A few years back I did an article on my experiences in Rome. My wife and I traveled to Italy a few years ago. The trip was a gift for my 60th Birthday. During our stay we were unaware of the large number of Filipino-Italians. Had I known I would have added a section about them in my article ‘Roman Holiday.’ Rome is home to a variety of ethnic groups; the Roma peoples, Africans, Mexicans, university students, and the usual entourage of pilgrims hailing from all over the globe hoping to visit St. Peter’s Basilica and see the Pope. Filipinos are the fourth largest immigrant community in Italy followed by the Romanians, Albanians, and North Africans. Italy has approximately 110,000 Filipino citizens/residents though the number of illegal residents range anywhere from 20,000 to 80,000 according to the Istituto Nazionale de Statistica or ISTAT. The Italian capitol has the largest Filipino community in that country. Italy is the number one European destination for Filipinos looking for work. Filipino-Italians are a highly organized ethnic group, hard working, family oriented, fervent church goers, and very active in their communities. Overseas Filipinos are as generous and welcoming as their counterparts are back home. Filipino OFW’S are valued assets to whatever community that welcomes them.
Modern Italy like its long gone Imperial counterpart the once mighty Roman Empire of 2,000 years ago, has always accommodated peoples outside its immediate sphere of influence; Filipinos no exception. My regret is that our visit to Rome was a brief five days. We didn’t have adequate time to make contact with our Filipino-Italian brothers/sisters; maybe next trip.
Many say ignorance is bliss; I’ve always disagreed with that. A lack of knowledge can be lethal. Case in point: What if a person from another country visiting relatives, on business, or just taking in the sights and needed to hook up with their compatriots for any reason but didn’t speak the language or looked ‘funny’ to the locals? They’d stand out like a water buffalo at a break dance contest. This person needs help or perhaps just want talk with somebody from their hometown. In Italy ready help is just a click away. Popular website www.pinoyitalia.com is one of the most comprehensive websites in any language. They have services that cover everything from where to go to church, computer repair, a missing persons bureau, lists of Filipino-Italian restaurants, a chat line, available community services, Filipino newspapers, computer webpage design courses, Filipino TV shows, talent agencies, day trips, everything for the Filipino resident/traveler and more. Site master Chris Rivero’s labor of love is visibly displayed in his comprehensive website; for a private website I’ve never seen one so through as Rivero’s.
Italian-Filipinos are walking gold mines to the folks they left behind in the Philippines. In 2007 Italian-Filipinos sent over $500,000,000.00 to support poor relations back home! This walloping sum made them the fourth largest source of remittances after the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Canada. There’s even a ‘Little Italy’ section in Mabini, Philippines that have rows of large expensive homes bought and paid for with funds from Italy’s Filipinos. Due to the worsening global economic situation there’s been a dramatic drop in the amount of remittance monies sent to the Philippines by Philippine-Italian friends and relatives working in Italy. Hopefully this is only a temporary setback.
Filipina beauty queen Mara Morelli was once crowned Miss Italy. In 2004 then Italian President Carlo Aseglio Ciampi conferred Italy’s highest honor the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic on Filipino-Italian Charito Basa naming her a Knight of the Republic for her invaluable contributions in Italian social development and for her promotion of women and migrants rights. The list of Italian-Filipino high achievers numbers well into the thousands.
According to the DOLE the Filipino Department of Labor and Employment over 63% of Filipino-Italians are women. Filipino groups are active in Italy. There are over 60 Filipino organizations in that country. One such group is the Filipino Women’s Council whose purpose is to educate woman on their rights as migrant workers plus lobby government officials on their behalf.
Filipino OFW’S couldn’t have picked a prettier place to settle and work than pastoral Italy; a land of sunshine, ancient architectural wonders, great artists, sublime poets, friendly people, great food and from a guy’s point of view some very pretty women! I liked the place save for one thing, Rome was built on seven hills and with my bum knees walking was and remains painful. If I were ever going to live abroad Italy would be on my list. Ever since I was a kid I’ve always preferred living in Asia; still do. However I’d have no qualms of conscience about making the Italian peninsula my lone exception. Italy like other places I’ve visited I found that if you don’t dabble in local politics, disrespect the religion of the people, or mess with the women, unless they want you to but even then be cautious, you should be okay worse case scenario being the Amanda Knox murder case and the agony it brought that poor girl and her family. The popular TV series ‘Locked up Abroad’ comes to mind.
At the time of this writing the temperature here in Chicago is a cloudy 40F. The temperature in Rome is a chilly 51F so Reader don’t feel bad; it’s cold and rainy there too. When in Rome do as they do; wear a pair of good walking shoes which I didn’t when I was there. If you have bad knees or circulation problems take a group tour. Avoid city buses; aggressive pick pockets can work a crowded bus like a good baseball pitcher can nibble away at the strike zone of a hapless batter. Of course if you want to live dangerously then by all means carry your valuables in an open purse or pack your wallet in your back pocket. If you do when the ride is over you’ll feel like that Jason fella’ did in Greek mythology; only you’ll be the one who’ll get fleeced. Leave your passport, cash loaded credit and ATM cards in your hotel vault for safe keeping. Carry with you only what you plan to spend each day. I discovered that the best on the road vault is your shoe.