Juan in E.U. - Generations

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Interesting and inspiring stories of 100 Juan dela Cruzes in Europe

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EDITORIAL CARRY ON! From the team that brought to light the ground breaking annual, JUAN IN EU, comes a much-deserved sequel that will not only carry on the noble goal of compiling the amazing stories of our dear Filipinos in Europe, but keep the flame of inspiration burning from one generation to another.

This 2014, be part of...

JUAN IN EU: GENERATIONS In this sophomore edition, we center on the fiber that keeps every hardworking Filipino inspired: The Family. It is all about our parents, siblings, relatives who are OFWs like you whose lives and stories have kept you going in the midst of struggles and trials. Now we share the lives of the inspiring Juan: that is in you and your family! We share the rich experiences and valuable lessons that have made one OFW generation to another a beacon of inspiration. Enjoy reading and get inspired! Mabuhay ang lahat ng OFW's sa buong mundo!

OFWorld - Juan in EU Editorial Team

PRINTED IN GERMANY

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Editorial Team CONCEPT Albert Uy

WRITERS

Patrick Camara Ropeta Myemye Mulingtapang Jacke De Vega Don Burgos Sharone Gacos-Soliveres Arjay Arellano Dennis Lacerna

JUAN IN E.U. Interesting and inspiring stories of 100 Juan dela Cruzes in Europe Published by:

Ethnoex Srl Castelnuovo del Garda, Italy

Please email us your interest in sharing your stories for our 2015 special!

ofworld@ethnoex.com

STORY EDITORS

Patrick Camara Ropeta (UK and Netherlands) Dennis Lacerna (Italy)

PHOTOGRAPHERS

Special thanks to:

Hannah Seneres-Francisco The United Pinoygraphers Club Mila Collado

Patrick Camara Ropeta Jacke De Vega Paolo Villasan Dennis Lacerna Gerald Galang Melvin Saballa

LAYOUT ARTISTS Lesley Ann Culla Novia Zapata

ADMINISTRATION Michele Carli

COVER PHOTO CREDITS PHOTO BY Jacke De Vega POST PROCESSED BY Noel Duran

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

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THE RAVEN FAMILY

Kristina&Kendra Maaliw

LORDJAY&REYMOND GABRIEL

ReNEE MONTEMAYOR

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Written and photo by Patrick Camara Ropeta

JOJO DIOKNO

Written and photo by Patrick Camara Ropeta

Written by Jaquiline De Vega Photo by Dennis Lacerna

LORISHENE UMALI

Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photo by Paolo Villasan

Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photo by Paolo Villasan

DARA BASCARA

Written and photo by Patrick Camara Ropeta

Written and photo by Patrick Camara Ropeta

THE ENRIQUEZ FAMILY Written and photo by Jaquiline De Vega

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SUGAR CARAIG

MARIANNE LEAH PAR

MYLES, CHRISTINE ALEX & CHRISTIAN ANDREI

ARJAY&PRINCESS MIRANDA

Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photo by Paolo Villasan

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THE GABRIEL FAMILY

Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photo by Dennis Lacerna

Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photo by Gerald Galang

44 JIMMY MUNOZ

Written and photo by Patrick Camara Ropeta

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JOEL MEDINA

BENFORD FORTUNA

Written and photo by Patrick Camara Ropeta

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Written by Jacke De Vega Photo by Bushe Dela Cuesta

Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photo by Dennis Lacerna

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JASON MUNOZ

Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photo by Dennis Lacerna

48 CHIQUI DIOKNO

Written and photo by Patrick Camara Ropeta

Written and photo by Patrick Camara Ropeta

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EVA MACANDANGDANG Written and photo by Patrick Camara Ropeta

LIEZA DE LA PAZ

Written and photo by Patrick Camara Ropeta


TABLE OF CONTENTS

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MELANESIE ENDAYA

JAMIMA FAGTA BALAGEO

JJ FORMENTO

JULES CHAN

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JAYNEE

JOVI MINA BURNS

ELMER CLEMENTE

Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photo by Paolo Villasan

SARAH FIOCCO

Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photo by Dennis Lacerna

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Written and photo by Patrick Camara Ropeta

Written and photo by Patrick Camara Ropeta

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RACHEL AND ALBERT MAGDIA

ROWENA MONTEMAYOR

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Written and photo by Patrick Camara Ropeta

THE ROBLES&BURGOS FAMILY Written by Don Burgos Photo by Dennis Lacerna

Written and photo by Patrick Camara Ropeta

EDERLYN BONIFACIO

Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photo by Paolo Villasan

Written and photo by Patrick Camara Ropeta

Written and photo by Patrick Camara Ropeta

92 MILAGROS SAMPAOLO

Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photo by Mila Sampaolo

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THE MENDOZA FAMILY Written and photo by Jaquiline De Vega

Written and photo by Patrick Camara Ropeta

Written and photo by Jaquiline De Vega

94 REOL ANULAO CAPUNO

Written by Sharone GacosSoliveres Photo by Paolo Villasan

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NOEL&SARAH CARILLO

Written by Don Burgos Photo by Melvin Saballa

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THE ALVAREZ FAMILY

CRISELDA MENDOZA

GUEVARRA FAMILY

BRONCE CLAN

Written by Don Burgos Photo by Paolo Villasan

Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photo by Dennis Lacerna

Written and photo by Dennis Lacerna

Written and photo by Jaquiline De Vega

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Greetings to our beloved OFW families in Europe! When the first generation of OFWs in Europe left the Philippines around 20 to 30 years ago, they arrived with hopes of overcoming a war that drove them away from our motherland. The war I refer to is not that of guns and military action but of a different type: that is the war against poverty and unemployment. This “war” has put to naught the biblical fiat that no one should put asunder the marriage of man and woman inasmuch as overseas employment has been relentlessly causing the erosion and breakup of thousands of marriages and families. It is because of the Filipino diaspora brought on by this “war” and its ill effects on society that I founded the OFW Family Club in 2001 with the help of my own family. Over the years, we have been advocating unity and solidarity among OFW families, promoting their welfare and well-being, providing counseling, conciliation, and mediation when the need arises. My family and I have been doing this since I was Labor Attaché to the United States and the United Arab Emirates where I was eventually assigned as Ambassador. We continue to work hard to strengthen and empower this advocacy further now that I was elected in the May 2013 midterm elections as the first ever Representative of the OFW and family sector in Philippine Congress. It is my hope that with the stories compiled in this edition of Juan in EU, OFW families may be enlightened and may have a deeper appreciation of the sacrifices the older generations have made in order to provide a brighter future for the next generation. We especially recognize and commend the OFW parents who have managed to pass on good Filipino values to their children even though they are far apart, or even if they have migrated together and are exposed to different cultures abroad. I salute all of you for your sacrifice and dedication to your family, because I know that it is not easy to leave our motherland in search of greener pastures overseas. Your struggles, without a doubt, will be rewarded by our Creator as your good intentions will not be overlooked. With that said, I am solemnly wishing all of you more prosperity, continuous good health, and more blessings for you and your family.

Mabuhay ang pamilyang Pilipino!

Congressman Roy V. Señeres Representative, OFW & Family Sector House of Representatives, Republic of the Philippines for Juan in EU: Generations

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On behalf of the commission of Filipinos Overseas, I would like to congratulate the organizers for coming up with the sequel of Juan in EU, this time titled “Juan in EU: Generations”. As the title suggests, this second edition is meant to inspire our next generations of overseas Filipinos in Europe. Europe has enabled many Filipinos to bring out the best in themselves. In this light, we must continue to imbue and cultivate in our younger generations the virtues and the values that are the foundation of the strength of our families and communities in Europe. This second edition of book aims to shre the inspiring lives and stories of our parents, siblings, relatives who are overseas, their accomplishments and achievements, successes and victories as well as their hardships, their struggles while being away from the Motherland. We express our hope that the Filipino achievers portrayed in this book will continue to motivate others to do better, help bring out the best from our compatriots especially the next generations of overseas Filipinos. Again, I salute the book’s editor and publisher for this outstanding concept and book. I also would like to thank the individuals who have contributed to the preparation and completion of this inspiring book.

SECRETARY IMELDA M. NICOLAS Chairperson

November 26, 2013 Manila, Philippines

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The Raven Family Living at a great distance away from home can sometimes feel alienating. With expensive plane fares and a hectic schedule limiting homecomings to a minimum, it becomes easy to lose touch of one’s own heritage amidst the daily grind for survival and assimilation. But for the Ravens, one of a growing number of mixed British-Filipino clans in the UK, keeping alive their slice of Philippine culture has become a family tradition spanning across generations.

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Embracing Filipino Roots Through Dance London, UK Written and photographed by PATRICK CAMARA ROPETA It started 37 years ago with Carmelita, a home economics graduate from Manila via Aklan, who found herself in Manchester, England in the late 1970s. Like millions of other Filipinos, she ventured abroad in search of a better life for herself and her family. “It’s very hard,” she recalled, adding she worked as a domestic helper. “We felt homesick, then then there’s the work, especially looking after the children of my employer.” Despite the sacrifices, however, being an OFW “means a lot” for her. “It helps me and my family. I earn money even now, and whoever needs my help in the family I send money. I send my nieces and nephews to school.” She later moved to London where she worked as an au pair for a university. It was there she met her British husband, Christopher, a general maintenance worker seven years her junior in 1984. They have been together ever since, and have two daughters, Samantha and Nicola, who are both in their 20s. “I got involved in LK because of my daughter Samantha,” she said, referring to her longrunning involvement with Lahing Kayumanggi Dance Company (LK), one of the most established purveyors of Philippine culture in Europe. “She was eight years old and we wanted her to know our culture. She knows all the dances: she has been the princess in singkil, and she is very good at tinikling.” The mother and daughter tandem have been active members of LK since 1996, right after they met its founder Ronnie del Barrio, a London-based performer and talent agent who was originally part of Philippine Baranggay Folk Dance Troupe in Manila. The group regularly meet on Sundays for rehearsals, where they speak Tagalog and eat Filipino food, often cooked by Carmelita herself. Based in London, they perform traditional Filipino folk dance around the UK and Europe, with occasional engagements in Manila. “We have a great time,” she said with a smile. “We have to promote our own culture. Even though I am married to an Englishman, my heart is still Filipino.” Being part of LK is just as important for her daughter Samantha, a beauty therapy student who started performing at the age of three and trained as a performer at the prestigious Sylvia Young Theatre School until she was 18. “It means a lot,” she admitted. “I tell my friends about it. I show them pictures. I just enjoy it, everything to do with it. It means a lot for me to be Filipino.”

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Coming from a mixed background, the second-generation British Filipino values her culture from both sides. But being born and bred in the UK means embracing her Filipino heritage thousands of miles from the homeland inevitably requires more effort, which she is able to put in with the help of LK. She also watches The Filipino Channel to keep in touch with local culture. “I feel very privileged to be part of LK. And I’m happy to pass it on to my children,” referring to her daughters, Jadar-Mai, 8, and Keira, 3, who are also in the UK. “I copy her,” said Jadar-Mai, who is already a member of LK. “I really like what my mum and my nan does. They teach me how to dance and my nan always helps.” And why does she do it? “I kind of enjoy LK. I really like it because of the dances and costumes. My favourite thing about it is doing the performances. I’m always excited. I’m proud to be a Filipino.” Talent runs in the family. Samantha has been performing since childhood, appearing not only in LK performances but also in television shows and commercials both the UK and the US. She was also a teen model and played minor parts in films like The Saint, just like her father Christopher who appeared in British films in his youth. Jadar-Mai and Keira have started to show similar interests, while Carmelita continues to participate with LK. “Instead of them walking around in the streets all day, I took them to these things,” Carmelita revealed. “It’s good that they have something. It’s a good thing to start on in their lives. And it’s up to them how they carry it on.” There is also a desire to cultivate their Filipino heritage. The family enjoys going to the Philippines whenever they can, but admits it is not always possible on a regular basis. “I miss it” said Jadar-Mai, who visited the archipelago over a year ago. “It’s really fun there and I love the beaches. I like going in the sea to swim.” But no matter how where they are, the family is determined to embrace Philippine culture in whatever way they can in England, be it learning Tagalog or spending time with the UK Filipino community, or performing traditional folk dances with LK. Now 65, Carmelita continues to work as housekeeper for the London residence of a wealthy Nigerian family. She remains part of the LK dance group alongside her daughter Samantha, who is currently studying at the London College of Beauty Therapy, and her grandchild Jadar-Mai, who recently appeared at the Cockpit Theatre in London alongside seasoned performer Ima Castro.


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Kristina & Zendra Kiara Maaliw The Model Daughter Milan, Italy

Written by Jaquiline De Vega Photographed by Dennis Lacerna

Zendra Kiara Maaliw, or Z, has been a model for almost 3 years. She has the flair for fashion, has modeled clothes for signature labels, has strut the runway, has done photo shoots, and her face has been seen on billboards and magazines and interviews like any professional models would do. Only that she’s just 4 years old. Born in Milan, Italy, Zendra is just like any other little girl - she loves to sing, eat pancakes, play with her Barbie, dress up and put on make-up. But her mother Kristina still can’t believe that she has a model for a daughter. Kristina happily recounts how desperate she was at the time of the photo shoot for a big name brand as Zendra continuously cried and cried for hours. Thankfully after lunch, Z had a change in mood and was wearing her sweet smile in front of the photographer. The bond as mother and daughter continuously nurture their relationship, forging deep and setting a dream. A dream that maybe, just maybe, Zendra’s current stint as a model will win her a spot in the future in the fashion industry. Zendra’s mother, Kristina Maaliw is a domestic helper. An AB Psychology graduate, this Quezon province-born Filipina has been in Italy since 1994. The story of how she came to Milan can be summed up as one big courageous act. After fighting off her fear of being caught by police while trying to get through the border from Germany to Austria to Florence, she finally made it to Venice. From there, she was picked up and driven to Milan. It was a two day journey filled with fear and anxiety. She remembers the time she needed to run through a forest to escape when she thought that the bus she was on had been blocked by the police. She was one of the ‘baklas’ visa and passport holders, which had once been rampant during that period.

is testament to the emotional resolve and strength of one who will go through great lengths in hopes of greener pastures. She feels lucky that she has her mother and brother here in Milan, so homesickness is not as bad as it seems. Eventually, Kristina got married. Her eldest son is currently in 1st year college back in the Philippines while her other son, 11 years old, stayed with them in Milan together with her husband and Zendra. She helped her mother to support her other siblings with their studies in the Philippines. When asked if she’ll ever petition her son, she firmly said no because she wants that her son will use the education she has provided for him.

Being a stage mother is not an easy task. Kri-stina had to leave her night job just to attend to Zendra’s budding career. It is but natural to be very proud of her little darling that she even made a Facebook page for her daughter’s fans. Kristina is now accustomed to Zendra’s current ‘work’ and would be incredibly thrilled for each and every possibility of future projects from different children’s brands.

Everything that happened to her is nothing that anyone could ever have imagined. Her journey to enter Europe

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Lordjay&Reymond Gabriel Yonip Dance Company Milan, Italy Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photographed by PAOLO VILLASAN

Born and raised in the province of Isabela, Philippines the self-taught dancing duo and founders of the group YONIP Dance Company became the winner of the first International Hip Hop Dance Competition by the California Dance Academy in Milan beating out 30 other groups. Showcasing cool moves, quick spins and energetic dance styles the Gabriel brothers made their journey to the limelight and have been recognized as one of the best Pinoy talents in Milan.

The athleticism, virtuosity, flash and charisma of the Gabriel brothers set them apart from other performers. Driven largely by their dream of being international hip hop dancers, their parents have always supported them. “Not just brothers, they are best friends. What makes them fantastic is the way they express themselves by dancing. They complement each other. They are more than good at what they do. “ Describes their father Ludy Gabriel. Dance is in their blood. They combine music, dance and lifestyle which certainly reflect on how they live, love, work, dance, and pursue their dreams. They share their passion for dancing and what is most important is their strong bond, hard work and simple living. Their unique tandem entertains and inspires people in many occasions and events with their amazing energy, enthusiasm and can-do spirit.

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When not dancing, Lordjay makes delicious cakes and breads at a pastry shop in the city. While brother Reimon is a cobbler in a shoe repair shop. The brothers dream of having their own dance studio where they can offer a variety of dance classes for kids and grown-ups too. But according to them it is still a long way to go. Now they would like to enjoy the talent they have and be the best that they can be. Joggling day jobs and practice sessions with their group, LJ and Reimon want to include breakthrough choreography to their unique and authentic tracks. A fusion of hip hop swagger moves and eclectic modern dance routines. Looking at real artistry in dancing with variation and freshness. Gabriel brothers share that becoming a good dancer is not just the learning of complicated moves, it’s not about beating or imitating others. Dance has to come from within and having a conviction. It is a rites-of-passage thing.

We never put our arms down. They are always up in fighting position like we are going to war. We go out there and fight!

Talented and good looking with athletic prowess, they perform modern Hip-Hop in a va-riety of dances often associated by stunts. They are known for their new style in hip-hop dancing. The five year age gap between them did not become much of a problem because they share a common interest, the love for dancing. Neither Lordjay nor Reimon received any formal dance training. Instead, they learned by observing other dancers perform. According to their mother Emma they were born dancers. At an early age they seriously moved their bodies and showed off steps they had invented. There is no dance style they can’t conquer.


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Renee Montemayor Born To Do It London, UK

Written and photographed by Patrick Camara Ropeta

Most people spend a lifetime searching for a calling. Some may never find it, but a lucky few stumble upon it naturally. Renee Montemayor found hers at a very early age and seized it, a passion she continues to pursue to this day. She caught the acting bug at the age of four, right at the deep end as a cast member of “The King and I” at London Palladium. “I just love performing even when we were kids. With my sister we used to do performances in our bedrooms, I used to direct it and do all sorts of things. And we charged our parents and relatives when they come to see our plays.” Her big break came through an open casting for hit musical “Miss Saigon”, which launched the careers of many talents like Lea Salonga and Monique Wilson. But still in her late teens at the time, the aspiring actress had to secretly skip school to attend auditions. “It was very naughty. I took myself to the theatre. I was so scared. And at the time, I didn’t have traditional drama training to back me up, and I was against so many professional actors. I was just this 16-year-old girl, but management saw something in me - talent or something - so they put me up for Miss Saigon school, which trains young actors specifically for the show.” The gamble paid off. She thrived at acting school for two years and was soon groomed to take the lead role, becoming the first ever UK-born Filipina to play the part. “It was a dream come true,” she described. “It was wonderful. The best, most amazing memories I would cherish forever. It’s always in my heart. And I met my husband there.” She has since appeared in numerous productions on film, theatre, and television, most recently in an episode of detective drama “Lewis” on ITV. She remains “grateful” of all the opportunities she finds because “every job has something special.” The actress takes her job very seriously. Partly trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and Sylvia Young Theatre School, she is drawn towards characters with depth where she can best explore her acting range. “It’s different every time, but I like to be challenged,” she declared. “I like characters that are interesting to me, and that changes with time because my life changhes. I like things that moves

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people, good writing. Every time I’m given a brief I always see if I can feel something: do I feel a connection? And I like strong female leads.” She cites Kate Winslet, Rachel Weiss and Emily Blunt as her personal heroines on screen, as well as Leonardo di Caprio who is a “great actor.” But Renee herself have inspired others with her work, not least her two younger sisters, Rhoda and Rowena, who are also performers. Rowena had a stint in “Miss Saigon” as a child actress, while Rhoda appeared on television shows and films, most notably in the popular series “Power Rangers”. All three sisters have publicly expressed admiration for each other. “I’m very touched by that. We’re very close. We’re very different personalities, but we get on so well. We make each other laugh,” said Renee, adding she is supportive of her sisters’ careers. She helped Rhoda when she was just staring out, from finding drama schools to securing her first talent agent. “I really supported her, sometimes more than I do to myself,” she joked. Having family in the same industry has it’s own challenges. The sisters eventually found themselves going up for the same roles at castings, which created a “strange” atmosphere between them despite being supportive of each other. “We’re fine with it now, but it was strange at the beginning. I was the actress in the family and Rhoda trained in dance while Rowena was a natural singer. Those were our strengths but we can do all three. Then suddenly we were all acting.” She recalled a tension with her sister Rhoda. “We had a meeting once. We both admitted we felt strange. And we said it wasn’t good for either of us, because if we feel like this we won’t do our best job for the casting and we’ll losework,” she explained.


