Since moving to Switzerland 19 years ago, I have experienced my fair share of discrimination: My race, job, size and religion among others. I took it all in with dignity, proud of my roots as a Filipino.
It was not easy. But I managed to keep my sanity by focusing on my family, growing children, work, and projects that will help reach out to others.
Looking back, I should say I was able to hold my ground during encounters wherein any other individual would have shied and ran away.
When my daughters got sick for two weeks, I was deprived of sleep and forgot to bring a document to the kindergarten class.
Across the street, the Swiss-Italian kindergarten teacher screamed at me in Italian, “Hey, Asian brownie, what kind of memory do you have? I heard that many women in your country are in prostitution. Is that how you fished out your Swiss husband?”
Other mothers waited for my reaction as I fought to hold back tears that were threatening to fall. I replied calmly in Italian, “Can I set an appointment with you so we can talk about my country?”
The Swiss Italian teacher who did not speak English was quite impressed on how I fluently spoke Italian without any foreign accent. I told her that her overt, hostile statement was offensive, based on her very limited knowledge of the Philippines no thanks to Swiss-Italian TV programs. Aided by a travel book, I explained to her at great length our Philippine history as well as how much we value our education, family, strong spiritual foundation and concern for compatriots. Needless to say, I gained her respect.
The worst discrimination I suffered was with my former, Swiss-Italian husband. He treated me like I was “nothing.” For him a woman’s role is to obey the man, serve the man and stay at home. As a religious woman taking seriously the vows of matrimony, I submitted myself to his chauvinistic demands but was treated like a slave for seven years.
Luckily, I found a good job at an aviation company, giving me the courage to file for divorce.
Even that did not free me from more racial slurs.
This is an excerpt of the article that Ana Angelica van Doorn wrote for the first issue of The Filipino Expat Magazine. Please download your copy to read the whole article.
<em>Ana Angelica van Doorn, also known by her pen name Angelica Hopes, is a Filipina writer and poet living in the Netherlands. She has lived in Lugano, Switzerland before moving to her new home. Her book Rhythm of a Heart, Music of a Soul can be purchased from Amazon or directly from her website <a href=”http://angelicahopes.com/”>www.angelicahopes.com</a></em>