February 24, 2024

There is a large community of Filipinos in Barcelona, Spain.
You see them commuting in the subway, in the buses or in their workplaces. On a Sunday morning when I go to mass, I would see them entering the subway trains at three stops in districts where many Filipinos reside. They enter the train in groups as a family or as co-workers or as home neighbors, all going to attend the 10 o’clock Sunday mass at the San Agustin Church (Parroquia de San Agusti), which mass is conducted in Filipino by a Filipino priest.
Members of the church choir are Filipinos and so are the ministers, deacons, and servers. The church, which was originally a convent constructed in 1728 by the San Agustin friars, was converted into a parish church and in 1999, it became the official personal parish of the Filipino community in Barcelona. It is the parish of the Immaculate Concepcion (coincidentally my former parish in Aurora Hill is also the Immaculate Concepcion Church) and of San Lorenzo Ruiz.
So many foreign tourists visit the church, especially those who venerate the relics of Sta. Rita de Cascia contained in an urn at the right side of the church. The relics were brought by the San Agustin friars to Barcelona where many devotees come especially on Sta. Rita’s feast day (May 22), during which they offer red roses and leave requests that their wishes be granted by the Lord through the intercessory prayers of Sta. Rita, the patron saint of impossible cases and lost causes.
One Sunday, an Italian woman asked me after the mass, what was the language used in the prayers and the songs sung by the angelic voices of the children, to which I proudly replied that it was the Filipino language. She said the Filipino language has a rhythmic sound and the songs were melodious and cheerful.
I met some parishioners and found out that some church lay ministers were retirees or unemployed elders from the Philippines who were placed under the family reunification law that allowed them to reside in Barcelona with their working relatives who petitioned for them.
Jaime, a eucharistic minister, is one of them and he has been living in Barcelona for eight years already since his retirement from an accounting job in a private firm in Quezon Province.
His wife works as an employee in a restaurant doing tasks as cashier, waitress, cleaner and whatever is needed to be done when she has vacant hours. She has been working as such for 20 years already and some of their children were educated in Barcelona and could speak fluent Spanish. Curious about what Filipino residents do in Barcelona, I went to see the Philippine consul general.
Consul General Maria Theresa Lazaro, who prefers to just be called ConGen “Tess”, said there are approximately 16,000 Filipino residents in Barcelona.
We venture to add that the number can increase to 20,000 should we include those who are undocumented.
About half of that number work in the hospitality/service sectors such as in hotels, restaurants, transportation, and other tourism-oriented establishments. About 30 percent work as domestic helpers or in the private household and the rest as professionals and students.
The consulate, however, has no data on the number of family members that were brought by the relatives working in Barcelona but she said that the early migrants who became permanent residents of Spain or who now have dual citizenships (Spanish and Filipino) brought their families or relatives in Barcelona and would have been given work permits.
We found two laws: the family reunification permit and the Arraigo Social, which workers in Spain or those who acquired Spanish citizenship could bring their family members to live with them in Spain. Most Filipino workers in Barcelona were able to avail of these laws. I had a conversation with an elderly Filipino, Condring, whom I would talk with after mass.
Condring told me that he was brought to reside in Barcelona by his daughter under the Family Reunification Law. His daughter works as a university professor and has three children. Her Spanish husband is also a professor.
Condring, a widower, is jobless and had no one to take care of him in the Philippines. His daily subsistence depended on the allowance sent to him by her daughter in Barcelona.
Under those circumstances, Condring’s daughter was able to bring him to live with the daughter’s family and was a welcome addition to the family because Condring helped in the household chores and acted as “bantay-bahay”.
On Sundays, he would go to San Agustin Church for spiritual refuge and mingle with newfound friends. He would attend the cultural activities held in the church such as concerts of Filipino artists from Manila and other known opera singers.
Indeed, the Family Reunification Law is an effective measure that allows the elderly in society to have a sense of purpose for the remaining years of their lives.