Pinoyspotting: Panama Canal, Athens and Vienna

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On Cruise to the Panama Canal and a trip to Istanbul and Athens

by Albert Romero

Earlier this year, we went on a cruise to the Panama Canal to celebrate my mother's birthday (I gave up a very important high school reunion for this trip), and a tour of Istanbul and Athens. Featured are those heroes of the Philippine economy, the Filipino sailors who ply the seven seas and send remittances home.
The lady in the sailor stripes is Gilen Valle Bunal from Talisay, Cebu.  She is part of the crew of the Island Princess and has been working the cruise lines for several years.  She graciously fed us with a cheerfulness and warmth that belied her sadness in missing her young daughter all the days at sea. (Photo by Albert Romero)

The lady in the sailor stripes is Gilen Valle Bunal from Talisay, Cebu.  She is part of the crew of the Island Princess and has been working the cruise lines for several years.  She graciously fed us with a cheerfulness and warmth that belied her sadness in missing her young daughter all the days at sea. (Photo by Albert Romero)

Marvin Prado (on the left) who comes from Cavite is a very talented person.  He too has been sailing for several years and he made my Mom's birthday dinner very special with a serenade.  He later showcased his singing talent during the crew's talent night and got an offer to be part of the cast of entertainers. (Photo by Albert Romero)

Marvin Prado (on the left) who comes from Cavite is a very talented person.  He too has been sailing for several years and he made my Mom's birthday dinner very special with a serenade.  He later showcased his singing talent during the crew's talent night and got an offer to be part of the cast of entertainers. (Photo by Albert Romero)

I was disappointed to note that Filipinos comprised 580 of the ship's complement of 750 but not a single one of them was an officer.

The trip to Istanbul was disappointing in that I did not meet a single Filipino!

After the disappointment of not spotting a single Filipino in Istanbul, I was rewarded with the pleasure of meeting a very cheerful Filipina named Rowena Reyes (in the floral dress).  She was on the wait staff at the Athens Hilton and when she showed up with a glass of orange juice, I told her of my disappointment.  She told me not to fret as she would arrange for me to meet Filipinos.  Sure enough, she sent Edward and Rosemarie Rifareal to take us to a Filipino gathering at their church.  It turned out that the church, which was attended mostly by kababayans, was celebrating its fifth anniversary.  We were treated to Filipino food which we were  starting to miss. The charming little miss is Edward's and Rosemarie's daughter Precious. (Photo by Albert Romero)

After the disappointment of not spotting a single Filipino in Istanbul, I was rewarded with the pleasure of meeting a very cheerful Filipina named Rowena Reyes (in the floral dress).  She was on the wait staff at the Athens Hilton and when she showed up with a glass of orange juice, I told her of my disappointment.  She told me not to fret as she would arrange for me to meet Filipinos.  Sure enough, she sent Edward and Rosemarie Rifareal to take us to a Filipino gathering at their church.  It turned out that the church, which was attended mostly by kababayans, was celebrating its fifth anniversary.  We were treated to Filipino food which we were  starting to miss. The charming little miss is Edward's and Rosemarie's daughter Precious. (Photo by Albert Romero)

Edward along with his wife Rosemarie, and Rowena later took us on a tour of Athens and also showed us the luxury yacht that he crewed for.  It turned that Rosemarie used to be a sailor also and Edward teaches karate and is an avid mountain biker. (Photo courtesy of Albert Romero)

Edward along with his wife Rosemarie, and Rowena later took us on a tour of Athens and also showed us the luxury yacht that he crewed for.  It turned that Rosemarie used to be a sailor also and Edward teaches karate and is an avid mountain biker. (Photo courtesy of Albert Romero)


Vienna

By Bella Bonner

(Left to right) Bella Bonner, Ferds Dayao and Bong Magbojos (Photo by Bert Cayabyab)

(Left to right) Bella Bonner, Ferds Dayao and Bong Magbojos (Photo by Bert Cayabyab)

We had just walked into the Hotel Bellevue in Vienna, Austria when we saw a couple of Filipino-looking guys handling luggage in the lobby. "O pare!" my husband Bert greeted, and when they responded with a smile, the conversation began and we learned a few things. Bong Magbojos (right) has been living in Vienna for 14 years while Ferds Dayao (middle) has for 25. When they saw a window of opportunity to migrate in the '90s and early 2000s, they grabbed it and took their families with them.  Today, Austria's immigration doors have mostly closed. Its population of eight million includes 34,000 happy Filipinos, mostly nurses working in hospitals.