Category Archives: Switzerland

60th Philippines-Switzerland Diplomatic Relations Anniversary

60th Philippines-Switzerland Diplomatic Relations Anniversary (1957-2017)
by Betsy von Atzigen, ENFiD Chair

17 June 2017, Switzerland — A festive, colourful memorable day-long celebration of the 60th Philippines-Switzerland Diplomatic Relations Anniversary welcomed a multitude of Filipino-Swiss community to Waisenhausplatz at the country’s capital Bern.

Featured were all-time popular Ati-Atihan, Sinulog, Philippine cuisine, seasonal home grown fruits, pasalubong items, handicrafts, cultural performances, and Phil-Swiss youth concert in the evening.

Swiss EU Event3

Swiss EU Event4

Swiss EU Event5

His Excellency Joselito Jimeno greeted everyone on the grounds, in the booths, on stage, after street performances, on food stalls and tirelessly posed for never ending photo ops.

Swiss EU Event2

Swiss EU Event1

The year-long celebration was officially launched in January 2017 in Bern, Switzerland and also in Manila,Philippines. Here’s a line up of history- making events:
17 June – Philippine Fiesta Bern
02 July – Zürich
02 Sep – Basel
23 Sep – Zürich
11 Nov – St Gallen
18 Nov – Tessin (Ticino)

Philippine Cultural Events
19 June -Schaffhausen Wreathlaying to commemorate the 156th birth anniversary of Philippine national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal, who first visited venue in Switzerland

21 June – Basel Cultural event

6-7 Oct – Bern Food Festival by Chef Domingo Mille Sens Restaurant

Oct – Tessin (Ticino) Gala Charity and Food Festival

21 Nov – Prof Randy David’s lecture in Franklin University

28 Nov – Zürich Prof Randy David’s lecture on How Philippine Culture Evolved

ENFID-Swiss is actively engaged in the year-long celebration of joint PR-CH 60th anniversary.

Let us connect. Let us celebrate. Let us be grateful for 60 years of fruitful Philippine-Swiss diplomatic relations. Manuhay!

ENFiD-Swiss: Euro-Filipino’s engaged partner in Europe

by Joanna Wennstroem, ENFiD-Swiss Country Representative

ENFiD-Swiss has come a long way. On our 3rd year of active growth, we continue to grow beyond
expectation. This year is the 60th anniversary of Philippines- Switzerland Diplomatic Relations and all
over Switzerland, as well as all through the year, Filcom organizations are organozing a variety of
events to highlight this event in cooperation with the Philippine Embassy Berne. ENFiD-Swiss is
taking a pro-active role in these celebrations.

ENFiD-Swiss gives the anniversary a big cool cultural splash on November 11, 2017 in Canton St. Gallen,
where ENFID- Swiss is registered. Be part of Euro-Swiss history, come join us in St Gallen!

Last May 27th, ENFiD-Swiss organized a Spring Dinner and second Annual General Assembly at
Erlöser Halle in Zurich where we enjoyed a successful turn out. Everyone enjoyed a delectable
catered Pinoy dinner spread as some key leadership posts were filled. We introduced ENFiD-Swiss’ 2
Year Action Plan, highlighting our engagement on ENFiD’s 4 Action Plan Objectives: Euro-Pinoy
Youth Development, Environment/Sustainable Energy Project in the homeland, Art, Culture and
Sports promotion and providing Learning and Education sessions to our members.

ENFID Swiss Photo1

ENFID-Swiss new set of officers L-R: Marissa Gartenbein-Asst PR & Media Communications, Marissa Duss- Treasurer, Eppie Balagasay & Joanna Wennström -Country Reps, Marilou Hasler-Asst Events, Marcelina Manalo- Ermert- Honorary leader, Merlin Burner-Asst Membership, Maria Theresa Talisay-Asst Secretary, Minerva Mondejar Steiner-PR & Media Communications, Imelda Vollenweider- Events/ Environment, Crystal Leutwyler (with baby)- Deputy Country Rep, Irma Kaestner-Youth Committee & Maggie Gloor- Auditor (both not in photo), Julia Sequerra & Jeff Panes Youth Committee Members, Thezi Gauckler- Membership, Mary Jane Hug- Secretary and Betsy von Atzigen-ENFID- Europe Chairperson

At the Assembly’s Q&A Forum, one question that everyone thought of and actually asked was if we we
at ENFID were paid? Again, we stressed that our work for ENFID is pure dedication and willingness to
volunteer for the betterment of our Kababayans in Europe and in our beloved country, We cannot
stress enough that we are a NON-Political, NON-Partisan, NON- Religious and a NOT for profit
network. Anytime, do check out our online ENFiD Constitution and By Laws @enfid.org to understand
the organization’s mission, vision and aims.

