Time Out speaks to Filipino expats about their life in Bahrain
Time Out Bahrain staff
Noril Lagrana Pilpil
‘I have lived in Bahrain for six years, working as a marketing administrator for a petroleum software production company. After graduating with a bachelor of arts in mass communication and a major in broadcast journalism, I decided to make the move in April 2005 to reunite with my father, who has been working in Bahrain for over 15 years. I live with my family: my father and two sisters in Adliya, which is a beautiful neighbourhood and it’s so easy to make friends. Bahrain has such an easy, lax and intimate environment. It’s a small melting pot of different cultures, with everyone working together, and you can meet so many interesting people from all walks of life.
‘One thing about living here that I don’t look forward to as much is the summers, when it not only gets hot but also humid, and when it does there are very few public beaches that we can escape to. For an island, it’s a shame we don’t have any really great public beaches to go to.
‘Eating out is one of my favourite things to do, whether it’s shawarma or Asian food. I love Kei at the Golden Tulip and Arirang on Exhibition Road. For shawarma it has to be the little kiosks down in Manama, but the best place is in Gudaibiya.’
‘I first moved to Bahrain back in June 2006 when an executive coordinator position became available at Bexair. This is when I packed up everything and moved here with my family. It’s nice to live in such a beautiful island in the Gulf where I can still find time to relax away from much of the city’s hustle and bustle. Originally from Baguio City (northern Philippines), I do miss a lot about home – just the greenery, the mossy plants and orchids are enough to make me homesick, never mind my family and friends, but in Bahrain it’s easy to meet new people – I feel like we’re just one small family.
‘One aspect that I’m not too happy about in Bahrain is the traffic. Come on – the country is tiny and yet it can take an hour to travel to some places when otherwise it would only be a 15-minute journey. ‘Being a big foodie, as most Pinoys are, I love dining out, especially in the Adliya area, more commonly known as Block 338. With a wide range of restaurants to choose from I often find myself having to flip a coin on where to eat, but if I had to choose one, it would have to be Monsoon; they serve the most delicious dim sum. Back home, almost every conversation is interjected with food, food and yet more food.
‘Our 113th Independence Day is coming up on June 12, and if I was back home, it would be much like Bahrain – there’s traditionally a special flag-raising ceremony at Malacanang, where the President holds office and people will be waving the Philippine flag. Events are all centred around nationalistic themes, such as traditional dances and songs, cultural shows and yes, sumptuous traditional food. That is what I miss about my native land.’
‘Having moved to Bahrain back in 2007 from my local town, Mindanao, the second largest and eastern-most island in the Philippines, I started looking for work, as my cousin was already here and enjoying it. After staying with her for a while, I started work at a hotel in Manama. Waitressing was my full time job in a busy restaurant, which I did enjoy, as I got to meet new people every day, which also helped to improve my language skills. This lasted a while until my cousin returned back to the Philippines, so I had to find something that paid a little more. ‘Now, working for Tavola in Bahrain City Centre, I much prefer the atmosphere, and even though we get busy (especially on weekends), the different customers from a wide range of cultures I get to meet is very rewarding. I quickly made friends when I moved to Bahrain, as I found a lot of the people I worked with were actually in the same position as me – they had come to Bahrain to work and were alone here.
‘Over the last few years, people have come and gone, but there’s always a new face who was in the position that I was when I first arrived and looking to make friends. The one thing I enjoy most about Bahrain is the fact it has so much to offer in the sense of jobs and salaries compared to the Philippines – back home, work is very hard to find, and employers offer very low salaries for long working days.
‘Currently I’m learning to drive, as that is a good idea if you live here, but it would be nice to see a lot more public transport options. Taxis and buses are sometimes very hard to track down, and due to where I live it is impossible for me to walk to work because of the hot weather.’
The South-East Asian islands that make up the Philippines were a Spanish colony from the 16th century until 1898, when they were ceded to the United States of America. The country became independent in 1935, but was invaded by Japan during the Second World War and was not liberated until 1945 by US forces, including Filipino nationals.
Since the Second World War, the Philippines has been led by a series of colourful characters, none more so than Ferdinand Marcos. The president was hated by many during his 20-year reign; it was said he embezzled millions of dollars of government money, partly to feed his flamboyant wife Imelda’s extraordinary passion for fashion. Marcos was overthrown in 1986 after mass rallies on the streets of the capital Manila. When the Marcoses fled their Malacañang Palace, more than 1,060 pairs of shoes were found in Imelda’s collection.
There are some 93 million people living in the Philippines, and roughly 80 per cent are Roman Catholics. Most speak very good English, and are also fluent in Tagalog; both are official languages of the country.
Independence Day The US granted the country independence on July 4, 1946, and this was observed as its Independence Day until 1964, when it was deemed by historians that June 12 was preferable, as this was the date in 1898 when the Spanish relinquished control.