Family will always be family, and the sisters managed to settle their situation. They remain supportive of each other and even started collaborating on future projects. And with all sisters having their fair share of the spotlight, talent clearly runs in their genes. “My dad always says it’s from his side of the family,” she said amusingly. “He said a lot of our relatives are into music. My dad likes to sing in karaoke. He’s known as ‘Eddie Elvis.’ He also does magic tricks, so he’s a natural performer.” Her father Eddie is from Angeles City in the Philippines, while her mother Sally hails from Pangasinan. Both have been “supportive” and “generous” towards their children. “Our parents instilled in us a sense of family. Here in the UK, family is also important but not in the same way it is in the Phi-lippines,” she said. Their Filipino identity also remains intact despite being born and raised in England. “I have the best of both worlds. My parents raised us very Filipino. We know where we’re from, we’re very connected to the Filipino community here.” The whole family are regular fixtures at social events, often contributing their time and talent to entertain and raise funds for good causes. “But I’m very British as well. I feel blessed that I have so many areas in my life. I feel really complete,” she added, claiming that her Filipino background also allows her to be different and stand out from the crowd. “I’m very blessed because I can see that there could be some challenges, like racism, but I haven’t had any of these challenges. In fact I’ve been lucky because people look at me and think I’m inte-resting. I use it to my advantage.” A few years ago, following a long stint with the National

“But we decided that there are lots of actresses out there, we’re not competing just against each other but the whole industry.We made a deal to be each other’s cheerleader. If we go for the same job, we cheer each other on and as long as one of us gets it, we’ll both be happy.” Theatre, she even felt “burnt out” which led her to reassess her life. It was then she found her secret weapon - positive thinking through life coaching and motivational workshops. She embraced these methods so fully that she herself began coaching other people, including fellow actors, gradually building a business which she runs alongside her acting career. “I’m lucky I have this. Because if people don’t have tools or aren’t strong enough, this industry can break you,” she confessed. But what drives her to carry on amid such adversity? “I’m just a passionate person. I have to apply myself to whatever I’m doing - my whole heart and soul goes into that, because I love it,” she said. “I think we’re on a journey all our lives. It’s a spiritual journey. We’re not just human beings, we’re

more than this. We’re here for a bigger purpose. If you’re doing what you love, you’re fulfilling your mission.” She believes part of her mission is to help those in need through the power of her own voice. “If I could make it big, part of what I want to do is help the causes important to me, especially our countrymen and those who cannot help themselves. If I can be more in the spotlight, I think I can help on a bigger scale. It’s part of my inspiration to do a good job.”

Renee is an actress based in London. Best known for her stint at “Miss Saigon” in the 1990s, her acting credits include Hollywood film “Fifth Element”, cult British TV show “Grange Hill” and stage musical “South Pacific” at the National Theatre. She is currently working on her autobiography. 19


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Jojo Diokno Playing with Fire London, UK Written and photographed by Patrick Camara Ropeta

We can’t help who we fall in-love with, a painful truth that Jojo knows only too well. Seduced by the idea of love and romance, he unwittingly wrapped himself in a cycle of pain and abuse that lasted for years, neglecting even his own future. Now older and wiser, he is starting to learn from his mistakes - but at what cost? Jojo hails from Binan, Laguna, where he was born and raised by his parents together with five brothers and three sisters. He came to the UK in 2003 as a healthcare assistant. “I missed my family and friends. It was hard. No one can help you with problems, it’s just you. It was scary,” he described. “You have to go on. If not, you’ll become a failure. And it helped me, I learned so many things when I became independent living abroad. Even now no one is helping me, and I just work for myself and my family.”

His journey outside the Philippines started a few years earlier in Israel, where he worked as a care giver at a Jewish senior home. “I was only in my early 20s. My brother, Chiqui, was there already. And he was the one who helped me to go there,” he said. “It was quite difficult because of the language barrier. My clients didn’t speak English, they spoke Hebrew. And it was my first time in that country. I really don’t know what kind of people they were.” But despite the hard work, occasional loneliness and casual racism - all of which he claims to have experienced - Jojo persevered,

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inspired by his older brother Chiqui. “I inspired by his older brother Chiqui. “I idolised him,” he confessed. “I really admired his courage. He was only 21 when he went abroad to Saudi Arabia and started helping our family. He supported my studies in college. I owe him a lot.” To amuse themselves in a strange land away from home, the brothers formed their very own family in the guise of the Paper Dolls, a drag act of Filipino gay performers which has since been featured on a documentary film and stage musical. “I miss that group a lot. We can’t have done that back home in the Philippines. There were a lot of homophobia. I joined some beauty pageants but nothing like this group. You can’t do much in drag. When we came to Israel, we had a feeling of freedom. It’s an amazing experience,” he recalled. Working in a predominantly conservative country, it was difficult for the group to blend into society. “If they see you dressing and acting like a woman, they will think you’re abnormal. Some Israelis didn’t understand what we were doing. It really hurt.” Things changed when Israeli filmmaker Tomer Heymann made an eponymous documentary about the group which later became a hit on local television and film festivals around the world. “People became interested in our lives. And in the film, we really expressed our feeling so people can understand us. I think they were enlightened,” he said with a sense of relief.

thegirls were chasing him. But because I was supporting him I thought no one can take him away from me.” This situation created tension between the brothers. Chiqui became “upset” out of concern for his little brother. “He didn’t want it to happen to me. But at that time I was fragile and weak. It was my first time to have a relationship, with this man that I really loved. I lived with him and I supported him financially.” His brother disapproved, encouraging him to see sense, save money, and stop “wasting” everything on the boyfriend. “My family also needed help at that time but I didn’t help them. I was so crazy with that man,” he said.

“It’s overwhelming. We’re proud of ourselves. We showed them how we really are, how we cope with problems, and how we are real. We appreciate that documentary.”

He apologised to Chiqui a few times, but much damage had been done to their relationship that they eventually stopped talking to each other. They live in the same area and even work at the same hospital, but they haven’t seen each other for years.

But as the success of their stage personas continued to soar, the relationship between the Diokno brothers dwindled in stark contrast. “Me and my brother are not close at the moment.” Jojo revealed. “I’m a really hard headed person. Maybe because I’m the youngest in the family. I never grew up with my family. I grew up with friends, good or bad. I felt that I was not the favourite son in the family. I’m the youngest but I had two sisters who they really looked after. And the age gap between me and Chiqui is big, so we were never together when I was young. He went abroad when I was just in my early teens.” The age gap is over a decade. But beyond the generational difference, something else happened that led to their frosty relationship. “We were close when I first came to Israel, until the time my mother died. I went abroad to give my mother security. I wanted to give her the best,” he explained. “When she died, it really changed my life, because I had no one to support me anymore. I didn’t see her when she died. I was having troubles in my life. And then I found a relationship in Israel which my brother really didn’t like.” Jojo started dating an Israeli Arab who was “very good looking” and also much younger. They were soon living together but life wasn’t so rosy for the couple. They were consumed by intense arguments and jealousy which led to physical violence. “He nearly killed me,” he declared. “I wasn’t scared at all with that. But he did beat me up. I was a jealous person, because he’s very good looking and most of

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“I didn’t listen to them. I was thinking, ‘It’s my life. I want to enjoy it.’ And I felt like a woman. I wanted to experience that. I wasn’t mature enough when I was with him. All I wanted was to be happy. I don’t care what people say.” The relationship lasted seven years. It ended when the couple moved to London and Jojo discovered that his boyfriend already had a new girlfriend. It was pattern that repeated itself twice since: first with a young Somalian Muslim co-worker, and later with a young straight virgin from the Philippines whom he’d met through the internet. Both men also broke Jojo’s heart. He admits this is a flaw in his character which he is still working on - falling for the wrong boy. “My brother is right,” he admitted.

“He just wants me to learn from my mistakes. I cried several times over this. I tried to call him some times, but he focused himself on his friends also. If he needs help, he never calls me. But I hear things from others, like when he gets ill or have an operation or have some problems,” he remarked. “It really hurts me. Even my sister back home is telling me to go to his place and visit him. But he also has his own pride. He doesn’t want to hear from me as well. I’m still hoping that someday we can be together and be okay.” And has he finally learnt his lessons? “At the moment, I’m not looking for anything. I don’t regret what I’ve done, especially those relationships, because it’s part of my life. Good or bad, I have to accept it. But I have to learn. I need to learn from my experience.”

Jojo is currently single in London. He works as a circulating nurse at the Royal Free Hospital, having previously worked in Tel Aviv and Manila, with training from the University of Perpetual Help. He is also a trained hair and make-up artist, with a diploma in cosmetology from Shuki Zikri School in Israel. He is hoping to renew his relationship with his brother Chiqui in the near future.


what “ II’vedon’tdone,regretespecially those relationships, because it’s part of my life.

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Lorishene Umali TFCkat Grand Winner-Italy Milan, Italy Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photographed by Paolo villasan

The audience reaction was powerful and judges’ gasps were exhilarating. The people were standing on their seats and screaming in sheer awe. Surprised, overwhelmed, and happy, the girl with style and the booming voice won as TFCKAT grand champion last June. Shane once again marveled the crowd in following month at the European finals in London. Although she did not come home victorious, the experience was more than enough for her. An addition to her achievements, she was able to share the same stage with the band Aegis during the last leg of their European tour in Milan last September. Although she came from a blended family, she never really felt neglected by her parents after having their own separate families. When her parents decided to part ways and work abroad, she was left under the care of her grandparents. After 20 years of being away from her father, Shane got the chance to reunite with him. The transition became easy because she was lucky enough to have a supportive stepmother. On the other side, her biological mother and stepfather were just as caring and loving to her as well. Having two sets of parents and five siblings, there was nothing she complained about her family set up. She even considered herself very lucky. Shane, as she is called by many, is a simple girl with big dreams. Back then, Shane would sing along to the radio with Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Regine Velasquez, Charice, and the band Aegis.

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These artists greatly influence her singing. With no formal vocal training, she star-ted joining competitions at the age of six. She didn’t always bring home the title. Many times she lost, but took it as an opportunity to do better. She didn’t always bring home the title. Many times she lost, but took it as an opportunity to do better. Considering herself an amateur, Shane intends to work more on her repertoire. She sings a variety of songs that suit her vocal range and highly emphasize her singing style. She passes time doing covers and uploads them on Youtube. Not having a shy bone in her body, Shane would always sing in front of relatives at reunions and family events. Now she sings on stage facing a huge crowd. Lorishene says that her experiences made her believe that even the smallest star can shine bright. She encourages girls her age to follow their dreams, work hard, practice, persevere, and leave everything to God. “I know I can sing, but I always tell myself there are a lot of better singers than I am. But in every performance I make it a point to give my best as if it was my last. I thank God for this wonderful talent,” Shane exclaims.


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Dara Bascara A Model Life in London London, UK

Written and photographed by Patrick Camara Ropeta

Dara has her feet on two different worlds. She can be posing for a major brand in the morning, but by the afternoon debating the nature of social inequality. And by the evening, she could be writing profound musings on life, or be out on the town living it large at nightclubs surrounded by unimaginable luxury. Yet despite being blessed with enviable charm and good looks, she is certainly not your average pretty girl-next-door.

“I was considering moving to the US, UK or any other English-speaking country. I like Shakespeare so I preferred the UK,” she revealed. “I never feel at home in London, but in a good way. I didn’t move to another country so I can feel at home. I wanted to feel like I’m in an exotic place everyday. I like that this it is a really different world from the one I grew up in.”

She joined the student movement and attended countless protests supporting various causes, from saying no to education budget cuts to deman-ding higher wages for low earners. “I was studying sociology and political philosophy which got me politicised.” she said. “And then I had my mentors - professors that always pushed me and gave me the right reading material, which convinced me that I have some sort of duty or obligation to participate.” The 30-year-old’s penchant for sociopolitical issues stretches back across a generation. Born at the end of the Marcos dictatorship in the early 1980s, the tumultuous time of her birth and childhood pushed her and her parents towards activism. “My parents were undergraduates during Marcos era. And during that time if you’re an undergraduate in UP, you are basically an activist. They were not particularly political but it was a particularly political time, so they became active.”

Before London, Dara studied at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City, where her passion for social activism awakened.

As a child, Dara remembers being with her parents in the streets of Manila during the 1986 revolution which toppled the Marcos regime.

Born and raised in Quezon City, Dara moved to London in 2007 with her British boyfriend whom she met in Manila. He was traveling and working as a volunteer for NGOs (non-governmental organisations) while she was a student activist and working as a model. Love blossomed which soon took them both to En-gland. The relationship didn’t work out, but Dara fell in love with London and decided to stay.

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“Being an EDSA revolution baby, it was a time when we thought institutional and political changes were possible,” she recalled. “There was a time when you looked up the word democracy in an encyclopedia and a picture of the EDSA revolution would be there. Gaining consciousness during that time must have had some impact on how I think of politics now.” That child grew up as an intelligent and beautiful woman who still continues the fight against injustice. Times may have changed but the world’s pro-blems remain the same, and at times she is frustrated by the apathy of her peers, which she pointed out at a recent article she wrote for the The Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, entitled “Generation Y.” “Our generation have access to all these information and we know about things. But at the same time, we are constantly bombarded by all these stuff. It’s information overload, but no one really cares that much about what’s going on,” she observed. But the digital age also has its advantages. “The internet is a very powerful tool for political change,” she said, referring to the global protests against the Pork Barrel scandal. “That was the first internet-based mass action which sporadically came about through concerned

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netizens. I’m still amazed and bewildered that there is still so much inequality and apathy which permits the perpetuation of injustices.” Away from activism, Dara leads an entirely different life. She could often be seen at glamorous parties in the London club scene where she works as a hostess with wealthy clients. During the day, she could be spotted at castings, photo-shoots and film sets for her work as a model and actress, which started all the way back from her stint at Filipino children’s show Batibot from the 1980s. Despite it’s allure, however, life in the lap of luxury creates an internal conflict for the Filipina model. “It’s fun, it’s good money, it’s an amazing opportunity and I meet amazing people and get to do amazing stuff, but for myself it serves a higher purpose of enabling me to pursue philosophy,” she explained. “My experience of wealthy people corroborates the thesis that there are some people who just have an obscene amount of luxury, in contrast to extreme po-verty. I will never get over my amazement of this discrepancy and and inequality. And that’s what drives me. To understand why that has been rendered legitimate.”


Dara is now working towards a doctorate in philosophy, her main passion, following years of study in the Philippines, USA and the UK. “I think philosophy is a tool to advance my political ideas,” she declared. “It provides a framework, a language on how I can elucidate my political criticisms of systems and the political commitments I want to advocate. Philosophy is good in itself, except I have an agenda - I want to understand how political change and moral progress can come about.” Her pursuit of wisdom has taken her from UP to the University of California, Berkeley in San Francisco, and to University College London in England. And throughout her travels and extensive education, she has remained true to her Filipino roots. “The US is a country of immigrants, so when you move to the US you become American. Here in the UK, I am never going to be British. The Filipinos in Italy will never be Italian. I like that in Europe we can retain our identity, and that’s something we should celebrate,” she observed. “And always give back to the Philippines. In some way, we have a duty and responsibility to the people that we’ve left behind, and to the country that made us who we are.” Eventually, within the next 10 years, Dara aims to return to the Philippines to teach philosophy at UP while maintaining links to academic institutions around the world. “There is a saying: If you can’t, teach. So if I’m not going to change the world, I’m going to teach people how to do it. And who best to do that than the younger ge-neration,” she concluded.

Dara currently lives in London. She is completing a PhD on institutional oppression at Birkbeck, University of London where she is also a teaching assistant in philosophy. She works part-time as a club hostess, model and actress, appearing in films, television shows and magazines in both the UK and the Philippines, as well as international advertisements for global brands like Nokia and HSBC.

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The Enriquez Family Their Recipe for Success Florence, Italy Written and photographed by Jacquiline De Vega

It is rather fascinating to hear about a family abroad with parents who diligently demonstrate to their children the importance of keeping the positive Filipino traits in daily living. A family who is aware of the identity of being a Filipino in a foreign land which shows the paragon of values, not only in words, but predominantly in their actions. The Enriquez family is from Florence, Italy. The patriarch, Eduardo, backed with his vocational course in Electronics, has been a mechanic for many years for a famous car company in Italy. Every weekend, he helps his other half, Edna, in their catering business. “No work is difficult if you work together,” they quipped. Early in the morning of a lazy weekend, they can be seen busting their hands in the kitchen, preparing and cooking for the day’s party or event. They are well known for all the good tasting foods they serve, not only their special delicious and spicy Bicol Express, which is so good that it brings them invitations from other parts of Italy. However, before the success of their catering business, Edna remembers how vital it was for them have ‘rakets’ back then. She kept busy by selling international calling cards and SIM cards, and while she was at home, she took care of her 4 children. She once joked that they practically survived because these calling cards had generated a generous income. It seemed like an impossible act, and in reality it was much harder, especially when you need to juggle your time for your 4 children. Eduardo didn’t propose any quick-fix solution at that time. He believed that they really needed to work together to create a comfortable life for their family. Entering into the catering business was difficult, but very rewarding.

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With the generous comfort they have now, they can be seldom seen parading luxury expected from them. Whenever they have free time for the whole family, they will drive somewhere using their own 9-seater car. Every year at Edna’s birthday, instead of dining out, they can be seen helping the needy. The children are just as proud of their parents. Dave is their eldest son. He has been seen as the ideal son you would want to have in your family. He recently returned to Florence from his almost 2 years stay in the US after completing his course in being a pilot. This was a dream come true for Dave. Meanwhile, his younger sister, Bernadette is in Liceo Scientifico taking up Grammar and Math. The 3rd is Ruth, the most active among the Enriquez siblings. She’s in high school and is the only one who knows karate. And the youngest is John Matthew; the clever one among them is also the noisiest. Absolute self-belief, determination, and faith in God are just a few characteristics one must possess to survive abroad, especially for a family like them. Keep in mind that it is better to stay grounded even if everybody has placed you on a higher pedestal. The solace of knowing that you have not trodden on people on your way up to survive is as good as living without fear in a foreign land.


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never thought “ Iabout tattooing as

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a ‘normal’ job.


Sugar Caraig Redefining Beauty Milan, Italy Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photographed by Paolo Villasan

Art has always been a passion for Sugar Caraig. An up-and-coming female artist, she might be young but she’s already making it big in the tattoo scene in Milan. A new tattooist who displays great artistic vision and promising talent with only a year of experience. Having the basic grasp of drawing and painting it came easy for her to build up her technical skills and easily adapted to the new demands of tattooing. Her introduction to the cultural phenomenon of tattooing is a surprise for the 20 year old artist. With Sugar’s talent came out fantastic art pieces one could not even imagine came from an amateur. She continues to practice her drawing skills and puts together an impressive portfolio of her sketches, illustrations and tattoos. After having her first born at the age of seventeen, she thought she’d be a full time mother without anything exciting to do besides enjoying motherhood and drawing. But she discovered a whole new world in tattooing. “I never thought about tattooing as a “normal” job” said Sugar. She was simply not exposed to full-on tattoo culture until she was discovered by a random guy in a cafe drinking coffee one morning. Her particular interest in art, fashion and color became useful in her new endeavor and it clicked. She had doubts like any other artists as to whether she would make it. But she continued to sail and her gumption led her to where she is now. It takes a lot of hard work and willingness to continue said Sugar. In an industry where there is resentment she remains humble, sincere and human. Having the basic grasp of drawing and painting it came easy for her to build up her technical skills and easily adapted to the new demands of tattooing. Tattooing is considered a male-dominated industry and being a female artist presents some special challenges.

own persona. Being the only Filipina tattooist in the studio where she works now, she attracts fellow Filipinos to have their skin art made there. Some kababayans feel more comfortable going under the needles and have their tattoos done by Sugar. She is able to collaborate with the client on the concept and design of the tattoo making them at ease, offering them a unique and compassionate experience. Sugar dreams of having her own studio. But she’s doing it one step at a time. With Emily Rose Murray and Kat Von D as her greatest influences, Sugar one day hopes to also have her own distinct style. Also thankful to social media she has an extra opportunity to rise and be known in both the Italian and Filipino community.

She feels lucky to be given the opportunity to be a medium of self-expression for the people who choose to receive beautifully done, personal sentimental tattoos that take time, thought, skill, and imagination to create.

