermore, around 600 Filipinos are skilled workers and professionals working as architects, doctors, engineers and teachers. The greatest number of Filipinos can be found in Istanbul.

How were your students?  Your colleagues?

“I always have awesome students! I had great coworkers at Bilkent Laboratory and International School. We partied and traveled a lot! We still keep in touch. One of the things I like about teaching in international schools is people have mutual respect and tolerance for each other. “

How are Filipino students different from other international students that she has handled?

“Students are all the same in the classroom in any country. They’re enthusiastic, sweet, smart and fun to be with. Some of my students keep in touch with me and I have a very friendly relationship with them.  I treat them like my own.”

Did your students ask about the Philippines?

“Students are always curious about how is life in their teacher’s country. They asked a lot of questions about the Philippines.  I have a student who made me listen to songs of Black Eyed Peas because according to her one of them is a Filipino. I have one who asked me if she could come spend her summer holiday with me because she wants to go to Amanpulo Island in Palawan.”

How did Ankara treat you?

I didn’t have a hard time adjusting when I was in Ankara even if it was my first overseas job or even if I was the only Filipino in my school because I had helpful, accommodating, and very supportive colleagues. Because of this I had a super hard time leaving Turkey. You can get the best of both worlds in Turkey: it’s quite ancient and very modern at the same time. Traveling is another thing I enjoyed in Turkey.  I had a wonderful and awesome time in Turkey! My very close Turkish friend said she thinks Filipinos are kind, sweet, resilient and smart. I guess the others see Filipinos the same way.

Wowie in Ankara, Turkey

Are there Pinoys in Ankara?

“Yes, I see them when I go to church. Most of them are nannies. A few were my students’ nannies. Some were married to Turkish and a few work in the Philippine Embassy.

Did you have any chance of integrating with the locals, getting to know their culture?

Yes. I’m always lucky to have very kind and accommodating friends in every country that I live in. I get invited by them and get to experience their celebrations and we traveled together. I get to learn more about their country, their language. I become very close to them and they become my best friends.

With her students at Bilkent Laboratory & International School, Turkey

Why didn’t you plan to extend your stay in Turkey?

“I’d like to work closer to the Philippines because of my mother. I’d like to be able to go home anytime I need to.”

Was it worth it, teaching in Turkey?

“YES! I had a great experience in Turkey.  I liked the people a lot they’re very warm and sweet.”

Any plans of going back to the Philippines to teach again in the near future?

“I have already taught in the Philippines for 15 years. I’d like to travel this time and learn about the culture of other countries.”

Do you have a dream country where you see yourself teaching for a longer time?

“Good question. I should start thinking of one already. I think I’d like to teach in an international school and stay long in New York.”

After her stint in Ankara, Wowie got another teaching job in Busan, South Korea where she is a Grade 4 teacher at Busan International Foreign School teaching English, Mathematics, and Unit of Inquiry (combination of Science and Social Studies). But be it Ankara, or Manila or Busan, Wowie doesn’t mind.

“I always get hugs and sometimes letters and certificates (awards) from my students for being a great teacher to them.”

There has been a running joke about teachers that they end up single because they spend most of their time inside the classroom or preparing lesson plans and activities for their students. Does this worry you a bit?

“I am just different and very picky that’s why my soulmate and I haven’t met yet. I am not worried at all.”

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” An American  journalist and academic, Henry Adams once said. Endangered or not, to her students, a teacher like Wowie will always be a special kind of specie.

Who could persuade Gadaffi?

7 Mar


Libyan dictator Muammar Gadaffi

“”The price of oil is rising as unrest continues in Libya and its dictator refuses to skedaddle in the face of international condemnation. The regime in Libya has demonstrated its readiness to kill its own citizens to cling to power, and the citizens have shown their willingness to die for freedom. What is to be done?

There is one woman who can solve this impasse, one woman who has already established her powers of persuasion over Muammar Gaddafi. . .”


Imelda Marcos!

Read more: Jessica Zafra\’s Dream Couple International Edition

Learning from Trinidad and Tobago

10 Jan

by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano, Institute for Migration and Development Issues (IMDI)

WHAT does the Philippines have to do with a southern Caribbean country named Trinidad and Tobago?

This former Spanish and British colony of 1.338 million people not only hosts an estimated 1,200 Filipinos (including 1,000 overseas workers), but did a bold attempt at national development that a Southeast Asian archipelago can learn from.

At the onset of its own oil boom come the new millennium, and during the time of the country’s former head of government, Prime Minister Patrick Manning, Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Planning and Development started in 2002 the groundwork to formulate a strategic plan called Vision 2020. By the year 2020, government officials hope Trinidad and Tobago “will be a united, resilient, productive, innovative and prosperous nation with a disciplined, caring, fun-loving society, comprising health, happy and well-educated people and built on the enduring attributes of self-reliance, respect, equity, and integrity”.

The work of the planning committee to formulate Vision 2020 ended in 2005, and the country’s parliament approved Vision 2020’s draft national strategic plan in 2006. This national strategic plan then formulated its first operational plan that covered the years 2007 to 2010. Even a unit within T&T’s Ministry of Planning and Development was created to monitor the operational plan.

Vision 2020, says an informative video (, is anchored on five pillars: enabling competitive business, developing innovative people, nurturing a caring society, investing in sound infrastructure and the environment, and promoting effective government.

