Tin Bartolome

Posted at Sep 11 2015 05:42 PM | Updated as of Sep 12 2015 01:42 AM

Milan means different things to different people. Even to Filipinos, Milan is not only the fashion capital but a place to work.

My husband and I joined a business/pleasure trip to Turkey and Italy. It’s been a week since we left home and though it has been very exciting, I miss the people in my life. I enjoyed the food and sights in Istanbul and Ephesus, but I always thought of how my children would have enjoyed those as well.

Milan and Bergamo are awesome—so many churches with beautiful altars and ceilings and gelato shops every few meters. The first few days were extremely hectic as we joined one meeting after another. Filipinos who received us and served as our guides were as warm and hospitable as Filipinos can be.

We visited Expo Milano yesterday and apart from our group, I did not encounter Filipinos while we were there. Our hotel at Corso Romano is a short distance to the Duomo, which, I learned is always full of people. I have gotten used to seeing a lot of Filipinos wherever I went, but not this time. We took walks along this street, hoping to find laundry service as we were running low on clean clothes. Last night, I noticed a family inside a fastfood restaurant who looked like Filipinos. We did not go in at first, but we did on our way back. Except for two diners, everyone inside were Filipinos, including those behind the counter.

For some reason, I felt relieved—happy even, to see those strangers. Those who met us were from the diplomatic corps while others had good jobs and businesses here. But those at the fastfood were typical OFWs who are here to support their families in the Philippines. They offered practical advice on how to spend less for services we may need during our stay here and warned us against pickpockets, some of whom, they say, are kababayans!

In the morning of our first free day, we decided to look for self-service laundry. We walked about two kilometers before we found one. Just as I was loading our clothes into the second washing machine, a man came in and when he saw that no machines were available, he seemed displeased. He spoke very little English and we had difficulty telling him that two of the machines were being used by someone else. We tried asking him about the dryers, but his answers were the same words written on the machines! But he seemed friendlier after that.

Perhaps coming from different cultures and not just speaking different languages makes understanding non verbal signals very difficult. I also noticed how open and receptive I was to fellow Filipinos and wary of others.

I realized that in places like Milan, one finds a piece of home, not in any building or restaurant, but in the smiles and conversations with fellow Filipinos.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.