The Filipino perspective on Ireland as a country

By Shane Brothwood

Around 12,000 Filipinos currently live in Ireland – after a surge in emigration greatly influenced by a shortage of nurses.

Ireland Today has discussed life in Ireland with these emigrants to see how life is for them here.

The influx of Filipinos was greatly influenced by a nursing shortage
The influx of Filipinos was greatly influenced by a nursing shortage

The number of Filipinos has skyrocketed since 1999 when only 500 lived here.  The figure dramatically rose to 11,000 by 2006.

Today over 3,800 Filipinos work as nurses in Ireland and they have, like the Irish who have emigrated, had to fit in to a completely different society.

However, according to some of the Filipinos we spoke to life is not always easy.

Traditional Filipino culture is instilled in us by parents and the older generations, 21-year-old Josh Martin from Dublin, said.

“For the younger generation, there’s a hybrid culture, and when I say younger, I mean younger than me.  As a result the younger generation mingle better”.

Josh said the Filipino community in Ireland, “is quite strong, but over the years, it’s splintered into sub-groups.

“The people who speak the same dialect stick together”.

josh
Josh has fitted in to Irish life, but it’s not always been an easy transition

Those who speak the main dialect, Tagalog, find it easier to acquire a second language, while people who speak with the Ilocano dialect find it more difficult to get accustomed to new languages.

Though it is not something we often want to recognise, Josh stated that discrimination does exist in Ireland, just as it did for the Irish travelling to Britain in the ’50s and ’60s.

“There’s always racism anywhere, you go, but I never heard of anyone getting physical abused,” he said.

And in terms of access to education, there is inequality. Josh claimed.  He said that despite his brother finishing the last two years of secondary school education, and having enough points for his chosen university course, he had to complete a third year in order to be eligible for EU Fees (€4,000).

Non-EU citizens who do not finish three years of Irish secondary school are paying astronomical amounts (€11,000) to study here.

 

Phiel Reynes, 22, moved to Ireland when he was 10, because his father got a job in St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin.

“I was ten years old at that time and had broken English as my way of communicating to others,” he said.

It was a tough and arduous two years for me, as I could not understand English, and if I did, I would only be able to understand just a few words.

This communication barrier continued until secondary school, where Phiel participated in sports, and in his own words, he began “acting the eejit”, as a way of improving his English and making friends with pupils from a diverse range of backgrounds, including Indians, Irish, other Filipinos and Latvians.

The skyline across Manila filled with skyscrapers
The skyline across Manila filled with skyscrapers

After doing well enough in his Leaving Cert to go to DIT to study Business, he eventually transferred to UCD, to do his desired course of commerce.

From barely speaking English, to studying in UCD, Phiel has come a long way.  And as of December 2015, he became a naturalised Irish citizen.

But integration has had mixed results.

From a Western perspective, the Philippines is often stereotyped as a developing country, but in fact the capital city Manila, is largely Americanised, and has skyscrapers similar to New York.

Josh said that now that Ireland is becoming more and more Americanised, – in particular with the D4 accent, he said, Filipinos are increasingly finding common ground.

He finds the Irish people fun and sociable, and made the same comparison to the Filipino community.

Filipinos also find solace with the Catholic religion in Ireland, with 84 per cent of Irish people and 83 per cent of

Filipinos identifying as Roman Catholic.

While weekly church attendance is a common thing among most Filipinos, weekly mass attendance by the Irish is at and all time low – just 30 per cent.

The main difference between the two cultures in Josh’s opinion is that the Irish drink more alcohol than Filipinos.

 

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