Sugar made a blast to the stereotypes. She dedicates more time in honing her craft to become a better artist. She was lucky to get in the door of a reputable tattoo studio in Milan but she still has to make the effort and create her

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Marianne Leah Par The Talented Beauty Milan, Italy Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photographed by Gerald Galang

She is a singer, model, dancer, musician and hostess all rolled into one. A woman who is not only multi-talented, but also possesses the beauty that can make heads turn. At 21, Marianne already has a stable job working as a hostess in one of the most prestigious hotels in Milan. She has lived more than half of her life Italy, where the exploration of her different gifts has led her to a promising career path. Nurtured by her creativity and desire to inspire others, Marianne keeps on mastering her talents individually. Music is an integral part of Marianne’s life. It has become her means to strengthen social bonds, provide refuge from the outside world, as well as mediate her inner self. Having what it takes to fulfill her ambitions, she is driven towards becoming exceptional in everything that she does. This has given her a sense of purpose. Born in Dubai and raised in Italy, Marianne has been exposed to a mix of cultures. However, she remains a Filipino at heart. She is the daughter of Rodencio and Rose Par, and the youngest of three children. At the age of five, she lost her father. Losing her father at an early age was heartbreaking. However, the early loss of the most important man in her life made her more resilient, responsible and independent growing up. The experience gave her the ability to cherish the present moment with her mother and siblings, which has led her to live a truly rewarding life. Marianne’s mother has played a central role in her life. Her mother has pushed far and is still working towards providing for the family. Marianne is thankful, appreciative and proud of her mother for being able to raise them all by herself. A loving, stern and supportive mother, Rose Par played a big role in molding and nurturing her into the woman she is now. Currently independent, Marianne wishes to pay back her mom and return the love. Her mother took the daunting responsibility of dedicating years of hard work to give the best to her children.

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With her stunning looks, Marianne also joined a beauty contest a few years ago. This helped her to gain confi dence and improve her public speaking skills, eventually leading to hos-tings. From time to time, Marianne would have gigs and perform with other Filipino artists in the city. She calls herself an amateur singer, yet her passion to sing and play music rivals that of professionals. Soothing words bounce off her tongue and release the tension she holds within. When stressed, nothing helps her more than singing. It comes from deep within her soul, mind and heart. Marianne sums this up by saying, “When I sing, I sing with all of me. Putting everything I can into it.” Thankful for every opportunity that comes her way, she never forgets to acknowledge the people who have helped her. Guided by her personal values, she does not prioritize worldly achievements. Instead, she keeps herself grounded. Fulfilling one’s dreams is not easy.

Marianne also faces obstacles and failures that are inevitably painful. Focused on what she’s grateful for a loving family, a wonderful job, and a career. Marianne finds encouragement, happiness and love.


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Myles, Christine Alex & Christian Andrei The Strength of a Mother Milan, Italy Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photographed by Dennis Lacerna

Myles has raised her kids all by herself almost their entire life. This has been very challenging for her. Separated from her husband many years ago, she kept strong for her children. Difficult, yet rewarding, Myles has her ups and down in raising her kids. Being a single mother is very exhausting physically, mentally, and financially.

But in all her ups and downs, her kids have been her source of strength and inspiration and have given her the courage she needs to go on with her life. She always sees to it that she can fully meet the needs and wants of her kids in all aspects of their lives. Single motherhood hasn’t always been seen in a favourable light, however Myles’ story is one of faith, hope, and strength. She did not choose to become a single mother, but became one due to certain circumstances. Going through life abroad with two kids is extra hard without child support and a full time job. There were times when her children got sick and there was no one available to take care of them, so she would take time off from work. She is constantly worrying about whether or not she is raising her kids right or if they will grow up successful. It is no easy task to keep some normalcy in her children’s lives. The lack of a father figure and money problems scared her at first, but because of her sure-footedness, she was able to thrive. She kept a strong front for them, but there were moments when she felt like crumbling inside.

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Christian Andrei and Christine Alexa bring great joy and comfort to her life. Christian, who just reunited with his mother this year, fully understands their situation and enjoys a unique relationship with her. Christine, who has been doing child modeling since she was two, continues to make

Myles a proud mother. She has already participa-ted in many fashion shows and appeared in print advertisements for famous kiddie clothing lines. Christine’s runway experience has made her confident in herself and taught her the value of hard work at an early age. Being able to earn money from her shoots is a big financial help to them. Myles makes sure that Christine never loses focus on her studies even if she’s active in the business.

Being the only parent in the house is an arduous task. But Myles has accepted her role even if it means lack of personal time, a restricted social life, sole responsibility for meeting multiple needs, and financial stress without self-pity or bitterness. She considers herself the most important element in the lives of her children and focuses on being the best possible single parent by putting the needs of her children first.


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Princess & Arjay Miranda The Perfect Combination Milan, Italy Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photographed by Dennis Lacerna

Married for three years and blessed with two adorable kids Queenie Nhikol and Jacob Martin, Princess did not imagine that her life would extremely change last July 2013. A simple pretend play with her daughter made her realize that she can do make-up. She started doing makeup for Arjay’s clients. Eventually, opportunity came and she took her passion for makeup and hairstyling to a higher level. She now specializes in doing make up for glamour portraits, model portfolios, business head shots, debuts, and weddings. With no formal training in make-up artistry and hair styling, amateur expert Princess seems to know just as much, if not more, about certain products or makeup techniques like other professional make up a-rtists. Having both versatility and quality in all her make up and hair dos she already gained the trust of many clients. According to her, artistry and outstanding custo-mer service are fa-ctors she considers when she steps on the make up floor. “The pain of remaining the same is great enough so the pain of change won’t matter,” shares Arjay. Nowadays, anyone can become a photographer, but having high-end cameras won’t do the trick. It was a steep learning curve for him during his his first years as he would have to stretch his experience, credibility, and business acumen to remain in the competitive market. But with his focus and expertise Arjay, was able to establish his name and a good clientele. People may think photography is a glorified profession but for Arjay it is something that requires both artistic and technical skills.

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Capturing a perspective of peo-ple places, and things around him is no walk in the park. Purely self-taught, Arjay is as dedicated to his craft on the side to provide memories to their clients by capturing individual personality in the picture and by working closely with them to create exceptional images. No formal education is needed, but he would also like to expand his operations without growing tired of the business. He transformed

their house into a studio in order to cater to more demands without sacrifi-cing time for their children. Princess is a freelance makeup artist whose passion and precision is portrayed in her work and captured in photos by photographer husband. For the couple, make up artistry and photogra phy are not just professions, it is their passion. Princess is a freelance makeup artist whose passion and precision is portrayed in her work and captured in photos by photographer husband. For the couple, make up artistry and photography are not just professions, it is their passion. The passion for makeup allows Princess to develop innovative yet trendy styles which compliment individuals. She has an eye for detail and is dedicated to creating unique and stunning looks for each of her clients. She provides service that suits each client and this is testimony to her creativity. Talking about the unique things she does, social media has always been a helpful tool for Princess.

The unique tandem of Princess and Arjay has an enviable amount of creativity helping them monetize their skills. Practice is also a key. They never get tired to experiment and explore other possibilities. Upgrading their skills through continuous learning to become the best version of themselves.


commitment, “Their dedication and patience shines in all aspects of their work.

“

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The Gabriel Family He loved to draw and build things. He finds inspiration in almost everything museums, art gallery shows, architecture, unique shapes, different cultures, and television. Richard looks at even the most common and uninteresting things as potential sources of inspiration, motivating him to create as many fascinating art forms as possible. 40


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Art as a Way of Life Milan, Italy Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photographed by Dennis Lacerna Born in a family of politicians and businessmen in Pampanga, Richard Gabriel went against the tide. It would have been easier for him to follow his family’s footsteps, but Richard wanted to carve his own niche. He knew at a very early age what his calling was, so he took the chance and braved the odds. He has been interested in creative expression since he was a child. Richard has been married to his wife, Joice, for nineteen years now. They have three children – Jonn Richard, Viola Maria Silva and Philip Carlo Argento. With a father that is immersed in the art world, their home has been both a museum and a studio at the same time. The children grew up surrounded by Richard’s masterpieces, which led them to also pursue creative means of expression. For the children, it’s the art of dance, thus making the Gabriels a family of artists. The children also get involved in helping to finish their father’s work, especially the huge pieces. This voluntary act of support turns his shoes not only into works of art, but works of love and dedication. The art world’s demands can be unreasonable, requiring 12-16 hours of undivided attention. But his supportive wife, who is always at his side, understands this better than anybody else and is an advocate for her artist husband. Richard produces free-standing decorative shoe pieces either as single works or limited edition series. His sculptures are modern and figurative, made out of mixed media such as fiberglass, steel, paper, mosaic, textile, wood and ceramics. He adds a touch of native Filipino elements with rattan and tecla wood for some of his pieces.

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Being a versatile artist, he also makes bags and jewelries for prominent personalities. One of his clients is Countess Marta Marzotto, who fell in love with his shoe sofa. Another big shoe sculpture was customized for the Megastar, Sharon Cuneta, during her concert in Milan. He has flown as far as Moscow, Paris and Korea from invitations to showcase his sculptures. Famous fashion labels like Hermes and Blumarine have features his work in their showrooms. The name Richard Gabriel has been honored in art books, manifestos and catalogues all over Milan, making him one of the few Filipino artists to break through the competitive Italian art scene. Currently, his goal is to get his work exhibited in the permanent collection of art museums and create large sculptures for public spaces.

Living life as an artist can be unpredictable, but the satisfaction of finishing a marvelous sculpture and having it live on in various spaces is well worth it, according to Richard.


inspire a passion “ Toin many people is

what fuels him.

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Jimmy Munoz

For Love and Country Hoofddorp, The Netherlands Written and photographed by Patrick Camara Ropeta

Nearly 800,000 thousand Filipinos live in Europe, and over 20,000 of whom can be found in The Netherlands. It is easy to spot Filipinos these days, living and working in Dutch towns and cities from Rotterdam to Amsterdam, making their own mark as they slowly become more visible in society. But this journey started many years ago, when pioneers like Jimmy Munoz set foot in the country back in the 1970s, whose generation built foundations for a united community. It was almost by accident that Jimmy ended up in Europe. He came to The Netherlands to visit his sister who was working as a nurse, intending to stay for only three weeks. But something else happened. “It was the start of a love story,” he joked. “I was staying with my sister when some people came and invited us to see their friends at a hospital. It was there I met my wife. She was a nurse and working in the operating room. I was supposed to go back to the Philippines. I had a trading company, but I surrendered it in exchange for love.” Jimmy came from a traditional family in Batangas, who later moved to Quezon Province. His father was a farmer who simply wanted to keep the family intact within the agricultural sector. “I don’t like the field,” he revealed. “I want to do transactions with people.” He went to the bright lights of the capital city, Manila, to pursue his curiosities beyond the farm. He studied business at Philippine School of Business Administration and Philippine Maritime Institute. After graduating, he worked for a company for only eight months but felt he needed to do something more.

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“I had the entrepreneurial spirit, I felt a need to get in contact with people so I started my own business.” His life was already on the right track in the Philippines, which pleased his parents, until he fell in love miles away from home. “It was a crucial decision. I promised my parents to continue the business but I felt it was time to do my own thing and interests, for my own personal development. I had to do it for myself, to be independent,” he thought. “It was not an easy decision. I had a girlfriend at the time in

Toronto, but I had to do what I felt at the time. I don’t feel any regret doing it.” Jimmy stayed in The Netherlands and married the woman he fell in-love with. But choosing love over his business came with a price. “When you travel, you can’t be selective. You have to get what is available, and the things you want will come later on,” he said, talking about his initial job prospects abroad. “I still want to do business, but it’s not so easy here, especially at the start. You have to know the language and the mentality of the people, and you cannot do it one click.” He worked at a supermarket and logistics company for nearly a year. He eventually found a job with Royal Dutch Airlines KLM in 1979, and he has been with the company ever since. “I had to work in an airline so I can travel,” he told himself at the time. “Otherwise I would have gone home and stuck with the business. But now I can go to the Philippines any time I want.” After he settled, the ambitious young Jimmy turned his attention towards the Filipino community. “It was a challenge at the start. Filipinos are a small group, so it wasn’t even considered as a ‘community.’ It wasn’t discrimination, but the Dutch just didn’t know about us. There were more Moroccans and Turkish here. We felt left out and not even recognised.” The community was sparse and unorganised back then, and most people didn’t even have the time or inclination to get involved in events, let alone socialise. “There was no contact at that time, no community. It was only in 1988 when the first organisation was formed,” he recalled.


when the first organisation was formed,” he recalled. But the group, Dutch Filipino Association, didn’t last long. “There was no sustainability, no accountability, so it went down and it wasn’t successful. Other organisations came in after, from Rotterdam to Amsterdam, but it didn’t work.” Eventually, one became sustainable, United Filipino Dutch Association (UFDA). Jimmy was the group’s president from 1991 to 1992. “It wasn’t easy,” he confessed. “Nobody had time but we had to make time. We had to convince them to go to the parties and events. But with strong determination it happened, and it’s still alive.” Why did he persevere? “I’m proud to be Filipino. And I want Filipinos to be seen, to be recognised. If they can do it, the other communities, we can do it also,” he said with passion. Since the 1980s, several Filipino organisations sprung up across the country, posing a new sprung up across the country, posing a new set of challenges for leaders and the community. “They are not coordinating. They don’t want to be integrated with each other. It also has something to do with a regional gap when many Filipinos come from different regions in the Philippines,” Jimmy explained. “That’s something we didn’t tolerate with UFDA. Whether you came from Cebu or Batangas, we are one. Be a Filipino. Do not segregate yourself with regional identities. We have to move on as one identity, as Filipinos.” In 2009, Jimmy co-founded an organisation that seems to have united most of the community - Kalayaan Fiesta Foundation in Netherlands (KFFN), responsible for the largest Filipino gathering in the country, the annual Independence Day Picnic, which involves dif ferent groups and is supported by the Philippine Embassy.

“This is our legacy, and it’s working,” he said with pride. “The foundations should have sustainability and accountability. It should be transferred to other capable new leaders. The youth is the future of these organisations. They must work with the seniors and learn. They have to continue the job for a long time.” Now 61, the community leader is eager to pass on the torch to a new generation of Filipinos who are making their own way into Dutch society, including his own son, Jason, who is now involved with KFFN together with his peers. “It just so happens he’s my son, but he has his own identity and his own aspirations. I say why not, provided he goes with the bylaws. I don’t have to explain it to him because he knows that better than me,” Jimmy said. “I’m very proud because he recognises my tradition with being a Filipino. He can carry on and mix it with his European knowledge and mentality. We’re Filipino at heart but with Westernised way of thinking.”

Jimmy lives in Hoofddorp, near Amsterdam, with his wife, Tess. They have four children. An active leader in the Filipino community, he has been instrumental in the formation and management of various organisations, inclu-ding the Filipino Catholic Community. He is currently the chairman of Sunlight Foundation, a charitable organisation helping vulnerable communities in the Philippines. He also continues his work with Royal Dutch Airlines KLM and is looking forward to his retirement in a few years.

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Jason Munoz A New Breed Bremen, Germany

Written and photographed by Patrick Camara Ropeta

Jason is among a new breed of Filipinos in Europe, a new generation straddling between two cultures that together offers a unique perspective on the world around them. A privileged position that enables him and his peers to continue the legacy of the generation that came before. Born and raised in a “small village” in The Netherlands, Jason is following in the footsteps of his father, Jimmy, a leader in the local Filipino community who helped establish and manage various organisations. Over a year ago, Jason started getting more involved with Kalayaan Fiesta Foundation in Netherlands (KFFN), cofounded by his father, which organises the largest Filipino gathering in the country. “The first time I attended the meetings, my dad’s generation were still on the top shelf of the organisation, and we were doing small jobs. Then he asked me to join them at one of the meetings with the local authorities,” he recalled. “I saw that there were difficulties in communicating. I saw t immediately because I understood both sides. Then there was all the paperwork to make sure everything is

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covered. And computers and the first generations sometimes don’t mix,” he joked. Jason and his peers, other second-generation Filipinos born in Europe, are taking on more responsibilities in the lead, but the previous ones are always there for assistance of course.” What’s it like to take the torch and continue the legacy? ““When you’re sitting at the lower positions, sometimes you cannot see what the mind is doing. And now I see it. It’s a big responsibility. I like it because the first generation can now


relax, and if we want to continue this whole organisation, it’s a must to pass it on to generations. And now we’re also trying to get the third generation involved,” he remarked. “There are a lot of Filipinos now in The Netherlands, and celebrating Independence Day together with fellow Filipinos, your blood identity, should be available to them. It’s important for us for that to continue.” But it’s not always easy to organise in such a big scale. “It really takes a lot of time and you don’t get paid, so it’s a lot of sacrifice from yourself. It was all new for me last year and now we know, but there are still a lot of work to be done.” Their hard work, however, serves as inspiration to other people in the community. “If you want something to be done, you should do it by yourself. And people can also see that and might be inspired to do something themselves. People have come up to me with their children and praised what we do, so I would like to be a good example for other generations.” Beyond the community, Jason is also building his own life. He is currently based in Germany where he works in the aeronautics industry, coincidentally like his father, who works for an airline company. “I don’t really know much about the types of airplanes, but I love how it works,” he said. Jason visits The Netherlands at least once a month to see his family and attend to his duties for KFFN. Yet despite the similarities he shares with his father, he is also keen to pursue his own path. “I’m trying to find myself, thinking about what I want to do. I’m trying to set up a business, and I want to be a little more in the creative field,” he revealed. He initially worked for an engineering company but eventually “got bored” and lost interest. He went to exhibitions and spoke to designers in search of the creativeness that was missing from his job. He then decided to quit after only two years and started studying again. “It was really nice, because the projects were interesting,” he recalled. He studied Architectural Engineering between 2008 and 2011, and he remembers taking classes in furnitures and product design, which could now lead him to a new direction. “For me it’s all new and it’s just the beginning,” he admitted. Now in his early 30s, Jason values the opportunities available to him in Europe. “There was a really important moment in my life when I was 16 and we arrived in the Philippines to go to my lola’s house. Just to the left I saw a basketball court, and I love basketball, so I brought my new Nikes and I went to play. But everyone else I played with was wearing slippers,” he shared. “If I was born in the Philippines, I realised I’ll probably be one of them. I don’t know them too well but I know where they’re from, and I know that my opportunities here in Europe are very different to theirs. In The Netherlands, you can probably go this way or that way. But in that area where my parents were from, it’s only one way. There are some who are the exceptions, of course, but the majority will end up in the same

way. There are more possibilities for us here - things are more organised, you can get a good education, you can travel, do whatever you want.” Raised in Hoofddorp, near Amsterdam, his family lived an almost idyllic life in an area with a relatively small population and low crime rate compared to larger cities. They had a good, calm and quiet life. “I feel lucky. Everyone born in The Netherlands or in Europe who have all these possibilities are actually very lucky. Sometimes I look at other guys who are doing nothing with their lives and are based here, I’m like, ‘Dude, you better give your life to someone else.’ Because it’s such a waste,” he declared. Europe who have all these possibilities are actually very lucky. Sometimes I look at other guys who are doing nothing with their lives and are based here, I’m like, ‘Dude, you better give your life to someone else.’ Because it’s such a waste,” he declared. “But I’m not blaming them, because everyone has their own life and rhythm, maybe it’s not their fault, because some environments even here in The Netherlands are not good. So it also depends on where and how you’re raised.” And how does he feel about his own upbringing? “I feel both Filipino and Dutch. At home we were raised Filipino, and my dad always told me that even though we’re here, we still have a Filipino community and we spend a lot of time with them. We have Christmas parties and carols, picnics, and other activities, so you see the bond in this community. The Filipino culture is there, and it’s really warm, different from the Dutch mentality. For example, when I used to go to friends’ house, I have to leave around 6pm because they’ll have their dinner. But with Filipinos, if you want to eat just join us.” He then recites an advice from his father that stuck with him: “You have to get the good things from the Filipino culture, and the good things from the Dutch culture, and put it together and try to mix something.”

Jason lives in Bremen, Germany, where he works as a design engineer in the aeronautics sector. He recently became treasurer for Kalayaan Fiesta Foundation in Netherlands (KFFN), which organises the annual Phi-lippine Independence Day Picnic. He also plans to move towards the creative industry, hoping to run his own business in furniture and product design.

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Chiqui Diokno We Are Family London, UK

Written and photographed by Patrick Camara Ropeta

Life abroad can be tough, and everyone has to cope in their own way. Many knuckle down at work while others find comfort in the Filipino community. And then there are some, like Chiqui, who build an alternative family of their own, creating a lasting legacy along the way.

