By: Elizabeth Soliday-Naui, Ph.D.
Barcelona: Europe’s Manila
I have never seen any European city that could rival the “Filipinoness” of Barcelona. I move to this city from the South of France (Nice) a couple of years ago and its vibes just kind of grow on me. The city has all the European characteristics (old villages, chateaus, history, etc.) yet is cosmopolitan in many ways. It has international schools, businesses and steady stream of tourists all year long.
The relationship of Spain and the Philippines is not only written in history books but lived everyday by the Filipinos wherever they may be. Our language contains a lot of Spanish words and some of our best foods are Spanish influenced. (Paella anyone?) I believe these are the reasons why Filipinos in Barcelona feel very much at home.
Walking around the city center –this means within the vicinity of Plaza Catalunya to the La Raval area, it is an amazing sight to see Filipinos everywhere doing their thing. Emerging from the people speaking different languages are Tagalog and Ilocano. For someone like me who
is “new” in Barcelona and used to ignore the sounds around me (I called the French talking just a “sound” because most of the time I don’t understand anyway), I often stop on my tracks and asked myself “What is going on? Why am I understanding what they are saying? This is not supposed to happen!” And then I remembered, I am in Barcelona.
There are approximately 25,000 Filipinos in the Catalonia region of Spain (Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona) majority of them are located in Barcelona, the capital of the region. Here we have a very strong Filipino community with around 30-35 religious and civic or
ganizations. In the last five years, Filipino businesses in the city grew exponentially. There are more than 10 Filipino restaurants, several freight service, remittance centers, pawnshops, travel agencies, placement agencies, transport service, tourist guides, grocery stores even talent agency. We also pride ourselves here by having a lawyer, a medical doctor, a PhD, 2 dentists and several students in international schools. Soon there will be more because of the second generations who will surely excel.
Here we do not miss Filipino food. Restaurants offer Kilawing kambing, Lechon, sisig, dinuguan, bulalo, halo-halo and everything else in between. We have all types of Filipino vegetables: dahon ng ampalaya, bunga ng malunggay, sitaw, upo, kangkong, bulaklak ng kalabasa etc. At the grocery store you can find bagoong, sarsa ni mang tomas, peanut butter, sandwich spread, lucky me, nagaraya choknut etc. And the funny thing is, you can find all these in one neighborhood.
Every Filipino who visits Barcelona is impressed with our way of life here. They envy us in a way because our life here is an extension of our life in the Philippines. If you decide to visit, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be my greatest pleasure to show you my city.