Filipino Doha

June 12 sees the Philippines celebrating its Independence Day. We asked Filipinos living in Doha how they will mark the occasion

Filipino Doha
Angeline Penry Image #2
Angeline Penry
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Judith Britten Image #6
Judith Britten
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Angeline Penry

‘I’ve been in Doha for almost two years; we came when Bob (my husband) was offered a role as a teacher at the American School. I’m a stay-at-home mum with two kids now, but when I was in the Philippines I worked in the travel industry. ‘I grew up in Angeles City and moved to Manila when I was 16. Angeles City is similar to Doha in that it has a fusion of many different influences from different national-ities, and yet has preserved its own culture. Doha is like a home away from home for me, as there are lots of Filipinos here. I can experience living in a foreign country and at the same time speak my own language wherever
I go, as Kabayans are everywhere! One thing I don’t like about living in Doha is the traffic and the aggressive driving that you see on the roads.

‘I have met a lot of Filipinos through Doha Mums, that group is my social lifeline. I do miss the tropical weather, neighbourhood vendors calling out from their bikes selling whatever, white sand beaches and most of all my mum and dad. I also miss street food – there are lots of Filipino restaurants here in Qatar, but I haven’t found one that makes kare-kare as good as back in my hometown. ‘I go home every year; Christmas isn’t Christmas if I don’t celebrate it in the Philippines. If I was back home for Independence Day I would take my family to Nayong Pilipino, a theme park in Angeles City, where there is music and street dancing.’


Shery Rebustillo

‘I arrived in Doha in 2006; I came to visit my family, as they live here, and ended up looking for a job. I currently work for an e-commerce company as a business support and customer analysis officer. I’m from
Manila in the Philippines, a typical city, busy all the time, it offers everything you need. Lifestyle here is quite relaxed; lifestyle in Manila is hard work! ‘When I first arrived I was a bit bored. You have to be creative to entertain yourself. Doha is a melting pot filled with expatriates from different continents. It’s a major cultural adjustment. There are lots of challenges, including cultural differences and stereotyping. I am very fortunate to be exposed to different cultures and individuals here, though, and that has made me more open-minded.

‘I miss my friends from the Philippines, although I feel very fortunate to be with my family here. I also miss going to the beautiful beaches without spending a fortune. I have met lots of Filipinos in Doha – it’s impossible not to, we are everywhere. I do miss Filipino food too, but there is a newly opened restaurant called Chowking, and it’s one of the biggest fast food chains in the Philippines – I’m so glad there’s at least one branch here. ‘I have a passion for theatre, which I continue to get involved in here in Doha. I have been involved in several musicals since I got here and I’m currently working on Miss Saigon, which will be performed at Doha College in October.’


Judith Britten

‘We originally came to Qatar in 1983 and stayed until 1998. Then, after spending time in the UK and China, we came back in 2008. I am now working for the Supreme Education Council, and my husband is a civil engineer working on Lusail, so we could be here for a while. ‘I am originally from Manila, but I haven’t been back there since 2006. I do miss the food from the Philippines – not a particular dish, just specialties and ingredients that aren’t available here. Lots of restaurants here do offer Filipino food, as Filipinos are known as big eaters. ‘In my spare time I go bowling, and I’m actually a qualified instructor. I am also involved in a scrabble league, which I helped start up in 1996 and launched again last year, as it had discontinued when I left Doha.

We take part in international competitions, and this month we will be competing at the annual Gulf Scrabble Championship, held in Muscat, which is the most prestigious GCC scrabble tournament. ‘A lot of the Filipinos here are a bunch of good spirited people that have been driven away from the country because of poverty. Filipinos are so close knit that if a fellow Filipino asks for help, there is always help. There’s a term that we use that can’t really be translated into English, “Bayanihan spirit” – it means like community spirit. ‘There will be celebrations here for Independence Day; the Philippine Independence Organising Committee (PIOC) has planned events on June 11 at the Sheraton. In the Philippines there will be parades in Rizal Park in Manila, where the monument of our national hero stands.’


Country profile

The South East Asian islands that make up the Philippines were a Spanish colony from the 16th century until 1898, when they were ceded to the United States of America. The country became independent in 1935, but was invaded by Japan during the Second World War and was not liberated until 1945 by US forces, including Filipino nationals.

Since the Second World War, the Philippines has been led by a series of colourful characters, none more so than Ferdinand Marcos. The president was hated by many during his 20-year reign; it was said he embezzled millions of dollars of government money, partly to feed his flamboyant wife Imelda’s extraordinary passion for fashion. Marcos was overthrown in 1986 after mass rallies on the streets of the capital Manila. When the Marcoses fled their Malacañang Palace, more than 1,060 pairs of shoes were found in Imelda’s collection.

There are some 93 million people living in the Philippines, and roughly 80 per cent are Roman Catholics. Most speak very good English, and are also fluent in Tagalog; both are official languages of the country.

Independence Day

The US granted independence on July 4, 1946, and this was observed as the country’s Independence Day until 1964, when it was deemed by historians that June 12 was preferable, as this was the date in 1898 when the Spanish relinquished control.


Details

The Philippine Independence Organising Committee (PIOC) has organised a number of events for Friday, June 11:
6.30am – Philippine flag-raising ceremony at Philippine Embassy
8am – Motorcade parade, from Qatar Exhibition Centre to the Sheraton
8.45am – Opening ceremony of the Sheraton events
9.30am – Opening of trade fair and food festival in the hotel foyer, entry QR10
10am-11pm – Events include a blood donation drive, art exhibition and photography contest, haircut for a cause, children’s painting competition, Philippine flag puzzle and a car show
6pm-11pm – Independence Day gala ball, entry QR25
6pm-11pm – Filipino band concert, and countdown to Independence Day

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