Born and raised in Laguna, Chiqui is the third eldest with four brothers and three sisters. In his early 20s, when many of his siblings were still at school, he took on the responsibility of financially supporting the whole family when his elder brothers got married. “I had to stand up up and become the main breadwinner,” he said. After studying at Far Eastern University and working as a nurse at Perpetual Help Hospital, Chiqui aimed his sights abroad and ended up in Saudi Arabia. “I thought about every morsel I ate and saved what I could for my family. Sometimes I wanted to buy nice things and branded clothes, but I stopped myself because I would rather they all have something to eat. And I saved for their education.” Five years later, he found himself in Israel, where he worked as a care giver. There he noticed a growing Filipino community, but felt something missing. “It was boring. They’re just gossiping and doing nothing. So I thought of giving them something they will never forget.” The popular variety act Paper Dolls was born 48

after, a group of gay Filipinos who performed in outrageous drag. “I gathered them and spoke to them personally. It was actually hard to convince them to do it. I had to please them first and everyone had their work. We started at birthdays and weddings in the Filipino community. And they loved it.” The group became known for energetic numbers complete with powerful vocals, catchy anthems, dance routines and elaborate costumes that became their trademark. The local Israeli community started to pay attention. “They thought we were ‘real’ performers. They didn’t know we were care givers,” he confessed. Nevertheless, the project gained momentum. They started getting paid for gigs and people started noticing them. Fame and glory also came knocking when Israeli filmmaker Tomer Heymann made a documentary about the group, which later gained praises and awards from international film festivals. “I feel happy and honoured to help fellow Filipinos there, by giving them a chance to laugh. And for Fili pino gays to be united like a family. Before I did this


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they were scattered all over the place and I felt like they were not accepted as a group. The Paper Dolls gave us a chance to prove ourselves.” His younger brother Jojo was also part of the group, who moved to Israel with Chiqui’s help and guidance. “It was my mother’s wish,” he revealed. “He got into the wrong crowd in the Philippines. And because he’s my brother I wanted to help him. ” The brothers belong to different generations. With over a decade between them, they grew up in different times with different circles. When Chiqui left to work abroad, Jojo was only ente-ring his early teens. Their time together in Israel was an opportunity to bond, but the fun didn’t last long. Tensions began when Jojo started a relationship with a young Israeli boy, which Chiqui disapproved. “His boyfriend was beating him up and it upset me a lot. He’s my brother so I didn’t want that to happen to him. It really hurts me,” he said. “My friends told me to leave him alone, and eventually I had to to protect my own health. I was al ways there for him when he needed me, because he’s

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my brother and I can’t just ignore him. But the same things happened again and again. I got fed up. He’s very hard-headed. I did my part with him, and I don’t think I can do any more.” With the ongoing conflict with his brother weighing on his mind, Chiqui decided to leave Israel. And something else also bothered him. “There was civil war and I got scared. They bombed buses and streets. It’s become normal for people there,” he recalled. “I didn’t feel safe. You don’t know where there’ll be trouble. I remember near my home a bomb exploded, just one block away from my house. And that evening, we had a show so I didn’t know what to do. But there is a saying that the show must go on.” The show did go on for a while, until a new opportunity changed everything once again. “I was planning to go back home to the Philippines, but I read at a newspaper that the UK is recruiting care givers. I decided to apply and luckily I was accepted.” It was a quick process and he moved to England within a month. It was the chance of a lifetime that promised better pay, better working conditions and a better life, but Chiqui wasn’t able to


enjoy it immediately. “ “I felt very sad. I felt guilty. I thought I was being selfish because I had to leave the rest of the Paper Dolls in Israel. But I told myself I will help them after I try it out in the UK,” he shared. “I was like a parent and a big sister to them. We had a special bond. We helped each other. I will never forget them for the rest of my life. We’re so far away from our families, so I wanted to be a mother, a brother, a sister, a father. I didn’t want them to feel sad or lonely.” Chiqui stuck to his promise. After only a year, he helped three of his bandmates move to the UK, including his brother Jojo. But the tension between the brothers continued, after Chiqui discovered his younger brother moved to London with his violent boyfriend. It was the last straw and they have barely spoken to each other since. “When I had an operation, he didn’t even visit me,” said Chiqui, referring to a recent back problem which is still being treated. “I felt bad about that. People were asking me where he is but I couldn’t say anything. I was waiting for him but he didn’t come”. But what if his brother does turn up at his doorstep one day? “I don’t know. It’s hard to say. It’s easy to say sorry, and I’ve always accepted his apologies, but he always does the same things. I can’t tell any more if he’s being sincere,” he confessed.

it was time for me to take care of me. It’s my time. I’m not getting any younger, and I just want to be happy, to travel and experience everything I’ve always wanted but wasn’t able to do.”

Chiqui is based in London, where he works as a nurse for Royal Free Hospital. Best known as the founder of drag act Paper Dolls, their story has been the subject of a critically acclaimed documentary of the same name. A stage musical based on the film, written by Philip Himberg, also debuted earlier this year at Tricycle Theatre in London. With his legacy secure and his familial responsibilities fulfilled, Chiqui is now hoping to enjoy life and find peace for himself and his brother Jojo.

“If he really wants to change, I’m here with open arms. I just want him to work hard and learn to save money for himself, and to be careful with boys. He needs to look after himself and make better choices. I don’t think I can feel the same way about him again, but he’s still my brother. I just think I’m getting too old, and I want to enjoy life.” Now in his late 40s, Chiqui has already paid his dues. Working hard for over two decades, he was able to put his siblings through college who are now all professionals in their own right. And true to his ethos, he also used his money wisely on investments, including a condominium in Mandaluyong City due to be completed later this year. “I’m done with my responsibilities. Most of my family are now settled. And when my parents died, I thought 51


Joel Medina Paving The Way London, UK

Written and photographed by Patrick Camara Ropeta

Being different is not always easy, but it can be a lucky charm in the right hands. Joel knew this all along and turned his sexuality from a source of shame into a positive driving force that served him well throughout the years. Originally from San Pedro, Laguna, the 38-year-old moved to the UK over a decade ago and is the founder and current president of Filipino LGBT UK, a non-profit group based in London which aims to support LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights in Britain and beyond. It also acts as a representation for the growing Filipino LGBT community in the country, alongside their British and European partners. Originally from San Pedro, Laguna, the 38-yearold moved to the UK over a decade ago and is the founder and current president of Filipino LGBT UK, a non-profit group based in London which aims to support LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights in Britain and beyond. It also acts as a representation for the growing Filipino LGBT community in the country, alongside their British and European partners. “We established the group because every time we see London Gay Pride, there isn’t a representative for Filipinos. When World Pride came to London in 2011, that’s when it clicked in my head. We need representation,” he said, speaking from the very same pub in Primrose Hill where the group was formally formed. “We want to share the freedom we have in the UK. We’re accepted here and we contribute to society. We want to be an inspiration to other Filipinos in the Philippines to stand up for their rights and to excel in whatever they do.” Joel knew he was gay from the very tender age of five, and his experience growing up from the motherland planted the seeds for his passion in the LGBT

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movement. “When I was growing up, people labelled me as a ‘burden’ and some even told me I’m like the ‘cancer of society’ just because I’m gay,” he recalled. “I was bullied at school, by neighbours, and even within my own family. They couldn’t accept the way I am, so I was beaten up. People told me to ‘be a real man.’ But I already knew that I’m gay.” He believes the rights and social status of LGBTs in the Philippines need to improve, where most gays like him are dismissed easily and stereotyped into stock characters like comedians and beauticians. And, from his experience, even belittled as “useless” men. “I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” he said. “I don’t want gay children to grow up being bullied, and I know it still happens, especially in the Philippines. The advocacies of our group is my contribution to the gay movement. We must fight for our rights.” Since forming the group, he has inspired fellow Filipinos across Europe to start similar initiatives, including Spain, Norway and The Netherlands. Their efforts at World Pride 2011, which gained con-


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derable exposure in Philippine and British press, also reached the LGBT community in the Philippines, who are now developing their own activities. “We’ve been invited to attend gay pride parades in many places like Oslo and Amsterdam , but I told there to form their own local groups. I want to inspire them to stand for their rights and to do it themselves,” he enthused. “We feel blessed being in London. We feel like we can do a lot of things. We’re respected because many of us are professionals and we are known for being decent and hard-working. We’re happy that we’re here and we can enjoy the life we’ve been given. And we want the same thing for other Filipinos.” But it hasn’t always been easy, even in a supposedly liberal country like the UK. He may have felt accepted as a homosexual, but Joel experienced other forms of discrimination. “It was hard at the beginning,” he admitted. “For example, I spoke American English just like many Filipinos, but unfortunately it’s very different from British English, so some of my colleagues didn’t like it and they decided I can’t speak English. They were horrible and they gave me the worst shifts possible. But luckily I was able to leave that job and find something better eventual. He continued working hard nevertheless, moving from a nursing home to the Royal Free Hospital in London where he gained further training and experience. And after several years of hard graft, he is now proud to have a stable career as charge nurse for a reputable medical facility in central London. “My main goal was to go abroad and support the family. And I also love to travel. But when I graduated in 1997, no one was hiring because there were so many nurses already. I felt discouraged,” he recalled. Joel studied nursing in the Philippines and worked at St Lukes Medical Centre for three years. He initially sent applications to major hospitals in Manila after university, but waited for nearly a year to hear back from them. He eventually received three separate offers and chose St Lukes for its solid reputation, not only in the Philippines but also abroad. He eventually received three separateoffers and chose St Lukes for its solid reputation, not only in the Philippines but also abroad. Joel studied nursing in the Philippines and worked at St Lukes Medical Centre for three years. He initially sent applications to major hospitals in

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Manila after university, but waited for nearly a year to hear back from them. He eventually received three separate offers and chose St Lukes for its solid reputation, not only in the Philippines but also abroad. It’s particularly appealing to international recruiters, whom he wanted to impress. With patience and dedication, he finally managed to come to the UK in 2000 and became the main breadwinner for his family. “I became the favourite son and the respect changed,” he said in jest. “But that wasn’t part of the plan. The only plan was to go to the UK, work hard and support my family.” Joel is the second eldest child with two brothers and three sisters. With his work abroad, he was able to send his younger siblings to school all the way up to college. They are now forging their own careers in finance, IT, engineering, media and nursing. “My father died in 1997 when I just graduated from college. My mother had a shop but it wasn’t enough to support us all. I told my mum to be patient, because one day I’ll be able to support her and the family,” he recalled. “In the end, whenever I go home, they are so happy to see me because they respect me for what I’ve done. My mother was relieved by the support I gave to my brothers and sisters.” And he also inspired the extended family, some 30 cousins from both parental sides, who are all looking to emulate his achievements. Furthermore, he believes his success in life changed the views of his own family when it comes to LGBTs. “They regard me as the most successful member of the family,” he said. “They didn’t accept me before, but I showed them that being gay is not a hindrance to your dreams. It shouldn’t stop you from going to wherever you want to go, in achieving whatever you want to achieve. Being gay is what made me who I am now, with the help of skills and attitude.” He plans to continue supporting gay rights through his group in London. As part of a cohesive community, he hopes to create a platform for Philippine culture, from endorsing Filipino creativity to promoting tourism through various activities, as well as encouraging his peers to get more involved in charity work. hopes to create a platform for Philippine culture,


want to inspire “ Ithem to stand for their rights and to do it themselves.

from endorsing Filipino creativity to promoting tourism through various activities, as well as encouraging his peers to get more involved in charity work. “We’re lucky to be here so we must share it to those less fortunate. We should be one with each other. We have a common denominator and that’s being a Filipino,” he concluded.

Joel lives in London with his British partner, Ross, whom he has been with for eight years. He founded Filipino LGBT UK in 2011, the first group of its kind, which now has over 200 members in Britain. He works as a nursing team leader at a private chemotherapy unit located in the prestigious Harley Street, known worldwide for its excellent medical services.

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Benford Fortuna Reaping the Rewards Rome, Italy Written by Jacke De Vega Photographed by Bushe Dela Cuesta

One of my reasons to close down my business and set aside my Veterinary Medicine degree to seek for a greener pasture here in Rome was due to the financial/economic distress that the Philippines has been battling for quite some years now.

When my ailing father learned that his son was doing domestic works, he would cry over the phone and plead for me to come home. It was very painful to hear him like that, however, even if my father offered me his meager money from his pension just to go back home, but I decided to stay. Three years after I left the Philippines, my father died from prostate cancer. My desire to go home was very high but being undocumented, I coldly accepted the fact that it was practical to stay here and thrive for my permesso di soggiorno (permit to stay). Ever had the experience where you felt belittled because of going abroad and make a living here when you can earn a decent wage in the Philippines? I unfortunately experienced that, both from some of my friends, relatives and from myself. The battle with myself was much stronger than anything else. I surpassed my personal struggles and eventually, it has been my foundation to dream more and not to be contented of my present state of work because I know that I could stretch my capabilities and know my limits. I missed my family so much that I almost gave up my life here in Rome. All through this struggle, I remained faithful to the Man above. He provided people to help me overcome loneliness like the Karilagan Choir Group but most of all, Abraham Brook who has become my mentor and confidant.

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All of this helped me eternally to focus on the bigger picture of my goal. Armed with a dream to put up a business, Diego, my business partner and I decided to put a restaurant business. Without a formal business plan, we encountered problems especially a capital that will be used in the business. We went from town to town in search of a bank and fortunately, we found one – a shining beacon of hope! – But it was enough. All of this was remedied in a short period of time, and by July, we opened up a Sarap Food restaurant. At first, we ventured it was a fast food ventured on create-your-own salad and burger but now we serve mostly Filipino foods, like Halo-Halo, Taho, Palabok and much more. We still have a long way to run with the business. This is also self-contentment in my part as I was able to prove my capability and got to pursue my goal. Surpassing all personal struggles above all, may this set as an example to the Pinoys that you must not be contented of where you are right now. Pinoys are innately intelligent and have this inner talent. There’s nothing wrong of being a domestic helper but stretching your capability will get you to where you really want to be..

The battle with myself was much stronger than anything else.

Leaving the comfort of my hometown, I flew to Italy. After three months, my visa expired. Without enough money to provide for myself, and no knowledge in the Italian language, I have decided to take the path of what most Pinoys have taken here in Italy – to be a domestic helper.


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Eva Macadangdang Searching For Filipino Beauty London, UK Written and photographed by Patrick Camara Ropeta

Beauty pageants are national treasures in the Philippines. Filipinos have been hooked on its glitz and glamour ever since Gloria Diaz won the nation’s first ever crown in 1969. And the passion just keeps burning not only in the motherland but also in the diaspora that continues to grow worldwide. In the UK, Eva Macadangdang was the first one to carry the torch for pageants, when she spotted an opportunity to launch the first ever Filipino beauty contest in Britain way back in the 1970s. Eva found herself in Gloucestershire, England, in 1973, a long way from home in Badoc, Ilocos Norte. She moved to the UK with her husband, Martin, originally from Isabella, and like many Filipinos, they were seeking a better life for the family they left behind in the Philippines.

don and Philippine Airlines, who gave away a trip to the Philippines through its Mabuhay Class. The pageant has been growing ever since. “At that time we didn’t even have barrio fiestas or anything like that, so this was the main thing in the community,” she claimed.

“I was a teacher way back but the salary wasn’t enough. We can hardly make both ends meet. So we tried to apply for a job in London, and thank God we were accepted,” she recalled. Living in a strange land far away from home, Eva and her husband actively sought out fellow Filipinos for comfort and companionship. A year later, in 1974, she helped establish one of the first ever organised community groups in the country, the Filipino Association in the United Kingdom (FAUK).

“We wanted to discover talents, to develop personalities and to know their educational background because most of the contestants back then were professionals, even though some came in the UK as domestic workers.” And it didn’t take long to convince young Filipinas to join. “It was easy to recruit. And they actually enjoy it. It gave them an opportunity to go back to the Philippines as an ambassador of goodwill,” she explained, referring to the charitable aspect of the contest.

The group was primarily organising social trips for its members, particularly during celebrations for the annual Philippine Independence Day, but a chance encounter with an embassy official sparked an idea that has lasted for decades. “I was speaking to an attache at the Philippine Embassy and he asked why we don’t have a beauty pageant here when there are so many beautiful Filipinos. At that time, Evangeline Pascual just won first runner up at Miss World 1973, and that’s how it all started,” she explained. Miss Philippines UK was eventually launched in 1977, supported by the Philippine Embassy in Lon-

Some contestants have gone on to bigger and better things, including: model Lalaine Edson who represented the Philippines at Miss World 1999; musician Myleene Klass who is now a well-known TV personality; and actress Rachel Grant who has since appeared on films, television shows and commercials. In 1993, when Miss Philippines UK was already well-established, Eva and her team launched Mr Philippines UK for young Filipino men. “We launched this after several boys encouraged us to do it when they saw the excitement and activities around the Miss Philippines UK event. They wanted to be included, so we tried it.”

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But Eva admits it hasn’t been easy getting boys to sign up. “The number of male contestants average at only six to eight boys each year, compared to over a dozen for the female counterpart. Maybe because they are shy,” she pondered.

She is now a “lady of leisure” in London while helping look after their growing family, which now includes eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. But she still remembers a time when she didn’t even see her family because she needed to work abroad.

Nevertheless, both pageants are making an impact on new generations of British Filipinos who attend the coronation night in droves from all over the country. “They like it. They get very excited when we tell them what we’ll do. And we give away more prices now, from hotel packages to trips to Boracay and other beaches through generous sponsors.”

“The only setback was we had to leave the kids behind at the beginning. It was hard, it was sad, and we cried a lot,” she revealed.

This year’s winners, Kalullah Dixon and Jules Chan, are set to visit the Philippines in March 2014 where they will be met by the Department of Tourism. They will stay at Heritage Hotel and Dusit Hotel in Metro Manila, followed by a trip to a beach resort in either Boracay or Palawan. They will also do some charity work for victims of recent calamities. “It’s important that they know their roots. And it’s good to have Filipino pageants outside the Philippines because there are so many Filipinos around the world”. But what does it take to be a role model for Filipinos? “Their traits and values should be Filipino, like using ‘po’ in conversation, and speaking or understanding the national language Tagalog. They should be respectful, friendly and honest.” She added: “We want to continue the pageant for a long time, especially for the young Filipinos. Instead of loitering and doing whatever, we want them to be involved in something productive.” Now 70 years old, Eva started to pass the torch to a new generation including her youngest son, Marlowe, who is now heavily involved with the pageant. She believes her family has been an important factor in her success. “I have a happy family, and that’s firstly because of my husband. He is a good provider and a good father.” Together with her husband Martin, with whom she’s been married for 50 years this year, they built a stable life for their family through sheer hard work. Despite being professionals in the Philippines, they endured various jobs in the UK from domestic work for a wealthy family in the countryside, to catering at a hospital in the capital. Eva also trained and worked as a part-time nurse through a care agency, and later as a consultant for a travel agency until her retirement a few years ago.

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She later got pregnant in the UK with her youngest child, and the other three children eventually joined them after a few years apart. The distance, however, took its toll. “They didn’t like us at first because they grew up without us. And they didn’t connect with Marlowe immediately because they haven’t met each other until that time. But in time we were also able to get their grandmother who looked after them in the Philippines, and our family became close ever since. They now understand why we left.” Beyond family and work commitments, Eva is also an active leader in the Filipino community and is regularly seen at events throughout the year. She has previously helped establish other projects including barrio fiestas and the first Ilokano association in the UK. And she has no intention of stopping just yet - she plans to get back to work by running as a councillor at the next local government elections in London. “Filipinos don’t have enough representation in UK government, I only know of one. So I’m doing this for young generations, because I want to inspire them to take an interest in politics and run for public office. I even encouraged my own children to do it, but none of them can commit to it,” she said. “We need to participate and voice our concerns in the British public. We are always in the corner. Sometimes we want to say something but no one hears because be don’t have proper representatives. If someone breaks through, then our community will have a voice.”

Eva lives in London with her family. She is the founder and producer of the annual Mr and Miss Philippines UK, the longest-running Filipino beauty pageant in Britain. It is now organised by her organisation, MPUK Ltd, a registered charity donating proceeds to various causes in the Philippines.


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Lieza dela Paz Starting Over London, UK Written and photographed by Patrick Camara Ropeta Lieza is standing at a crossroads. Not so long ago, her life was shattered when her husband of nearly eight years left the family home and ended their marriage. It was a shock which left her confused and bewildered, but with two children to take care of, she had no choice but to stay strong and keep going.

