When Filipinos See Snow for the First Time

The Philippines is a tropical country and, although in the Philippines there are areas where the weather can get rather cold, like the Cordillera Mountains around Baguio City, snow is nowhere to be found in the Philippines.

So one of the things Filipinos, who are new here in Italy, get excited about is seeing the snow for the first time in their life.

Here in Rome it snows pretty rarely but very close to Rome there are plenty of ski resorts and high mountains that are full of snow for several months a year.

The highest peak in Central Italy is the Gran Sasso d’Italia, whose summit is 2914 mt above sea level, and it is about 1,5 hour drive from Rome.

What’s interesting about the Gran Sasso is that on it’s summit there is the Southernmost glacier in Europe.

We recently organized a bus trip to Mount Gran Sasso with a group of Filipinos who had never seen the snow in their lives and all of them behaved like little children for one day…

On the road to the Gran Sasso d’Italia
Gran Sasso d’Italia

Gran Sasso d’Italia
Snow in Rome (3 years ago)

Pasalubong from the Philippines

My mother-in-law has just returned from the Philippines and, as all Filipinos who live overseas, she has brought tons of pasalubong: from Omega Pain Killer and Efficascent Oil to Boy Bawang and Tender Juicy hot dogs, a new rice cooker and a lot of other stuff.

Pasalubong is the Filipino tradition of travellers bringing gifts from their destination to people back home, after being away for a period of time, and the term refers both to Filipinos who live abroad who bring gifts to friends and relatives when they go home to the Philippines or to Filipino Overseas Workers who go to the Philippines on holiday and bring back pasalubong from the Philippines, especially things that are hard to find in a Western country or are too expensive to buy (like Omega Pain Killer for example).

I was expecting some Tanduay or Red Horse beer as pasalubong but I only got a new barong that I can add to my collection of barongs.

Tsitseria from the Philippines
My new barong

Barbecue (BBQ) in the Philippines and Among Filipinos in Italy

In the Philippines it is all about food and the expressions kumain ka na? (“have you eaten?”) and kain ka (“have some food”) or “meryenda ka” are the expressions that immediately follow kumusta ka? (“how are you?”) when you visit a Filipino home.

This happens both in the Philippines and among OFW in my country.

Filipinos love food and every street in the Philippines is lined with food stalls and eateries.

Both in the Philippines and in my country Filipinos have social gatherings or salu-salo as often as they can.

In winter salu-salos take place indoors while between spring and autumn Filipinos who live in Rome take advantage of the fact that Rome has plenty of parks and that the weather is, more often than not, ideal to gather outside and mag-ihaw or prepare barbecue marinade.

The basic ingredients used to make barbecue marinade, at least the way they do it here, and the way my Filipino wife does it, are soy sauce, ground black pepper, lemon juice, banana ketchup, garlic, onion and brown sugar.

Filipinos just love it.

The problem is that, for most Filipinos here in Rome, BBQ is something that they cannot afford to do as often as they do it in the Philippines because they live in apartments and, although most apartments here in Rome do have a balcony or a terrace, chances are that neighbors will complain if Filipinos dare using their balcony to BBQ, as Italians like hanging their clothes on the balcony and they hate wearing “smoked” clothes.

The only Filipinos who can BBQ on their terraces or balconies are the ones who have the luck to live on the last floor of an apartment building, in a penthouse (that can be hard to find in Rome and pretty expensive).

A typical apartment building in Rome

What’s the solution then?

There is no other option then than either wait for warmer days and BBQ in a park or buy an electric grill, one of those that can even be used indoors.

My wife and I have one and it does its job, this way my Filipino wife’s cravings for BBQ are satisfied all-year-round…

“Little Italy” in Batangas and “Little Batangas” in Italy

The “Ako ay Pilipino Roma” page’s cover photo

The Facebook page’s cover photo of “Ako ay Pilipino Roma” is all about the concern of the vast community of people from Batangas, who live and work in Rome, for what is happening and what might happen in the area that surrounds the Taal Volcano.

The Batangueno community is, arguably, the largest Filipino community here in Rome and I know hundreds of people from Batangas who live here.