This republic has a two-party political system and a bicameral parliamentary system. Head of state is a President, currently George Maxwell Richards; a Prime Minister, currently Kamla Persad-Bissessar, heads the government.

Of course, political dynamics affected the country. Former Prime Minister Manning (of the People’s National Movement or PNM party) dissolved parliament in April 2010 and called for national elections, which Bissessar’s party, the People’s Partnership, won most seats.

Still, the upper-income Caribbean country’s Vision 2020 goes on.

While Vision 2020 outlined specific strategies, the migration phenomenon is integrated in it, considering that there are some 300,000-plus overseas Trinidadians and there are about 40,000 foreigners working and residing in T&T.

Overseas migration is under the population segment of Vision 2020, and two of the six population-related goals of Vision 2020 are where overseas migration operates: developing a reliable population database (that is hopefully 95 percent accurate), and minimize the negative impacts of migration on Trinidadian society.

Under the goal of developing a reliable population database, Michele Reis of The University of the West Indies observes Vision 2020 hoped to precisely determine how migration impacts on education, the work force, and the country’s elderly population. Meanwhile, Vision 2020 hoped to reduce the emigration of skilled Trinidadian labor, facilitate the integration of returning migrants, and facilitate the full integration of documented and non-documented migrants in T&T.

Such bold integration of migration in T&T’s Vision 2020 is so even if the country is not a major recipient of remittances (around US$ 87 million reached T&T in 2007, with that amount coming from more than half of overseas Trinidadians who have college degrees). T&T, Reis also notes, is a destination country of trafficked and smuggled persons, asylum-seekers and refugees.

Compare Trinidad and Tobago to the fourth largest remittance economy, the Philippines: a country with an elaborate migration management system that received over-US$17 billion in 2009, and where an estimated 8.5 million overseas Filipinos, scattered in 220 countries and territories, come from.

As the government of popularly-elected President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is about to finish producing the 2010-2016 Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP), something seems missing: Where does the Philippines want to go, regardless of who is this country’s president?

Six years, thus Aquino’s term, are not enough for the Philippines to generate some 13-15 million quality jobs to reduce joblessness visibly, if estimates by economists Fernando Aldaba and Reuel Hermoso are to be believed. Poverty levels remained the same (26 million living in poverty), says initial results of the 2009 Family Income and Expenditures Survey. It may take a herculean effort to bring back agriculture’s old glory, or even revitalize the stagnant industry or manufacturing sector.

A government agency, the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), just revised its vision and mission in the hope that migration and development, by 2020, has been mainstreamed in the bureaucracy. In the short term, thinktanks like the Scalabrini Migration Center hope a national migration and development plan is formulated by June 2011.

But where the Filipino boat intends to sail remains a question. One remembers a vision by former President Fidel Ramos (1992-1998) during his term: “Philippines 2000” where, by the turn of the new millennium, the country would have become a Tiger economy.

While many factors did not achieve such a vision, and the Philippines continues to be a basket case in Asia, at least there was a vision to direct an entire nation’s efforts.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) may want to think about drafting a long-term strategic plan similar to T&T’s Vision 2020, one that goes beyond a current president’s regime. After launching the new MTPDP by early 2011, NEDA can convene the country’s best minds to, without partisanship, help draft such a development vision for the long haul —and have President Aquino endorse this process.

And overseas migration’s place in such a long-term Philippine vision? It is time to optimize a “Philippine diasporic dividend” —the net of net benefit from overseas migration— that supplements a long-term, not just a short-term, vision of Philippine development.

Since the overseas exodus has impacted many aspects of Filipino socio-economic and cultural life, it is time to develop a migration-and-development system that sees the country and her institutions address systemically the various impacts of migration on development. The Philippines has yet to have a system to address the economic and social impacts of migration —or even a set of goals to manage these impacts and optimize migration’s gains.

Integrating such a migration-and-development system into a long-term Philippine vision will be good first step to see the progress of this migrant-sending country beyond merely sending people abroad and receiving dollars.

But if the boat just sails and doesn’t know where to go, there goes the thrill of looking ahead to a brighter Filipino future.

Comments to the Institute for Migration and Development Issues ( may be sent to this email address:

Block, Kick, Punch and Win

22 Dec

(Ed. Note: Entrevista con Nata. In this section, our correspondent Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna will share with us his creamy and delectable stories, 100 % inspiring yet zero in fat.)

Elmer and his son, who is also his student in Taekwondo

“I shall be a champion of justice and freedom. I shall build a better and more peaceful world.”

These are the  last two phrases that best  sum up the  Taekwondo student’s oath, which Elmar wishes to inculcate to his learners.

When I went to visit the gym where Elmar holds his Taekwondo lessons,   the class was over.  Instead of seeing them in action, all I saw was about twenty kids milling around an adult figure outside the gym. After what seemed to be endless exchanges of goodbyes, at last, his students  wished Elmar a good weekend  and  bade farewell.

When we finally sat down for the interview,  Elmar’s voice  juggled from  modest to serious  to excited and  brimming with pride.

Thirty-six-year-old Batangueño Elmar Dimayuga, started  learning Taekwondo when he was only 11 years old.

