In the recent tour of The Nightingales (soprano duo), under the Mabuhay Philippines program of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Cultural Exchange Department, several high-spirited Pinoys in Europe took the lead in supporting and organizing the performances and workshops mounted for the Filipino migrants and overseas workers.
The Mabuhay Philippines tour was held from October 20 to November 5, 2023, and covered four countries in Europe, namely the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and Italy. For each community the Mabuhay Philippines program visited, a group of Filipinos took on the challenging tasks of arranging and coordinating the venues, technical facilities, lodging, meals, and transportation for the eight-member touring party (Alfred Samonte, Bianca Camille Lopez, Keiko Cayanga, Ian Aguila, Cecile Mambuay, Lolito Pontillas, Marichelle Bernardo and including the author), and audience mobilization among others.
To host a visiting Philippine performing or cultural troupe entails a lot of tedious work, communications, and networking. These tasks, in turn, require a huge amount of patience, energy, enthusiasm, and perseverance. Thankfully, the hosts in all the sites have proven that they were up to the challenge, and possess all these traits. Despite their busy schedules with their professional work and personal lives, they took time and effort to prepare everything we needed for the tour and that was why the performances and workshops were successfully done.
In Gouda South Holland, the Filipino Catholic Community (FCC), led by board member Amor Van Os, has been actively involved in various activities that keep the Filipinos interacting, engaging, and socializing while extending different services to the community, especially through the celebration of Holy Mass during Sundays and other important occasions.
The Pinoys in Gouda ensure to continue the Philippine traditions they grew up with; the most valuable of which is celebrating life together as a happy and content family. Lovella, who hails from Mindanao and is married to Lenard van der Weiden, welcomed the CCP contingent (Lolito Pontillas of Agusan del Sur and the author) to their home, even spending time with the group and held meetings with other Pinoys. Lea Saga-Van Rhijin from Bulacan, a licensed medical technician who works in a hospital, and her husband Alex, a captain of a luxury liner, with their two boys, let puni artist Marichelle Bernardo of Bulacan and theater-dance facilitator Cecile Mambuay of Cagayan de Oro/Marawi stay with the family while in Europe.
The bubbliest woman in the group was Elpie Gutierez from Tacloban City who also works in a hospital and accepts sewing services at home during her off-duty days. Ate Elpie, who is married to Han Clercq, hosted Alfred Samonte, artistic director of The Nightingales, and prepared a sumptuous meal for the whole team on their last day in Gouda.
Mary Jane Osigan Streefland, another FCC officer, hosted the soprano duo Bianca Camille Lopez-Aguila, Keiko Cressida Cayanga, and production manager Ian Aguila. During the few days, the MP Team stayed with these families, they saw the best of Filipino hospitality, something that the group was always thankful for.
On October 23, the group took a seven-hour trip from Rotterdam, Netherlands to Bonn in Germany via the Flix Bus. Amid the chilly weather, the team felt the warm welcome from their host Pinay vlogger and digital content creator Stephanie Mae Dorp, who with another kind of Pinoy migrant waited for the arrival of the team at the bus terminal and helped the team settled in at their lodgings.
The following day, the group headed to Cologne for the concert at the Missione Cattolica Italiana, Ursula Church, through the arrangements made by the Filipino Catholic Community of Cologne. The Nightingales performed classic and contemporary songs to the community of Filipino migrants and their families. The most applauded number was the medley of Filipino folk songs which brought back memories of hometowns from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao among the audiences. The program ended with heartwarming Christmas songs that made everyone sentimental but cheerful.
On October 25, the team stayed with couple Stephanie and Papi with their children Nathan, Tipoy, and Arya at Robert-Havemam Strasse. After a delightful spread of European delights and Filipino favorites, the group held two workshops in the living room with a small group of Pinoys. The children eagerly participated in puni leaf art workshop led by Bernardo, and the Mindanao dance workshop conducted by Pontillas.
To cap the day’s event, The Nightingales performed a short program, set up in the small hallway. It was streamed live by Steph on her Team Blended FB page and reached 23,000 views, 1,000 likes, 300 comments, and 57 shares (as of October 28). As of writing this article, the Youtube viewership of the said concert, which was uploaded to the Team Blended channel, has already reached 62,000 views, 219 comments, and 3500 likes.
The CCP aims to reach the Filipinos around the world. Through the live stream on Steph’s channel, the Mabuhay Philippines activity was accessed by her 301,000 subscribers on YouTube and 197,000 followers/friends on Facebook. The team’s visit to Bonn was made even more memorable with the thoughtfulness of Ernesto Labra Jr. from Cebu City, and Mandy and Dhong Mabandos from Mati, Davao Oriental.
From Germany, the MP team traveled for 18 hours via Flix Bus and moved to Spain. After arriving in Barcelona, the team headed to the Parroquia Inmaculada Concepcion Y San Lorenzo Ruiz Church for their third engagement.
After some hesitation because he has only been the parish priest for over a year, Fr. Lino Castro, who hails from Alfonso, Cavite, hosted and presented the Mabuhay Philippines program in Barcelona. The team was well-received and taken care of by a huge Filipino community who gave their genuine Filipino hospitality, from preparing their daily meals to lodging needs and sightseeing tours to the majestic Sagrada Familia and Our Lady of Montserrat, among other tourist destinations.
The October 29 concert and workshops on puni leaf art, Mindanao dance, and music were very well-attended by the kababayans who were seemingly gifted with varied artistic talents. Ate Mina Perez was superbly kind as she accompanied and assisted the group in all our engagements in Barcelona.
Italy was the group’s last stop. While there were no performances or workshops, the team linked up with fellow Filipinos in Florence, who could be potential partners and collaborators for the next edition of the Mabuhay Philippines program.
The team observed that Filipinos and Italians have many good things in common; kindness is one. In Firenze, they were given a complimentary stay in a beautiful European villa owned by Filippo Detaglia, a friend of Corazon Sugui from Gapan, Nueva Ecija who has been working in Italy for over two decades.
Ferdinand Bong Beltran from Lemery, Batangas, who has been working in Italy for over seven years, assisted the team with their transportation needs in Italy. Weeks later after the team went back to Manila, sad news of Filippo’s passing reached them. During their stay in Firenze, the author got a chance to speak to him over the phone to personally thank him for his generosity, and in that brief moment, the author felt his warm and gentle persona.
Hats off to all the Pinoy hosts and organizers in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and Italy who have shown their admirable Filipino traits – resilient, hardworking, adaptable, bighearted, creative, patient, generous, and amusing. The team expressed their gratitude to each of them – Bedankt, Danke, Gracias, Grazie, Maraming Salamat!
Indeed, in every corner of the world, most kababayans are not just high-spirited and making valuable contributions to the global community, but are also avid supporters of Philippine arts and culture. This is a reason to be joyful and anticipate more cultural experiences and exchanges under the Mabuhay Philippines program of the CCP Cultural Exchange.