If you have ever lived in Switzerland you would have probably hit upon a Filipino along the country’s cobbled streets. *Over 10000 Filipinos are residing in Switzerland at the moment, a figure much higher than when many Filipinos (mostly women) came to Switzerland in the 70’s to work primarily in the nursing sector.
The growth of Filipinos living in Switzerland paved way to the legal establishment of Samahang Pilipina- Luzern (SPL) on October 25, 1985, Now there are existing Filipino groups of such kind functioning independently in almost every canton comprising Switzerland.
I talked with Ms Elisa Lohr-Ceniza, one of the incumbent presidents of SPL to know more about the organization, its projects, and goals.
“Samahang Pilipina- Luzern was founded by Ms Evelyn Steiner. She was the pioneer in Luzern back in the 70’s. At first the group was very informal, lacking in structure and meeting only for camaraderie and fun and then after its recognition as a legal organization in Luzern in 1985, governed by its own by-laws, began the group’s metamorphosis into one with clearer vision. At the onset only Filipinos comprised the group but later on even the spouses of Filipinos and other citizens interested in the Philippines have joined us,” says Elisa.
SPL has since embarked into various activities and projects, many of them aimed at helping people in the Philippines such as the creation of water pumps for squatters in Manila, renovation of barrio chapels, paintings of school buildings, assistance to typhoon victims in 1995 in Quezon Province, partnership with DOLE in building a classroom in Mindanao, and recently assistance to the typhoon victims in Kalubian, Leyte (where aid has still not reached), to name a few.
“Whenever we have fundraising its proceeds always go to the people in the Philippines. Sometimes we sell Filipino food on the streets here in Luzern to raise funds. SPL is also pleased to assist Filipino talents who come to Switzerland to perform like the UP Singing Ambassadors and the Manila Ensemble whom we have sponsored by providing food and accommodation. We toured them around Luzern and these groups also sang for the members of SPL. It was a big help for them especially for the Singing Ambassadors who in 2005 had the chance to rehearse in Switzerland for their competition in Czech Republic and Spain. It was indeed a very unforgettable experience,” Ceniza recalls.
Not forgetting the main reason for its foundation, SPL also assists newcomers in Luzern through acting as interpreters (German being the language used in this area). The group has also helped many Filipinas who had experienced domestic and legal problems with their husbands, one way of which is by directing them to the rightful agencies to assist them such as the Frauenhaus and sometimes by assisting women financially even with a small amount. SPL also sometimes act as a mediator to some misunderstanding among Filipinos in Luzern. In 2007, SPL the Migration Day, one of the biggest events of Filipinos in Switzerland. They also join events by the Philippine Embassy in Bern.
The group has extended its help to the canton Luzern by participating in the annual Swiss City Marathon where SPL members assist in giving first-aid to participants of the said event. The group’s contribution to the city is greatly appreciated by the Swiss people. Being fun-loving Filipinos, SPL conducts a number of leisure activities like Bingo nights, family picnics, and Masquerade ball.
To end Ceniza said, “We are continuously welcoming new members of SPL. The group could give diverse tasks to each member. I like SPL because we are down-to-earth. We have a familial relationship resonating the very same kind of strong ties we have in the Philippines. We do not have big conflicts. In 2015 Samahang Pilipina- Luzern will celebrate its 30th anniversary and as usual we will always be active, having constant activities and will be helping our kababayans to the best of our efforts.”
To join, visit their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/193467957424294/?fref=ts
*Source: Filipinos in der Schweiz (Wikipedia.org)