Report on the “Panel Discussion “Highlighting Experiences of Cordillera Migrant Workers in Italy”

Written by Averil Pooten-Watan on .

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9th Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Europe (ICBE) Consultation
Rome, Italy
April 28 – May 1, 2017  


Report on the “Panel Discussion “Highlighting Experiences of Cordillera Migrant Workers in Italy”, April 30, 2017

By Averil Pooten-Watan

Ric Cuyob of the Cordillera Community in Belgium (Cordi Bel) facilitated the panel discussion.

The panelists were: Marilyn Aro (Cordillerans in Italy of Bologna and Modena), Jhill A. Gaw-a (Cordillerans in Rome), Rosana Samidan (Ulnos di Mountain Province Rome Italy), Angela Panas (United Igorot Association of Napoli) and Brenda Panayo (Cordillera Migrant Workers Association [CMWA] of Milan and Como, Italy.)


There were four topics that were discussed:

  1. Relationship with employer;
  2. Relationship with Filipino migrants in Italy;
  3. Working on papers and
  4. With our experiences, what do we do to cope with the situation?

(1) Relationship with Employer

1.1. Some employers follow minimum wage, while other employers do not.

1.2. For live-ins, their rights are respected.

(2) Relationship with Filipino migrants in Italy

2.1. When Igorots meet other Filipino migrant workers in Italy, these are some examples of how the conversation goes:

  • When we say we are Igorots, they ask “Ilocano ka ba?” (Are you an Ilocano?) Some look at you from head to foot.
  • When we say “Igorotak,” some say, “Taga bundok” (From the mountain); Doon ba sa inyo, may kalsada? (Are there roads in your place?).
  • Others say, “You speak good English.”

2.2.  It is thought that Italian employers prefer Filipino migrants compared to migrants from other countries. There are some Italian employers (who have had experience in the Philippines or working with Filipinos will have the tendency to employ Filipino migrants from the North (i.e., Cordillera migrants) than from the South of the Philippines. Their penchant is based on their understanding that Filipino migrants from the north have self-discipline in terms of their work ethic and time management. An example provided was that if an employer, looking for a Filipino domestic worker they would ask the question, are you from the North or South of the Philippines? Such favoritism towards our fellow migrants in Italy, suggests Cordillera migrants have established a trademark of being industrious, work oriented, fair in their time management, honest and caring to their employers’ children.

(3) Working on papers

3.1. Papers refer to legalization and renewal of passport.

3.2. Ten or 15 years ago, the Philippine consular offices were in Milan and Rome. Nowadays, the Consul will travel to different cities in Italy for outreach. The Consul often makes a schedule prior to the planned day of visit so Filipinos are aware and can prepare. 

3.3. Many Filipinos remain undocumented migrants and for those migrants they often work with very little options, in terms of benefits that can be afforded to them.

(4) With our experiences, what do we do to cope with the situation?

4.1. For the documented Cordillera migrant workers, there is medical assistance available.

4.2. For undocumented Cordillera migrant workers, there are NGOs in Rome that provide medical assistance.

4.3. For death assistance, members of an organization will contribute, financially, towards a fund. Also, the Philippine Embassy helps to a certain degree.

4.4. If the Cordillera migrant worker is not registered with the OWWA and s/he gets sick, there is no help s/he receives.

4.5. Undocumented migrant workers are willing to pay their membership fees to OWWA but their membership is not accepted.

(5) Other topics:

5.1. The population of Cordillera migrant workers represents 10% of the total number of Filipino migrant workers in Italy.

5.2. There is a template for a burial aid program, which has been used and adopted successfully by the BIBAK of Northern California since 1990. It could be provided to any organization, for reference purposes, should any organization choose.

15 May 2017

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