“Fan ako ni Jackie Chan noong bata pa ako.  Pero sa atin kasi pag sinasabing martial arts, Karate agad ang naiisip.¨

A graduate of BS Marine Transportation at the Liceum of Batangas, he became a member of the Philippine Taekwondo Federation where he got his second dan.

Even though he was already joining competitions in  Manila and winning medals, the highest of which was a gold,  Elmar  forewent the chance to compete with the national team when he decided to work  for a Greek-owned cargo ship bound for Germany. His  Taekwondo  days took a backseat.

In 1999, his mom  invited him to take a holiday in Barcelona,  Spain.  He eventually stayed after meeting his wife that same year.  He went back to giving Taekwondo lessons to Pinoy kids for five months.    This didn’t take long  however, because he accepted a job at Otto Sylt  along Rambla de Cataluña. Once again, Taekwondo took a backseat. This time, for a longer time.

But little did he know that the art of kicking and punching would never leave  him even it was already ages since the last time he gave taekwondo classes. One day, when he was passing by MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani  de Barcelona), he saw a lot  of newly-arrived Pinoy kids hanging  outside the place.

“Marami akong nakitang bagong dating.  Naisip ko ano kaya kung  ipagpatuloy ko uli magbigay ng classes.”

Equipped with his instructor certificates issued in the Philippines and by KUKKIWON in Korea, plus his experience as an assistant instructor in Manila and his past trainings, Elmar started scouting for a place to hold his classes.  He found one: the San Pau gym on calle San Pau. On March 15, 2009, he officially opened his school with his first ten students.

From ten, the number of students swelled to more than 70; with 45  kids  from six to 13 years old  and 35 bigger kids and adults  from fourteen years old and above. Of which, the youngest is six years old and the oldest is 22.

“Passion eh, pag gusto mo, walang mahirap.  Pero sa totoo mahirap talaga. It takes a lot of patience. Mahilig ako sa bata.  I have a  son. Student ko din.”

“I don’t need a lot of students.  Kahit lima or sampu na sumusunod, okay lang kesa sa 100 na students na hindi sumusunod. Priority ko ang mga Pinoy. Pero may students akong dalawang Ecuatorianos at isang Chinese na kaibigan  ng  mga estudyante ko.”

Under his wing, his students are taught how to block, kick, punch, strike with an open-hand, sweep and throw.

“Yung mga bata kasi, nag-eenrol sila sa Taekwondo for self-defense, but later on mare-realize nila na hindi pala. Para nga makaiwas sa gulo, para hindi susubo sa trouble. Importante na turuan sila ng discipline development, humility and modesty.

“Of course, I train them to spar and how to gain points. Then I help them develop their stamina, improve their kicks and spar with a partner.”

The next thing that Elmar did was to coordinate with the Federació Catalana de Taekwondo  for a possible membership.  In June of this year, they became a certified member of the Federation.

Last October 24, barely five months since becoming a member,   Elmar and his wards had their first taste of a real  competition. Twenty Pinoy kids (16 boys and four girls) displayed their best kicks and punches joining over 1000 kids  at the XXV Campionat de Catalunya Infantil de Competicio.

“Almost two and a half months kami nag-training. Hindi pa masyado familiar ang mga bata about rules.  Palagi kong sinasabi sa kanila na hindi lang how to punch and to kick and dapat gawin but also endurance, perseverance and indomitable spirit.”

His efforts paid off, the kids  performed way above his expectations. They bagged 12 medals:  six silver and six bronze.

XXV CAMPIONAT DE CATALUNYA INFANTIL DE COMPETICIO winners:Jon Fernando Laureles Cutab,8 yrs.old, bronze; Christian Vincent Mañibo, 8 yrs.old,Bronze; Angelo Ramolete, 8 yrs.old, bronze; Aaron Landicho,9 yrs.old,silver, Jade Mariele Dimayuga, 9 yrs.old, silver; Tristan Jeno Andrada,9 yrs.old, silver;Teddy Alejandro Sanchez, 9 yrs.old, silver;Alex Masangkay,9 yrs.old, silver; Jason Clark Hidalgo,10 yrs.old, bronze; Jayveeron Gaya,10 yrs.old, bronze; Jason Minioza,12 yrs.old, silver; Axel John Miranda,12 yrs.old, bronze

“Very proud ako sa kanila.  The president of the Federacion congratulated us. Very impressive ang performance ng mga bata. Alam nila ang color ng armor, naalala nila ang directive calls at yung rules. Considering that this was their first competition, they really did well. Sa first round pa lang, knock out na ang kalaban. Yung anak ko nanalo din ng silver medal!”

And the lesson  he learned from their first competition.

“Dapat disiplina.  Hindi lang sa pagspar, kung hindi sa pagkain din. Nagkaproblema kami before the competition kasi yung mga bata tumaas ang timbang.  Hindi mapigilan ang pagkain.”

“Also, hindi lang dapat matapang, dapat ginagamit din ang utak.  Hindi lang sugod nang sugod, you should know how to gain points to win the match.  Pero dahil sa first time nila, pinabayaan ko silang dumiskarte,  nageenjoy sila eh, pero I saw to it that they learned something from that experience.”