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“Despite being recently separated from my husband, things are as good as it can be. Bit stressful but it’s going ok so I can’t complain,” she said calmly, sitting in an empty office in central London where she works part-time as a finance administrator. “At first it was hard because I didn’t know where I stood. I was left in limbo.I didn’t know what was happening. He eventually came to see me around August, and he decided after a long think that it’s best if we broke it off.” Her husband, who is a year older and of Filipino-Italian descent, left the family in May 2013, asking for time to

“think.” After spending the summer apart, he later revealed through a private Facebook message that he is now in a new relationship. “I kind of had a hunch, as women do, with the defensiveness, always going out, and I found a few pictures of an unknown lady I wasn’t familiar with. I never really asked him. I was waiting for him to tell me,” said Lieza, who was born and bred in London with Filipino parents. “I feel free. I’ve never been happier. The last few years that we’ve been married, I have been thinking ‘Is this it?’ I kept gong for the sake of the kids in the hope that he would change,


or our relationship would change. And because of the marriage vow I stuck with it. I don’t know what my future holds, but I’m very excited.” The couple grew apart in the past two years due to irreconcilable differences on attitudes, lifestyles and parenting. “We didn’t see eye to eye in some things. We were clashing. He knows what I wanted from a husband and a dad, but you know,” she paused, with an expression of disappointment. The couple had been together for over a decade and had known each other since early teens through mutual friends. Things were good at the start, but cracks appeared when they lived together and had their first child in their mid-20s. “He didn’t take any responsibility. It didn’t hit him fast enough that he was a dad. The going out didn’t stop, leaving me at home,” she recalled. “I just got tired of always telling him to do stuff. And he was tired of me moaning. I haven’t been a parent before also, so it’s all a learning curve. I don’t know if it was the mother’s instinct that told me what to do, but he should also have taken responsibility like I did.” The couple eventually stopped talking to each other after regular bursts of arguments. “In the end we just both got tired,” she thought. “But I don’t say it’s his fault entirely or mine. In every relationship, it takes two to make one, and it takes two to break one. I could have supported him more I suppose, because he said to me once that he felt like he couldn’t talk to me or I wouldn’t listen. So maybe I could have. But I think it’s just because I was so tired.” In retrospect, she also believes they are fundamentally different people with very different upbrin-gings despite having similar backgrounds. “Maybe I was a bit much as well. Maybe he needs to find someone who will do everything for him like his mother. Or maybe someone who is as laid back as him who doesn’t care about tidying up the house and things like that. I’m not that person,” she pondered. “I was brought up differently. My dad does the cooking and my mum does the cleaning. They have shared responsibilities all the time. When I was with my husband, I expected the same and not have to do everything. I think that’s why we clashed.” Lieza’s parents remain instrumental in her life as they help her on the road to recovery. “Thank God my parents were here because they helped with childcare, like picking kids up from school. If they didn’t I wouldn’t have known what to do,” she admitted. “They didn’t expect my husband to do that. Everyone was shocked. We had the perfect life: house, car, kids, everything. What went wrong? But just because you have the materialistic things, it’s not necessarily enough. I gave him everything.” Her parents, first generation Filipino immigrants from Pangasinan and Marikina, supported the young family financially, from helping with wedding costs to a house deposit, and even a loan for a car. “We both came from council flats. But even though my par ents were just working in retail,

they were just good at saving. My mum is fantastic when it comes to money,” she said. “I remember growing up that mum and dad would have two jobs, during the day and then at night. My dad would be working at a casino until 3am and my mum would work part-time because of me, until my nan came over. And I just remember living in a council flat until the age of 14, when the government offered a grant for residents to leave. My parents took it and bought a house in east London.” But they didn’t always see eye to eye. “I hid quite a lot from my parents growing up. Maybe because of me growing up in the church and there are lots of ‘do not do this and that.’ And I think because they were overprotective about me, which isn’t always a bad thing, but I ended up being a little bit more rebellious. Luckily I didn’t do anything that bad,” she explained. “Because of that I wasn’t close to them at all. It was only after Leo and Jake that I started to get closer to the, because they wanted to spend time with the grandkids, and I go to them for advice on what to do with the kids.” The British Filipina discovered a better connection with her parents through her life experiences as an adult, with her own children bridging the gap between the generations. “I don’t think they could have brought me up better than they have. They showed me how to respect, how to love, how to take care of myself,” she said fondly. “I never would have known that I’d be this close to my parents again, but it’s good. We understand each other more on different levels. I know now why they did and said what they did - because I needed it for me to survive.” With the recent upheaval in her life, the 33-year-old is for now focused on raising her children in the best possible way she knows. “I just want the best for them. I would let them be who they want to be, and support them on whatever they want to do. And I want them to always be honest with me, even though it seems hard,” she remarked. “I don’t want to lose that closeness with them. I want them to feel like they could come to me with anything, if they have any problems when they’re older especially in their teens. I have a lot of that to look forward to.”

Lieza lives in London with her two children: Leonardo, 6, and Jake, 3. She works as a part-time finance manager for the Federation of London Local Dental Committees since 2009. She holds a Diploma in Interior Design and a GNVQ in Business and Administration. Currently in the process of having a divorce, she is considering her options in both the UK and the Philippines, where she hopes to start over and run her own creative business in the future. 63


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Melanesie Endaya Young Professional Milan, Italy Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photographed by Paolo Villasan

An overwhelming sense of contentment and well-being shines from a girl who was once crippled by self-doubt and quivered self-loathing. At 24, she has accomplished a lot of things from being a beauty titlist, a tv personality and a young professional. At an early age she has achieved success and continue to make her parents proud. She challenged herself into becoming a better person reaching her full potential. Unique as her name, Melanesie’s lifestyle, principles and perspective propelled her to a path full of goals and desires. Her attributes, thoughts, feelings, attitude, behavior and coping mechanism made her who she is now. When Melanesie’s parents needed to work abroad, she was left in Batangas under the care of her grandparents. Growing up she did well in school. According to her no matter how hard it is, education will help you be a productive member in society. What you choose to do now really will impact or worse, determine the course of your life to come. She strived for excellence and got good grades. Melanesie went to Milan to reunite with her family five years ago. With the transition, she had to jump from one university to another. On September 2011 she graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Science in Business AdministrationMajor in Management. While still looking for a job she entered a pageant with so much more involved than she ever knew about. A competition she thought was one dimensional placed a weight on personality, values and skills. Sharing her true self, Melanesie aced the question and answer and confidently uttered before the audience,

“The biggest thing that I did for this pageant is convincing myself because as I remember yesterday, I was the boyish one. But now, I can say that I’m here facing all of you with all pride that I can do everything that others do. And I can superiorize what they can do”.

Shortly thereafter she was chosen to be part of a television show Quelli che il Calcio with the famous host Victoria Cabello. Working full time has come as quite the shock to Melanesie. When she’s just finished college and now doing the eight hour work stretch. Some say that she has peaked already holding a managerial position for a famous clothing brand. But the feeling of newness is there and she still considers herself at the bottom of the career pile. She took it as a challenge and did not let her youth and inexperiance from smarting any less. Hierarchy is amplified because she has only started out and like a fish out of the water everything and everyone was unfamiliar. With her skills she learned the ropes of the job. On top of all the serious life stuff, simple little things matter to her. Hanging out with friends, shirts and sneakers, sweets, and time with her family. She is always up for new experiences and having fun. At the first half of her twenties she’s learned to stretch those pennies instead of splurging on material things. Gearing hersel to work hard everyday Melanesie never stops to dream and do something beyond she already mastered.

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Jamima Fagta Balageo Fighting for Change London, UK Written and photographed by PATRICK CAMARA ROPETA

Jamima’s life was turned upside down from an early age. Her innocence taken away too soon, she descended into a vicious cycle of self-pity, poor choices and bad luck. Life seemed at a loss. But more often than not, it is the very same tribulations that push us to become greater than ourselves. She was only 19 when Jamima moved to the UK in 2000 after several “dark years” in the Philippines. “It was a struggle since childhood,” she described. Born and raised in Baguio, Jamima grew up with relatives when her parents separated and both left to work abroad. Her mother went to Dubai while her father worked in Korea. “It was a shock for us,” she recalls, adding she was only nine at the time.

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The eldest of three siblings, she had little choice but to live with relatives, one of whom changed her life forever. “I was sexually abused by my uncle,” she reveals, adding she was only 11 when it began. “It’s only now that I’m beginning to understand what happened to me, when I started to see a psychiatrist recently.” The abuse lasted for several years during her most crucial formative years as a teen, leaving her feeling “insecure”


and “disturbed” until adulthood. She was only 19 when Jamima moved to the UK in 2000 after several “dark years” in the Philippines. “It was a struggle since childhood,” she described. Born and raised in Baguio, Jamima grew up with relatives when her parents separated and both left to work abroad. Her mother went to Dubai while her father worked in Korea. “It was a shock for us,” she recalls, adding she was only nine at the time. The eldest of three siblings, she had little choice but to live with relatives, one of whom changed her life forever. “I was sexually abused by my uncle,” she reveals, adding she was only 11 when it began. “It’s only now that I’m beginning to understand what happened to me, when I started to see a psychiatrist recently.” The abuse lasted for several years during her most crucial formative years as a teen, leaving her feeling “insecure” and “disturbed” until adulthood. “People at school were talking about virginity but I couldn’t say anything,” she recalls. “Things were happening to me inside our house which was completely secret.” Unable to make sense of it all and with no one to turn to, her inner turmoil led into a downward spiral from the age of 14, pushing her to leave the family home. “I didn’t want to live in that house anymore. I got away. I went to live in the streets with other children. It was a little community of people who are being neglected. Children who people say have nothing to offer in this world.” She also developed an eating disorder and, on several occasions, attempted to take her own life. It was all getting out of control and she hit rock bottom soon enough. “I didn’t know it at the time,” she admits. “For me, I was just growing up like that.” Her mother, who eventually moved to the UK, became increasingly concerned and wanted to “take her out of there” as soon as possible. But having taken her independence prematurely made Jamima determined to make it out on her own, and so she refused any help at that point. “My mum was always there. I didn’t always know it but she has been there for me. I I was very rebellious against her.” Eventually she managed to get herself into Singapore, where she stayed for a year working as a shop assistant, hotel staff, and domestic worker. But she “still felt lost” and consequently found herself back in the Philippines. After a few months, however, she found her way to England with a tourist visa and was reunited with her mother. “I only started talking about the abuse when I got to the UK. I was quite empowered. I saw that there are many cases worse than mine. They’ve been shattered.” But her woes didn’t end there just yet. Violating her tourist visa, she decided to stay in the UK and joined the invisible population of undocumented migrants, risking it all again to escape the harsh realities of her life back home. She carried on unnoticed for two years, until she was caught and arrested during a raid at her house which, coincidentally, she was sharing with a flatmate who had a similar immigration status. Furthermore, British officials found a stack of fake passports in her flat, which unbeknownst to Jamima belonged to her then boyfriend who turned out to be an illegal recruiter of workers from the Philippines.

And just like that, she was charged with fraud and sentenced with 24 months, serving a year in prison and the rest under probation. Her boyfriend, who was away at the time, got away with it. Inside prison, the trauma of her experiences caught up with her once again, culminating into a few suicide attempts. “I felt self-pity, and I thought that after all this I have nothing else to offer,” she remembers. But prison also had its benefits, if one can call it that. She was, at least, able to work on her immigration status. Time inside allowed her the ability to study her case and avail of the library and information at the disposal of inmates. “I taught myself about human rights and things like that. I read about cases and realised that mine was very similar.” Armed with knowledge and steely determination, she fought for her case with the help of charity organisation Women in Prison, clai-ming refuge in the UK on the grounds that she doesn’t have a decent life in the Philippines and was even potentially in danger due to her past. She won her case in 2005 and was granted refugee status, which enabled her to remain in the UK indefinitely. “It meant a lot because I felt secured. But there were parts of my life that still needed work, like not having good relationships with the opposite sex. It’s now more personal. I also want to be economically stable.” It hasn’t been easy, she admits. It took her over seven years to feel like her life was finally back together. And now, at 32, she seems to be on the right track at last. She even found a stable relationship with a man she loves, whom she married in February. Her experiences also enlightened her on the plight of vulnerable people in society, leading her into activism and charity work which she continues to pursue to this day. In particular, she fights for the role of women in society and the rights of vulnerable migrants in the UK, protecting new generations of Filipinos against abuse and exploitation. “It’s an effort of a whole community, not only by one or two people,” she declares with passion. “The only way to change things is to keep fighting. I’ve seen my parents and their generation give it all they can to our generation, but it was such a struggle for them. I want that to be different. We need to help people who struggle in society. They are not all the same, but they are all oppressed.” And she hasn’t forgotten her native country either. “The Philippines as a whole is an oppressed country,” she observes. “I hope people see that and take action. And consider the people and stories that lead into those actions. If you look back at history all the way to Andres Bonifacio, change was brought about by good activism. I hope people understand that.”

Jamima lives in London with her husband, Emilio. A graduate of international politics and sociology from East London University, she is an active leader of registered charity Kanlungan, an alliance of organisations working together for the welfare and interests of the Filipino community in Britain. An avid activist, she can often be seen supporting protests against all forms of oppression. She also speaks publicly on the plight of migrant communities. 67


JJ Formento A Journey of Self-Discovery London, UK Written and photographed by PATRICK CAMARA ROPETA

JJ has lived more lives than most people will in a lifetime. Moving to Europe as a young adult from North America via Southeast Asia, he is the kind of person who has been there and done that. And all in pursuit of a dream he once had, a passion that led him to a path of self-discovery. Born in the United States to Filipino parents in the 1960s, he lived a nomadic life since childhood due to his father’s career in the US Navy, and later out of choice or necessity. He was a toddler in San Diego, a child in Manila, and a teen in San Francisco. “I came to Europe because I love dance,” he says. “I had a strong passion to become a professional and I love musical theatre, that’s what I really wanted to do.” He studied theatre, arts and music at San Jose State Uni versity, where he threw himself on student and amateur stage productions to hone his craft. But with just a year before graduating, at the age of 20, he made a decision that started a roller coaster ride across the globe. “I got a scholarship to study at the prestigious Central School of Ballet in London. It was a one-off opportunity and I really wanted to do it.” His family was supportive but had reservations: Is he ready? How will he cope? Is it the right time? But after careful persuasion, JJ eventually managed to get himself to London the following year with some financial support from this father. “I started my training and that was a good time for me. I was quite brash. I was quite confident in myself. I think I was almost overconfident, just thinking I’m an American and I could come over here and take the opportunities that come my way and make the most of it,” he reveals. But things were not as “rosy” as he first thought. By the time he was in third year, he struggled to keep up with finances and was desperately eager to start working in theatre. And just like that, at the age 23, he dropped out of university again and quickly bagged himself some professional work - first with “Samson and Delilah” at Royal Opera House, and later with “Miss Saigon” at Drury Lane Theatre. It was a dream coming true for the young performer, although things were not as they seemed. There was the matter of his status: he was an American on a student visa which meant he was not allowed to work full-time in the UK.

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He got a “wake up call” soon enough when the British government discovered his illegal situation and sent him packing back to the US shortly after a visit to the Philippines. “I felt shocked. I knew deep in my heart that I couldn’t work, but I just thought maybe it wouldn’t be a problem. Maybe it would resolve itself. I was too young to think of the right things to do,” he confessed. While living with one of his five siblings, he plotted his way back into London. He worked “odd jobs” to save money for six months, which enabled him to fly into Germany where he auditioned for dance companies for two whole months. His attempts were mostly unsuccessful, however, until a company in Ireland invited him in just at the nick of time. He was in Dublin a few days later to join Dance Theatre Ireland, where he was supposed to stay for only three weeks. But his stint lasted for a decade. “I did the bulk of my dance work with them, in performance, teaching and choreography. We toured Europe and we did a lot of festivals. I really learned my trade there. It was a good time and I grew with them.” In the process he acquired Irish citizenship, which meant he was free to work in the European Union without any restrictions, including the UK. And the opportunity came soon enough through a touring production of the “The King and I” which lasted for a year. It seemed like a breakthrough, but instead it became his last foray in professional theatre. “It thought it was going to be my foot back in the West End, which is where I wanted to get to. But at the end of that whole year I just had a meltdown. I remember getting really tired at the end of that year and thought I can’t do this any more. I can’t dance any more. Something inside my heart just died.” At 36, with his dream seemingly within reach, he walked away from everything. “My personal life wasn’t together,” he remembers vividly.


“Nothing was right. I was so focused in my dream but I wasn’t looking at the full picture, so my personal life really wasn’t that important to me.” Behind the scenes, while he moved around and fought for his place in Europe for over a decade, JJ was in a relationship with a man whom he met as a student in London. “I was just in love with him. He was my big love. He stuck me through all those years, even though I had to leave the UK. We’d always see each other somehow.” It was a long distance relationship that eventually took it’s toll. “There was a gap that have grown between me and him. So while I was touring, I could feel that that relationship was coming to an end.” His passion for performance faded with his persona life, abruptly ending his career on stage. “There was something about hunger for fame that I think was inside me, but I didn’t know what it was. That was my pursuit to become famous,” he ponders. “The reality of it is very different from what people think they’re getting into. A lot of things unravel over time, personal things, and there’s a lot of growth that happens throughout that process.” He sought refuge in the US once more where he stayed for a few months before returning to London yet again, this time working as an administration staff for the National Health Service (NHS). And two years later, in 2006, he decided to visit Ajos in the Philippines where his family originated. “I was partly trying to figure out who I am: where I come from, what’s the purpose of my life?” It was meant to be a short “pilgrimage” but he ended up staying in the village for nearly three years. He volunteered as a teacher at the local high school and started a choir for the local chapel. He also planted

“It was quite romantic for me. I wanted to go back to basics. That’s what I needed. There was a great sense of discovery of myself, appreciation of my family and where I have come from. They really loved me and I felt safe.” seeds for his charity project which would eventually become Ajos Trust. After a while, JJ was eventually ready to start his life again. He moved to Manila to study geography at the University of the Philippines, but soon found himself back in London. And after some headaches with a property investment he had with his sisters, he was eventually back on his feet building a new life for himself in a city he has always loved. A “breakthrough” came through in 2011 when he met Thomas, now his fiance, an Irish technology engineer based in Oxford. He also returned to the NHS and focused his energy on paying off his debts which accumulated over the years. He also started going to church to find peace and purpose through faith. Perhaps more significantly, he found a new passion in helping other people through his work with Ajos Trust, the small project he established while living in the village. “It’s part of who I am. It’s part of who my grandfather was.” Ajos was the village where his maternal grandfather, Jose, settled to start an agricultural business. He later became a pillar of the community after donating land for a local school and chapel. “Those two institutions are at the heart of like that’s what I should be focused on. I have to give back to the

that village. And I feel community. It’s a really important value that’s instilled from my family.” In retrospect, going to Europe was all about “breaking frontiers” in much the same way his grandfather settled in Ajos for greener pasteur, or similarly when his father joined the US Navy without knowing where it could lead. JJ was unknowingly following this blueprint of exploration when he moved to the UK to seek his own fortune, braving a strange land to carve a life he wanted for himself. And now, at 46, what has he discovered from the great unknown? “I’m honest with myself now. I’ve learned that I can’t cut corners. And my love for dance, my passion for theatre, I think that’s coming back slowly,” he declares with optimism. “What’s important is to know what previous generations stood for, and that’s a constant discovery. There is no blanket statement to define that. It’s an important question to ask: Who are you? What are your values? You don’t necessarily get the answers, but it’s asking the question that’s important. Through digging at these questions we can find our humanity.”