I am most excited about the YENFiD Youth Committee, three of whom were in attendance at the
recent Assembly. My daughter Gaby has also shown interest in joining, but was unable to come.
Lenny Bugayong, head of Noi P has now their contacts for coordination purposes.

More questions were asked by the curious ones, for example, when we explained about the Bio-Gas
Digester technology developed in the Netherlands. How would this work in our country? Where will
this be constructed? When? Where do we get the money? ENFID- Europe Chairperson Betsy von
Atzigen explained that this is along term plan needing a sizeable funding and dedication from all sides
– ENFiD Europe and local partners back home who will see through its implementation and
sustainability. Yes, it it will take some time and effort for us to help and guide and train our
countrymen, but this will also ensure work for them. Sponsorship is a vital part of this ambition project
and fortunately, we may have the help we are looking for. Sponsors are around the corner and we
need the right contact person who can introduce us to them.

ENFID Swiss Photo2

For Philippine Arts, Culture and Sports, in our forthcoming St. Gallen event, we are going to feature
our beloved Cultural dances. Meanwhile we are still on the look out for singers to perform our
Kundimans. We’ve met a member of the Youth Committee who is the founder of the Swiss ARNIS
Club, so hopefully we can also feature a Filipino sport.

On June 17, 2017 ENFiD-Swiss is committed to help with the 60th Philippines-Switzerland Diplomatic
Relations in Berne at the Weissenhausplatz. We are featuring the charity project of one of our ENFiD-
Swiss members Edith Niklaus and her Philippine products made by hand by young prisoners of
Muntinlupa and the DSWD project in Barangay Sto. Rosario, Pandan Antique.

ENFID Swiss Photo3.jpg

Above Philippine products that ENFID-Swiss will sell at the 60th Philippine-Switzerland Diplomatic Relations on June 17, 2017 come from the DWSD project in Pandan Antique.

On September 29, 2017, we very much look forward to ENFiD-Europe’s 4th Annual General Assembly
and Conference to be held in Essen, Germany. We are excited to meet our ENFiD friends from all
over Europe at this most-sought after assembly. Very limited slots so register today and see you
there!

ENFiD Statement: ENFiD IS AN OPEN ORGANIZATION

Download the pdf version here: ENFiD-is-an-open-organisation

 

ENFiD  IS AN OPEN ORGANISATION

 

ENFiD is non-political, non-sectarian and not-for-profit network. It comprises members from different sectors of the society, including all political leanings. ENFiD’s foundations are formulated in its Constitution. It provides a forum for regional and global interaction between and among Filipino individuals and organisations within the European Community, with Philippines and with the rest of the world. It inspires and initiates non-partisan dialogues and discussions on relevant topics and participates in the international dialogue on ethical, cultural and political issues with a view to alleviate global poverty.

Let it be known that members of ENFiD are a mixture of supporters and non-supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte. As ENFiD, we believe that individual members have the freedom to express their (political) opinion on a personal level. However, let this be clear to all that these individual positions of various ENFiD members are NOT THE POSITION OF ENFID.

The Board of Directors of ENFiD deplores the current malicious, unfounded attacks to ENFiD in social media where ENFiD is accused of being the European arm of the Liberal Party (the yellowist) and of being funded by US-based Filipino philanthropist, Attorney Loida Nicolas. Both are not true. These accusations were based on the attendance of Mr. Gene Alcantara, the former Chair of ENFiD, at a protest rally organized by anti-Duterte groups in Paris. Mr. Alcantara was there as a journalist-correspondent of ABS-CBN and not as an ENFiD representative. ENFiD was not represented in that rally.

