Hi. Good afternoon. Good luck for us.
So, where were you born?
And where were you born?
In the Philippines. Where, you mean? Yes. In the province of Batangas, Nasugbu Batangas, Philippines, yes.
Did you grow up there?
Yes, yeah. I took... I studied there in Wawa Elementary School and then Nasugbu Institute High School and in college in Manila, Adamson University.
Did you have brothers and sisters?
Two brothers and one sister.
Did you grow all up together?
Yes, yes. We were born there, everybody. We were born in Nasugbu, Batangas.
Okay, and you grew up together?
Yes, we grow up together and studied there also in that place, same place but in the college we had different school, yeah.
And until when did you stay there?
In the province? Until high school when I was, wait... 16 years old, I have to transfer to... 17, like that, to Manila.
And then I finished the course, Chemical Engineering, 5 years so it will... around 21 years old I finished the studies, yeah and I worked there also in Nasugbu Batangas as Pollution Control officer but for around 1 year only because I applied here in Greece, with my friends. We are 5 friends, we are 5 in a group. With my 4 friends we came here.
I am the only one left here, in Greece, because I like Greece. I don't want to go to another place.
That was around January 1987 but we left there March 16, 1987, yeah. And we came here together in one airplane (laughs). And everybody work here, they found an employer but after few years they decided to go to another country.
We stayed in the agency. We stayed in the office of the agency and they said that we have to... they have to train us. What we will do in the employer's house. They train us how to clean the house, how to take care of the babies, like that. And my employer has one son, one baby... not really a baby, he is already around 5 years old that's why it's not a hard time taking care of him.
So the agency was Greek?
I think the husband was a Greek and the wife is a Filipina, yeah. They have one agency, yeah. That's why we are many here from Batangas, because of her. She is from Batangas also.
It's from my friend also, she asked me "Oh, if you want we can go there, we will apply, we will go to Greece." "Oh really? I want to try to another country, maybe we can earn more money." That's the only reason, that's the only reason that's why we are going to another countries, to earn money. It's difficult in the Philippines. That's why. Even we are happy there together with the family, we have to work to another country to earn more money, yeah.
I don't know about Greece, I just I had... I was decided to come with them because I want to change my life, I was separated with my husband during that time and I want to try to another country to... maybe I can have another... another future (laughs).
My plan was to stay for 2-3 years only in Greece and then maybe I can go to Canada or to another country but then because I found a job... I have nice job here, triple job and earning good money so I changed my mind, I choose to stay in Greece. Because the people are nice, my employers are nice they were nice with me and everybody... I like everybody, my co-Filipina, my friends, we are like a family here in Greece that's why I prepared to... that time I said "Ah, I will stay here in Greece better." And I have also my sister, she came here also, because of my employer, she helped me. Not through agency. I helped my sister and my brother through the employer, they helped me for free. I don't pay anything, I didn't pay anything. Unlike... of course with me I paid there in the Philippines and also here some amount, but when it comes to my family it's all free through my employers' help.
It was a domestic job, it was in "Βριλήσσια". But I didn't stay there for long, only 3 months, something like that, 2 to 3 months. Because they decided to... she said that she cannot give me the permit. Τhat's why I decided to leave the job and find another employer. And the employer that I found in "Κολωνάκι" she gave me the permit. As a contract worker permit. So that I'll be legal here because at the time the police were... that time was so strict also, if you don't have permit then they will put you in jail and go back to Philippines, so we had to be legal here, yeah.
In "Κολωνάκι" it was a part time job before and then she asked me to stay with her monthly like that, but live-out. Live-out. It's from 9 to 4, the job and then after her I have a restaurant for part time. Cleaning the dishes, cutting the vegetables, like that. And it was from... it was so near the house of my employer that's why I can come to her at 5 to 9 only, at night. Then after that I found also from 10 until 7 in the morning as taking care of an old man, that's why it's a triple job. (laughs) Yes, I woke up at 7 and then to my employers' house around 9 o'clock... I woke up in the morning from the old man that I am, I was taking care, I woke up at around 7 then took the bus at 8 and in "Κολωνάκι" at 9 am I have to start the job until 4 in the afternoon and then take a rest for a little time and at 5 o'clock I will start doing the restaurant, it was a small Chinese restaurant, the name was "Chinese Restaurant" I remember, but then now it's not there already anymore. And then after that I will go to the old man, it was in "Ηλιούπολης".