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Jules Chan Boy on a Mission Coventry, UK Written and photographed by PATRICK CAMARA ROPETA

A little confidence goes a long way and Jules has plenty. Whether acting on stage, strutting on a catwalk or posing for photographs, the 17-year-old exudes a decidedly selfassured demeanour that almost defies his age. And behind the unflinching focus and self-belief is a young man on a mission to prove himself all the way to stardom. Jules is Mr Philippines UK 2013, the latest string on his bow after intense competition through modelling, dancing and the dreaded question-and-answer portion. The young student impressed both the judges and crowd which led him to take the title at a lively ceremony in London. “I feel very honoured, as if God has given me this gift. It gives me more opportunities, and it allows me to use my name for good. I felt like I’ve always had a responsibility to represent Filipinos, to make sure we stand out in the UK,” he said. “Life is a competition and I feel like proving at a young age I can achieve such things. I want to carry on inspiring young

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people . I have already inspired a few in Coventry to join Mr Philippines UK next year. It also had a great effect in school because some students look up to me now, and I just give them advice and stuff like that.” The future seems bright for the young Filipino, who is currently juggling secondary school with his love for performance. But life hasn’t always been like this. Born in the Philippines, Jules moved to England at the age of five with his parents: Ben, a hotel staff, and Maria, a nurse. “It’s quite tough at the start,” he said. “When I moved here from the Philippines it was a completely different lifestyle. “I


people. I have already inspired a few in Coventry to join Mr Philippines UK next year. It also had a great effect in school because some students look up to me now, and I just give them advice and stuff like that.” The future seems bright for the young Filipino, who is currently juggling secondary school with his love for performance. But life hasn’t always been like this. Born in the Philippines, Jules moved to England at the age of five with his parents: Ben, a hotel staff, and Maria, a nurse. “It’s quite tough at the start,” he said. “When I moved here from the Philippines it was a completely different lifestyle. I kept speaking Tagalog and I thought the British could understand me because I thought it was all one language. I had to learn English, and very quickly actually, about a year.” He also had to change some bad habits he picked up as a child. “I was quite troublesome when I was in school. I lived in quite a rough area of Manila. It was really rough so when we moved over here life was completely different,” he recalled. “I would get into a lot of fights here because that’s what it was like in the Philippines. I thought I was playing and everyone was like ‘what are you doing?’ And I was playing, but they did it back to me. I also had to deal with racism sometimes, but everyone does. I’ve completely changed now, though I still have a bit of that in me. You know, it’s not going to go away.” The experience of emigrating also had a more rewarding effect in his personality. “I had to adapt so quickly, I had to make so many different friends, that’s why I think I’m quite sociable. That’s where I get my confidence from. It’s not because of arrogance, it’s because I love life. This life is completely different to what it was back there. And it’s alright. I stand out because I’m a Filipino. And hopefully like these days I don’t have to deal with as much racism.” At secondary school, Jules started to turn things around for the better. He became productive and got busy with different activities including the cadet force, american football, dance school, and basketball. He also found performance art, now his main passion and driving force. “I love singing on my own, that just kind of loosens you up. And I definitely love acting, because I convert that energy into something else. You forget about yourself, you forget about everything else and you’re in a completely different world,” he explained. “I used to walk or get a bus to primary school, and I used to watch people: see how they walk, how they move, how they express themselves. And I used to try to copy it on my own. And little did I know that’s called method acting, so I was method acting at a young age.” However, his newly-found calling already claimed its sacrifices even at this very early stage of his career. “I lost a lot of friends,” he revealed. “I did my first proper show at secondary school called Little Shop of Horrors. My friends were not into it to begin with, because most of them were footballers and typical lads, so it’s basically taboo. I was

being unorthodox and it was a big step at the time. But I auditioned anyway.” But despite his determination, he admitted the road to stardom can be lonely. “Sometimes I feel alone in chasing this dream. But there is good and bad - you win some, you lose some. And those friends that I’ve lost, they clearly don’t care. So I’d prefer to surround myself with people who do care and so that’s what caused me to mature at such a young age sort of thing.” His own family, including three brothers and a sister, are among those who still care. His parents, he claims, are a major source of motivation. “My parents are very supportive. They don’t push me. They don’t at all. My mum is so humble, and my dad gives me words of wisdom sometimes, like ‘make the most of your life, do the stuff you can.’ They support me through love. That’s the support I want really. I don’t want anything else,” he pondered. “I end up pursuing these dreams because I reflect on their lives. There is not a day that goes by when my mum doesn’t talk about financial stress. It’s really upsetting. And I’m always saying to them that ‘I will give you money one day.’ I’ve always said to my mum that ‘I will do this for you, that I will achieve this.’” Soon the ambitious young man will be a step closer to his dreams as he auditions for drama schools in London where he hopes to hone his craft, following in the footsteps of British screen idols like Ewan McGregor and Orlando Bloom. And he is doing it not only for himself and his family, but also for other people who might gain insight from his journey. “I’m not the smartest person on earth. Some people used to call me stupid. So by performing or doing sports and other things, and being at good at it, could inspire others and make them think they could also do it,” he declared. “That’s how I want to inspire people: by making them believe in themselves. You don’t always have to be the best, the best of the best. You don’t always have to beat the best. Just be the best you can be. That’s what I believe in.”

Jules lives in Coventry where he is finishing his ALevels in Drama, English Literature, and Performing Arts. He recently won the title of Mr Philippines UK 2013 and is set to visit the motherland in 2014 for both leisure and charity work. An aspiring actor, he is currently rehearsing a part in a new play called Pronoun for Belgrade Theatre at Warwick Arts Centre as part of National Theatre’s Connections Festival in 2014. 71


Sarah Fiocco Moving to the Beat of Life Milan, Italy Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photographed by Dennis Lacerna

Dancing is her life. When she hears the music, it leads her to the movement of the beat. It helps her express her creativity. She feels empowered on the dance floor. Dance is hard as much as it is enjoyable. The long hard hours, the pain, sweat, and tears are all a part of it. But Sarah believes there is no better feeling than coming out off the stage and knowing she left her heart out there. When she dances it’s like she is the only one on earth with the music and her imagination. She can fly, jump, turn and do things no one else can. She can be extraordinary. Born on February 22, 1987 in S. Agata di Militello, Sicily, she

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traveled a lot when she was a child between Sicily and Pavia. Sarah grew up mostly in Pavia, a small city by the Ticino River. Her Italian father owns and curates an Art Gallery. Her loving mother nurtured her and established her strong and deep Filipino roots. Being half Filipino allows her to thrive and persevere through it all. This part of her, according to Sarah, is where her talent comes from. She gives much importance to


her parentage. If given the chance, she would love visit her mother’s hometown and learn more of it’s culture and history. She knew she had the moves and the makings of a dancer when she was six. Whether Tap, Hip Hop, Contemporary, or just freestyle, Sarah dances really smoothly like her body flows to the music. Being a member of a dance group, she is content to share the same passion with friends who also express their feelings of joy, success, depression, and happiness through dancing. With her crew, she learned other dance styles and was able to perform for events in different cities. Sarah drives from Pavia to Milano just to attend practice. Ever since she joined the Yonip Dance Company, she has been a valuable member who selflessly shares her knowledge from body alignment, posture and techniques. A chance she never had growing up, she had always wanted to have more Filipino friends during her teenage years. Every practice session is a learning experience for Sarah. Now she gets to know not only new moves, but she also gets to learn more about the Filipino community. She would love to put up her own dance studio one day and be able to be an inspiration to

to people who consider dancing as a career and not just child’s play. A true lover of dance, she wants to instill the next generation a sense of self-confidence and discipline that will make them different from others. Belief that they can enter a million universes just by dancing. They can fly, teleport, travel in the most fantastic ways nobody can see or understand.

“I’m not even close to being a ‘great’ dancer, but I love what I do, so much that I would like to make people love what I do too. Putting energy and passion into my talent, however it may be expressed, fulfills me and amazes me on how far my devotion for my craft can take me. Everyone has some talents in their blood. There are a lot of better dancers than I am, but I realized that all of us have some unique skills that sets us apart from each other. I never compete with them, I am happy with myself,”.

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You’ve got to take from other people’s experiences and learn from what goes on.


Jaynee Rising Star London, UK

Written and photographed by Patrick Camara Ropeta

Making it in showbusiness requires more than just talent. Luck has a lot to do with it, and so does hard work, determination, and attitude. Soulful diva Jaynee has all that and more, backed by a family with its own personal history of creativity. But perhaps more importantly, even at this early stage of her career, the young musician is quickly learning how to be shrewd in a tough industry full of broken promises and shattered dreams. Her fascination with music started early on at the age of four, after her parents bought a karaoke machine for Christmas. “I was singing that song,” she paused to recall, “I Wanna ”.Dance With Somebody by Whitney Houston and since then I just loved it. She started mastering her craft soon after which continued for several years. At seven years old, she began weekend classes at the Sylvia Young Theatre School, known for producing the likes of Amy Winehouse and Emma Bunton from the Spice Girls. She then moved on to The Brit School, an arts high school with stellar alumni including Adele and Jessie J. Finally, she studied music and business at the London College of Music and Media, learning all aspects of music from performance and writing, to business and teaching. “It’s quite a competitive industry,” she explains. “So they train you to know all areas so when you meet”. People in production or business, you have the knowledge to deal with it. Her hard work at school is paying off. The combination of talent and training has already made her into an accomplished musician in her own right. She can, for instance, play several instruments including piano, guitar and the violin. She writes songs and can produce records herself. And most of all, she can really sing. “My main instrument is my voice,” she admits. She is slowly making waves in the music business, releasing her own material and collaborating with other artists, some of which already received airplay. She also performs regularly, with some of her live sessions posted on YouTube, delivering rousing renditions of her own songs and charttopping hits From a young age I’ve just always loved it. When I get on stage, I’m like a different person.“ It’s like I have an alter ego. People who know me separately from stage always say ‘Is that you?” Off stage, Jaynee is very private and likes to “keep herself to herself”, but on it she becomes an entirely different person - a young diva with soul and edge.

“When I’m on stage I get a buzz, an adrenalin. I turn into my mum,” she laughs. “When people meet me and my mum, people think we’re different. But when I’m on stage, people get it. I’m definitely my mum’s daughter.” Music and creativity runs in the family. Her mother, Jovy, has been a performer for many years and is still pursuing acting to this day. Her dad, Mike, plays the drum and can also sing. Her brother, Robert, is a DJ, and her maternal grandfather is a violinist. Back in the Philippines, where her mother comes from, many of her relatives are also into music. “The last time I was in the Philippines, we all had a jam session. They play the piano, percussions, and everyone was singing. Some were good at guitar and bass, everyone was just jamming.” What’s it like to have a musical legacy in the family? “It makes it easy, and it’s really uplifting as well to think that I’m doing stuff that my family has always been involved in. It’s where I need to be.” And that place is showbusiness, but not just about music. She is also an actress and commercial model, with credits that include an advert for Adidas, a music video for The Wanted, and a poster campaign for a university. She has also been a dancer since childhood, starting with a children’s group organised by her mother which performed native Filipino dance at events. The community and Filipino pride means a lot, especially with promoting the culture. “Being mixed, it means a lot to me to promote both cultures. That’s why I’ve always enjoyed Filipino dancing.” Born and raised in London to a Scottish father from the Highlands and a Filipina mother from Baguio, the rising star embraces her mixed heritage whole-heartedly. She is a true Brit with a Filipino heart. “I’ve been to both places, and what’s funny is that where my dad is from, it’s .very similar to where my mum is from. It’s like you’re almost in the same place,” she observes. The image and profile of Filipinos in the UK are improving, but there is still a long way to go. And it is up to new generations like Jaynee to ensure its presence in wider

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British society. “Some people, when I told them I’m Filipino, don’t know where the Philippines is,” she reveals. “Some even think it’s like China. I still get asked if I’m Chinese or Japanese because I have that kind of look, which can be frustrating because I have my own identity. That’s why I like to make sure everyone knows where I’m from.” She admits to knowing only basic Tagalog, “konti lang” she says, adding she is eager to write songs in the national language. She is, in fact, collaborating with a cousin from Baguio on a new track just like that. “Even though I may not understand what I’m saying completely, I try my best. And I try to learn more Filipino songs.” She describes her music as “soul commercial pop” rooted from artists she remembers growing up. “I always loved that kind of singing, the soulfulness of listening to it and the message of those songs. I grew up listening to Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Monica. My parents like that kind of stuff, and my brother as well with music from the 90s.”And how does she feel about this legacy from her family? “I hope I make them proud. It means a lot, and I’m always thinking of my parents, my family, and I hope they like what I do.” In-between auditions, singing, writing and producing, Jaynee is also sharing her love of music to younger generations. She teaches music at a girl’s school where she runs a glee club, and she also advices aspiring performers on all aspects of the industry. “It’s very rewarding,” she reveals. “I like to teach them things I might not have learnt at that“ age. From a young age you learn how to sing and dance, but what a lot of young people don’t get is the business side of it. They’re not really taught

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about the politics involved in the industry. So I like to make sure they’re aware of that It is a lesson she is learning first hand. “ Now in her 20s, she is becoming shrewd about the ways of the industry, particularly when it comes to developing ideas. “People like to say it’s true life stories but sometimes it’s not just about that,” she declares. “You’ve got to take from other people’s experiences and learn from what goes on. Also from a business mind, when I write songs I like to think of stuff that happened to someone else that I could relate to. What songs people listen to, and what I know can relate to the music.”

Jaynee is a musician based in London. Working mostly on soul and R&B, she is currently collaborating with a producer on a new genre called ‘deep house.’ Her most recent tracks, “Turn The Lights Down Low” and “Don’t Kill My Vibe” with Frank Silver, have been getting some airplay and positive feedback from music sharing site SoundCloud. She is also working on some new material for a producer in Los Angeles, which could potentially end up in anmalbum of a global recording artist.


Jovy Mina Burns Different Hats London, UK

Written and photographed by Patrick Camara Ropeta

Time moves fast. And often we find ourselves wearing different hats just to keep up, a sort of juggling act that Jovy Mina Burns is keen to master in her own life as a proud parent, grandmother, wife, nurse and performer. Born and raised in Baguio with parents from La Union, Jovy came to the UK in 1975 as a nursing student. She was supposed to stay only for a few years but ended up settling in the country to build a new life for herself. “I didn’t want to come,” she admits, “but when my mom and dad died I wanted to do something else. Back home I was very taciturn. I kept myself to myself. I just locked myself in the room. I felt so lonely and very sentimental about it.” Her life in the Philippines was shadowed by grief and struggle from a very early stage. At age five her father passed away, leaving her mother to provide for the family through her work in the clothing sector. Just a few years later, while a young Jovy was still in elementary school, her mother had a heart attack which left her paralysed for the rest of life. “Imagine seeing your mother like that? She was a very active woman but after that she was a different person. That took so much out of me. It affected me,” she confessed. “And everything changed. The business went. And so we had to think of ways to support our studies. We looked after ourselves.” The couple left behind 17 children, though many of them died over the years leaving only six standing to this day. Those who survived had to support themselves, and many of them succeeded. Some ended up in academia as teachers, others entered the medical field as nurses, while the rest did other things like charity work. Jovy herself managed to complete her education all the way to college at St Louis University, eventually settlingon a career in nursing. “I wanted to be a doctor, but because of the death of my par

“I wanted to be a doctor, but because of the death of my parents and personal traumas in my family, I shifted to nursing just to come to the UK.” Her mother passed away when she was in high school. Losing both her parents while relatively young had a profound impact on her, an experience that urged her to move as far away as possible from her “sad life.” “My family didn’t know what I was doing but I took a test in Manila. And I told myself that if I passed one those exams, I’ll go abroad. So when they told me I passed, that was it for me. I had to go.” She found herself in England soon enough, where she studied nursing for a couple years before starting work professionally in 1977. Slowly but surely, she built a new life and even started her own family. She has now been married for 38 years with two grown up children. She also became a grandmother. It would seem her resilience and determination saved her from the early tragedies in her life. “Life is a gift. I don’t want to dwell too much on anything that happened in the past,” she declares. But something else kept her going all these years, a passion that remains to this day. “I really love anything creative and artistic. When people ask to sing or dance, I go for it. I don’t care of if it’s even impromptu. There were a lot of extracurricular activities in school and I didn’t want to miss out on those.” Her love of performance also started early on at school, where she got involved in many activities, from singing with the glee club to dancing folk dance at fiestas. She even entered oratorical contests and often won. She was supported by her siblings, and even by her mother whowas paralysed during most of her school years.

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“She was a good dressmaker and she used to sew my tutu in one hand. They know I love dancing. They’re all very supportive. We work so hard. It’s a struggle but we help each other.” Her knack for creativity also runs in the family. “My father’s side was artistic, and my mum loved singing,” she reveals, adding that many of her relatives are into performance and music, particularly singing and playing instruments like guitar and violin. Some even made it professionally, including musical theatre actor Julius Mina, who previously performed with Lea Salonga, and rockstar Tito Mina, best known for his OPM hit “Ikaw Pa Rin” and the Manila Sound movement of the 1970s and 80s. Jovy’s own children have inherited this family legacy. Her eldest, Robert, is a DJ, while daughter Jaynee is a rising musician. And with her mother hat on, she supports both of her children as they pursue their interests, nurturing their talents in the best way she knows how. She also took an active role in their lives, even at school where she got involved with parents and teachers associations. “I like being with the kids and doing all that stuff. I’ve always been in that environment where family solidarity is important. So I was raising funds for their school and organising different activities like school discos and charity events.” Jaynee, in particular, showed interest in performing from an early age. And spotting her daughter’s talent, Jovy sent her at the age of seven to Sylvia Young Theatre School, known across Britain for its training of aspiring young performers. She also taught her how to dance as part of her very own children’s group called Kaliningan, which later become

part of Lahing Kayumanggi Dance Company, the most established Filipino folk dance group in Europe. “I’m very proud. Life is a gift, and you create your own future. If you’ve got it, and you’ve got the belief that you really can do it with the right frame of mind, and if you know exactly what you want in life, you aim for that.” But she also warns parents against pushing their children towards the wrong path. “I don’t believe in pushing people on something if they’re not cut out for it. Like when parents want their children to be lawyers or doctors, but if their heart or mind is not in it, they will fail as bad lawyers or doctors.” What about her own path? Has she found the life she wanted when she left the Philippines all those years ago? “Life has its ups and downs. But I’m a fighter. Losing your parents is the biggest blow to your face. They were very loving parents. But I am applying all the faculties I have learnt and experienced, you put them all together,” she reflects. “I am happy. I have my children and family, and I’m doingmy own thing. Happiness is the way you see things. It’s an attitude, a way of thinking.”

Jovy lives in London with her husband, Mike, and their two children, Robert and Jaynee. A nurse by trade, she continues to pursue her first love of performing. She was recently signed to a number of casting agencies and has since appeared as a featured artist on several films, television shows and advertisements. She has also been active with various events in the Filipino community in England. 79


Elmer Clemente A Helping Hand Pisa, Italy Written and photographed by Jaquiline de vega

The sudden decision to fly to Italy was his wisest decision yet at that time. Elmer Clemente was a happy-go-lucky teenager. He shifted college courses, enrolled in different schools, and wasted his time hanging out with his friends.

One day, his parents made a bargain with him. They gave him a certain amount of money and made him choose what would he do with it. ‘Anak, dito nakasalalay ang kinabukasan mo. Pumunta ka ng Italy o magnegosyo ka gamit ang perang ito.’ It was an ultimatum, and he chose to leave for Italy with a promise to himself to stay there for 5 years and return as a better man. Years later, he returned to the Philippines. When Elmer left his town in Bulacan, there was no high school. But when he returned in 2007, he noticed what was new around the place: the high school, the church, and the children running around the place. But what caught his attention the most was not the underfed children and slum-crowding in a distance. It was the beggars, which were non-existent before in their town. His heart went out to these poor people. He could see the hunger and misery in them and sympathized with them. So he asked people within his network if there was a nearby DSWD in their town. He asked his friends, his former classmates, and his relatives: “How can we help these beggars?” Unfortunately, they only responded with ‘Why would you help them? Why don’t you just help your relatives?’

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In January 2011, when he returned to his hometown again, he saw the same situation. There was no improvement. This time around, he gathered his for

mer classmates and friends and tried to persuade them to act and help. No matter how good his intentions were, his friends still tried to talk him out of it since they believed that the local government would not easily support his cause. He did not give up though. It wasn’t until his return in June of the same year was he able to convince them to pursue their plan. An NGO was formed and they eventually registered it in the SEC under the name of TAMPCI or “The Amazing Movement For People’s Care.” It has not been easy to run the organization, especially since he is stationed abroad. But he knows it is also attributed as a factor as to why their organization is still going strong. They have been able to get sponsors from places like Visayas, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, and of course in Italy. They were able to send donations –in cash and in kind – for different events and activities, like a feeding program when the typhoons Pedring and Pablo struck the Philippines and the Dumagat tribe. There are also times when the donations came right out of his own pockets. Arguments with his wife were common when this happened, however she still remained by his side the whole time and started to really understand him. Seeing how far a helping hand can go, even from


bearing the phrase ‘Hero of the Year.’

But right now, he has his newest trophy to show off. The unexpected arrival of his grandson into his fa-mily made him promise to himself to fulfill whatever he feels he had not fulfilled to his children.

tutulong ka, kailan pa? “Kung Now na! Wala nang ibang dahilan kung gusto tumulong.. wala nang excuse.

abroad, it was still unthinkable to many that a small gesture of kindness can go places in the Philippines. Elmer believes strongly in his words: ‘Kung tutulong ka, kailan pa? Now na! Wala nang ibang dahilan kung gusto tumulong... wala nang excuse.’ (If you’re going to help, when? Now! There are no excuses if you really want to help.) These words are what he always says to others also. Elmer is satisfied that he can extend his help in his own little ways for this NGO. In fact, this is just an extension for his kababayan. Elmer is also a prominent person among the Filipino communities in Pisa and Firenze wherein he became a point person whenever somebody needs help. With all of this taking much of his time, Elmer still strives to be a good father to his children in the truest sense. He admits that at times, it looked like his family came second to the needy people. Despite of his paternal mismanagement, his family still support and love him; his wife is always patient and his well-mannered children have learned to be generous to the less fortunate. They will always joke around with him that at the end of the day they will award him with a plaque

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Rachel and Albert Magdia When Albert laid his eyes on Rachel, he knew she would be his wife. And as he looked at her, fair-skinned and demure, he discovered a part of himself he never thought he had. A part of him that’s been missing all along, and now he found her. But before the happy ending that would eventually come, the odds seemed against them right from the start.