Batanguenos have been working here since the early “80’s and many have built Italian-style homes on an once isolated hillside of the town of Mabini, which, for this very reason, has been nicknamed “Little Italy”.

Over 6000 people from the town’s total population of about 45,000 have moved to Italy.

Thousands of other taga-Batangas come from places like Balayan, Batangas City, but also from places that are very close to the volcano like Talisay or the town of Taal.

I can easily tell, when I hear them talking on a bus or in the metro, that they are from Batangas because I am very familiar with the fact that Batanguenos (like Bulaquenos) use dine instead of dito and ire instead of ito.

The Taal Volcano erupted without any warning back in January 12 and it only took it 6 hours to escalate the level of its dangerous nature, unlike Mount Pinatubo, which took days before escalating.

So the situation is highly unpredictable and the concern among the people who make up the “little Batangas” dine sa Roma is very high.

The Bayanihan Spirit Among Filipino Expatriates

As a foreign wife of a Filipina one of the things I admire about Filipinos is the spirit of bayanihan.  

Bayanihan is defined as follows: “

The Bayanihan (pronounced as buy-uh-nee-hun) is a Filipino custom derived from a Filipino word “bayan”, which means nation, town or community. The term bayanihan itself literally means “being in a bayan”, which refers to the spirit of communal unity, work and cooperation to achieve a particular goal.

The concept of Bayanihan is traced back to in a country’s tradition which can be observed in rural areas, wherein the town’s people were asked especially the men to lend a hand to a family who will move into a new place. The relocation does not only involves moving the family’s personal belongings but most importantly it concerns the transfer of the family’s entire house to a new location (https://themixedculture.com/2013/09/25/filipinos-bayanihan/)

Well, my wife’s house in Bulacan is a bit difficult to carry because it is made of hollow block and steel, so it is a bit too heavy I guess …  

And it is also difficult to move houses here in Italy because almost all Filipinos live in apartments within a building and an entire apartment building can be a little too heavy even for Filipino machos.

But here in Rome, every time a Filipino relocates to a different apartment, the moving service or lipat bahay is free of charge, because many volunteer to help.

Bayanihan in action in Italy!

Another way Filipinos display the bayanihan spirit is by sharing the news about any job offer they know about through social media

The bayanihan spirit is without a doubt something that us Westerners can learn from Filipinos

Ang Espiritu ng Bayanihan ng mga Pilipino sa Italy

Bilang foreign na asawa ng isang Pilipina isa sa mga bagay na hinahangaan ko tungkol sa mga Pilipino ay ang espiritu ng bayanihan.

Hindi ito ang isang katangian na basta lang binasa ko sa mga aklat o sa mga blog tungkol sa Pilipinas kundi personal na naranasan ko maraming beses at sa maraming paraan.

Ang alam ko ay na sa Pilipinas may pagkakataon na literal na binubuhat ng mga tao ang buong bahay ng isang kabayan na nangangailangang lumipat sa ibang lugar.

Medyo mahirap buhatin ang bahay ng misis ko sa Bulacan dahil yari iyon sa hollow block at bakal, kaya medyo mabigat yata…

At mahirap din buhatin ang mga bahay dito sa Italya dahil halos lahat ng mga Pilipino dito ay nakatira sa mga apartment na nasa loob ng isang gusali at medyo mabigat din yata ang palasyo.

Ngunit dito sa Roma tuwing lumilipat ang isang Pilipino sa ibang apartment libre ang serbisyo ng lipat bahay dahil maraming mga kabayan ang tumutulong

Ang mga Pilipino na nakatira sa Italy at hindi nangangailangan ng moving company, libre ang lipat bahay (o “halos” libre, syempre naman kailangan mag-alok ng kaunting “pampainit, pampatunaw at pampagana”)

Actually noong huling lumipat ako sa ibang bahay marami ang tumulong sa akin.

Ang isa pang paraan na ang mga Pilipino sa aking bansa ay nagpapakita ng espiritu ng bayanihan ay kapag ang isa ay may alam na may available na trabaho: karaka-raka nagkakalat siya ng balita sa Facebook upang tulungan ang mga kabayan na nangangailangan

Kaya ang bayanihan ay hindi lang ipinakikita ng mga tao sa Pilipinas kundi sa abroad din at, syempre naman, ito ay ang isang bagay na, bilang asawa ng isang Pilipina, talagang pinahahalagan ko.