ENFiD is an open organization. It welcomes all Euro-Pinoys from all political colors, from any religion, from all background, as long as one adheres to principles of democracy and respect for one another.

Within ENFiD, reflecting the diversity of the Filipino society at large, different positions exist which have led to spontaneous partisan positions in public, which do not necessarily represent the official position of ENFiD.

ENFiD core values and principles: As mentioned in ENFiD Constitution, our network aims to bring different communities of the OF’s and OFW’s in Europe together, to function as a platform for exchange across European borders and to promote joint action for the cause of Filipinos in Europe, but also in support of the development of our home country.

As OF’s/OFWs in Europe, and our exposure to European society, we have benefitted from the core values and principles on which European democratic societies are built, such as the respect for the rule of law, solidarity and basic humanitarian principles. Europe’s development over the past decades cannot be delinked from these fundamental political and societal foundations which we subscribe to.

Signed:

 

The Board of Directors of ENFiD

13 June 2017

 

Previous ENFID Statement on Yellow Arm

Check out our upcoming General Assembly and Conference in Germany

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ENFiD Statement: On Yellow Arm

ENFiD Statement

Concerning the posting “’ENFiD: European Network of Filipino Diaspora’ is the YELLOW ARM here in Europe” posted on 28 April 2017 on the Facebook Wall “For the Motherland,” the ENFiD Board states the following:

The posting refers to a shared Facebook post of the ENFiD Country Representative of Iceland. This posting does not reflect the official position of the ENFiD Board and was not mandated by the same Board.

ENFiD is non-political, non-religious and not-for-profit network. It comprises members from different sectors of the society, including all political leanings. ENFiD’s foundations are formulated in its Constitution. It provides a forum for regional and global interaction between and among Filipino individuals and organisations within the European Community, with Philippines and with the rest of the world. It inspires and initiates non-partisan dialogues and discussions on relevant topics and participates in the international dialogue on ethical, cultural and political issues with a view to alleviate global poverty.

Concerning the content of the shared posting of the ENFiD-Iceland Representative regarding the war on drugs, ENFiD’s Board states the following:

“Since entering into office of the Duterte Government, the issue of alleged Extrajudicial Killings (EJK) became a highly contested topic within the Philippines and within the community of OF’s/OFW’s. At the international level, many eyes have turned towards the Philippines commenting with surprise and disapproval on these alleged EJK.

Also within ENFiD, reflecting the diversity of the Filipino society at large, different positions exist which have led to spontaneous partisan positions in public, which do not necessarily represent the official position of ENFiD.

ENFiD core values and principles: As mentioned in ENFiD Constitution, our network aims to bring different communities of the OF’s and OFW’s in Europe together, to function as a platform for exchange across European borders and to promote joint action for the cause of Filipinos in Europe, but also in support of the development of our home country.

As OF’s/OFWs in Europe, and our exposure to European society, we have benefitted from the core values and principles on which European democratic societies are built, such as the respect for the rule of law, solidarity and basic humanitarian principles. Europe’s development over the past decades cannot be delinked from these fundamental political and societal foundations.

Against this background, ENFiD was created with a spirit of openness, respect for the other and willingness to include all different OF/OFW communities. This spirit does not align with the manner how the drug problems are being dealt with in the Philippines. The current practices go against the rule of law and against basic humanitarian principles as written in international agreements which also the Philippines has adhered to.

ENFiD’s position with regard to the Philippine war on drugs is informed by six aspects:

  • Recognition that drugs is a serious problem in the Philippines and that the Government needs to address it with vigor;
  • Disapproval of the practice of EJK as it goes against the rule of law and human rights principles
  • Killings of humans, whether by drug gangs, other criminals or the police, is categorically unacceptable and should be condemned;
  • Drugs problems need to be attended to by means of specific Government programs to help drug dependent person and families and setting up rehabilitation centers;
  • Drug problems, and the related criminal practice of users, cannot be looked at in isolation; they need to be seen as a product of poverty, inequality, social problems and economic exclusion which the Government’s policies and actions should be focused on;
  • Corruption within Government institutions, which have allowed criminal and drug-related illegal practices to proliferate need to be targeted and fought against.