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Love Against The Odds Hoofddorp, The Netherlands Written and photographed by Patrick Camara Ropeta Rachel was born in the Philippines and raised in The Netherlands, where her parents settled as migrant workers from the 1970s. The daughter of a seaman and a nurse, she grew up with two siblings in a conservative and strict Catholic household, and eventually finished college with a tourism degree. Albert, on the other hand, was born and raised in the Philippines. The son of a housewife and a textile entrepreneur, he grew up almost as an only child until his little sister came along years later. A graduate of medical technology with a background in marketing, he spent years as a young adult simply enjoying life with the financial support of his parents. This two very different worlds collided in the late 1990s when Albert visited Holland to see an aunt, who happens to be a friend of Rachel’s family. And their very first meeting, then in their 20s, sealed the fate of their union. “You can say it’s love at first sight,” says Albert. “I had girlfriends at the time but I had no intention to settle yet, but when I met her I thought she could be that missing part of me.” And as for Rachel, “It wasn’t love at first sight,” she jokes. “But he was persistent, and he didn’t let me go.” And his determination won over not only Rachel, but also her parents, particularly her father, who is known for his strict approach to parenting. “If there’s a will, there’s a way,” Albert teases. “I wasn’t scared at all. But I knew her father was strict. It was like a challenge but it wasn’t a problem. The first time I asked her out on a date, I asked her dad first. Rachel didn’t believe me, but he actually said yes. I still don’t know why,” he laughs. With the parents’ approval, the couple started dating despite their different backgrounds. And they quickly found common ground in their faith. “Always remember God,” Albert shares. “Because we come from a Christian nation, and from that we can always love and respect other people.” “We have our own challenges everyday but with my faith in God we overcome the worst of it. I try at least,” adds Rachel, who converted from Catholicism to Born Again Christianity after meeting her life partner. “When he was courting me, he invited me to attend a Born.

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Again ministry. I didn’t want to come at first because I was Catholic. But when I came to the church with him, I felt my true faith in God.” Naturally, they also found a connection from their Filinos pino roots, with both of their families hailing from Batangas. Coincidentally, Albert also shares the same name, birthday and even shoe size with Rachel’s father, which she denies doing on purpose. Nevertheless, it must have helped her father accept Albert as a viable suitor. “I’m lucky because I speak Filipino, even though baluktot,” Rachel admits. “When I met Albert my Tagalog was really Dutch-Tagalog. Now it’s better. But it wasn’t that difficult to relate to him because my father raised me as a Filipina girl, not as a Dutch.” After a period of courtship, she eventually gave in and married Albert in 1999. “It went so fast,” she recalls. “We knew we were going to get married and spend our lives together so I thought we should do it. We both felt like that. And eventually it went well.” But before they could do so, Albert needed to ask Rachel’s dad for her hand in marriage. “I waited for the right moment,” he reveals. “I decided to do it while we were drinking together, but I still couldn’t say it even after a few beers. But then he raised the topic himself. He said he knows we are planning something. And it was then I was able to explain everything to him. It was simple in the end.” The answer was yes, and after informing his own parents in The Philippines, the couple soon found themselves walking down the aisle in two weddings - a Dutch ceremony in Amsterdam and a big Filipino wedding in Manila. Their union was finally official, but their happy ever after had to wait a little longer. “We got married in July, then I had to go back to the Netherlands by August. But I couldn’t take him,” Rachel recalls, referring to Albert’s Filipino citizenship which meant he had to apply for a visa to enter the European Union as a spouse. “It was hard for me,” she continues. “I had no idea how long


it was going to take for him to join me here. You hear stories from people that it could take years.” But she needn’t have worried. Albert got his visa in three months, and shortly after he joined her in The Netherlands where they started to build a family of their own. And as with any new beginning, they had to face sacrifices and challenges along the way, from personal development to financial stability and parental responsibilities. “It was hard for me,” Albert admits. “I had a good life in the Philippines. I had a job and my parents also gave me money. I didn’t have much responsibilities. I had lots of friends. I had to leave all that behind for one person. I didn’t even know where this was heading, but I had to do it. If I let her go I know I will regret it. It’s love.” After a few years establishing themselves as a family in Europe, the couple decided to return to Asia in 2005. “Me and my husband wondered what it would be like in the Philippines,” says Rachel. “His family has a business and we wanted to try and be part of that.” But it wasn’t meant to be. Although life was good with friends and family, they also missed their own space, their independence and their freedom in Europe. Their children are also growing and also missing their Dutch lifestyle. It was then, after over a year, that the family decided to return to The Netherlands.

with their Filipino heritage and culture, something they wish to share with their children. “We speak Dutch, English and Tagalog, a little bit of a mix,” cites Rachel. “They know what the Philippines is like. It wasn’t a conscious decision but it’s good. They know they’re not Dutch, they are Filipinos, and it’s good that they know their roots and where they came from. I think that’s very important.” “We watch The Filipino Channel,” Albert adds. “We try to keep them aware of their Filipino culture, like saying ‘po’ and practicing ‘mano’. We try to teach our values like respecting the elderly. It’s our way of life, and they are good qualities. They need to know what makes us Filipino. And I know that know that they will always look back to the Philippines no matter where they are.”

Rachel and Albert have been married for nearly 15 years. They live in Hoofddorf in The Netherlands with their four children: Aaron, 13, twins Amy and Tessaa, 10, and Tristan, 6.

“When we came back,” Albert recalls, “we had to start all over again. We already had foundations but we had to restart. But as long as we’re together, we’re okay. We just want our kids to have a good future, that’s all. We want to provide them with everything they need.” Despite living in Europe, however, they remain in touch

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I was born with it

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“It’s part of me.


Rowena Montemayor Setting The Stage London, UK

Written and photographed by Patrick Camara Ropeta

Rowena Montemayor had her moment in the spotlight. She was only four years old when she ended up on the world’s greatest stage acting with some of the most respected performers of a generation. It was an opportunity many could only dream of. Yet despite its allure, the budding performer would eventually turn her back from it all, choosing altogether to walk a different path.

The youngest of three siblings, Rowena was born and raised in London by her Filipino parents, Eddie from Pampanga and Sally from Pangasinan. “I find it to be a blessing in many ways,” she said. “I had great education and health benefits. I was exposed to many different cultures and opportunities.”

Her eldest sister Renee also became part of the same musical a few years later, playing the lead role alongside a new cast. Her other sister Rhoda, on the hand, became known as Pink Ranger from the popular TV series “Power Rangers”. Both actresses have since been featured in numerous productions on film, theatre and television.

Despite thousands of miles separating them from their origins in the Philippines, the family remain firmly attached to their roots, partly due to the growing presence of fellow Filipinos in the UK. “Growing up, I felt that the Filipino community wasn’t as well known as it is today. The Filipino community today in London do so many wonderful events that you never feel detached from from your heritage,” she observed.

“I am so proud of them and so inspired seeing them go for and live their dream. My sisters are talented, have faith and passion and that is something you cannot teach,” she said. “Both of my sisters have influenced me in more ways than I care to admit. We don’t look alike but our sense of humor, talent, faith and love is what links us. I would say that they have influenced me to listen to my heart and take responsibi lity for my life.”

The family are active in the community and are often seen in various activities, from beauty pageants and barrio fiestas, to fundraising events and the ever popular talent shows. And the Montemayors have their own talents to show. All three sisters have become known for their work in the entertainment industry, as well as their generous efforts to share their talent with the community. Rowena, for instance, has hosted some events including a charity dinner for typhoon victims two years ago. She also became part of Tiare Tahiti, a Tahitian dance group whom she performed with for a time. But it all started in her childhood when she became part of hit stage show “Miss Saigon” during the early 1990s in London, where she played a boy, the son of lead character Kim, played by a young Lea Salonga. “It was exciting, fun, creative, musical, and energetic,” she recalled.

Talent runs in the family, and the sisters were fortunate to have parents who knew how to nurture it. “It was my parents that exposed us to the arts. They are the people responsible for our creative and passionate flare,” she explained. “I remember watching Swan Lake on TV and I said to them that I wanted to be a ballerina. A few weeks later, I was attending ballet, tap, jazz and modern dance classes, and I also did street dance when I could fit it in. They encouraged me to go for what I wanted and more, and supported me the whole way.” She added: “Our parents wanted the best for us, and the best was whatever it was that made us truly happy. Life is too short to live in fear, doubt or anger. Be thankful for the life you are given and truly believe in yourself and your dreams.”

“Being around that kind of atmosphere as a child is a wonderful experience. I learnt so much at such a young age and I met a lot of talented people.”

After a few months with Miss Saigon, Rowena continued her passion for performance by taking lessons in dance and music. “We (the sisters) all wanted to dance, sing and act, so our parents brought us to dance class, hired a singing teacher and signed us up for acting schools.”

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Eventually, however, the young performer became interested in something else. “I prefer organizing, planning and managing the event, whatever it may be. I prefer putting the show together and my sisters are the ones who bring it to life,” she confessed. Now in her late 20s, the former child actress is forging a promising career in events where she works tirelessly behind-the-scenes to set the stage for other people to have their moment. These days, she is less about remembering lines or counting dance steps, but more about venues, budgets, programmes, logistics and strategies. For the last four years, after completing a degree in marketing from Kingston University, she has been focused on organising and managing events, including parties, conferences, workshops, and webcasts. “I enjoy organising events and creating thoughtful gifts such as hampers for babies, weddings, house warmings. My dream would be to have my own events company and run my own events.” Her family remains supportive of her endeavours. “My parents are amazing and I love them so much. They have raised three great children and because of them, it’s why we are as close as we are. I come from a family that will catch me if I fall and help me get the strength to stand back up.” But what about performance? Can she see herself going

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back into the spotlight? “I haven’t lost interest at all,” she revealed. “I would love to do it all, and when life offers the right opportunity then of course, I would be happy to take it.”

Rowena lives in London where she works as a project manager for events in the pharmaceutical industry. She played Tam in the original West End production of “Miss Saigon” in 1990 alongside Lea Salonga and Jonathan Pryce. After a brief stint on stage, her interests shifted towards production and behind-the-scenes. She is now a qualified events and wedding planner, and is currently studying a further qualification on project management.


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Milagros Sampaolo Philathropist Milan, Italy

Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photographed by Mila Sampaolo

Life is a gift that has to be cherished. We usually complain about the things that have something to do about our existence. Work, money, family, and relationships. We always talk about our own problems.

We think of how we can live better, we are occupied on how we can achieve our personal goals, we acquire things that we don’t really need, we improve and change our appearance, we live to work and forget our purpose. But have you ever thought of making a difference by changing other people’s lives? By giving or sharing a little of what you have to those in need? In our everyday struggle for survival you might have second thoughts of doing so. As if you don’t have enough and you’d keep what you think is just enough for yourself. Or you give thinly when you know that you have more. While some of us whine that we hate our jobs and don’t have a nice car or a beautiful house, there are those people who wish to live the life that we have knowing that any moment they may be gone. When women abort, abuse, and exploit their children, there are those who desire to be given the gift of motherhood. Those who have a heart to love and care like a true mother to a child. While some people throw their lives away and easily give up on struggles and uncertainties, there are those who cherish their every breath. This is a story of woman who’s been through a lot of difficulties like anybody else; a cancer survivor and one who was never had a child of her own but wholeheartedly shares what she has and devotes her time in helping children have a brighter future through her philanthropic activities.

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Milagros “Mila” Lumpan is a woman whose conviction has been put to test in battling breast cancer. She said that she would have given up everything she had just to live longer. Not everything is meant to be understood. Live, let go, and don’t worry about what you can’t change. Never did she question why it happened to her. She just be

lieved and put her faith in the healing hands of God. From discovery, diagnosis, treatment, and beyond, she has been a woman of strength and power. She found her purpose. She is now giving back everything to God for her new life, a continuing adventure after cancer. She shares her blessings and becomes an instrument of hope for indigent children. In the Philippines where education comes with a hefty price tag, Mila is a hero to those poverty-stricken families who can’t afford to send their kids to school. “I give more than financial aid,” she says. “Seeing these unfortunate kids happier, healthier, and having the sense of feeling that they belong is a different feeling for me. Even if I was not given a child of my own, these kids look at me as if I am their mother. It’s always heart melting to see their beautiful smiles whenever I visit them. It’s them who keep me motivated. These children bring me joy, and it’s been a blessing to have that opportunity to be there for them. I wake up each morning knowing that I don’t live only for myself but I also live for these little angels whose lives and future now lies on me.” She would spend months in the Philippines working full time for her association. Instead of relaxing like most of our fellow balikbayans do, you would find her busy in preparing solicitation letters, organizing fund-raising activities, benefits and programs hat help support sponsored children and their families, visi-


Italian husband Claudio Sampaolo, whom she has been married for 20 years, discouraged her at first because of her health condition. Now he joins her in all of her endeavors. What we go through in our lives shapes our character for the people we become, if we let it. It helps us be stronger for whatever will happen in the future. Even if things were different and she did not go through her struggles with cancer, Tita Mila said she would still be doing the same thing in helping others. It has taken her life into a new direction. Her life has been enriched with beautiful people and experiences. We just never know what lies at the end of the road and we should be thankful for the gift of life that God has entrusted us. Instead of thinking about materialistic things, let us hold on really tight to what is really important and spend as much time as possible with our families.

If there is a problem that you cannot solve today, try to solve it tomorrow. If by tomor-row it is not solved, then just leave it that way, because someone up there will solve it for you.” -Milagros Sampaolo

There’s nothing in this world that you cannot achieve. Perseverance is the key.

titing schools and talking to volunteers.

By making the most out of the time we have here, we get meaning in our lives by dedicating our time in loving and helping the people around us.

“There’s nothing in this world that you cannot achieve. Perseverance is the key. Being resilient builds character, and remember that nothing is permanent.

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Reol Anulao Capuno Symformism Milan, Italy

Written by Sharone Gacos-Soliveres Photographed by Paolo Villasan

Innovative style of an art as symmetrical forms, quadrilateral… as cardinals of the earth - yellow-gold for the sun; green for the trees and the flowers; blue for the sky; and other colors of the planet…

He is one of those people who have handled life’s adversities very well and who always manages to have a smile on his face. Reol was born on the 23rd of June 1967, the son of a photographer and a dressmaker. He’s originally from Camarines Sur, Philippines, but started his life in Italy in February of 1993. He describes himself as an ordinary father, yet he tirelessly upholds the needs of his family. He works as a Property Custodian, and takes care of his two lovely kids 13 year old Giorgio Emanuele and 10 year old Alesia. In their 18 years of love and marriage, his wife Ellen Villanueva Capuno has suffered health issues, but continues to support him and has been very important in his journey as an artist. She would always encourage him and keep on saying, “You can do it, my love.” Amidst his success, inspiration, and love in his dreams, their family is enduring a severe test, because his wife suffers from breast cancer. While his wife Ellen undergoes chemotherapy, Reol takes on a dual role of both the father and the mother to their children, undermining household chores, other maternal activities. He draws the strength to do this from his better half. They hold great faith in God that they can survive this test and prevail. Reol serves as the pillar of strength of his family despite all of this. He and his wife are unwearied in providing advice and guidance to their children to establish and improve their learning in school and their journey in life.

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The virtue of his will reflects his talent in painting with different colors from his palette and brushes in an immersion of light and color as a master painter. With patience and passion, he can capture every ray of light to transform it into a well-defined color. Creating a mosaic that gives an interpretative moment of indisputable artistic value is his aim in every painting. He investigates its profoundness and the patterns that emerge in its dynamic and constructiveness that shines like the colors used.

Master painter Reol Anulao Capuno, by the transposition of plans, revolutionizes the laws of perspe-ctive and representation, drawing the viewer into a different dimension made of vivid impressions borrowed from the luminal load stresses present in nature.

He draws the strength to do this from his better half.

Filling the mind with happy thoughts will make life so much brighter with Reol Anulao Capuno.


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The Robles & Burgos Families Unconditional Love Milan, Italy Written by Don Burgos Photographed by Dennis Lacerna

With strong will to provide the best things for her family, Mrs. Remelie Robles head out in Milan, Italy to work. But not everything looked easy as it seemed as her journey came with struggles. In 1991, Mrs. Remelie started as a tourist heading to Budapest, Hungary (approved visa only in Budapest) together with other Filipinos (who secretly set out in Milan). While in Manila, they were briefed about their “trip”. They should remain unnoticed by border controls and they should not admit that they speak can English. They arrived at train station of Budapest at night and a representative (of the “agency”) accompanied them to a dark safe house, wherein they waited until past midnight. A new representative drove them to the foot of a mountain; the boundary of Venice. They silently walked but halfway, they heard a dog bark. They halted and laid down in the grass. It was too late though. The police caught them and took them all to a police station. The police confiscated all their documents and asked if they could speak English. Following the rules from their briefing, no one answered. In the end, the police returned their documents and they hastily retrieved them. Luckily, they found their way back the train station in Budapest and called their “agency” to tell that they were caught. The “agency” sent another representative that drove them to the border of Venice in which they were asked to enter in a pit to avoid being seen by border controls. Hours passed, and a different representative transported them to the train station in Venice, where they bought their tickets to Milan, Italy. Remelie found a job and by the time the government an-nounced the amnesty. She asked her employer to process her papers and they accepted. In return, she promised that she would never leave the job as a sign of gratitude. She still works for them to this day. For 22 years, Milan has been a part of Mrs. Remelie’s life.

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She learned to become self-sufficient, to do everything for her family, and to never give up. As her children got to finish their college years and her family is continuously having a fair life, she knew that it was a dream come true. Mrs. Remelie is a warrior, a noble mother, and a friend. She has already helped several people in Milan because she can relate to the hardships they face through her own unforgettable experiences, and she will continue to help for as long as she can. One of the many people she helped was Rowena Burgos. With uncertain work opportunities overseas, Rowena took the risk to come not only for herself, but also for her family. She wanted to give them a better life. She applied for visa at the French Embassy and was lucky to get approved after a week. She became a tourist for 4 days in France before she took a train to Milan. Rowena arrived here with no one to lean on and trust except her kumare, Remelie. One day, she went to the Duomo (Milan Cathedral) and prayed to God. If this was her fate, she prayed that He bless her with a good job with a good-hearted employer and co-workers so she could provide for her family. Coincidentally, her prayers were answered when she was em-ployed in a residence of priests. She knew then that that it was the start of her journey. Rowena felt blessed and thankful for everything as her job made her a much better individual and opened doors of opportunities. When she got the news about her son’s approved visa, Rowena was excited and glad as one of her dreams was about to fulfilled. Don Burgos had no other idea why he agreed to come here except to finally be with his parents after 7 years. Thanks to improvements in technology and the sys-


will give his best “ He to them. That is what

“

family is about.

-tem, his documents were quickly processed. Don swarmed himself with questions regarding his stay here in Milan. One day, he told his parents that he will return to the Philippines soon (to finish his studies), no matter what happen but not without new life experiences. His parents took him with them for their summer job where they cleaned and fixed different and several student apartments almost every day. Don was not prepared for such a task. He realized then the value of time and the hard work his parents had been dedicating to just really give them a stable shot in life. He has been so proud of them more than ever.

Don will keep in mind all the mind-altering encounters he had that made him much dedicated and determined and will use it as a tool to give his parents, in return, the great things they deserve. His parents gave so much to him, and when it is his turn, he will give his best to them. That is what family is about.

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I try to tell people if they need to know, but I don’t like hiding it. I’d like everyone to know that I am now happy with who I am.


Ederlyn Bonifacio Host/Event Organizer, Transgender Parent Milan, Italy Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photographed by Paolo Villasan

Ederlyn believes that it isn’t necessary or meaningful to label herself with regard to sexual orientation at all. Having a ‘carpe-diem’ perspective on life, she feels that doing something or being someone to satisfy other people’s judgment is way out of her league. It is more important to experience life. Anybody who has an opinion worth caring about or anyone who actually cares wouldn’t be judging her anyway.