Last Nov. 7, once again, Elmar’s team showed off their kicks and punches at the Campeonato de XVI Trofeu Promocio Junior Masculino y Femenino at the Polideportivo de Mar Bella where bigger kids,  (from 14 to 17 years old) participated.   They  grabbed  four medals, three silver and one bronze.  In the male division, Kim Alferez De Leon(super lightweight division) won the bronze medal and Kierwin Alferez De Leon(flyweight division) got a silver; in the female division, Mikaela Denise Veloso Gines (super lightweight division) and Abegail Lajom Panganiban (middleweight division)brought home each a silver medal.  Right now, he is  preparing the smaller ones for the upcoming competition in February 2011.

“Contribution ko na rin sa integration ng Filipino community in Barcelona, through this kind of sport, na-eexpose ang mga bata na magparticipate with other non-Pinoy teams and exercise sportsmanship.”

“Personally, gusto kong mabigyang halaga ng mga bata ang magandang kaugalian, makaiwas sa bisyo at marunong rumespeto sa kanilang mga magulang.”

Aside from his ultimate  dream  that someday he would also be one of those respected 9th-dan holders, the Saseongs or Grand masters, he also wishes that one day, he becomes a coach in an international competition.

Leading his team on the way to these back-to-back victories is undeniably remarkable. Being the only non-Catalan group in the Taekwondo Federation in Cataluña is a significant feat altogether. He is  pleased that in his own way, he is doing something for the Filipino community. And following to the creed of Taekwondo, indeed, he is contributing something towards a better and a more  peaceful society.

Note: Enrolment for the Taekwondo Classes is still going on. You can contact Elmar  thru:

Little Miss Dianne

5 Nov

(Ed. Note: Entrevista con Nata. In this section, our correspondent Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna will share with us his creamy and delectable stories, 100 % inspiring yet zero in fat.)

Isang maliit na kalye na may maraming manok. Malapit sa dagat , isang malaking bahay at maraming kwarto. Kumain po ako ng maraming okra.”

This was how Dianne innocently described her last visit to the Philippines two years ago. She played tag and hide-and-seek with her new friends. She was only seven then but she vividly remembers her month-long stay there.

Nag-enjoy po  ako doon.”

Will she invite her non-Pinoy friends to visit the Philippines?


When my editor asked me why I was interviewing a nine-year old girl, I told him I was doing a back-to-school entry.  But at the back of my mind, I was also curious to know how our Pinoy kids born in Spain think. Being raised in a different cultural environment, do they also think differently, are they lesser Pinoys?  Are they still Pinoys at heart?  Or maybe, not anymore?

Dianne Kaye Jacob Ico

I first met Dianne  when she joined the Little Miss Catalunya last year.  I tagged along with my friend who was training her for the said competition. She instantly made an impression as  smart, friendly and a talented kid.  On the night of the contest, donning a cancan dress, with white feather boa, a big hat and a cane, dancing a la Catherine Zeta-Jones in the musical movie Chicago, she was the obvious winner, hands down. I was right. She won the Miss Talent award at the pageant.

She may not have bagged the Little Miss Catalunya crown, but her talent was recognized by several Pinoy organizations in Barcelona which  invited her to perform her  award-winning routine in their anniversaries and conventions.

Did she learn anything from joining the pageant?

Meron po.  Ang natutunan ko po ay hindi importante ang manalo kundi ang pagparticipar.

Will there be a next time?

Bahala po si Mama.”

Dianne Kaye Jacob Ico is the only daughter  of Tita Mary Fe who hails from Ilocos and Tito Ferdinand who comes from Dagupan. Being an only child does not make Dianne a spoiled brat. She follows what her parents tell her and obeys their wishes. One thing that I admire about this girl is that she speaks fluent Tagalog. Aside from that, she also speaks English, Ilocano, Castellano and Catalan.

At konting Panggalatok. Pero konting-konti lang po.”

She has  Pinoy friends who like her, were born here in Spain but the difference is, they  can’t speak the native language.

“Dapat marunong po sila magsalita ng Tagalog, dahil pag pumunta sa Pilipinas hindi sila maiintidihan. At saka Pilipino siya, pamilya niya Pilipino, kahit saan siya pumunta Pilipino pa rin siya.

Because she speaks Tagalog, she didn’t find it hard to make friends with other kids when she was in the Philippines.

Nung bago po ako doon, wala pa akong kilala.  Sabi ng ibang mga bata, baka daw hindi ako marunong mag-Tagalog. Sabi Espanyola yan. Lumapit ako sa kanila at nagsalita ng Tagalog. Sabi ko Hello anong pangalan ninyo?  Nawala po ang hiya nila at naglaro na kami.”

Dianne goes to San Francesc D’Asis Elementary School. She is now in grade four. There are 24 students in her class and only two are non-Pinoys.  Now that another school year has started, how does she feel? Is she excited?

¡Si! Dahil long time na kaming di nagkikita ng mga kaibigan ko. “

Judging from the array of trophies and certificates displayed in their living room, Dianne definitely loves school and is taking her education seriously. Her favorite subject is Plastica where they are taught how to  draw, paint and make figures out of clay.  She loves drawing and painting, an interest she took after her Dad who also used to paint before.

She doesn’t need to be told by her mom to do her schoolwork first before sitting in front of the television. She does it as soon as she arrives home. According to Tita Mary Fe:

Nunca na tinuruan ko yan. Siya lang mag-isa gumagawa ng homework niya.”

Awards for her intelligence and congeniality

I asked her if she is madaldal in class. She gave me a shy “ Bueno” coupled with  a sheepish smile.  I took it as a YES.

