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The Flock Gatherer

5 May

The Journey of Fr. Avel and the Filipino Personal  Parish in Barcelona  

by Nats Sisma Villaluna

Once, a Pinoy friend told me. “If I were to run down the things that Father Avel  did for the Filipino community in Barcelona, it would take me a week to finish it. He has done a lot.”

Father Avelino Sapida

Fr. Avelino Sapida

It was in 1986 when Father Avel  arrived in Barcelona. Upon his arrival, he found himself facing  a dilemma, the Filipino community was like sheep without shepherd.  The Iglesia de San Elias, the church that had been serving Filipino churchgoers under the administration of Spanish priests Father Garcia and Father Gines  had “died” a long time ago. It was a challenge for him to find his flocks and gather them in one  place and be united again. He went to places frequented by Pinoys on their days-off. He scoured the  Las Ramblas, Plaza Cataluña, Bracafé and the port area.  He  knocked at  Pinoy’s houses, one by one, and invited them to participate in the community.  At first, this attempt was met with cynicism. Some doubted his motive.  However, after seeing that that Father Avel was only doing this for their interest, they came in droves.

Little by little his effort paid off. The Church of Sta. Monica became the church for Pinoys and Father Avel became the assistant priest. The number of attendees grew. The “dying” church slowly resurrected to life.

Father Avel has always been committed to the cause of   the migrant workers.  When he was first assigned in Italy, he  served the Pinoys in Rome. There, he learned a lot about the situations of  Filipino migrants in  his short stint. Now in Spain, he was committed to do something for them at all cause.

For six years, the Santa Monica church witnessed  the rise in numbers of mass-goers, both Pinoys and non-Pinoys.

In 1992, the need for a bigger  church was apparently inevitable.  Father Avel requested for a bigger place of worship. His petition was granted. The Basilica de San Justo y Pastor was offered  following the directive from the bishop of Barcelona who ordered  Father Avel  to resurrect yet again another dying church. With lively songs and a participative environment, the church came back to life in a short period of time. Attendees swelled ten-folds.

Nagkaroon na ng magandang impression ang Simbahan ng Barcelona sa ating mga Pinoy.  Kaya sabi ng Obispo, patay na yang parokyang  yan. Buhayin ninyo.”

The church also became a refuge for Filipinos, offering  services ranging from employment to legal issues.  It   was  also vocal against abusive treatment towards those without legal documents.

“We were even using our pulpit to denounce the treatment of the police against undocumented migrants. Naging uso ang mga raid ng mga pulis noon sa mga walang papel at kailangang  saklolohan ang ating mga kababayan.

Aside from providing spiritual guidance to the community, Father Avel was also busy helping our Pinoy seamen.  He would visit Stella Maris, a church-based center where spiritual, pastoral and legal services for seafarers and their families were provided for the seafarers. It was also in this period when the Centro Filipino-Tuluyan San Benito was founded. Under the supervision of the Benedictine sisters, the Centro Filipino worked hand in hand with the church to protect the rights of Filipino migrants and seafarers in Catalonia. Later on, the Samahan ng mga Migranteng Pilipino sa Barcelona (SMPB) was formed.

“During the time when the government granted the amnesty program to illegal migrants, we were tapped by the Ministry of Labor to facilitate  the preparation of documents of our Filipino workers.  Pag may rally sa kalye para sa katarungan ng mga  migrants, nandoon din kami.

Once again, the problem regarding  space became a challenge for Father Avel. He had to look for a much bigger church to accommodate the  dramatic increase of churchgoers in Basilica San Justo y Pastor. He  had his eyes on another dying church, the Iglesia de San Agustin. Previously, the Archbishop of Barcelona had promised him to give the church as a personal parish to the Filipino community. But before making good his promise, the archbishop died. His successor was not that keen on fulfilling the standing  promise  made to Father Avel. In 1996, Father Avel already started with the paper works to have the church. It took him a long time to convince the church of Barcelona to give the Iglesia de San Agustin  to the Filipinos. The Spaniards were worried that by granting the Filipinos their own parish, the effect would be a ghetto-like existence where Filipinos would no longer integrate, hereby alienating itself to its host country.

But Father Avel argued;

“Hindi kami magiging ghetto. In fact, the more pa kaming mag-iintegrate sa comunidad. Sa pamamagitan ng parokya personal, we can have our own identity. We know what to give to the community. Alam na namin ang ibabagi namin.”

