13 April 2015 - On March 28, in celebration of women’s month, the Philippine Embassy gathered together leading Filipinas in Berlin – Filipino community leaders, businesswomen, artists, and students – for an afternoon of bonding and sharing of experiences. The lunch at Pinoy Restaurant was also labeled as ‘JUANA Decides,’ in the spirit of the theme set by the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW): "Juana, Desisyon Mo ay Mahalaga sa Kinabukasan ng Bawat Isa, Ikaw Na!”
Ambassador Melita S. Sta. Maria-Thomeczek delivered the welcome remarks, emphasizing the importance of empowered Filipinas in Germany. As she had earlier conveyed to the women groups in Cologne, the Ambassador reiterated the Embassy’s partnership with the community in the promotion of overseas Filipinos’ interests and welfare. Cultural Attaché Mylah Combo-Rubio announced the forthcoming launch of ‘Crafternoons,’ another Embassy initiative for the showcasing and sharing of talents amongst the community members.
After the sumptuous Filipino lunch, five exceptional women were invited to recount their stories of struggle, survival, and success in Germany. This was moderated by Consul Azela Arumpac.
Considered a pillar in the Filipino community, Ms. Lourdes Müller, who arrived in Berlin in the late 1960s, talked about her experiences in Cold War Berlin of building a Filipino community in the context of the church community. Ms. Veronica Boensch, coordinator of the Parish Pastoral Council, shared the reasons behind her decision to organize Filipinas in Berlin through collective cultural activities, particularly by teaching Philippine folk dances to young people and adults. Rosalinda Nolasco-Jecht, who owns the Pinoy Restaurant, spoke of the challenges in setting up a restaurant business and gave advice for Filipinas who want to pursue the entrepreneurial path. Humboldt University student Jedd Pagsanjan, on the other hand, candidly recounted the challenges she faced when she decided to be a working student in Berlin and how, with the Filipino community behind her, she managed to survive despite the odds. Lola Abrera, a Filipina student at the Free University of Berlin, also talked about how and why she decided to launch the Virtual Balikbayan Box, a platform for overseas Filipinas to share their digital stories, a “virtual Balikbayan box,” in creative ways. Similar to the sharing session JUANA Decides, the project aims to be a virtual venue for Filipina migrants to tell their stories from their own viewpoint.
Ambassador Thomeczek summarized the discussion and concluded by reading the President’s Message to commemorate women’s month. In her closing remarks, Consul General Donna Rodriguez heartily thanked the ladies for their active participation in the sharing session.
Of the estimated 20,338 overseas Filipinos in Germany, more than 80% or 16,760 are female (source: German Federal Statistics Office). An estimated 34% of all overseas Filipinos in Germany are housewives. Some of the challenges relating specifically to women are those that arise from marriage, especially adjustment to the foreign environment. As such, female community leaders, like the panelists during the sharing session, and a strong female network, play a big role in providing support and creating the conditions for Filipinas to adapt and flourish in their new environment. END