Pues, yes and no. Mezclado.”

Her other  favorite subject is Ciencia.

“Science po. Matalino  po ako sa science.  Nakuha po ako ng 10 sa science, eh. “

Do you want to be a scientist someday?

“ Uhm……Dati  gusto kong maging abogado. Maya-maya, gusto kong maging artista. Tapos pintor.  Pero depende del destino.”

When asked about  her favorite hobby. She gave me a wide smile.

Yung talagang talagang gusto ko po?  Uhm, Cantar po.  Singing.”

Her favorite singers are Jonas  Brothers, Demi Lobato, Mylie Cyrus, Selena Gomez and Sarah Geronimo.

She also watches Filipino films. In fact, she has just watched “Hating Kapatid.”  And her favorite actor is the comedian Vice Ganda.

What does she do at weekends?

A veces, nanonood po  ng TV, nagdo-drawing. Nagbabasa din po.”

Right now, she is reading a very interesting book. She proudly showed it to me.

El por qué de las cosas. “  The reasons of all things.

This is not a school book, mind.  It’s a book explaining everything. She gamely shared to me something about a fly.

Meron  isang langaw na pag-pininchar ka ay makakatulog ka at hindi ka na gigising. Es una mosca del sueño.

On February 26  next year, she will be ten and as early as now, she is looking forward to it.

Magkakaroon na po ako ng sarili kong cell phone.”

Does she have a message to Pinoy kids in Spain?

Dapat mag estudiar ng mabuti. Dapat respeto sa Mama at Daddy. Magpapakabait lagi.”

Dianne in Filipiniana after participating in an intercultural program for children of immigrants.

I see them everyday. I  see them on my way to Plaza Universitat. I see them every Saturday at Iskwelang Pinoy.  I hear some of them talk in Tagalog. I hear some of them curse in Spanish. They watch Wowowie. They endlessly dance to  the  Korean song  “Nobody.” They are still your typical shy Pinoy kids.  Dianne is  one of them and is proud to be one.  The only thing that sets them apart from our Pinoy kids back home is they know how to reason out and speak their mind.  Obviously, the art of shouting has been rubbed off on them by their Spanish friends. Because yes, they shout too.  Most of the time, actually.

These kids are our future generation here in Spain.  Some of them still say Po and Opo, some don’t.  We could only hope that even though they have the advantage of being raised with the best of both worlds, with two different yet closely similar cultures, their Filipino values are still intact in their growing up and formative years.  Talking to Dianne only shows that a Pinoy kid is always a Pinoy kid. As long as our Pinoy parents teach them not to forget, respect and  be proud of  our  culture,  no matter where they are, they will always be Filipinos, in heart and in mind.

Tita Mary Fe, sensing that the interview was nearly over, arranged the table for an early dinner. They were going to the airport to pick up Tito Fernando who was flying in from the Philippines. Before we devoured her delicious buttered prawns, I had one last question for Dianne.

If given the chance, where would she like to live. Here or Pinas?

Mas gusto ko po sa Pilipinas, kahit maraming lamok.  Nandoon lahat ng pinsan ko. Miss ko na po sila. “

We all laughed and started skinning our first prawns.

Ang kuwento ng mga Nauna at Nangunang Migrante sa Espanya

29 Oct

Pabalat ng ika-6 na isyu ng Ang Bagong Filipino. Para makakuha ng kopya, i-click lamang ito: Ang Bagong Filipino número 6


Ang paglingon sa pinanggalingan ay labis na pinahahalagahan sa kulturang Filipino. Hindi tayo maaaring lumimot, lalung-lalo na sa mga nagawa at nakamit ng ating mga magigiting na ninuno. Hindi kailanman tayo makakalimot lalo na kung ang galos ng nakaraan ay siya pa ring kumikirot at sanhi ng hindi pag-unlad ng bayan. Sa ating pagkilala at pagtanggap sa pinagmulan, pinatitibay din natin ang ating pagkatao. Pinaalalahanan natin ang sarili na ang ating nakaraan ay hindi naging madali, at ang siyang nagbibigay ng kabuluhan sa ating kasalukuyan.

Ngunit maaari rin kaya na ang kasalukuyan at ang kaniyang patutunguhan ang siya namang magbigay ng kabuluhan sa ating nakaraan? Maaari kaya tayong lumingon nang paharap, matapos matuto sa nakaraan, at piliing sumulong sa halip na magpabalik-balik sa mga panahong nakalipas na?

Ang ating kasaysayan ay napupuno ng iba’t-ibang Pilipinong pumili sa direksiyong ito. Mga kahanga-hangang Pilipinong nanguna sa kanilang mga larangan at kapanahunan sapagkat ninais nilang abutin ang mga pangako ng hinaharap. Walang takot, walang pag-aatubili, na nangarap at kumilos upang tulungang maiangat ang kanilang kapwa tao. Walang tigil silang nagmasid sa higit pang malayo upang mas mainam na maihanda ang kasalukuyang landas patungo sa isang maginhawang bukas. Ang mga PIONEERS, o ang mga nanguna, kung sila ay tawagin, ang mga karapat-dapat na halimbawa sa patuloy nating pagsulong, at siyang makapagbibigay ng kahulugan sa lahat ng ating napagdaanan. Ang isyung ito ay isang pagkilala sa lahat ng mga Pilipinong matapang na nauna at nangunguna sa pagtahak sa hindi tiyak na hinaharap.