The year  1998 was a significant year for this undertaking.  Father Avel took advantage of the historical importance of the said to persuade the Catalan religious leaders to grant  his request.  1998 was the 100th year of Philippine independence from Spain. He pointed out the parallelism of this historic event  to his appeal.

“I saw the opportunity to let them see the importance of having a personal parish to preserve equality and independence among us. Maramdaman natin na iisa tayo, na equal tayo sa kanila. We were able to fulfill their requirements:  that we have our own language, culture, that we are not from here and we are Catholics. Ang apat na ito’y nasa atin lahat.”

Father Avel was not alone in his battle for a personal parish for the Filipinos.  With the unwavering support from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, his request gained momentum.  His effort was also recognized by several Spanish non-Spanish civic organizations. That same year, he was the head of the municipal council for the migrants in Barcelona.

Pinag-aralan ng mga pari ang sitwasyon. Nakita nila kung ano ang mga pangangailangan ng mga Filipino dito sa Barcelona at kung paano sila matutulungan. Yung ibang civic organization naman, na-inspire sila na ipaglaban din ang kanilang karapatan.

With 16 votes in favor and 4 who voted against it, the Church of Barcelona granted the request of the Filipino community to finally  have its own personal parish. Although, there was a tiny condition in its resolution where the left side of the church belongs to the Filipinos and the right side to the Spanish, Father Avel was very pleased with the  turn of events.  It was on September 27, 1998 when the first official mass was celebrated.  The same day that  San Agustin church was brought back from the dead.

After a year, Father Avel decided to go back to the Philippines.

“Nagawa ko na ang dapat kong gawin. Nakuha ko na ang nais ko para sa mga Pilipino dito sa Barcelona. Dahil sa pagkaroon ng Parokya personal, nakita ng mga Espanyol na organizado ang comunidad Pilipino. It was an honor  for the Filipinos to be recognized by the church of Spain. For our faith,  culture and language,  to be recognized is something.”

Was there a time where he felt he wanted to give up?

Hindi, dahil kung nasaan ang Pinoy, dapat nandoon din tayo.  Imbes na umurong ako lalong nag-init ang aking mithiin na lumaban. Kailangan maging organized tayong Pinoy. If you are not organized, you are nothing. It is important for Filipinos abroad to have a Filipino priest. They can express to the priest lahat ng saloobin nila, problema, lahat dahil the  only ones who can understand Pinoys better are the Pinoy priest themselves. Sa bawat struggle ng Pinoy  dapat may institutional back-up. Kaakibat. Nakaalalay palagi.

Last year, after almost ten years of being away, Father Avel decided to come back to Barcelona and became once again the Parish priest of San Agustin church. In his second coming, he still have dreams  for the Filipino personal Parish.

Gusto kong sa pagkakataon ito, tayo namang mga  Pinoy ang lumabas tulad ng paglabas ni Jesus at pagpalaganap ng magandang balita. Sinisimulan na nating magkaroon ng tinatawag na Basic Eclesiastical Community, yung maliit na mga  simbahan, bubuhayin natin ang mga iyun. We Filipinos are going to save those dying churches. We have done this before, we can do it again now. At sana  balang araw, magkaroon ng isang maihahalal na mambabatas na Pinoy dito sa Espanya na siyang magsilbi para sa kapakanan ng mga migranteng Pilipino. Someone who also shares the dreams and aspirations of every Pinoy migrant worker. Matanda na ako. Pero kung anuman ang maitutulong ko para sa comunidad Pilipino at ng simbahan handa akong tumulong.”

San Agustin church was saved from dying. Today it enjoys a large number of attendees especially on Sundays and Wednesdays. Spanish churchgoers also come to hear the songs and feel the solemnity of the mass. For twelve years now,  the church has been a  witness to jam-packed masses, Filipino weddings, baptisms and other religious services. As one foreigner commented when he got lost and accidentally found himself attending a Filipino mass one Sunday afternoon, “This is my first time to hear mass where I didn’t understand anything but,  it  is so dynamic and participative  and people are short, young and  all have black hair.”

Whether he decides to stay or go back to the Philippines to retire,  Father Avel’s legacy lives on.