What ENFiD does: ENFiD promotes towards our network, our members and our relations to support alternative approaches in dealing with the drug problems. This comprises support to rehabilitation projects, specific programs to help drug dependent person and their families, anti-drug public awareness campaigns, the setting up of rehabilitation facilities, utilisation of judicial system and non-violent initiatives to combat drug use.”

 

Signed

 

ENFiD-Europe

28 April 2017

Click here to download the statement

[ENFiD-Switzerland] Country Report from Switzerland: November 2016

The Tale of Enfid-Swiss
By Betsy von Atzigen

Once upon a time, by the Säntis alps in Sankt Gallen, a petite Ilongga quietly lived and worked around her own. The calm was interrupted when she got invited by 2 other Ilongga sisters from Stockholm and Oslo to attend an important gathering in Malta. The travel was to find not a prince charming but to pen a new chapter in the book of Enfid tales. Malta is a spectacular southern island country in the Mediterranean, with mesmerizing blue waters and shimmering islands. How could one not visit?

The Sankt Galler Ilongga then went in haste to the gathering and was awed by 100 or more highly engaged busy talking men dressed in handsome barongs and coats and women in elegant pinya and jusi Filipiniana, living mainly in Europe. But there was something more than met her eye. They were all passionate about connecting and relating with other Pinoys within the continent. The hall was abuzz with „Ako ay Filipino overseas… Ganito ako ngayon, paano ako bukas?“

Convinced that the purpose of the gathering  was good for community-building, the petite Ilongga went back home to Sankt Gallen. From there, she announced, searched and gathered 15 other petite and not-so-petite but delightfully purposed Pinays living in not so far-flung Swiss-German, Swiss-French, Swiss-Italian and Swiss-Romansch cantons. Together they embarked on a new chapter of Enfid in the chocolatey heart of western-central Europe, Switzerland. The Toblerone valleys gave way. On the 24th of October 2015, at the Quartierzentrum of Zürich, ENFiD-Swiss came into being.

Chapter 1
The tale continues. 11 months on, ENFiD-Swiss community grew and stretched, aiming to reach all 17,000 Pinoys in this alpine country. Various connections were established. Meaningful engagements  ensued. Learning and development huddles caused sure bonding and strengthening. Social media was abuzz like drones on cyber sky. The ENFiD-Swiss Constitution and By-laws were written, approved and sealed. The book  became a balustrade of Enfid life.

Then the hour came for its official grounding in the alpine Canton of Sankt Gallen.  The fair and affable lawyer Stadtpräsidentin / City Mayor Frau Susanne Hartmann officially recognized and signed the ENFiD Book. Our Constitution and By-Laws became a permanent part of the local Swiss Gemeinde / community. Yes, we have penned ENFiD in Swiss history. The first of its kind, more of its kind to come. Tis‘ the season to celebrate.

ENFiD Swiss with Stadt Präsidentin

Chapter 2
The tale heightens like the Swiss alps.  2017 marks 60 years of Philippine-Swiss diplomatic relations. Cheers to the unfolding of a new and exciting chapter. betsy.vonatzigen@enfid.org

[ENFiD-Switzerland] First General Assembly

By Betsy von Atzigen, Switzerland

The 1st General Assembly of ENFid-Swiss took place on February 6th, 2016 in Zürich three months after its official launch. FILcom Leaders representing 4 Swiss Cantons originally formed the network and to date, 6 more Cantons have come to participate bringing it to a total of 10 Cantons, strengthening both number and capacity. It seeks to connect with Filipinos living in all 26 Swiss Cantons in future Assemblies.

ENFiD Switzerland

ENFID-Swiss is grateful and delighted with the active participation of Minister and Consul General Ms. Maria Theresa S.M. Lazaro and Ms. Joanne Tecson, Information Officer of the Philippine Embassy in Berne. ENFiD Swiss has just begun yet emboldened by the generous and enthusiastic support of ENFiD-EU Board of Director / IT Ms Marison Rodriguez who travelled from Czech Republic to strengthen the Assembly alongside the invaluable inputs of ENFiD-EU Executive Director Ms. Rohlee de Guzman and Chairperson Mr. Gene Alcantara.