Lubos na nagpapasalamat ang Ang Bagong Filipino sa suporta ng mga sumusunod:

CBN Grupo BDO Remit

Platinum Care

Bar Taberna La Paloma/Supermercado M & M

A happy Pinoy family in Sweden

14 Oct

(Ed. Note: Entrevista con Nata. In this section, our correspondent Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna will share with us his creamy and delectable stories, 100 % inspiring yet zero in fat.)

“…Sju, åtta, nio…tio”.

Luke and Venice

Everybody gave Luke a warm of applause as he finished  counting  from one to ten in Swedish. Five-year old Luke shyly bowed down  his head and paced slowly towards his dad.

“Very good Luke, now in Tagalog.”

As Luke started to count in Tagalog, his dad Andre proudly assured us that Luke and his younger sister Venice also speak fluent Tagalog and English  at home.  We congratulated him for a job well done.  I personally  admire Pinoy kids who can speak Tagalog or their native dialects  even if they were born and raised outside the Philippines.

After Luke finished reciting, he  ran to his other cousins who were busy with their Playstation. We were in a children’s birthday party when we met Andre and his  family who are based in Sweden. We were not invited to the party, mind.  It just so happened that Tita Evelyn, the grand mom of the birthday boy, Francesc (cousin  of Luke and Venice)  tagged us along. Thus, the gatecrash.

Our next meeting was at the house of Tita Evelyn who invited me to join them for dinner on the last night of the family in Barcelona. They were flying for Stockholm the following day. Andre, his wife Novie and their two kids were here to spend summer in Spain.  During dinner, Andre narrated  his  move to Sweden in 2003,  a move that drastically changed his life.

At the age of 25, it was a big decision for Andre Carlo Coloso Suñaz,  to finally  quit his job in Manila and to apply for a position  in an IT Consultancy firm in Stockholm. Single and care-free, he easily got along well with his workmates. He also made friends with many of the local Filipinos who helped make sure his weekends were busy. Needless to say, he was liking his new life abroad. Andre observed that Stockholm was more laidback than Manila.

“The quality of life is different. Manila is a very busy city. In Stockholm, we just take our time. People are liberal, in terms of sex and religion. They  are generally open-minded  and the most  important thing is, they uphold independence and equality.”

He was grateful that he was not obliged  to learn the language.

“Swedes are happy to talk to you in English.  They want  to practice their English with English-speakers.  In the market, in the restaurants, at work, they take whatever opportunity to strike a conversation in English.”

Working for almost eight years in the same company, Andre has nothing to complain. He has handled around 16 staff at one time, all coming from different countries.

“It was very interesting.  I learned a lot about different cultures. I didn’t experience any acts of discrimination in the workplace. We respect each other. No such problems have happened to me. I have heard of stories of some sort of discrimination in schools and in some remote areas but fortunately I have never encountered it in the eight years I have been living here.”

Andre with his officemates

One thing that  he likes about Sweden is  how the government thinks of the welfare of its citizens.

“There is job security. The people are dependent on the government. With minimum of 30% tax imposed by the government, people expect a lot from it. They can afford to specialize. The Swedes have this mentality that they deserve the good life.  The government has the obligation to make life easier for them. There are enough jobs for  all.  If you work hard in Sweden, things will be easy.  Sipag at tiyaga, at abilidad.

Andre  happily declares that his decision to move to Sweden was definitely God’s plan. Not only blessed with a good job, but also with  a loving wife and a caring  mother to his two kids.

“Before I met her,  Novie was the president of the youth group in Barcelona. It was in 2003 when I went to Barcelona  as a lone delegate for the   Singles for Christ conference when we first met. Not so long, she became my girlfriend. It was a long-distance relationship. It was a little bit hard but we managed. We were and still are very much in sync,  considering  that we weren’t together physically for a long time. We got married the following year.  Then Luke came.  Then Venice.  I am blessed with a beautiful family. Now, we are both active members of Couples for  Christ.  Novie is also handling the Pinoy  choir of the church in Stockholm.”

Another thing that Andre likes about living in Sweden is that the  Swedes know how to separate work from family.

“Which I really like.  There is always time for the family.  In Sweden, after 5 p.m., everybody goes home, to their family. At weekends, they try not to disturb family time. For them, time with the family is very important. Family comes first.  When I say ‘My kid is sick’ ,  no more questions asked. I can immediately avail a leave of absence.  Swedes really look forward to having kids, spend time with them, raise them up and educate them.”

The Suñaz family:  Andre, Luke, Novie and Venice

“What I don’t like however, is when the kids reach 18, it is expected and often times “requested” for them to move out of the house.  Sure enough, independence is important, but I don’t agree to it when raising kids is perceived as a mere “project” where some parents would say, “I have  done my job. Now I have to enjoy my life.”  This is why many old people nowadays don’t expect to be taken cared of by their children. For them, their children don’t have obligations to them.  This is one of the few things which I would not want to impart on my kids. Novie and I are determined to raise our kids with only the best of all worlds inasmuch as we can.”

Sweden  has around 9 million population. It has been more difficult for immigrants not belonging to  EU countries to settle in Sweden for labor market policy reasons.