If it were not for his  vision and his efforts, we would not have been  enjoying the freedom and equality we are benefiting right now. Yes, we could have a Filipino priest, a mass in Tagalog, but a personal parish like the San Agustin Parish  that we can call our own, that would not have been that sooner. As a priest, a friend, a brother,  a father or a grandfather, what Father Avel  has done  will always be a significant part in the history of  Filipinos in Barcelona, and the whole of Spain. He will always be remembered as the one who came, the one who searched and the one  who gathered.

Our beloved Fr. Avel passed away on May 03, 2013. Our kababayans in Barcelona and nearby places can pay their last respects at:

-Tanatorio de Sancho de Ávila, Calle Sancho de Ávila, 2, Barcelona, on May 7 and 8, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

-Iglesia de San Agustin, from May 09, Thursday, 4 p.m. to May 10, Friday, 10 a.m. An overnight vigil will be held. His remains will be flown home to the Philippines.

We, from Ang Bagong Filipino, join the Filipino community in Barcelona and all the migrant communities around the world, in praying for the eternal repose of Fr. Avelino Sapida. Rest in peace, Father.

Father Avelino Sapida 2

In memory of Mr. E

31 Oct

by Karen Caro-Trujillo

Someone once said “I’ve spent half of my life here in Spain”.  Two days after, he left this world – never to return.

His wish was to write about his latest trip and send it to Ang Bagong Filipino.    Who would have expected it would be his last?

Let’s call him Mr. E.

Mr. E came to Spain in his youth with high hopes of making it big in Spain, seeing what-have-you in many countries while learning about them, and as he had honed himself, serving as a guide to many of those who wished to see the wonders of Spain and Europe and, of course, promoting the beauty of the Philippines and warmth and hospitality of its people.

He was a man of God and a master of public relations with solid connections to several high officials of the Philippine government and the Foreign Service.  He was even awarded a Presidential Order of Merit in recognition of his professional dedication and for being among the prominent ones.

Mr. E (second from right) with Filipino and Spanish members of Caballeros de Rizal

Credit given to his original research was understated.  His work in gathering together the descendants of  “Los ultimos de Filipinas”, a group of Spanish soldiers who bravely fought and defended their post in Baler (now the capital of Aurora province) almost a year after Spain lost the Philippines to the United States, became the basis for the celebration of the first Philippine-Spanish friendship day on June 30, 2003.

It was Mr. E who visited each of the concerned families and made friends with present mayors and leaders of the cities where the soldiers came from, thereby tracing their origins and linking them to a network of people interested in moving Philippines-Spain relations forward.

Mr. E’s research delved into the intricacies of historical details and genealogical issues and finally he presented them to people who showed great interest in his project.  It eventually intensified awareness on the significance of the siege of Baler among the Filipino and Spanish peoples. The story of the Los Ultimos de Filipinas even inspired a movie in the Philippines which gathered numerous awards and honors.

I first met Mr. E nearly a decade ago in one of his organized trips to the outskirts of Madrid, together with other Filipinos interested in seeing more of Spain.  He was jovial, inspiring and meticulous (especially in observing the tight schedule) during the excursion.  It made me wonder about his keen interest in establishing links between cultures as diverse as that of the Philippines and Spain and he even offered to do the same for my Latin American friends.  His ardent devotion to promoting the Philippine culture must have been a personal commitment to pay back a scholarship he earned when he came to his second mother country.

I was surprised to see him going to a school one day to cast his vote for the Spanish elections. He was 100% Filipino to me except that he carries a Spanish DNI. Despite acquiring Spanish citizenship, he remained Filipino at heart and mind.

Mr. E explaining José Rizal’s legacy in Rizal Park, Madrid, Spain 

In his last trip before his journey to the after life, he was ecstatic in explaining the past events associated to his beloved Philippines while we hit the road to a city with a Santo Niño on top of one of its church, a road called Paseo de Filipinos and a seminary-museum holding the biggest collection of ivory statues of saints – with attribution to the Philippine status of being the only predominantly Catholic nation in Asia.  It was sad I didn’t concentrate on his other words for I was busy taking pictures of the surroundings.  I wasn’t aware Mr. E was suffering.  After the trip I bid him goodbye and thanked him for guiding us through a wonderful outing.  It was his last  – a really memorable one for all of us.

(In memory of Mr. Exequiel Sabarillo, a true-blooded Filipino)

Pinoy-Spanish nakisayaw kay Kelly Rowland

2 Aug

Sa dami ng nag-audition, napili ang “half Spanish at proud Pinoy” na si Maverick Gomez na maging bahagi sa isang commercial na tampok ang magaling na mang-aawit na si Kelly Rowland.