ENFiD Switzerland

Ms. Betsy von Atzigen, ENFiD-EU elected member of the Board (Aug 2015, Malta) representing Switzerland and responsible for Learning and Development sent out early on the General Assembly Agenda consisting of ENFiD Board approved 2Year Action Plan (2YAP) for 2016-17. These are Empowerment of the Euro-Pinoy YOUTH, Education and Training of FILcom Leaders & Members, Elevating Philippine ARTS & CULTURE and Embracing the ENVIRONMENT.

ENFiD Switzerland

The 1st General Assembly opened with leaders in red paper hats singing a choreographed rock beat `This Enfid Light of Mine,‘ an ice breaker then prayer. Betsy gave a brief ENFiD-EU background, the 2YAP PPT presentation, and reinforced by Marison’s introduction. Then the Assembly smoothly re-grouped according to interests for discussion, agreement and reporting.

ENFiD Switzerland


1. THE YOUTH

Foremost in ENFiD plan is the development of a new crop of YOUTH Leaders within the Euro-Pinoy community with strong connection to the Philippines. The 1.5 and 2nd generation Euro-Pinoys have long been kept on the sidelines, somehow lost their Pinoy identity and time has indeed come for their STAR to shine. Spokesperson for the Youth Group Ms. Lenny Bugayong, founder and prime mover of Noi-P CH called for a collaboration among existing youth groups where leadership, development trainings and workshops are organized. One suggested that while Turkish children go to Saturday language school, our youth could also learn Filipino. Language is relevant, so are culture and arts. All these suggestions are in line with ENFiD plan but need a sustained structure to accomplish.

One exciting ENFiD Youth aim which requires funding is the 4-Week community and cultural exposure program to the Philippines that includes integration with tribal groups, volunteer work with projects on women and children, courtesy calls with Local Government Units (LGU’s) and national government offices. To cap the 2YAP for the Youth, ENFiD-Swiss will endeavor to send its leaders to the Euro-Pinoy Youth Forum alongside the 2017 ENFiD European Regional Conference.

Do FILcom leaders truly value our Euro-Pinoy Youth, identify their place in Pinoy/Swiss society and prepare them for leadership roles? We await you as Partners in addressing the needs of our Youth.

2. EDUCATION AND TRAINING
The 2nd Group enthusiastically embraced ENFiD-Swiss’ aim to strengthen FILcom leaders and members in implementing projects and activities through education and training. Newly nominated and elected Media and Communications Head Pastor Ronald reported the outcome of the group discussion points, highlighting Gender and Development Training (GAD) wherein talks between the Philippine Embassy and ENFiD Swiss have already begun. Details of the plan will be announced once finalized. Other training programs on offer by ENFiD are Social Remittances Seminar, Financial Literacy, Conflict Management, Project Management of Development Projects, Organizational Strengthening Seminars and other Capacity- building Seminars.

Equally important in this group are the current Advocacies which ENFiD and the Philippine Embassy share on Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) and the West-Philippine Sea (WPS). Minister and ConGen Lazaro announced to the Assembly the Embassy’s plan to hold Information Sessions on these themes. She mentioned that overseas voters’ ballots will arrive by Post earlier than the scheduled national elections and the Info Drive would help voters understand the election process better and the West-Philippine Sea issue. Details to be disseminated shortly.

Are FILcom Leaders convinced of the benefits of Education, Training and Info dissémination on pressing Philippine issues? To participate & share with members, follow ther Announcements!


3. ELEVATE PHILIPPINE ARTS and CULTURE

The 3rd Group, the biggest and most excited of all tackled a deeply interesting topic which is the promotion of quality Filipino artists within the community through Concerts, Art Exhibitions, Movie Screenings in a Filipino Fiesta setting, highlighting Filipino dishes, decors and traditional games.

Antoine Gardien and Pekz Llamoso presented the group’s plan to hold an Open Air Filipino Food Festival in 2016, forerunner of a bigger 2017 Festival, to be hosted by volunteer Filipinos, showcasing a range of Filipino entertainment: performing and the visual arts, children’s traditional games, sale of exotic goods, and display of culture to an audience of 4000 mainly European guests and their families. Sponsorships here play a very important role.

ConGen Lazaro mentioned that the Philippine Embassy has plans to celebrate in 2017 the 60th year of diplomatic relations with the host country and has already identified the venue.

