Found an Almost Five Year Old Email in my Old Inbox



I was checking my old email inbox I am using back in college days when the only websites I know are Yahoo and Friendster. Now that I have Gmail and Outlook account I rarely open this yahoo email and it is now dominated by thousand of spams and virus-stricken emails. I scroll down slowly and I found an email sent in 2007. It was an email with an MS Word attachment. It was one of the last emails sent to me by a seminarian friend who was studying for priesthood in Vatican City, Italy before we continued keeping in touch in Yahoo messenger, on Facebook and not anymore. I am just amazed how our online technology plays an integral role in our lives and how it preserves memories. 


While he was there we exchanged emails as early as 2002 if I am not mistaken though those emails I have accidentally deleted it while trying to get rid of spams. If these emails are still around it could have been 10+ years old! We talked about life in general. He was talking about his adventures in Europe going to different places full of adjectives while me I can only share my daily minutiae from my school to my boarding house. Last year I went home to attend his ordination and he is now a full-pledged priest. We have stopped keeping in touch electronically for no reason at all maybe because we ran out of things to talk about or we are now grown-ups busy with life and stuff. That as we age we seek more significant reasons, we set priorities and look for conventional securities than what friendship does when a person is young. Sharing you this email. 

Some reasons why a kababayan in Madrid may not return your greeting

I was excited to come here in Madrid. To visit España was to visit something vaguely known to us Filipinos. There’re lots of shared history and intermingling between our lands and our peoples. I had in my mind men with their walking sticks and cigarros puffing Cuban tobacco away and women in their Maria Claras and abanicos fanning away the heat of the siesta hours. When I finally arrived in Barrajas a modern airport greeted me, not unlike Fiumicino of Roma, even more modern; certainly cleaner and more organized. Madrid would turn out to be a modern city in the sense that Roma is now a modern city. My cigarros and abanicos were gone with the wind, or as the Españoles here tell me they are relegated to and half forgotten in small towns where people still puff away and fan away as their ancestors did during the Empire. 

I met many Filipinos here, my kababayan, but very few greeted me or returned my salute. I was taken aback being so used to the friendly smiles and Ciao’s of our fellow countrymen in Roma. The Filipino-Romans almost always greet you and always return your salutes. They even take the pains to chat with you and you end up to be invited to their community for lunch the next Sunday. Here in Madrid, none of that, and I guess you have to be super fortunate to find a welcoming Filipino family. I am very glad that I was: I got to know a Filipino family. And through this nice family I got to be acquainted more about the situation of our kababayan here, enough to understand the apparent snob attitude and guess, maybe rightly, some of the reasons behind.
Our kababayan here in modern Madrid are mostly domestic helpers, like in Roma. Some are fortunate to hold higher paying jobs but the greater majority has to sweat away to pay their rent and the bills and have enough as well to send back home. Many have two or more jobs because a single job gives a meager amount and that’s not enough to support you here AND be able to send some euros back home: so many almost always nearly kill themselves of hard work. They get to work hours and hours. Worse, they almost always share the flat with other kababayan to water down the strong rent. Here in Madrid, so in Roma. So after grueling work, a small room awaits you. You can imagine what that feels like.

The Filipino-Romans have communities. Last year there were fifty two. This year I am sure that there will be more. You see, they fight each other and they break up and divide themselves to solve the fight. A newcomer in Rome almost always gets incorporated immediately to a certain community. He, or most frequently, she goes to Holy Mass, has lunch and gets and gives attention in the community. If he or she is sick she is taken care of; if a loved one dies in Filippine there will be a contribution to help him or her go home; if he or she is getting almost crazy of tiredness or loneliness he or she gets consolation and support. You’ll always hear laughter during these community gatherings. And that’s music to your ears. Of course who we are in Filippine will be who we are in Roma. There are fights, as I told you, and divisions. There are tsismis and sugal and shabu and bunuan. There are jealousies and misunderstandings. But these are solved and life is better off afterwards. Here in Madrid, those I got to know tell me they have nothing of that here. Of course as Filipinos we love fiestas so here they have fiestas too. They bring food, maybe a goat, and share it among themselves in their small group: but none of the organization or institution of a comunità Filippina of the Filipino-Romans. So they do not enjoy all the advantages I listed above. Each extended family is on its own in Madrid. Each group of Ilocanos or Ilonggos fends for itself. They tell me too something horrible happens here that I have heard to be happening in US but not in Italy: a Filipino reporting a fellow Filipino illegal immigrant to the Autoridad: so stranger danger. Life is already hard for our kababayan here what with all those back breaking jobs they have, the loneliness and solitude and with that strangeness of people and culture that many times they have to adapt to, yet some make it harder still for others.

My stay here comes to an end after a month and a half of learning Español and getting to know Madrid and the Madrileños. In five days my plane takes me back to school and to my ordinary every day life. Who knows when I might be able to come back? I have good memories and I will remember a Madrid quite different from what I imagined before Barrajas destroyed it, and I will remember our kababayan here. They have my prayers and I ask you to pray for them too. When you think of Madrid, think of the Filipino-Madrileños, and pray with me that they may be able to return your smiles and your Hola’s or your Kumusta po.

Written in Parroquia santa María de Caná, Pozuelo de Alarcón, Madrid, España.
September 23, 2007



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