Makikitang sumasayaw ang naka-blue na polo si Maverick sa 2:09, 2:57, 2:59, 3:18.

Matatandaang siya ang champion sa iba’t ibang talent competitions sa Barcelona.

At ang napili ring magrepresenta ng Andorra at Spain sa TFCKat EuroFinals.

Maverick Gomez

Kung gusto nyong suportahan ang ating representative, iboto lamang siya sa People’s Choice Award ng TFCKat. Madali lang:

1. “LIKE”

2.  Then click TFC Grand Finalists

3. “LIKE” / THUMPS UP to Maverick’s Promotional video.

We only have one (1) chance to vote so “LIKE” only Maverick’s video among the 4 finalists.

Maverick Gomez

Another way to vote is through TFCKAT site, and like Maverick’s profile.


UP Korus Tops Spain’s Songfest!

22 Jul

The University of the Philippines Concert Chorus or Korus won the top prize in the Folk Song category and the second prize in the Mixed Choir category in the Festival Internacional de Música de Cantonigròs held last week in Vic, Spain.

They will continue to delight the audience in Spain and Andorra as they hold concerts tomorrow, Tuesday, July 24 in Andorra; Thursday, July 26 in La Garriga; and this Saturday, July 28 in San Agustin Church, Barcelona.

Free Concerts from UP Korus in Madrid, Barcelona and Andorra

14 Jul

The official choir of the University of the Philippines, UP Concert Chorus or Korus will be visiting Spain and Andorra this July to give free concerts to Filipino communities and international audience in Madrid, Barcelona  and Andorra, and compete in the Festival Internacional de Música de Cantonigros in Vic, Spain.

With its 50-year career garnering local and international awards and promoting Filipino culture and heritage, Korus will surely captivate again its audience, showcasing excellent Filipino artistry in music and dance.

So don’t miss this opportunity to see them with your family and friends, Filipinos and non-Filipinos, while they’re in Spain and Andorra. Donations will be highly appreciated.

Here are the concert dates and venues:


July 17  Tuesday 6:00PM     Auditorio de Centro Cultural Nicolas Salmeron

C/Mantuano 51, 28002 Madrid          91 782 3830 (FREE ENTRANCE)


July 19 – 23 Competing in the Festival Internacional de Música de Cantonigròs (Vic)

L’Atlàntida, Centre d’Arts Escèniques d’Osona

C/ Francesc M. Masferrer, núm. 4. 08500 Vic


July 24    9:00PM    Auditori Nacional d’Andorra

Ctra. de Segudet, s/n         AD300 Ordino   (FREE ENTRANCE)


July 26   Thursday   8:30PM     Teatre La Garriga

Plaça de l’Església, 2 (along Passeig de La Garriga)


July 28  Saturday   8:30PM   San Agustin Church

Plaça Sant Agustí, 2 (FREE ENTRANCE)

You may click the link to download their repertoire:

Repertoire for La Garriga Concert

Repertoire for Barcelona (Updated) Concert

To know more about the UP Concert Chorus, you may visit their website:

Baler en Barcelona

27 Jun

Con motivo de la celebración del Día de la Amistad Hispano-Filipina, Casa Asia y el Consulado General de Filipinas en Barcelona presentan la proyección de esta película cuyo argumento mezcla drama romántico y cine bélico ambientada en el asedio de Baler.

A través de la historia de amor entre una joven filipina miembro del movimiento rebelde y un soldado hispanofilipino, el director Mark Meily nos transporta a los acontecimientos históricos de 1898 vividos tras los muros de la iglesia de Baler donde los últimos de Filipinas, que ignoraban que la guerra había finalizado, defendieron Baler durante 337 días.

Palabras de bienvenida a cargo de:
Catalino R. Dilem Jr, cónsul general de Filipinas en Barcelona
Carmen Pi Sunyer, directora de Relaciones Institucionales de Casa Asia

Proyección de la película:
Baler, de Mark Meily (2008) 150’ VOS en tagalo con subtítulos en inglés.


Sábado, 30 de junio de 2012, de 10.00 h a 12.30 h

Sede de Casa Asia
Auditorio Tagore
Av. Diagonal, 373
Entrada libre hasta completar el aforo.
Casa Asia y el Consulado General de Filipinas en Barcelona.

