If centuries ago European colonizers went far and wide to conquer countries and peoples with the sword, a new colonization is taking place today, which no one knows about it.
It’s past 11pm on the tramcar in a northern Italian city. Few people, one spoken language: Tagalog. Probably Italians at this hour prefer riding their own car. Instead, constantly chatting, my Filipinas friends are returning home after a hard day’s work. And yet there is an aura of serenity among them, which makes this gray town glitter.A is working as a maid, but the family she is working with has given her a car, a beautiful room, and the keys to the house. Now they are trying to bring her husband over from the Philippines as well.”If I only could find a Filipina to work for me,” exclaims a friend when I ask him how Italians feel about Pinays. “They’re appreciated not only for their kindness, their hardworking habits, or their faithfulness to Catholic tradition. There is something more.”Florence, a city of art wonders. In the middle of a square near the “Duomo” together with a GMA7 reporter, we spot a small group of Filipinos working at a construction site.
“Are you happy to be here?” we ask.
The reply: “Yes!”
“Would you like to go back to the Philippines? ”
“We are treated fairly and people really admire us, our way of doing things…”
Yes, although sometimes sadly enough, Overseas Filipino Workers are exploited by their families for the money they make, they are much in demand abroad, as the fresh air needed in a warm room. It’s a peaceful invasion, of the kind that you don’t know is happening, but it’s quietly changing the world.
It’s the Filipino invasion. In the last 20 years those millions of Filipinos who have left our country have slowly started to change the culture of the countries that welcome them. Of course sometimes they end up being exploited, work long hours for little money, but when and where they are welcomed, they are able to show the world the Filipino’s true resilience. And let’s stop looking Filipinos in showbiz, or those who may have made it to important jobs. This is not a beauty contest. Instead it’s an everlasting contribution Filipinos give to the world: their own soul.
Once, for example, Cardinal Sin sent 11 Filipino priests to Rome for a short course. As he did not have enough funds but was confident that God would help them, he sent them on one-way tickets. Then in Rome, one day he received a call from an Italian. After identifying himself, the caller said: “You don’t know me. I am an executive of FIAT (one of the largest corporations in Italy). I want to tell you a story. Can we meet for dinner? At your convenience and at your pleasure.”
Intrigued, Cardinal Sin immediately made the appointment.
Over dinner, the executive narrated: “I employ a Pinay OFW to take care of my six-year old daughter. This maid never fails to go to Mass on Sundays. Being rather close to her nanny, my daughter began to go with her to Sunday Mass. My daughter’s seventh birthday was soon approaching so I asked her what she wanted for her birthday. She said simply: ‘I don’t want any gift. I just want you and Mama to join me at Mass on my birthday. It sounded simple and so I said ‘yes,’ as I love my daughter very dearly.
“Now I would like to tell you a little secret. At that point, my wife and I had already gone our separate ways. We lived in one house, but each of us was free to pursue our own happiness. No questions. No answers. No talk. No misunderstanding. We had also stopped going to the sacraments.”
The birthday came and we went to Mass on schedule. At church, I was surprised to find so many Filipinos who were all smiling. And then they began to sing: so heavenly! It was the most beautiful Mass I had ever attended!During the Mass, I felt God touching my life again. I felt God once again—he to whom I owe so much. Well… that was not our last Mass together. We now go to Sunday Mass regularly. My wife and I have discovered each other once again. We are reconciled, and my small family is whole once again, thanks to my Pinay maid.”
Of course, the Pinay will stay with us for a long time. I have rewarded her with some cash for her relatives in the Philippines. But I want to do something also for the church in the Philippines. Is there something I can do?”
Cardinal Sin cleared his throat and then told him: “In fact, I have 11 priests here with me looking for their fare to return to the Philippines. ”
The executive excused himself, made some phone calls and returned to his seat. He pulled out his checkbook and wrote a check for an amount slightly higher than the plane fare. Then they said goodbye. This is what Filipinos are doing around the world, without any fuss, without strong statements, and just by their own presence. If centuries ago European colonizers went abroad far and wide to conquer countries and peoples with the sword, a new colonization is taking place today, and no one knows about it. But it’s just as powerful and effective, even if today they are often dismissed as “maids” or “nurses.” Yes, maids, nurses, seafarers, but with a soul that can change everything around them.
By: Carlo Gentile with Eddy Co Chua
New City Magazine – January 2008 –