Being a transgender parent, Ederlyn is as good as straight ones. She faced many hardships, but this made her a stronger person. It also made them stronger as a family, and made Ederlyn more solid to her convictions. Ederlyn strives hard for her daughter’s future and they are set to reunite next year. She has also dispelled myths that being a transsexual has adverse effects on their children. She proved that being a good parent isn’t not based on gender identity or sexual orientation, but more on true family values. Despite all the conflict and confusion, coming out had many wonderful aspects in their lives. Her daughter Trizia became more open-minded and accepting of people. She has developed a wider view that identity isn’t tied with destiny but rather of the beautiful diversity of human life. Ederlyn set foot on Italian soil July 2004 working several jobs domestically. But in 2004 she decided to change her path and tried events hosting. From weddings, debuts, christenings to corporate banquets and professional meetings, Ederlyn has the organizational skills and eye for details to help clients turn their visions for an event into a reality. Since event planning and hosting are fastgrowing careers in Milan, she became very serious in her craft in order to stand out. As an event planner, Ederlyn succeeds to meet her clients’ expectations by helping them create a successful event and a memorable experience. In addition to client satisfaction, she considers them the lifeblood of her career. “Anyone can throw a great party, but this isn’t about throwing a great party. It’s how the people remember your party and

the experience that they will cherish,” shares Ederlyn. From her transition, she has devoted time in improving herself and her career. Realizing that there are many transgender people in every walk of life and some of them have reached high levels of success, but still had kept their status secret because of the stigma. Truly committed in promoting equality, she also shares her talent to aspiring hosts. Especially transgenders like herself, she creates a pool of talented Filipinos catering to professional and private organizations and Filipinos for events and occasions. She has always wanted to unite the community and share a common goal of giving entertainment and magic in their celebrations.

A person with both feet on the ground and knows what’s what, she always been guided by her principles building a much more appropriate and fulfilling life.

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The Mendoza Family Returning the Love Rome, Italy Written and photographed by Jaquiline de vega

The earthquake that struck Baguio City on July 16, 1990 had caused tragic deaths and the loss of livelihoods for the Filipinos in the high lands. The Mendozas were one of the many Filipino families greatly affected by this after they lost their handicraft business. Their house also unfortunately caught fire during the catastrophe and was burned down to nothing. Bayani Mendoza, the patriarch of the family, was more than saddened by this, not only for his own family, but for his 40+ employees who altogether lost their jobs to support for their own families. Dolores Manrique Mendoza, the matriarch, remained very supportive of her husband after everything that happened. They tried to venture into different businesses, like selling tasty breads, however it was not enough to support their 4 children. Due to these unfortunate circumstances, they decided to move back to Manila to start a new life. Their handicraft business was largely composed of the things Tatay Bayani had invented, like the El Bimbo keychain, prosperity necklace, and much more. They had their own ideas and styles about how items should be manufactured. They even had regular clients all the way in Japan. “Tubong lugaw,” said Nanay Dolores. Yet their children decided to go abroad instead and the old couple was told never to work again. “Tapos ka na tatay, kami naman.”

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They sold some of their properties and used it for their children’s air fare and pocket money. Arnold, their eldest son, flew to Canada. Next was Ariel, who made the move to Italy. Then Ariel helped his 2 sisters, Luzviminda and Rose, to fly to Europe by personally ‘hiring’ them just to have legal documents, plus the quarter payment of their INPS. The elder Mendoza couple is just as equally happy for their children who have acquired the generosity of their parents to reach out to the less fortunate. “Pera lang ang nawala pero ang family importante pa rin na nanatiling nagmamahalan,” said Tatay Bayani. Ariel Mendoza moved to Italy with aspirations to become a cook, but at first, he found himself scrubbing big pots instead. The old Mendoza couple weren’t happy to discover the type of jobs Ariel had resorted to: he took care of the elderly, he was a part-time babysitter, he cleaned houses. But since Ariel had already prepared his mind for the things waiting for him by living abroad, it helped him live easier during his first years away.


He always remembered what his father told him that, once abroad, he’d have to start from scratch just like the family who started from scratch after the earthquake and house fire.

Hindi pagbabalik ng utang na loob kundi pagbabalik ng pagmamahal

“

“

His life changed course after he started working giving out flyers for a Filipino bank. Shortly after flyering, he was promoted to being an encoder, then he moved up to being a teller, and now after all the hard work, he is the youngest director in their company. For him, being an OFW is being a survivor. He might have a high position now, but he is still the same OFW who is trying to survive for his family.

After Ariel earned success in his corporate work, he decided to petition their parents to join him in Italy. The two elder Mendozas were just as happy as their children to be once again reunited. They are very happy with their new life.Like others, Ariel felt that success was not complete if he was not with his loved ones. 99


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Noel&Sarah Carillo Moving Towards the Dream Milan, Italy Written by Don Burgos Photographed by Melvin Saballa

Traveling around the world has always been a dream to Noel Carillo. It really is luxurious if you see yourself stepping out of the plane to see and feel a new place. Nothing stopped him to fulfill this. Instead, fate seemed on his way. He graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering. He worked in a private company for a year in the Philippines. He then took the chance to work in a computer company in Taiwan for 11 years. But when the company planned to transfer him in China, he decided to take a tour in Milan. He came here as a tourist. As same as the others, his first days were a bit hard. He was thankful that he wasn’t discriminated by the foreign community. At first, he got part-time jobs to clean houses. He bore it all. One day, his friend helped him to get his legal papers done. He then had his regular job and decided to stay for good. After 7 years of living his life here, Noel Carillo became the branch manager of LBC Express Inc. in Milan. Now, he got his promotion in LBC Express Inc. as the General Manager of South Europe.

Sarah’s parents filed the petition for their kids. When Sarah received the news, she was ecstatic. She admits it was hard that time to leave the loved ones who raised her. But she looked at the positive side, the occasion to finally be with her parents. She missed her home in the Philippines after a few weeks of their arrival. She was feeling blue then. But thanks to her colleagues and friends here, Sarah’s spirit lifted. She knew now that even if her loved ones is a phone call away, they still live in her hearts. Another dream she was yet to fulfill is to continue and finish her studies here. She entered a language school first to learn to communicate. She then started to go to school, choosing the course of Tourism.

The dream he was having is finally fulfilled. He then knew all his efforts were richly rewarded. He was happy at this point. If he will have goals to achieve besides this, it will be owning a house here, holding the diplomas of his kids and starting his own business in the future.

Sarah wanted to become a well-known and prestigious director one day. She’s open to take a related course after she graduates from her present one. Even if she’s have only been here for a year, Sarah’s bond with her parents became stronger and more open unlike before. She learned to value everything her parents have been giving to her.

With passion and determination, Noel Carillo reached and accomplished his ultimate dream and proved that we, Filipinos, are hard-working and truly remarkable.

At this young age, Sarah’s dreams are slowly becoming true and reachable. She then believes that once a great opportunity awaits before you, don’t hesitate to grab it.

To live and be with her family is like a dream come true for Sarah Carillo. Even when she was young, she knew her parents love to travel. As her parents got to live far away from them, she was hoping they could be together again one day. Her hopes were answered.

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The Alvarez Family No shortcuts, no overtakes Milan, Italy Written by Don Antonio Matthew Burgos Photographed by Paolo Villasan

Every success contains hardships and sacrifices. No shortcuts, no overtakes. But there is always a foundation of energy and determination to beat the tests and achieve success. For the Alvarezes, their source of strength is family. The love and support that beams out from every family member fuels the hopes and dreams of one another. Teody Alvarez had no plans on going to Milan, Italy. The idea didn’t even occur to her, but her husband went ahead and took the chance. Unfortunately, he was caught and sent back to the Philippines. Before all the money they paid would be put to waste, Teody decided that she would take the place of her husband. In her first days, Teody’s thoughts always drifted to her family and her life back in the Philippines. There were times that she regretted her decision. She even thought she could use the skills she gained to find a job in Milan. But her job experiences of being a manager of G&S Corp. for 8 years and General Supervisor of Triumph International back in the Philippines didn’t seem to be acknowledged in Milan. She knew then she didn’t have a choice. Luckily, Teody found a job in Bergamo as a helper. After 3 years, she returned to Milan and she immediately found a job. Until now, she still works for the same employer. Teody dreamed for her children to finish their studies and her family to be complete again. 16 years after her arrival, both of her wishes were successfully fulfilled. In between her 16 years in Milan, Teody also engaged herself as a producer/manager. She produced several acclaimed artists and bands to perform and entertain the Filipinos in Italy. She also manages the dance group, D’X Crew. With her all her experiences, Teody learned to treat people with pure kindness. “Salat man ako sa salapi, mayaman na

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with pure kindness. “Salat man ako sa salapi, mayaman naman ako sa kaibigan,” she says. Mark Alvarez was a simple hometown boy. He didn’t expect that his life could get more exciting. As he made his way in Milan, Mark didn’t leave behind his burning passion: dancing. He’s been dancing since he’s younger and never stop doing this delight of his. Mark brought his hopes and dreams with him. He temporarily gave up things and seek for a job in order to help his family. But he never forgot his passion, not once. Mark continues to enjoy his love for dancing. He even steps higher as he is the current choreographer of the D’X Crew and D’X events and network group. He also choreographs in several events like debuts, parties, weddings and likes. With his jam-packed determination and faith in God, Mark keeps shining on his chosen path. He dedicates all his hardships and competitions to his family, as they taught him things and values that filled him as an individual. Mark believes that “Nothing is impossible if we believe in ourselves and have faith in God.” At a very young age, Rio Alvarez got the chance to reunite with her mother in Milan. Even if it was her mother’s decision, Rio gladly accepted that she would stay in Milan for good. She came in Milan with a goal to finish her studies.


-dies. But with the language barrier, Rio had quite a hard time to communicate.

Nothing is impossible if we believe in ourselves and have faith in God.

She admitted that she experienced a number of maltreatment as she couldn’t understand the language. With her family by her side, they became her inspiration to overcome the situation. As she exert labors and energies, she finally able to surmount it. Straightaway after graduating, she found a job as a staff accountant in bill office of a distribution company. On the other hand, she spends her spare time dancing as she’s also a member of the D’X Crew. Rio seems to consider Milan as her second home. Growing up in another country, she learned to face her responsibilities and roles and to consort with different people.

The Alvarez family proves that with each member supporting and inspiring each other, keeping the faith in God and sharing the pure love, obstacles can be conquered, resulting with a divine triumph.

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Criselda Mendoza Mompreneur Milan, Italy Written by Myemye Mulingtapang Photographed by Dennis Lacerna

Being a business owner and hitting the trench everyday as both a mom with three kids and entrepreneur is no easy task. Criselda has sacrificed many things to fill the needs of both motherhood and being a businesswoman to give her family and herself a purposeful life.

Criselda is just one among ten million Filipinos who found refuge abroad. She left the Philippines and went to Italy on February 2002 in search for a more comfortable life. She changed her course and made a promise to herself that she would do everything for her family. Together with husband Ruel, they worked hard and in 2012 a life changing event made Criselda drop the rags and brooms and told herself that she will be cleaning no more. Opportunity knocked. A chance to open a business arrived and it became the start of something brighter for them. “Each day is a learning process for me and, although I’ve learned so much in my journey, I’m very happy with the way I started my company and the way it’s growing,” says Criselda. The biggest challenge on being a ‘mompreneur’ is balance. “Allowing myself a certain amount of time to accomplish work tasks and then being 100 percent with my children at other times has helped me stay balanced,” shares Criselda. An average day in her life starts with waking up early to get a jump start on her “to do list” for the day. The kids need to be up, dressed, fed, and out the door at 8 am. She has three children, Cheska, Robbie, and Chanel. Only one goes to school as her eldest Cheska already has a child of her own. With no family close by, she had to be very particular and conscientious about finding child care and help.

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Criselda’s youngest child Chanel gets shuffled along with her everyday. She tries to squeeze in a lot of activities from opening her store, answering phone calls and messages, as well as try to stay on top of housework, laundry, doctor appointments, meetings, and deliveries during the day. Evenings consist of dinner preparation, homework, and baths. She sits down to work again after the kids are in bed. Gladly, she is able to maximize her time. Criselda is very focused on the best use of every day. Making the formula work is very hard. At first there were troubles in separating the work life and family life. Back then, it was also a great challenge for Criselda to find customers for her budding small business. She confessed her uncertainties and setbacks. Sometimes she felt she was a failure and did not know what to do. No matter what your stage in motherhood, it is always a full time job. Add running a business to that neverending job, and it’s easy to see how it’s a formula for becoming overwhelmed. Sometimes Criselda feels she doesn’t have enough hours in a day and something has to give. Believing that life is supposed to be fun and rewarding, she made sure the things she does are truly energizing not just sapping her time. But with faith, courage, and hardwork, she was able to iron things out and became more productive and in control.


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Guevarra Family A Bright Future Milan, Italy Written and photographed by Dennis Lacerna

Many sacrifices have to be made in order to move to another country and start a new life. The first generation of the Guevarra family knew this before making the leap, yet they had no idea what it would be like first hand. Dario, Lily, and Rosa each took different paths to get to Italy, and none were easy. Rosa had a cousin who worked in Italy. She helped her get to Italy through an odd path. She flew from Manila to Yugoslavia. Yes, it was more than 20 years ago when Yugoslavia was still a country. From Yugoslavia to Milan, they had passed through mountains to cross the border. Dario arrived later in 1991, spending around 150,000 pesos as a placement fee. He flew from Manila to London, then London to Lourdes, France on a pilgrimage. From Lourdes, they met up with an Indian contact that would take them to Nice, France before entering Italy by way of Ventimiglia. The complicated part happened in between the border of France and Italy. Another contact with a taxi was would bring them in small group to the border. It would then slow down to let them off then they would proceed on foot. The taxi would not even make a full stop. “Kailangan mo talagang tumalon sa taxi, parang action movie, kasi hindi talaga siya pwedeng tumigil at baka mahuli ng mga guard sa border (You really had to jump from a moving vehicle, like an action movie, or else the border guards might have caught you)” recounts Dario. The trail was narrow and the possibility of getting caught by the roving soldiers along the border made it dangerous. The soldiers had guns and were supposedly in their rights to fire if necessary. Other ways of crossing were dangerous and deadly as well. There were tales of some who died from hypothermia hiding in the back of container trucks or delivery vans in the winter. You may think that crossing the border and getting into the country was the hard part. It was not. They did not have the comforts that we have now. Saying that communicating with loved ones in the Philippines was hard back in the day is an understatement. Email did not exist. Hand written letters sent via snail mail were a frequent and economic way of keeping updated. Photographs were inserted in the envelopes to see the young ones

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grow up. Today, photos are attached easily with the click of a button on Facebook or email. Phone cards didn’t even exist. Egyptians would set up improvised ‘phone booths’ in their own house, with a phone that was illegally tapped into a neighbor’s house. Long lines would form with foreigners from all over. The Guevarras would go through the trouble of lining up just to hear the voices of their loved ones back home. They would also record voice messages on cassette tapes. As technology progressed, even video tapes were sent. New developments made it easier to feel closer and stayconnected, but it was nothing like actually being together. Kids today can’t imagine a world without Facebook, Skype, Whatsapp, and countless other IM (instant messaging) software. The Pinoy Pioneer OFWs like the Guevarras lived through that era and found innovative ways to work around these problems. Dario notes that the new generation isn’t fully aware of how lucky they are to be able to communicate so easily and freely. But he remembers clearly what it was like to be limited to using the phone only for a few minutes every month, and the anticipation and relief of finally hearing your loved ones voices again. He is thankful for this and reminds himself and the younger ones to not take this for granted. Money remittance was not as easy it was today either. Legal remittance centers did not open until around 1995. Before that they had to resort to methods like sending actual cash in letters, with the big risk of it getting lost or stolen in the mail. They would also have to resort to giving cash to a person who was going home to the Philippines. There were also ‘couriers’ who did such a thing on a regular basis. Nowadays, there are many methods of sending money back home, and some methods don’t even require you to leave the house. But due to these remittances, the Guevarra family managed to finish building a house in


the Philippines. Work was not a problem for them. Rosa was fortunate to have a long time babysitting job with a very kind Italian family. Dario remembers how easy it was to find work back then in the early days. During his busiest years, he would have up to 10 different part time jobs. Yes, the work was tiring, but he was well compensated, earning the equivalent of a regular annual salary in the Philippines in just 2 or 3 months. With all the hard work put in, saving money and sensible spending paved the way for their children to come to Italy also and succeed in their own right. Marjorie Joy, or MJ, is the daughter of Dario and Lily. She started off her career early at a remittance center then took some time off to give birth to her son Ivan Gerry. Since then she has always been busy working in different sectors for both Filipino and Italian companies. Her sibling Dario III had an early start working at McDonald’s. Using the experience he gained in his years there, he worked up the courage to start his own business. He now makes customized cakes and cooks up a storm as a successful caterer. Their youngest sibling, Princess, works for Italian company Rockmedia as a publication manager. This current generation acknowledges all their success to previous generation, who made great sacrifices in order to provide the opportunities that put them in the positions they are now. The future looks bright for the newest generation of the Guevarra clan. Grandson Dario IV is a singer at the acclaimed La Verdi children’s choir. He is one of the only two Filipinos in the group. They perform at

the historic opera house La Scala, which speaks volumes of the talent in the child. MJ’s son Ivan Gerry has made waves early on as a kiddie model. He has already done runway shows for Chicco, Babyland, and Rocco Barocco. He appeared in print ads from Bimbi Belli. He’s even featured in an Ikea TV commercial. His good looks and professional attitude at such a young age has landed him these jobs. One day Ivan Gerry might appear on the cover of famous Italian fashion magazines. Or he might choose a different path later in life, and become a doctor our lawyer. Whatever he chooses, the sky is the limit.

Although the children are growing up in Italy, MJ and Lily make it a point to instill the proper and traditional Filipino values in them. Filipino is spoken at home. “Matututo naman ang mga bata ng Italian sa school. Importante na marunong silang mag-Tagalog sa bahay kapag kasama ang pamilya. (The kids will learn Italian at school anyway. It’s important that they speak Tagalog at home with the family),” shares MJ. Lily also stresses the importance of using ‘po’ and ‘opo’ when addressing elders. Things like this keep the family close together and remind the newer generation of their roots.

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The Bronce Clan Immigration policies may continuously change, but the dream of some of our migrant Kababayans around the globe to bring their loved ones with them abroad will never cease.

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The Dream of our migrant Kababayans Pisa, Italy Written and photographed by Jaquiline de vega

In Pisa, Italy, there is the Bronce Clan. Elpidio and Aurelia Cabello Bronce are the patriarch and matriarch of the clan. Both of them are from Batangas. Tatay Pidio and Aling Ureng are parents to 11 children (2 deceased) with 36 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren plus the respective spouses. A total of 76 people living altogether in one building, the clan is one of the few Filipino clans known in the Tuscany region. Tatay Pidio is a farmer. He loaned the money they used to send their eldest daughter to Italy. It was a leap of faith sending her outside their small rural land. Remedios Caburnay is the eldest child of the couple and the first from the family to be in Italy. Remy was one of those who resorted to being a ‘baklas’ immigrant and crossed the Italian border through the Yugoslavian mountains. Remy was ready to blindly cross any barriers for the sake of building a better life by going abroad. It was a big leap of faith and hope from her small clandestine voice. The danger of being caught as an undocumented immigrant was always in the back of her head. However, after being granted residency through amnesty from being undocumented worker, Remy started petitioning her family, which marked the start of their clan’s migration to Italy.

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Remy’s children arrived first. Then her husband from Saipan joined her. She paid some agencies to get her siblings too, some of which were still ‘baklas.’ Then her siblings petitioned their re-

spective families. When everybody was capable enough to sustain each of their own families needs, they petitioned their parents. Each of them has been lucky enough to get stable domestic jobs. One of the sibling’s employers was generous enough to let the whole clan rent a building they own. Now they can say that they are indeed a one big happy family under one roof. Their clan is already on it’s 3rd generation. Some of them were able to finish the liceo(high school), some didn’t. But despite of how assimiated into Italy this generation has become, the ‘kagandahang asal’ of a Filipino is carried on in them. Their story is just one of the million Filipinos who carried on their dreams in other countries, raised their families, and reared their children. To them, the major factor that made the adjustment easier is the fact that they are intact as a family. Remy once said that they may not own houses as big as the others, but she is proud how each and every one of them give support to every one in the family under the roof of the building where they live.

It is a miracle the building has stood for them after all that has happened to their family or maybe the building still stood because of the hope and love which strengthens its foundation.


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