Amid EU crisis, pinoy bayanihan (Part 1)

By Jeremaiah M. Opiniano

OFW Journalism Consortium, in partnership with Business Mirror


BARCELONA, SPAIN—A FAIR-SKINNED man slides on the chair beside Rodrigo as the sun hides behind century-old houses and birds chirp from slender trees lining the Bracafe coffee shop here.

Rodrigo lets out a breath of relief, recognizing the man as Filipino who may have good news as Spain grapples with a debt crisis and migrant workers like him look for solace in places like the coffee shop.

At this al fresco café, which serves brewed Brazilian coffee at Ronda Sant Antoni in Barcelona’s Paloma district, jobless migrant Filipino workers have found an in-formal base to trade inform-ation.

“It’s calming drinking coffee here,” says Rodrigo, not his real name, who has been nursing his cup since three o’ clock in the afternoon, nearly 90 minutes ago.

A young camarero or waiter casts a quick glance on the cup but waves at Rodrigo whom he may have recognized as a regular customer.

Ever since Rodrigo, also a camarero, was laid off months ago from another restaurant, he has been frequenting Bracafe. He says doing so allows him to forget the ten years of working as a waiter and his current employment status or lack of it.

“Do I look worried? This is rest time for me.”

His wife Aleta pats his hand and asks him to face up, which Rodrigo does, admitting he’s been on a look out for a hosteleria job that a fellow Filipino may refer.

It’s Aleta who’s “slightly worried,” he says, adding they have to pay for a condominium unit in Manila.

“That’s our investment for the future,” says Aleta who’s currently working sa bahay, or cleaning homes.

The Filipino beside them sits up and hands a piece of paper to Rodrigo.

He introduces himself as Luisitio Santos and says he overheard the conversation and offers the name of the tapas store at the Port of Barcelona.

“Try this out. Maybe you can get that job I passed off,” Luisito says and goes back to reading a newspaper and his coffee.

After thanking Luisito, Rodrigo grows silent, limning the future as Spain’s debt problem impacts foreigners like him.

Media has written about queues getting longer at job centers or Oficina de Empleo and of shrinking purchasing power of the employed due to inflation as signs a storm is brewing and foreign workers are in its eye.


Fiesta in siesta

LOOK at them, Rodrigo says, nodding at the direction of Filipinos playing with their children at a nearby park.

“They’re like me, like us, waiting for somebody to cast a helping hand or throw some leads,” he adds.

Luisito drags his chair closer and joins Rodrigo and his wife under the maroon umbrella on the coffee table’s center.

“Filipinos here are survivors,” says Luisito, who works as a supermarket electrician and like Rodrigo, also frequents Bracafe. “They love their work here.”

Luisitio says that there’s no sense worrying about the crisis in the world’s eighth largest economy.

We can’t do anything about it, he adds.

“Besides, we have fellow Pinoys backing us up.”

Indeed, Rodrigo says it was through Filipinos he learned about the paro, Spain’s unemployment insurance handed out monthly up to two years until the jobless worker gets a new job. If Filipinos are permanent residents here in Spain and they get displaced, the paro’s their savior.

(To be continued)