Filipinos and Italian Food (Multi ethnicity in my Kitchen)

Pinoy food
….and more Pinoy food
My wife’s cutting-edge lasagna

This is more or less the way my kitchen looks like on Saturdays or Sundays.

One thing that I have found out in my 20-year long relationship with a Filipina is that Filipinos easily learn how to cook (quite proficiently) the foods that are typical of the country they work in.

My wife is not the only Filipino migrant in Italy who excels at preparing Italian dishes (as Filipinos usually work for rich and demanding employers) but, when it comes to lasagna, she does a pretty amazing job.

From time to time I try to fool around with lumpya and pandesal and I have a crazy idea to come up with my own version of halo-halo.

The best is yet to come….

Is Poverty Inevitable or a Choice?

Street vendors in Manila

The idea for this post came to me after reading this article on “Rappler”

https://www.rappler.com/thought-leaders/167915-poverty-not-a-choice

When I talk about poverty I don’t quite mean that living a spartan and minimalistic life is bad. On the contrary, I am the number one advocate of a simple life, as I value reading, meditating, spending time alone in nature and finding a higher purpose in life much more than I value things (that many poor Filipinos actually value a lot) like cars, the latest electronic gadgets and so on.

If I were not married I could perfectly live without a car and I would be happy with a 15 square-meter apartment (by a lake or anywhere else close to nature).

On the other hand I would not like at all being a squatter in a place like Tondo or living under a bridge in Manila and I don’t like getting into debt.

So, although I am an advocate of a simple life, I truly believe that extreme poverty sucks and, unfortunately there are many Filipinos who live in extremely difficult economical situations and I have seen plenty of squatters, not only in Manila but also in Bulacan, on the riverbank of the Calumpit River.

As the “Rappler” article says, sometimes poverty is beyond one’s choice: if I were born in a family of squatters in the Philippines, and had poor health and no higher education, I could do very little about it and I couldn’t even move abroad, as Filipinos who live in Italy are people who already had some connections here, some family support or at least some savings.

Filipinos who come here are not the super-destitute, most of them have higher education, good health and speak English fluently and, as I’ve said, usually they have connections here, as here in Rome we have big Filipino families where each one is somehow related to someone else in town or somewhere else in the country.

So, as the “Rappler” article says there are Filipinos who, due to their circumstances and family upbringing, could hardly escape poverty and they could never even make it to another country to change their circumstances.

The flip side of the coin is that I know Filipinos who have been living in my country for 20-30 years and yet they are dead broke and mired in utang or debt, as I have already said in some of my posts.

I understand that these days the Italian economy is in recession and the cost of living is too high and so even the most hardworking and self-disciplined person may struggle to make ends meet.

But it was not this way 10-15 years ago, the economy was still doing pretty well and there was much room for saving up, and yet most Filipinos whom I know were already stuck in debt 15-20 years ago and they still are.

Is their poverty the result of a choice?

Honestly speaking the condition of many O.F.W. shows that, although there are extreme circumstances that keep millions of Filipinos stuck in extreme poverty, there are thousands of others who have had plenty of chances to break free from poverty (and, most of all, utang) and yet they have mismanaged their chances and they live in a foreign country almost as if they had never left the Philippines.

So, is poverty inevitable or a choice?

For millions of super-destitute Filipinos who are not much in the position to change their circumstances it is evidently not a choice but, based on my observation of the life of many O.F.W. here, there are thousands of Pinoy who choose to be poor because they have moved their bodies here but they haven’t parted with the bahala-na si Batman mentality.

Filipinos Rule the Internet World!

As I was going through my Facebook notifications earlier today, I stumbled upon a post from Filipinos AroundTheWorld that, much to my surprise (…lol), basically says that Filipinos rule the internet world and, more specifically, that Filipinos use Facebook more than any other group.

I briefly went through the comment section and, after reading a few comments that say things along the lines of “yes, I am proud to be Filipino” or “such a good way to connect big families and friends”, I came across a comment (followed by few others that convey the same message) that raises the question: “is that something to be proud of?”.