Antoine further talked about the grand Filipino Family Festival in 2017, probably on the last Saturday of June, on a more ambitious scale to 14,000 Swiss/European guests and their families. Major sponsorships to be solicited from the Swiss local Gemeinde or communities. Swiss-based Filipino performing artists, visual artists and others will be invited to showcase their unique talents. A tentative venue has been identified in a large open area in Berne.
Additionally, Antoine suggested a compilation of Swiss-based Filipino Artists’ database, a directory and a Coffee Table Book and these be promoted to all Swiss museums and Auction their Art work. Are you an artist living in Switzerland? Please contact us at enfidswiss@gmail.com

Evelyn Vargas-Knaebel, PETA member, actress, film producer and director is willing to organize a special film segment for ENFiD.

Betsy’s add on: ENFiD Swiss is supporting ENFiD EU’s Ambassador of Goodwill FilAm Stephanie Reese, worldclass Filipino singer/ performer and amazing French-based concert pianist John Florencio to perform in concert in the planned Festival while promoting Swiss-based Filipino artists/performers. A coordination meeting between ENFiD, the Embassy and key players/organizations is necessary for this huge project.

ConGen Lazaro of Philippine Embassy in Berne, Antoine, Evelyn and Betsy, discussion is now open.


4. EMBRACE THE ENVIRONMENT

The 4th Group of Environment loyaltistas led by Sis Imelda Wollenveider passionately discussed their concern for protecting the environment back home. In converting knowledge of the issue of global warming into concrete actions, the group came up with feedback on projects that have been introduced but may be struggling to succeed and considering new projects that may work.

They also recognized the huge project that ENFID EU has proposed: the Syngas Plasma Reactor (SPR) a machine which converts all-waste (bio-waste, glass, plastic, water, metal, etc.) into gas, energy, purified water but also the wind turbines, desalination machines and carbon capturing and recycling machine. ENFiD believes that the SPR technology will be an effective solution to the waste disposal problem in the Philippines while producing clean energy to supply many households. This is a huge project of ENFiD EU wherein Switzerland is welcome to participate.

Antoine suggested that Switzerland is an expert in water, paper, waste recycling and may have the used machineries and technology transfer capacity.

Do FILcom Leaders have any contacts with Swiss technical experts on recycling and protecting the environment? Your referral is highly appreciated. Please email us @ enfidswiss@gmail.com

CONCLUSION
The Gen Assembly concluded with decisive Plan sketches and await groups to map out details in an Action Plan. A recognition and awarding of ENFiD Swiss Group FB favourite Christmas Holiday Photos and Filipino Artists’ paintings concluded the afternoon. Kudos to Mary Jane Hug, Art Gallery organizer and newly elected Secretary / Youth Leader who pursued her own passion for Art and the Artists !

MERCI BEAUCOUP
ENfiD Swiss Betsy von Atzigen generously thanked a very welcoming venue sponsor Pastor Ronald Nolasco Duro and Community, Philippine Embassy Representatives Ms Lazaro and Ms Tecson, ENFiD EU guest Ms Marison Rodriguez, Prize Donors Mr & Ariel Funa of Megaworld Prague, warm & willing FilCom Leaders and Members from 10 Cantons who found ENFiD-Swiss worthy of partnership for the genuine benefit of our Kabataan at Kababayan.

ENFiD Switzerland

Kudos to an amazingly selfless, hardworking and fun-loving ENFiD Swiss Team Leaders worth mentioning here: CountryReps Jing Mamaril (ZH) & Eppie Balagasay (ZH), Deputy CountryRep Joanna Wennstroem (AG), Secretary Mary Jane Hug (AG), Treasurer Marissa Duss (Winterthur), Membership Head Virgie Holliger (AG), Events Head Imelda Wollenweider (Winterthur), Media Communications Ptr Ronald Duro (ZH), ENFiD Writer Lily C. Fen (ZH) and ENFiD EU/Switzerland Director Learning & Development Betsy von Atzigen (SG).

