By Edward Lao, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau | 02/21/2013 10:09 AM
LONDON -- Representatives from various Filipino communities across the United Kingdom gathered in London last month for an event organized by the British branch of the European Network of Filipino Diaspora (ENFiD).
The event, held on January 25 at a hotel in Kensington, was the first official get-together for the members of ENFiD-UK, which was formed last year.
It was attended by some 80 Pinoys from 35 different organizations, which ranged from community groups, to those in the arts, sports and business sector.
These included the Batangas Association, Colchester Filipino Community, Kanlungan Filipino Consortium, Filipino Movement (Fil-Mo), PhilJury, Philippine Women's Association, The Guardians and Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP).
During the event they tackled issues like immigration, debt management or financial education, as well as the vulnerable or elderly people.
The event was also used to update its members on an ENFiD conference that took place in Malta a week before, which was attended by Filipino delegates from various countries on the continent.
Towards the end, members signed a book, pledging their support of ENFiD's aims. These include: the cooperation and implementation of actions aimed at recognizing Pinoy culture; integration in host countries; increasing awareness on rights, laws and regulations; and giving advice or assistance on finance, migration, mental and physical health, isolation and domestic violence.
ABS-CBN Europe spoke with members from several groups after the event. They felt working together is the way forward.
"There's a lot of initiatives coming from various organizations and it’s about time we participate and continue to share our talents and services," said Fred Venzon, President of P.I.N.A.S (Pinoys in Norwich Aksyon Samahan).
"I think it’s better for us, as Filipino communities and associations that we are under one umbrella," commented Zanie Del Mundo, President of Aguman Kapampangan UK, which has been active for around 20 years and is one of the oldest Pinoy groups in the country.
"There's a saying that if we are together we can do more. I think we will be more stronger," Del Mundo added.
Marie Manalo-Maramba is the President of the Filipino British Association in Plymouth (FBAiP), which is just two years old. She feels there is much to learn from the veteran organizations.
"We are a new organization, experiences wise, but the other groups here which I have met, they have been associations for a long, long time," she said.
"I am definitely learning a lot from them and this will help guide us on what to do," Manalo-Maramba added.
Also present was Philippine Ambassador Enrique Manalo, who was there to support the event and aims of ENFiD-UK. He was encouraged by what he saw.
"Well, I think it's a very historic evening as we witness the creation or the establishment of a new organization, or a network, which aims to bring together the various Filipino organizations here in the UK.
"And from the attendance this evening, I can see a great number of organizations, Filipino organizations here in the UK, who are more than willing to cooperate and work together, and try to promote Philippine interest here in the United Kingdom, as well as the livelihood of the Filipinos.
"I think that the creation of this new group, we will be able to get all the organizations together and also increase their ability to enhance the lives of the Filipinos here in the UK, and also to help the embassy in promoting Philippine interest in the country," explained Ambassador Manalo.
The event comes ahead of the second Global Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora, set to take place at the Dusit Hotel in Makati, Manila, from February 25-27.
Organized by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), the event is expected to draw around 500 Pinoys from around the globe.
ENFiD Chairman Gene Alcantara will be there to represent the Filipinos in Europe, who he feels are gathering strength and influence.
There are currently 14 country representatives within ENFiD, which is a charity and non-political organization.
"Ang nakakataba ng puso, dati, pag maliit ka lang na organisasyon at country level ka lang, katokmka ng katok sa pintuan ng gobyerno para lang marinig ang boses mo, ngayon, nakita nila na nabuo ang ENFID, biglang bumukas ang pinto," Alcantara explained.
"In the Philippines, we are part of the agenda. There's a section on Europe. Basically, we want to make sure that our voice as Europeaners is not smothered by the louder voices from countries like the USA," he added.
Alcantara explains there are around 800,000 Filipinos in Europe. The largest number is located in the UK at around 300,000. Second with up to 190,000 is Italy. France and Spain follow with over 50,000 each.