Ιt was Monday 'till Saturday. Sundays I was... because I was so eager to earn money, that's why I have also part time in the house. Another house in "Κολωνάκι". You know, it's like they know me very well in "Κολωνάκι" because I have many... (laughs) I have many employers. It's because of my employer, she is giving me to another employer "Oh she is working very well." That's right. They said, my friends "The most hard working Filipina"
When you were working in all these jobs, did you ever have time to go home?
Yes, I have a house, I have a flat in "Κολωνάκι" also, and it was a small flat but we are 5 there, with my friends. Yeah, we are happy there, it's a small flat, and 105 steps to go there. Every day I have to 105 steps to go there. And every day I have to walk 105 steps, if I will come from the down. But if will go by the park, there, it's not so much steps. Yeah, it's really hard work, but then I was young, so I have a strong body, that's why I can do it very well (laughs).
So you said that in this job they gave you the permit.
Yes with my madam a very nice employer, she was so good with me, that's why she fix my papers with an attorney and it... yeah it continue until now and because of many years staying in Greece I got this permanent permit, permanent.
So when did you rest?
Every Sunday in my flat, yeah. Because the old man took only... not for 1 year, because he was old he died already. But then it helped me a lot when it comes to my salary. It's an additional salary.
Were all the Filipinos working many jobs at the same time?
Most on that time, most of them are live-in. They work from Monday to Saturday or Sunday morning and they had their day off only Sunday, that's why they stay only one night in their flat. And it's only one job unlike mine, I had triple job that time. Because I was still out from my employer, from my madam, living out from her.
And on Sundays when you had your free hours you were staying inside or were you going out?
We were going to the church in "Πανεπιστήμιο". Every Sunday in the morning or afternoon there was a Mass until now, there is a Mass, in the evening also. Morning, afternoon and evening. And also in "Ψυχικό" there is Catholic Church. In "Πανεπιστήμιο" there is also a Catholic Church. And in "Πατησίων", yeah.
In which church were you going?
Did also other members of the Filipino community go there?
Many, many Filipino, many Filipina yes. You know Filipinos are catholic and we are used to pray there.
Did you ever have a priest from Philippines?
Yes, yes, the priest is from Italy and they will stay there for few months and then change again, like that. Filipino priest.
So when did the community start organizing
It was, what year is it... with the Kasapi organization it was already there the Kasapi, 1987 when I came here, I heard about that, 1990s, like that and with my friends we decided to join the organization, yes. It was a Filipino organization, until now we have that organization, yeah. And with the Munting Nayon the school of the children, Filipino children. And some other organization from different provinces of Philippines they organize here, yeah.
When you joined the organization, where was the office? Did it have an office?
Yes in "Πατησίων". And I don't know now the exact office because they transferred also but we know that it is still existing and it really helped us, the organization.
What do you mean it helped you?
Because before not everybody has permit. Me, I'm lucky because my employer gave me the permit but some, many didn't have permit, yes and somebody help us. They tried to... because they are also... I don't know how they approach the government for that permit but then somebody help us with that and until they give us this, the request for that permit. And after many years the Filipino community... they give us permit. The permit was from the government of Greece. In the... it's 2000 I think already, yeah. Now it's 2022. Most of us have permit during that time, 2000.
So what else did the… community organize?
To have these social gatherings in the hotel, a party. To have a get-together party every December, Christmas and during May the Santacruzan and it's like a Barrio Fiesta it's like a fiesta, a celebration. And we have our foods there, the barbeque, the halo halo, many many Filipino foods and most of the Filipina are going there. It's like... it's a lot of Filipino there, a lot. Most of the Filipinos are there doing the Santacruzan and we are watching the Reyna Elena, the children even the... the Reyna Elena it's the ladies, Filipino ladies that are wearing a gown, nice gown and walking, they are showing their nice dresses, yeah. And I'm lucky to be a part of that Santacruzan because for how many years now, it's around 30 years doing that with the Munting Nayon and Kasapi the Santacruzan was every year celebration.
What is the Santacruzan festival about?
It's Flores de Mayo festival held in the Philippines in the month of May, it's every year. And it's one of the many devotions to the blessed Virgin Mary and lasts for the entire month. The Santacruzan is the ritual pageant held on the last day of the Flores de Mayo. And the president of Kasapi together with the Munting Nayon they asked me to be the Hermana Mayor.
It's like you are the one giving some word of... like I'm giving some amount for the raffle draw. It's not... amount it's not, I mean it's a back and forth ticket to Philippines as a prize for the raffle draw. And this raffle draw they have a ticket so that... to spend to this celebration.
