Juan Eu Konek

CONNECTING FILIPINOS IN EUROPE: Perspective, passions and new beginnings - the case of Milan

By: Gene Alcantara

Having visited Milan, Italy a few times before, I still could not help but be overwhelmed by the beauty of that Gothic cathedral, the Il Duomo, in the heart of this bustling city.  It was good to visit the Il Duomo first with my other half to pay homage of sorts, say a little prayer, and absorb the ambience of a city, a region where perhaps half of the estimated 160,000 to 200,000 Filipinos in Italy live and work.

I came to attend the inauguration of the European Network of Filipino Diaspora (ENFiD) North Italy held at the elegant Circolo Alessandro Volta halls (founded in 1882) in the city’s Chinatown district.

The event was hosted by Ana Bel Mayo, a Director of the Board of ENFID Europe and a Filipino Women’s Network (FWN) 100 Most Influential Filipino Women Awardee.  Assisting her ably were her new officers and members of ENFID Italy North 

whose oathtaking of office was presided over by newly arrived Philippine Consul General Elmer Cato (from New York, Libya, DFA and many other previous postings).

Two visual artists exhibited their works, multi awarded Richard Gabriel (sculptor) and Ditz Centeno de Jesus (painter).  There were a book launching and poetry reading by cancer survivor Dorie Reyes Poloczek (her poetry book is an Amazon bestseller), and a reading by Marizel Rojas of an extract from Disrupt 4, a book by women leaders published by FWN (she is also an awardee). 

There were welcome speeches from Immanuel Beltran, President of ENFID North Italy, ENFID Europe Chair Christian Estrada, Consigliere Diana de  Marchi of Milan City Council, a presentation on marketing by Alessandra Izzo (manager of the venue), an inspirational speech from yours truly as Founding Chair of ENFID Europe, and an address by Congen Cato.

Consiglieri Marchi spoke about their work for the local Italian community and efforts to address immigrant issues.  She was sympathetic to Filipino causes, not least because of her close working relationship with Ana Bel.

Congen Cato spoke about his early days in post and what he and his consular team hoped to achieve and the service improvements he would like to introduce.  He was treated like a rockstar by the Milanese-Filipino community who would not let him leave until everyone has had a selfie or groupfie.

A Balitaktakan session was held to hear testimonials from Filcom members who had issues and problems which the ENFID local branch hope to address in the coming days.

Ariel Lachica, Director of ENFID Board from Rome, gave his views about the issues facing the community and how in the capital they await the arrival of incoming Ambassador Neal Imperial.  It was Lachica’s group who apparently initiated the push for the adoption and implementation of the 10 year passport, and he has other ideas up his sleeve.

It was a great reunion of sorts too for me to be invited to talk about the early years and where I hoped ENFID would go.  It was good to strategies and raise glasses of Italian prosecco and red wine over a four course dinner with other Board of Directors Dorie Poloczek (Germany), Annie Estricomen (France), Marizel Rojas (Austria), Ana Bel Mayo (Italy North), Ariel Lachica (Italy Central and South) and Chair Christian Estrada (United Kingdom).

We were serenaded by locally based musicians including Italian Mr Franz, violinist Mediatrich Adduru Magtibay, guitarist Efren Carillos, and baritone Joseleo Logdat, who is currently trying to find his way into the operatic world of Milan.  And true to being a Filipino community enjoying themselves after a successful event, the drinks flowed, karaoke numbers soared, and dancing ensued until the early hours.