Saturday, 30 December 2006

A very Filipino Christmas

IT started as normally as many Filipino parties often do—a few “fashionably late” minutes later than scheduled.

The food was great, with an eclectic regional and international culinary selection that only Filipinos can pull off so well. Bicol express, Chinese yang chow fried rice made from Indian Basmati, Italian spaghetti and other favorites from around the country and the world over graced the table, way in overabundance for all the partygoers to consume twice over.

Oh, and there were the favorite Filipino games alright, both for the kids and the adults to enjoy. There was even a special edition of “Deal or No Deal,” complete with the Kris Aquino mannerisms and expressions that we all love so much. Prizes aplenty too for the winners, with some even for the losers as well.

And what gathering can be complete without the dancing — to the beat of Gary Valenciano and VST & Co. no less. With happy couples swinging away until the small hours, it was a Christmas party truly worthy of being called Filipino. For few can really enjoy a party as we do — just ask the occasional foreigner lucky enough to be invited to one of these soirees, and I am sure they would all wholeheartedly agree.

Typical of so many of our gatherings at this time of the year, this one could have been held anywhere in the country. The only give-away was the freezing cold and damp outside the hall, something not really typical of the Philippines at this time of the year, or the whole year for that matter.

The celebration I speak of was held in Cheshire, in the suburb of Cheadle — home to a good number of Filipino migrant families here in the United Kingdom. Many of them engaged in nursing and allied health professions, the Filipinos here are a vibrant group, proud members of a community that they call their own, at least for now.

Like a good number of Western countries today, the United Kingdom relies on foreign workers to take care of its healthcare needs, and our Filipino brothers and sisters were only too happy to respond to the challenge. As a result, most of the hospitals in the area are staffed with familiar faces, not unlike the wards of our hospitals back home.

Badly needed though their services may be, however, our brothers and sisters here face uncertain times ahead. Some in the United Kingdom (UK) medical community have voiced concerns over the fact that too many foreign workers have come, at the expense of UK and European Union (EU) nationals.

With many Eastern European countries already in the Union, their workers will soon have equal rights with UK citizens to work in the country. In the case of the health industry, this will come at the expense of non-EU nationals, including Filipinos.

With so much agitation over the issue of migration (especially the connection with the sensitive subject of foreign-sponsored terrorism), controls over immigration are only bound to get tighter.

This will not be helped by the planned exit of Tony Blair in May, and the expected strengthening of the Conservative Party— whose immigration policies can only be described as less-than-friendly to foreign workers.

And still, we party on.

Looking around the dance hall that night, no threat of immigration clampdowns or foreign worker restrictions seem to be imminent.

In terms of resiliency and stoic resolve, we Filipinos are legendary. Perhaps due to our happy go lucky nature, and certainly because of our faith in Divine Providence — adversity or not — we simply continue to live as we normally do, and party as much as we have always done.

Published in the Sun Star Daily, Saturday, December 30, 2006 (

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