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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


B-day Smile of the Week

24 Jul

Maricar dela Merced. Masaya ako dahil birthday ko!

Para la mujer amada y la madre patria

23 Jul

Nada expresa mejor los sentimientos y el patriotismo filipinos que las canciones típicas conocidas como Kundiman. Constituyen la expresión de un profundo sentimiento de amor y fidelidad a la amada. La melodía se caracteriza por su suavidad, fluida pero con pausas dramáticas. Kundiman se convirtió también en una reacción patriótica a la represión en Filipinas durante la época de colonización española, cuando las canciones servían como instrumento para expresar profundas emociones hacia una mujer que representa la madre patria.

Algunas canciones de Kundiman podrán disfrutarse en el concierto que la soprano filipina Michelle Sullera ofrecerá, con un acompañamiento de piano y violín, el próximo sábado 14 de agosto, a las 20h30 en la Iglesia de San Agustín en Calle Hospital, en Barcelona.

Este concierto pretende presentar la cultura filipina no sólo al colectivo filipino sino también a la sociedad española y a otros colectivos presentes en Barcelona. Los fondos recaudados se destinarán a sostener la publicación de distribución gratuita Ang Bagong Filipino, una revista que pretende sensibilizar a los inmigrantes filipinos en España sobre temas de inmigración, desarrollo e interculturalidad. El concierto está organizado por la Asociación Filipina de Escritores e Investigadores en España, creadores de la revista, con la colaboración de la Parroquia Personal Filipina. 

Aquí tienen un ejemplo de Kundiman. Esta canción que es más bien alegre se llama ‘Sa Kabukiran’ y  es de una obra de teatro que habla de la vida de una niña de montaña.  Su compositor es el Sr. Manuel P. Velez, un ícono de música en la provincia de Cebu, e interpretada por la soprano filipina Alexis Edralin con la pianista Mary Anne Espina y los miembros de The Sonata Strings. Arnel German, Fco. Javier Gutiérrez Rodríguez y Daniel I. Tuaño

Pera o Perra?

22 Jul

ni Marco Belviz

Alam nating lahat na ang salitang “pera” ang ginagamit ng mga Pinoy para tawagin ang “salapi”. Sa España ang salita nila sa pera ay “dinero”. Maaring ikaw ay nagtataka kung bakit hindi natin natutunan ang salitang “dinero” kahit pa tayo ay nasakop at nakipagkalakalan sa España sa mahigit na tatlong daang taon.

Balikan natin ang mga taong 1810-1812 sa Pilipinas. Ito rin ang taon kung saan ang ating mga kapatid na mga Latino sa kabilang kontinente ng South America at mga bansa katulad ng Mexico, Peru, Colombia atbp. ay nagrerebolusyon laban sa España. Sa panahon ding iyon, ang Mexico o “New Spain” ang direktang nagpapatakbo ng gobyerno ng Pilipinas sa pamamagitan ng kalakalang Manila-Acapulco.

Lulan ng mga barkong galyon ng España ang mga Frayleng Mexicano kasama ang mga propagandista at mga rebolusyonaryong Mexicano patungo sa ating bansa.

Ang “perra” sa salitang Kastila ay isang uri ng babaeng aso o “perro” literal na tawag sa lalaking aso sa Español.

Sa panahon ng rebolusyon ay “perra” rin ang tawag ng mga Mexicano sa dala nilang salapi dahil sa naroon ang mukha ni Reyna Isabel. Nagkaroon kasi ng mga chismis noon tungkol sa relasyon ng Reyna sa mga miyembro ng militar.

Ito ay lalong napalaganap sa pamamagitan ng kalakalan nila sa buong arkipelago ng Pilipinas hanggang sa naging “pera” na rin ang naging tawag natin sa ating salapi.

Recognizing Bayanihan

21 Jul

Certificates of Appreciation and Recognition were awarded to individuals who contributed to the relief efforts for the victims of  typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng which devastated the Philippines last year. Awards were given by Vice Consul Arman Talbo (leftmost) and Consul General Eduardo Jose de Vega (rightmost) of the Philippine Consulate General in Barcelona. The event was also attended by different Filipino associations in Catalonia. 

These groups/individuals, all based in Barcelona and Andorra, mobilized to raise funds to help our kababayans during the calamity. Fundraising projects and campaign were initiated to gather more donations, whether in cash or in kind and one shipping company even shipped relief goods at a very low price from Barcelona to Manila. They are:

  • Filipino students of Instituto de Estudios Superiores de la Empresa (IESE)-Barcelona
  • Associació de Residents Filipins a Andorra
  • Ms. Zenaida Boris Callos
  • Ms. Patricia Ilagan
  • Ms. Ma-Anne Ignacio Valmeo
  • Ms. Luzviminda Ignacio Valmeo
  • Ms. Tatat Cardona
  • LBC-Barcelona

Photo and Text by Freda Changat

Bulkang mas mataas sa Mt. Apo natagpuan sa ilalim ng dagat

21 Jul

Larawan: EFE

Natuklasan ng isang grupo ng siyentipiko ang isang higanteng bulkan sa ilalim ng dagat na nasa pagitan ng Pilipinas at Indonesia. Ayon sa lider ng grupo na si Jim Holden, isa ito sa mga pinakamataas na anyong lupa sa Indonesia.

Ang taas nito ay 3,000 metro, mas mataas sa 2, 954 metro ng Mt. Apo na siyang pinakamataas na bundok sa Pilipinas. Ibinahagi ni Anna Mae Tolentino. Hango sa website ng pahayagang Español ABC

Ibang uri ng turismo

20 Jul

Galit na galit ang isang grupo ng mga Pinoy matapos silang manood ng isang pelikulang kalahok sa isang international film festival. Puros kapangitan at kahirapan lang daw kasi ang ipinakita ng Pinoy na direktor. Dapat raw ipinakita ang Boracay at iba pang magagandang beaches sa Pilipinas.

Gulat na gulat naman ang mamá ng amigo kong Español matapos mapanood ang isang reportaje (documentary) na ipinalabas kamakailanlang sa   Television Española La 2 tungkol sa Pilipinas. Ganoon ba raw kadesperado ang ating mga kababayan at nagagawa nilang ibenta ang kanilang mga riñones (kidneys) sa halagang 2,500 euros, kulang-kulang P150,000. Ang sagot ko, hindi na bago ang kuwentong iyon. Mayroon ngang lugar sa Maynila na tinaguriang One Kidney Island dahil sa karamihan ng mga nakatira roon ay iisa na lang ang kanilang riñon dahil naibenta na nila ang isa.  Dinarayo pa sila ng mayayamang taga-ibang bansa para bilhin ito.

Pero marami pa rin namang magagandang beaches sa Pilipinas, white sand pa. Daniel Infante Tuaño

Ang hiwa sa tagiliran ang magpapatunay na sumailalim sila sa isang operasyon nang sa gayon ay maibenta nila ang isa sa kanilang riñones. Larawan hinango sa