“Most Filipinos are married to Swedes. Some of them work as house staff. There are also a number of Pinoys working as office staff in embassies other than the Philippines. Lately, there has been an influx of Filipino professionals working in Sweden.”

Among the Asian immigrants, the  Thais and Chinese make up the most number.  The Filipino community in Sweden numbering  around 18,000 is far fewer than its counterpart in Spain.

“Filipinos in Sweden, not like in Barcelona are scattered. But one thing that unifies us is the one Catholic church that celebrates a mass in English.  The Filipino community lobbied for a Filipino priest.  And once a month, there is a  mass in Tagalog.”

Talking of religion, Swedes are one of the least religious people in the world and Sweden has one of the highest levels of atheism.

“What I do is, I  have to stand for my belief. Making the sign of the cross is like  “WOW!”  for the Swedes.  For me, it doesn’t mean that if I am a  Catholic, I am  an alien, that I am weird. They have this impression that Catholics are closed-minded. One time, one drunk Swedish friend asked me, he said “ I can’t understand why Catholics  can’t have sex before marriage. It’s hard.

“Well, my reply was simply  we just have to live with it. He was too drunk to remember  what I said anyway. But like I said, Swedes value individualism and  equality. So no problem with that.”

After the second baby, Novie started  learning the  language as part of their long-term plan. They are contemplating to settle in Sweden for good.

“At first, we thought of moving to the US or Spain, but in the end, we have always preferred to stay. My kids love it here. We are doing okay. Though  we don’t  have families in Sweden, we keep ourselves busy.  Family work. Community.  By doing so everything is connected. We are active in the Filipino community here. We  have done fund raising activities for the victims of the Ondoy tragedy. We  love what we do.”

Was it worth it?  Was moving to Sweden  a good decision?

“Yes! It was worth it.  I believe  it was  God’s plan because I never intended to go abroad in the first place. But one thing led to another. The good thing is, it made me value my family more, the things that I have. God has a plan for everything. When I look back, God provided for me, for us and for my kababayans, wherever they may be, keep God in mind. If your plan doesn’t work as you planned it to be, maybe He has got other plans, even better.”

True enough, for this young father, whose number one priority is his family, has made use his blessings wisely.

On their way to school

“It’s always good to strive for a dream. Work hard for it. Huwag susuko. Wherever you are, you can always make the best out of it. Fill your life with good things, so that bad things won’t have a place in it. Nasa iyo na yan. Kung bago ka lang sa isang bansa. Kung mag-isa ka lang. Lumabas ka at makipagkaibigan.  Then you will not feel alone or out of place. And who knows, mas maraming bagay ka pang matutunan.

It was already 30 minutes past midnight when we ended our conversation. I prepared my things to leave. We shook hands. I passed by the living room.  Luke and Venice were lying on the sofa.  With eyes half-closed, they were already drifting into snooze land. I extended my hand to Luke to say goodbye but he was already too heavy-eyed to reciprocate my adjo.

Sasama ka ba?

28 Sep

Hindi Ganyan. Mas madali at murang pagtatanggal. Hindi lumilikha ng trabaho. Abusong kontraktuwalisasyon. Mas kapangyarihan para sa mga may-ari ng kompanya. Hindi pagtaas sa pensyon. Pagbabawas sa suweldo at serbisyong pampubliko.  Malawakang Huwelga, sasama ako! Ika-29 Setyembre. CCOO. UGT

Pinoy O’Brien

26 Jul

Take note, he is well-loved.

by Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna

The place is your typical Irish bar.  With its lavish interior, beveled mirrors, stained glass,  decorative brass,  and a huge picture of the famous Irish satirist,  The Flann O’Brien Irish pub is definitely one of those friendly  pubs that are best  for an intimate chat or for singing and sociable conversation.  When a friend of mine told me that we were going to meet up with a Pinoy at The Flann O’Brien, I instantly assumed that he was one of the bartenders working there.  I was wrong.  He turned out to be the owner of the place. A true blue Pinoy, his name is Rod Estrella.

It all started in 1992. While the spotlight was on the Olympics, Rod, a native of Bulacan came to Barcelona as part of the team from Kentz International to oversee the construction of the Hotel del Arch in Marina.  Working as an accountant for this Irish engineering and construction company, he had to stay for four years until the project was finished.  But for Rod, though he was enjoying his job, four years in Barcelona were not enough, he realized he wanted to stay.

Mr. Rod Estrella, the proud owner of The Flann O’Brien Irish Pub in Barcelona, Spain

“I was bitten by the Barcelona bug! I have been to a lot of places because of my job. From  Germany, Thailand, Indonesia, England, Singapore to Saudi Arabia, but Barcelona was different.  First, of course was  my kababayans, I met a lot of nice Filipinos here. Iba rito. And that was really something.  Second,  Barcelona is acogedor, it gives you the feeling of being welcomed, the feeling that you belong. Alam mo yung feeling na nag –eenjoy ka na sa trabaho  mo without knowing na dumadaan na ang taon, hindi mo namamalayan nandito ka pa rin. And third, the people, I am a people’s person. I love being with people.”

But the Catalans are not  known to be “open” people compared to the rest of the Spaniards in Spain.