The Other Side of Jose Rizal

21 Jun

A new documentary about the human side of Philippines’ national hero José Rizal and the mystery that enshrouds him.

‘Jose Rizal, the First Hero’ will be screened tomorrow, Friday, 22 June 2012, at 7 p.m. at Rizal Room of the Consulado General de Filipinas, Av. Diagonal 497, 5 planta.

Mr. Jourdan Sebastian, the documentary’s producer, will be present during the screening to give background on the project.

The film runs for an hour and has English subtitle.

Here’s the trailer:

For more information about the movie, please visit this website:

“Barcelona-Manila: New Paths for Intercultural Cinema”

13 Jun

Audiovisuales Sin Fronteras is a project led by the Escuela Superior de Cine Audiovisuales de Catalunya, el Instituto Fomento Contenidos Creación, Escándalo Films and Fabbrica Europe Foundation. It has been created with the aim to understand the social commitment from dialogue and new spaces of intercultural communication through audiovisual creative training.


Panaginip (2012), 25’, VOSE/VOSI
Fiction short film made by Mateo Ramírez Louit in Spain with Filipino and Spanish technical and artistic team.

Bote, plastik at diario (2008), 11’, VOSE
Documentary short film directed by Andrés Morte Terès and made by students of ASF in Manila.

Debate facilitated by:
Andrés Morte Terès, President and Director of Programmes of ASF. He has also been co-founder of Fura dels Baus, Director of Mercat de les Flors and creator of Barcelona Plató.

Mateo Ramírez Louit, Film and Audiovisuals Graduate by the Escuela Superior de Cine y Audiovisuales de Cataluña (ESCAC). The short film he presents has been selected in several international festivals, the most recent one was Cannes.

Kay Abaño, Film and Audiovisuals Graduate by the school TAI of Madrid. She will present her new audiovisual work called Voces produced by Audiovisuales Sin Fronteras.

Vanessa Castro Marasigan, Spanish actress of Filipino descent, she has studied drama at the Nancy Tuñón School of Barcelona. She is the main character of the short film Panaginip. She has acted in several soap operas: La RieraGavilanes.

Presented by:
Gaëlle Patin Laloy, in charge of the Asian Communities Programme of Casa Asia

Thursday, 14th of June 2012, at 7 p.m.
Casa Asia Headquarters
Tagore Auditorium
Av. Diagonal, 373
Free admission with limited capacity.
Casa Asia and Audiovisuales Sin Fronteras.

Jose Rizal, namasyal, tumira, ikinulong sa Barcelona

7 Jun

Kung bibisita kayo sa Barcelona, Spain ay baka mag-check in kayo sa hotel na ito, ang Hotel Fonda España.

Dito rin nag-check in si Jose Rizal mahigit isandaang taon na ang nakararaan.  Isa lamang ito sa mga lugar sa Barcelona na binisita ng pambansang bayani.

Bago pa man umabot sa mahigit na 20,000 ang mga Pilipinong nasa Barcelona, nauna na si Rizal na mamasyal, tumira, maging bahagi ng pahayagang La Solidaridad at makulong dito.

Upang malaman kung anu-ano ang mga makasaysayang lugar na ito, ang National Historical Commission of the Philippines kasama ang Konsulado ng Pilipinas sa Barcelona ay naghanda ng mapa na pinangalanang Ruta Rizal.

Ang Ruta Rizal ay inihandog ni Consul General Catalino Dilem Jr. kasama si National Historical Commission Chairperson Maria Serena Diokno sa iba’t ibang institusyon sa Barcelona katulad ng City Hall ng Barcelona, Casa Asia at University of Pompeu Fabra.

Ang paghahandog ay isinagawa sa isang seremonya kamakailanlang sa Sala Cronicas sa City Hall ng Barcelona kasama ang mga pinuno ng iba’t ibang asosasyong Pilipino sa Barcelona.

Anu-ano ba ang mga lugar na ito? Panoorin ang video na inihanda ni Consul Arman Talbo, Bb. Elizabeth Ramos at G. RJ Placino:


Pang-Sports pa!

17 May

Everyone is invited to Casa Asia’s conference on the role of sports in social cohesion. Our very own Elmer Dimayuga, who established a Taekwondo school in Barcelona, will be one of the speakers.

The talk will be held on 23 May, Wednesday, 7 p.m. at Auditori Tagore, Casa Asia, Avenida Diagonal, Barcelona.

To know more about the event and the speakers, you may download this document: esports