Here’s an invitation to FILcom Leaders from the Swiss-French/Italian Cantons to join our ENFiD Swiss Leadership Group For comments, feedback, questions Email enfidswiss@gmail.com

[ENFiD-Switzerland] Samahang Pilipina Weekend in Switzerland

By Lily C. Fen

The morning began with laughter and the need to keep the door closed, lest our Swiss neighbors at the Seminarhuas Bruchmatt in Luzern be bothered by the usual case of Filipina joy and vocal volume.

The door remained shut, and the rest of us were free to laugh as loudly and as often as we pleased (as Filipinos are won’t to do). Featured guest speaker, Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB (Pontifical Gergorian University, Italy and St. Scholastica’s College, Manila), started us off with a round of Shibashi. It was the first time I had encountered this practice, that looked to me a lot like tai-chi, and reminded me very much of the physical and mental peace I get to achieve in yoga class.

For several minutes, we were moving about gently, imagining that we were picking up the fragrance of the earth and blessing it upon ourselves, or waving about an imaginary piece of silk in the wind. All the movements were nothing strenuous, and yet it got my body warm and my blood pumping as we moved our limbs about to soothing music and Sr. Mary John’s instructions. It is rare for me to have a grounded sense of a true mind and body connection. Sr. Mary John brought us all to that place of feeling fully present in our bodies, as well as mentally energized for the day.

The morning had sixteen women sharing their memories of migration. It was uncanny to note that though all the details were different (people had grown up or moved about from various regions of the Philippines, from Capiz to Manila to Makati to Malaybalay, Bukidnon) the thread of all these women’s stories were strangely similar.

There were records of romance, of imagined danger, of waiting for visas, of falling in love and having children. There were many recollections of loneliness, and the ensuing battle of fighting against that by giving birth to efforts and groups such as the one I had found myself sitting in the room with: a gathering of woman all across Switzerland dubbed Samahang Pilipina, or, in English (for those who might be searching for the right words online), A Gathering of Filipina Women.

It was a place where Filipinas who had migrated for love or family (or adventure or work) could go to in order to bathe in the laughter of our 7,107 islands, a place to go to in order to have a taste of home, in the form of pancit canton or lumpia or kare-kare. It was a safe haven where laughter could be heard in conversation every other minute, just because nearly everything is delightfully humorous when seen through the eyes of a Filipina.

It was a community that thrived on human connection and camaraderie, where one could have access to a piece of home when one was far away.

This had become the steadfast source of comfort and companionship for many Filipinas, dating as far back as 1985, when the first Samahang Pilipina was founded by several ladies from Bern, Zürich, and Luzern. The likes of Anny Misa, Marcelina Ermert, and Evelyn Steiner were to begin a cause that many more women would pick up over the years, into which others would keep breathing life.

Samahang Pilipina now has units all across Switzerland, with Aarau, Bern, Luzern, St. Gallen, Zug and Zürich having a Samahang Pilipina chapter all their own. They know of each other’s existence, but aim to maintain activities independently. There are also gatherings of Filipinos, though not purely made up of women, in Basel, Ticino, and Geneva.

By the time snow had begun falling in fat flakes outside our windows that Saturday afternoon, there were twenty women who were all together taking part in the exchange. Personal stories of migration had given way to a discussion of the various Filipino groups that had developed in Switzerland over time.

Why did these groups exist? How had some survived the test of time and continued on throughout several decades? How does a group maintain itself as time passes? What makes a group successful? What are problems that a group encounters along the way that must be dealt with? These were some of the questions posed that afternoon, in an effort to understand how Filipino communities could stay alive going into future years.

The afternoon had us taking in the wisdom of guest Irene Santiago (Nobel Peace Prize Nominee 2005, Chair Emerita & CEO of Mindanao Commission on Women,), who had come from a speaking engagement in Geneva. She spoke about the search for identity amongst peoples, sharing with the group that conflict often arose out of a need to find one’s sense of self, and beyond that, one’s quest for meaning.

Both guest speakers Santiago and Sr. Mananzan were full of wisdom. These women had experienced adventures set against backdrops of conflict, controversy, and the fight for peace. That weekend in Luzern, they continued on with a nourishing atmosphere of energy and vitality, which they brought into the room, infecting everyone with their light.