“I am talking about people, not only Catalans.  I have a lot of friends, some of them are Catalans and they are really nice. You just have to know them. ”

This is my baby

It was also this time when his  British and Irish bosses at Kentz International owned  The Flann O’Brien pub  located  in Gracia, one of Barcelona’s more bohemian district.  The pub was said to be the second Irish pub in Barcelona. While still doing his auditing chores for the Hotel de Arch construction, he was also doing some bartending works at the bar. Having won the trust of his bosses, he was practically running the place.

“I was doing the budget, accounting, bartending, inventory, promotions and  a lot more.”

St. Paddy’s Day at The Flann O’Brien

Even if  he finally quit his accounting job at the construction company and focused on the pub, he would still be asked by the same  firm  to travel to other countries and train people for three months. This went on for several years.  Eight years ago, he  bought  the place and became  the sole owner of  The Flann O’Brien where he now dedicates his time managing the pub.   Why did he decide to buy a pub, this Irish pub?

“This is my baby. I have been running the pub since day one. “

Several Irish pubs have been mushrooming all over the city, under your command, what  sets The Flann O’Brien apart from the rest?

“Personal touch.  I am proud to say that my pub can offer the best customer service there is.  My staff knows it.  When I was just starting, I have been an observant person. I never had any experience in bartending. I observed a lot  and took the good things and used  them.  That is how I run my pub. I always tell our bartenders,  the most important rule is to smile. To make our customers feel nice. Actually I don’t consider them clients, I consider them friends.”

“I don’t consider them clients, I consider them friends.”

True enough, when I was doing the interview, an American couple came in and Rod told me that the guy used to be a main fixture in the pub.  They hugged, they laughed together and chatted like good old friends.

How are you as a boss? Strict?  Cool? Old school?

“I am a hands-on boss. I come to the pub at 5:30 in the afternoon until closing time. I can be strict and cool. I will teach you how to do things.  If you commit mistakes, I will give you three chances to correct it. But after the third time, it’s time for me to tell you to leave.”

The Flann O’Brien staff in their Halloween costume

Humble beginnings

Born from a very poor family, Rod described his childhood as both  sad yet inspirational.  He remembered going to school without shoes and with an empty stomach.  His mother died when he was only five years old.  The youngest boy in a family of 13, he worked so hard to make ends meet and rise above poverty.  And he made it.  Before graduating from college, he was a trainee  at  Manila Bank where he met his wife.  Their union was blessed with one daughter who is now based in the US. He later worked for Kentz International and was assigned in Ireland for five years.

“ I always told myself, I will never be poor again. I came from a very very poor family. Pumapasok akong walang laman ang tiyan. However, my being poor was the source of all the strength that kept me going and made me  determined to reach where I am now.  I did everything in school. Pinagbuti ko ang pag-aaral ko. I experienced the harsh reality of not having money.  So I was very motivated to strive hard and give my best.”

You have been here for a long time.  Are you  active in the Filipino community?

“I used to be very active. But now, it’s time for the new and the young. I had my time before and I will always cherish it.  I may not be that active now but I am always here willing to help them anytime they want.  They can always count on me. Alam mo naman, Pinoy tayo, nandiyan ang pakikisama. Tutulong ako hangga’t makakaya ko.

When it comes to work, Pinoys are really hardworking individuals.

Any  advise to our kababayans out there.

Magaling ang Pilipino. When it comes to work, Pinoys are really hardworking individuals.  Hindi patatalo ang Pinoy pagdating sa trabaho. My principle in life is “KKK”.   Kayod, Kayod at Kapal ng mukha.  My father always  told us na ang kapalaran ay hindi hinihintay, ito ay hinahanap. Don’t sit there and do nothing.  You have to do something.  And whatever you do, be proud of it, hindi ka pakakainin ng hiya mo.

Now on its 16th year of operation, the  pub is  one of the most visited hang-out places in Barcelona.  Most of the clients are Irish, Americans, English and Spanish.  Live bands and big screens for football matches are just several of the main attractions of The Flann O’Brien.  From time to time, he also taps Pinoy bands to  hold  gigs in the pub.

Live bands!

Pinoy bands also hold gigs in the pub.

Had there been any problems running the place?

“Well, not really.  Only small problems actually.  Like drunks, but we can’t avoid that. I just tell them to leave the place.  There were  times when several female clients  really got drunk. They  would be  noisy and start grabbing the bums of my barmen.  For obvious reasons,  we didn’t ask them to leave! (Laughter)”

An inspiration, an act to follow

Before coming for  the interview, I made some rounds  asking  people what they could say   about Rod.  Everyone almost gave me exactly the same answers. Later on, sitting face to face with him,  I found myself agreeing to everything  they told me:  unassuming, down to earth and  very friendly.  Not to mention,  his great sense of humor. When  asked  what does  his pub have that others don’t,  without batting an eyelash, he gave me a quick nonchalant  reply, “ROD!” ; followed by a mischievous laugh.

As the old Irish saying goes: The leprechauns must  be near  you  for   luck will spread along your way, Rod must have made friends with a hundred leprechauns or so. Hardwork, perseverance  and faith notwithstanding,  luck also played a significant role in his way to success. He is now reaping what he had sown. His story is  an inspiration to our fellow kababayans.  His rags to riches experience is something that we can learn from. In spite  of all the blessings that he has right now, his feet remain flat  on the ground.

True to the literal meaning of his last name, Rod Estrella is a star in his own right.

Photos by Mr. Rod Estrella


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