Okay, I would like to ask you a about how you feel that your life has changed for the many years that you are here. First of all, do you speak Greek at all?
No, not so much, a little, very little because most of my employer before was Austrian, in English only. We don't speak Greek that's why until now, no, a little only.
Was there an option... were there other people from the Filipino community learning any Greek?
Oh yes, many. They are only because of the babies that they are taking care and from the employers they know how to speak Greek very well.
Do you still live with other Filipinos?
Mary: No. I'm staying here for 30 years in "Αμπελόκηποι".
Do you like "Αμπελόκηποι"?
Yes, because it's near the metro, the supermarket, the post office. Every... many. The metro especially it's a big help for us and the bus station.
Are there also other Filipinos in "Αμπελόκηποι"?
So many (laughs). We like "Αμπελόκηποι" because everything is here. The Filipino food store and the beauty shops, owned by a Filipino also. Cutting hair and nails and also selling clothes, yeah. Most of the Filipino has business also here.
Ah, because the first years here, during my first years, very few are living-out from their employer and they are... most of them are living-in with their employer but now the employers are not so strict they are allowing us to work, live-out and they live here in "Αμπελόκηποι". Before it was "Κολωνάκι" but then we moved in "Αμπελόκηποι" because it was a big area, many shops are there, it's more easy to live here. All the necessities are here in "Αμπελόκηποι". And also the attorneys who picks the permit. Many attorneys here in "Αμπελόκηποι" that's why it's better to stay here in this area. They are fixing the permits of Filipino. Before we are the one fixing it with the employer but now better to pay small amount to the attorney and they will fix it.
Is it not possible for people to fix the permits on their own?
It is possible but then because we have job it's more easy to ask the attorney with a small amount of money.
You said that before that the employers are not so strict anymore and they allow people to stay out of the house. How did this change happen?
It depends. Maybe, they don't want other people inside their house. But most of the rich people they want somebody is inside, to be with them. To fix everything with them (laughs). With the job, with their children, yeah.
So do you plan at some point to go back at Philippines?
As of now, no. Even I am 62 years old already I like Greece. I want to go home for some time, maybe two times a year it's ok with me, but then I will be back in Greece, as long as I am still strong I will be here.
Do you plan to take your pension here in Greece?
I'm still paying it, the "ΙΚΑ" and it will be 67 years old, you can get the pension so, if I am still here then maybe I can have this pension, yeah.
Will you plan to apply for citizenship?
Maybe now, no. Not now, not anymore. It's difficult. They said it's difficult to apply for that. I have a permanent residence why do, why do I have to apply for that? I am contented with my permit now and I will go back there also to Philippines but not now, I want to stay here until... (laughts) but then maybe after 5-7 years I will go home. Because at least I have a business there and I can earn my living there also.
I wanted to ask you something before, about working conditions. In the past, like when you came here and you had this job with the agency do you think, do you feel that you were treated fairly by employers?
With the employers yes, they were so good. That's why it's an evidence now that I'm staying here for 35 years (laughs) I love Greece, I love the people, they are nice people. It's more easy to live here. Sorry to say... I like Greece, I like here more to live than in the Philippines. The climate is good even its summer it's not so hot. In the Philippines you can't imagine (laughs).
So do you feel like living here all these years has changed you as a person?
Yes because they are nice or maybe they are nice that's why I am nice also with them. They are good people and they really help me when it comes to job and for part times also in a travel agency, selling tickets it really helped me also and with the people in the building, it's a big building with 50 doors and they are nice with us, with the Filipino. We are living here, how many doors? 8 doors is Filipina, living, we are Filipino here in 8 rooms, all Filipina. And the Greek people they are nice with us, even if we have party they don't get angry with us, even if we are noisy (laughs).
You mean... because I saw the microphone over there.
Ah, the sing-along, karaoke, yes we are singing especially when we have party everybody is singing even if we don't have a nice voice (laughs). But most of us sing very well.
Do you sing any Greek songs?
Only Filipino in English (laughs).
Anything else you would like to tell me, you think that it is important that people know?
I'm thankful, especially thanks to God that I came here in Greece, it was a big help to my family especially financially it really help us the whole family and when it comes to everyday living it's very comfortable for me, I really like the people, the country, the climate (laughs), yes. So thanks God that I came to Greece, that I go to Greece.
Thank you for talking to me.
And me thank you too so much, you are a nice person (laughs).
Oh, thank you.