Because I speak Tagalog and Rome is full of Filipinos (you can find them at every bus stop or in any subway station), I like to approach them and strike up a conversation in Tagalog but, more often than not, they either completely ignore me or they just don’t get that I am talking to them in their own language because they are too busy checking their notifications and they walk away not even watching their step because their eyes are fixed on the screen of their gadget.

I got to know my wife back in the early 2000’s and, immediately after my relationship began, I also started associating with Filipinos who are part of the vast Filipino community of Rome.

One of the things that caught my attention is that they appeared to be way more technologically literate than most Italians.

Although back then there was no such thing as modern smart phones, there were already handheld computers that could be connected to a cell phone via infrared and, slightly later, via bluetooth.

The first time I saw an electronic organizer or a handheld computer was through Filipinos who were among the first people in Italy to have those kinds of gadgets that very few people in my country knew about.

In my conversations with them there was one word that was constantly on their mouths and that word was “Friendster”.

I had no idea what the heck that thing was all about and whenever I asked for clarifications they would say that Friendster was a social network. I had no idea what a social network was.

So, long before Facebook appeared here in Italy, and when social networks were still completely foreign to me and to most Italians, Filipinos expatriates who lived in Italy were already abreast with the social media culture that was getting started.

And today Filipinos rank as the country that has the most Facebook users.

Is that something to be proud of?

There is a nice Pinoy song entitled “Himig ng Pag-ibig” that has this nice line: “bawat sandali ay mahalaga” (“every instant is precious”). Most people, not just Filipinos, who are Facebook junkies (like someone in the comment section of the Facebook post I mentioned above who prides himself for being on fb 18 hours a day) just don’t realize how many things could be accomplished in few “sandali“, like, for instance, making progress with the language of the country where Pinoy expatriates work and that, by the way, is also the native language of their children.

It took me about a couple of years to become fluent in Tagalog by only spending 5-10 minutes a day (and only rarely longer periods, as I didn’t have the luxury to devote more time to this undertaking). I am not saying it to brag, I am just making a point and the point is that bawat sandali is mahalaga indeed given the countless productive things one could be doing by cutting back on excessive and, often thrivial, use of social media to buy out few extra sandali

“Bawat sandali ay mahalaga” also to give one’s spouse the gift of undivided attention.

“Bawat sandali ay mahalaga” to exercise a little bit, to read a book, pray, meditate, blog or to do anything else that can improve the quality of one’s life.

So, do you really think that being the country with the most social media users is something to be proud of?

Filipinos in Italy: Foreigners in the Country and Foreigners at Home

Few weeks ago I spoke with a 25-year-old son of a Bulaquenya who was born here and he has never been to the Philippines and, sure enough, he cannot even form a sentence in Tagalog.

I had the impression that his mother is very far from being fluent in Italian, so how can they develop meaningful communication at home?

Filipino parents are too busy at work and some who work live-in only get to see their spouses and their children on Thursdays (afternoon only) and Sundays (which are the only days that the typical live-in worker is off from work here in Italy).

Those who work “lungo orario” (meaning the whole day), and do go back home after work every day, have to travel at least two hours to get back home, as here in Rome we have more buses than we have subways, and so when they get home it is too late and they are too tired to teach Tagalog to their children.

On top of that the typical Filipino home is very hi-tech and there are all sorts of gadgets that get in the way of communication and the end result is that, in way too many Filipino homes in Italy, Filipinos are estranghero sa bansa at estranghero sa bahay because they struggle to speak Italian well, while often their children, who are native Italian speakers, hardly speak any Tagalog.

The interesting thing is that there are Filipino parents who ask me to teach Tagalog to their children, and, out of bayanihan spirit, I try to help.

The next one I am going to teach is the son of the Bulaquenya I mentioned above…..

http://buildingfilipinowesternbridges.com/2019/08/01/mga-pinoy-sa-italy-estranhero-sa-bansa-at-estranhero-sa-bahay/

Filipinos in Italy are always very busy and in a hurry

Italian husband of a Filipina teaching Tagalog to Filipino young kids