Leaving the Samahang Pilipina Assessment Weekend meant carrying out of the Seminarhaus a spark of excitement about being Filipina, about samahan (companionship). There was a shared common fire for keeping the Filipina bond and spirit alive, going into each one’s respective lives and spheres of influence, great or small.

[ENFiD-Switzerland] Color of Sky: A Swiss-Filipina’s Stories

By Lily C. Fen

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“What is the color of sky?” the author’s protagonist asks in this collection of short stories that delves into the heart of identity, of being a creature of two cultures. Is the color of the sky different when seen from the Philippine Islands, compared to the way it looks like when seen from the Swiss Alps? Does the color of the sky differ according to the shade of one’s skin?

These questions are held in the palm of author Lenny Kaye Bugayong’s hand, as she deftly brings to life scenes from a second generation Swiss-Filipina’s childhood.

Pressing thoughts are put forth through rich images and three-dimensional experiences that have to do with how to define one’s sense of self. The danger of falling through the cracks between cultures is suggested, but never quite said, only portrayed through a heart that searches for something that somehow remains at arm’s length for bicultural members of society.

I first had the fortune of meeting the author at the very first meeting of the Swiss chapter of ENFID (European Network of Filipino Diaspora) this October 2015, right next to the hustle and bustle of the Saturday flea market on Langstrasse.

I had heard she had written a book of short stories about being a Swiss-Filipina and had gotten it published, and I was excited to pick her brain and find out more about her work.

Several meetings and one hundred pages later, I had wandered into the mind of a wonderfully pensive writer caught between two worlds. Lenny Kaye Bugayong’s Color of Sky: growing up Swiss with chocolate brown skin is a collection of short stories so real and so poignant, I felt as if I had entered someone else’s little universe that made me feel as if I belonged in this fictional plane. Her words made me laugh and cry in all the right places, leaving me on the edge of my seat whenever a pending kiss or a romantic undertone to a scene was about to take place, or feeling just as livid as the main character whenever she found herself attacked by young perpetrators in the classroom. She brought to life the kind of terrible injustice that children feel with others their age, the kind that grown-ups shrug off, having conveniently forgotten that that had once happened to them in the past.

Color of Sky was published by New Day Publishers in 2011, and is now available in Philippine bookstores, as well as online through Amazon.

For those who have spent their lives living between worlds as sojourners, as balikbayans, as overseas workers, this book comes highly recommended. For those who have lived through the realities of migration, as it sweeps up families and personal situations, this is the kind of book that will make a great companion on one’s bedside table.

Bugayong melds together an array of anecdotes, personal and familial explosions, and the elements of dual realities, exploring “what it is to be bicultural,” to borrow words from former Philippine Ambassador to Switzerland, M. T. P. Lazaro.

Lenny Kaye Bugayong has been a major of English Literature and Linguistics in Zurich, Honolulu, and Fribourg. She is also the founder of Noi-P (Network of Integrated Pinoys) in Switzerland.

[ENFiD-Switzerland] Spotted in Switzerland: February 2016

ENFiD Switzerland holds 1st General Assembly
The 1st General Assembly of ENFid-Swiss took place on February 6th, 2016 in Zürich three months
after its official launch. FILcom Leaders representing 4 Swiss Cantons originally formed the network
and to date, 6 more Cantons have come to participate bringing it to a total of 10 Cantons,
strengthening both number and capacity. It seeks to connect with Filipinos living in all 26 Swiss
Cantons in future Assemblies. More details about this event can be found here.



Color of Sky: A Swiss-Filipina’s Stories

“What is the color of sky?” the author’s protagonist asks in this collection of short stories that delves into the heart of identity, of being a creature of two cultures. Is the color of the sky different when seen from the Philippine Islands, compared to the way it looks like when seen from the Swiss Alps? Does the color of the sky differ according to the shade of one’s skin?
These questions are held in the palm of author Lenny Kaye Bugayong’s hand, as she deftly brings to life scenes from a second generation Swiss-Filipina’s childhood. Here is the link to the full article.


Samahang Pilipina Weekend in Switzerland
The morning began with laughter and the need to keep the door closed, lest our Swiss neighbors at the Seminarhuas Bruchmatt in Luzern be bothered by the usual case of Filipina joy and vocal volume. More stories about this event can be found here.