Here, There and Everywhere!

Mar 23, 2011 by

This blog is written by Ms Stella Marie Arungayan. 

When I first came to Indonesia in 2008, my friend Alex , who had worked here many years ago, told me that one of the nice things about working here is the fact that most if not all Filipinos in this country are professionals.   Indeed Alex is right.

For those who have zero navigation skills or who do not watch CNN, check Indonesia out.

There are around nine to ten thousand Filipinos working all over Indonesia.  Since I’m in the education industry I have met more people in this profession than any other profession.  There are also a number of accountants, most of them Chief Finance Officers of their companies and quite a number of CEOs too.  I have met some Engineers and even lawyers.  I have met maybe 2 Filipino nannies who were personally brought here by their bosses and not agency hired.  Hence, what was reported in another local paper before that there are 18,000 Filipinos in this country is not accurate.  Even if we count the non-legit the number wouldn’t be that high.  I am still to meet a laborer or a domestic helper contracted through an agency.

Amidst the 9-10,000 Filipinos working here, there is the Ilonggo Mafia!

When I first came to Indonesia, I didn’t know anyone. I have only heard that so and so are here too but I didn’t have the chance to meet them.  I live outside of Jakarta.  If say Iloilo City is Jakarta, then I live in Passi.  We have coded our distance from the city to names of different towns in Iloilo.

My first Christmas in Indonesia with the Barrera family. L-R: Precy Tambasen, Sandra, Carlo, Peewee , Pelita , X Barrera, Ely, Elyon, Sam and myself. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Barrera)

In a children’s party I attended, I met Al, then a music teacher in a school here.  He immediately put me in contact with the only people I knew who were here – the Labaro sisters, Hesusa, Henedina and Asela.  They are all teachers, teaching in different schools and with their brother Ninoy and Hesusa’s husband Aelred.  We worked together in the opera Madame Butterfly.  To complete the chorus are Anne and Ruby who are also teachers.  They are members of the Voices of Praise Choir, and they have already released a CD.  They are also very in demand to sing in the different Filipino events in Jakarta.  Since the Labaros live in Jakarta but not really close to the city, then perhaps they would be in Tagbak or just before you go out of the city.

Labaro sisters with Ruby and Anne (Photo courtesy of Sam Barrera)

Yet in another children’s party, I met another Ilongga whom I have not seen since 1985! When I heard the name i had a look and I knew it was her.  There could only be one Pelita. Pelita and I taught in the same school many moons ago but we didn’t meet there, it was after our stint in that school that we became friends.   For 13 years, Pelita and her husbad Ely Barrera lived in Jakarta and for 2 years now they are based in Bali.  Ely is the principal of Sekolah Lentera Kasih in Bali, while Pelita teaches in a Kinder School.  In their workplace, the Filipino workers are mostly Ilonggo.  The Barreras adopted me as their own.  I spent most of my weekends with them.  I spent my first 2 Christmases and NYEs with them.  I visited many places with them and when they moved to Bali I think I have become their most frequent visitor too.

Christmas in Bali with the Barreras. Picture taken in Bedugul, Bali. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Barrera)

When one becomes stable here and starts to enjoy the work (and the pay), the family and friends start to come.  Ely’s siblings are teaching here too.  Sandra whom we fondly call Teyta is a preschool teacher but loves photography, so some of the pictures you see on this page are from her.  Fred and Sam are teaching Performing Arts.  It was Sam who gave me the head’s up when they had an opening for an English teacher, that’s why my son Jego is teaching in the same school.  In Teyta’s  School, they are all Ilonggas led by their principal Jean Co. Teyta is closer to the city than most of us she and Jean would  be in Leganes while Sam would be in Carles and Fred would be in Antique!

Pelita, having been a pioneer here, has invited many Ilonggas here.  Among the many is Precy Tambasen.  Precy being single again like me is my partner in partying and lagaw. Precy is also a preschool teacher.  Precy lives in the city so she definitely is our City Proper girl!

When Pelita and family moved to Bali, God made sure I wouldn’t be left lonely. He sent another Ilongga to adopt me.  One afternoon after mass, I thought the lady looked familiar.  It was indeed my schoolmate Ma. Liza “tata” Young.  She is married to Sonni Ginting, an Indonesian  I was so happy to see her.  Tata became my new family. Every Saturday her driver picks me up from my house and brings me back on Sunday.  We go to church together, go on outings, to the movies and I get to babysit her kids.  Tata is an accountant- lawyer.  She used to work with a cable company but now she owns and runs her own company as the exclusive distributor of some cable channels.

Tata Young pic with my siblings when they visited in June 2010 (pic courtesy of Tata)

Some Ilonggos could easily be recognized by the famous malambing Ilonggo accent when they speak Filipino.  I’m aware that my Filipino is not a good as my Ilonggo or English so most of the time I choose to speak only either of these two.  When speaking Ilonggo to a fellow Ilonggo be wary though you’d never know who can understand.

In the church choir that I’m part of, my choir director Martin Brilliantes is Ilonggo.  He told me he traces his roots to Passi but he never told me he speaks and understands Ilonggo very well.  Martin is the CFO of a paper company here.  There is another Ilonggo in my choir and I only found out he is one when we were talking about dear Alma Mater UP and he said he’s from UPV and from the first class town of Lambunao.  Joey is an accountant and he is with Purefoods but based here.  It is more fun to mock around in one’s own native tongue, which is the case for the 3 of us when we’re at choir practice or just hanging out.

Outside Jakarta, other than Pelita and Ely I also have another friend in Bali.  Romela Gianan.  She’s with the hotel/villa industry.  In my recent trip to Bali, Melay joined my kids and I in some of the sightseeing trips.  When in another country, we cultivate friendships with people we meet or have met in the past but never spoke with like my friendship with Tata and same is the case with Melay. We have met but we didn’t really meet.   Here in Indonesia, however, we have planted the seed of friendship and even if across shores we have managed to keep it growing.

In far away Manado, where Bunaken is, the famous dive spot of Indonesia, the Consul General of the Consulate is Ilonggo. Consul General Noel Servigon.  Before Noel came here, Ma’am Bopeep Ladrido already put me in contact with him.  Where else? Facebook of course!  Manado is closer to Davao than it is to Jakarta but technology makes it easier to communicate with Noel.  If I have consular concerns or legal questions, getting an answer from Noel is much quicker! Noel also initiated a compilation of Ilonggo/Hiligaynon words that are similar to Bahasa Indonesia

These are just some of the Ilonggos that I have met.  I have met many more Ilonggos, some even students of my mother, some classmates of my siblings and some friends of friends.  Ilonggos are here, there and everywhere.  If you see a shining star, you would be happy to know it’s a Filipino, and happier to find out it’s an ILONGGO!

New Year in Bali 2011 with Romela Gianan, Jego and Tala, other Ilonggos Tina and husband

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>