The number of Filipinos living and working in Italy is estimated to be over 200,000 and they are highly concentrated in the cities of Rome and Milan.
The number of T.N.T. or Tago Nang Tago (illegal immigrants) is estimated to be between 20,000 and 80,000.
Around 60% of Pinoy migrants in this country are women who often are the first ones to come and, when they meet the requirements for family reunification, they petition their husbands and the rest of the family.
By and large Filipino illegal migrants in this country don’t run that much of a risk of being deported, as the Filipino community is by far the best accepted and beloved foreign community in the country (78% of Italians view them as hardworking and 66% view them as honest) and also because, as Filipinos often say, mabait ang gobyerno dito…
Filipinos in Italy have the least amount of unemployed people among the various foreign communities, as 77% are employed while 7,2% are unemployed (according to some recent statistics)
Rome has by far the largest concentration of Pinoy in the country
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…
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.
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).
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…
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.
A very large portion of Pinoy immigrants in Rome come from Batangas, the province where Lake Taal is situated and from other nearby areas.
Lake Taal is a rather unique place because it’s a crater lake that has a volcanic island in it’s middle and this island is an active volcano which is currently erupting and spewing ashes within a vast area and the authorities are warning about a possible massive explosive eruption.
A friend of mine has a house in Talisay, right on the shores of Lake Taal and my brother-in-law’s family is from San Pablo City, Laguna, not far from the lake.
I’ve got close friends in places that are situated in close proximity to the lake like Calamba in Laguna, Balayan in Batangas and I know a lot of people from other nearby areas like Matabungkay, Nasugbu, Cavite etc.
So a lot of Pinoy migrants here in Rome, Italy, are closely following what is happening in these hours because their families might be affected by the increasing activity of Taal Volcano.
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
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.
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…..
A couple of years ago my wife and I went on a road trip to Switzerland.
One of the towns we passed by is Campione d’Italia. There is nothing special about Campione except for the fact that it is an Italian enclave surrounded by Swiss territory.
While we were driving along the shores of Lake Lugano, I stared at this unique town, one of the few in Europe that is physically situated within the boundaries of another nation while not being part of it, and, while staring at it, I thought that the town of Campione is an interesting metaphor of the cultural condition of the Filipino community here in Rome and the issue of integration.
The Filipino community in Rome is as large as the population of many small towns in the Philippines and it is, under many aspects, like a town of the Philippines situated within the boundaries of the Italian territory, a Filipino enclave in Italy if you will.
The reason why I find this metaphor of the “enclave” fitting is because my perspective as husband of a Filipina, who has been living in Italy for over twenty years, is that, by and large, Filipinos move their bodies to other countries but their hearts and minds seem to remain in the Philippines and, as a result, they spend a large portion
of their free time chatting with relatives or friends who live in the Philippines through social media and associating with other expatriate Filipinos and rare are the interactions with local people and the local culture that surround their “enclave-like” life.
Here in Rome thousands of Pinoy never learn Italian properly and I know quite a few who have been living here for years now and they can’t speak the language at all. And they don’t quite need to because, most Filipinos who live here, almost have the whole barangay here and they have dozens of relatives in some cases, they have their own churches in Tagalog, their Filipino clubs, Filipino banks, a newspaper in Tagalog ( “Ako ay Pilipino” or http://www.akoaypilipino.eu) and countless opportunities to have salu-salo or social gatherings.
This means that in this city they have very little motivation to learn Italian properly and hang out with local people.
This can be a challenge for a Western husband who might find himself spending almost all of his free time going to Filipino parties and having little time left for his family and friends.
I’ve got long time friends who have never met my wife and it is not as if they didn’t try to invite us (but lately she has become a lot more expansive though). Other Filipinos whom I know are no different, they definitely prefer to associate with other Filipinos to mingling with local people and it takes time and a lot of insistence to get them to mingle with locals.
This is at least what I observe here in Rome where there is a community of over 50,000 Filipino Overseas Workers, a Filipino town within the Italian territory, an enclave like Campione d’Italia!
In rural areas where Filipinos are more scattered and hardly have a chance to gather together, Filipinos are more likely to associate with locals because they have no other option.
I was in Ancona, a small town on the Adriatic coast, where a family of Pinoy friends lives and they said to me that sometimes they have to drive up to two hours to meet other Filipino people, while here in Rome you hardly ride on a bus or wait for a bus at a bus stop without spotting at least one Filipino.
The tendency that many Filipino overseas workers have to mostly associate with other Filipinos only is a deeply entrenched cultural trait of expatriate Filipinos who, by and large, haven’t moved abroad to explore other cultures and to widen their perspective but only to work and support their families, so their hearts and minds remain in the Philippines, especially if they live in a big city that has a very large Filipino community they can associate with.
It has been said that Western expatriates who live in the Philippines retreat into the protective shell of their cultural comfort-zone and “march to the beat of a different drum in a place where there are no drums” but so are thousands of Filipinos who live in other countries.
The Filipino community here in Rome, and in Italy in general, is by far the best accepted and beloved foreign community in the country, as 78% of Italians view them as hardworking and 66% view them as honest. Italians do appreciate Filipinos but a combination of shyness (often Filipinos associate the idea of an Italian person to the image of their “amo” or employer) and cultural conditioning on the part of many Filipinos keeps the two communities often as separated as oil and water.
Other foreign communities often march for integration and join protests against lack of integration while for Filipino immigrants integration seems to be a non-issue.
Personally I do not believe that integration is something that people need to march for or that politics can or should fix.
Integration is the result of operating from the mindset that we share the same humanity and that each culture has exciting aspects to offer to those who get past the protective shell of their mental comfort-zone and, as a passage of the New Testament says, are willing to “widen out”.
“Widening out” and stretching the boundaries of one’s cultural comfort-zone is by far one of the most exciting experiences for a human being.
Personally I am happy that my Filipino wife has made a huge effort to learn how to widen out (after I did my homework to embrace her culture) but, by and large, I view the Filipino community here as some sort of closed enclave that has miles more to go to fully blend with the surrounding environment…..but so are many Western expatriates in the Philippines after all…..