Bridges, hi-tea & empowered women


BalikBayani République | Tony Alabastro

Philippine Embassy’s gender and development program recognizes mothers’ and professionals’ contributions to society.

“Filipinos married to Bruneians are permanent bridges of harmony and goodwill between countries.

“You are achievers in your own right: Caring and nurturing the household, molding your children’s minds, contributing to economic growth and society’s progress. Your love for motherland stays.

“You are successful in business, public sector, health, education, culture and others. When permanent residents are gone, and overseas Filipino workers have returned home for good, your presence is constant.

“Having embraced the people, culture, and religion, and knowing the strengths and positives of Brunei life and society, you willingly help kababayans: anonymously, behind the scenes, away from organizations/affiliations.

“You empowered women, with Filipino blood, will have children and grand-children. Someday, they may become a government minister, high-ranking government official, business leader, a part-Filipino member of the royalty.
“We invite you to document your journeys and stories for a commemorative publication as 75th birthday gift for His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei next year,” Philippine Ambassador Christopher Montero tells a High Tea with Empowered Filipino Women in pandemic times.

Twenty one Filipinas in colorful tudong (headscarf), embroidered baju ke-baya formal wear, and one black-and-white power dresser wearing gold, pointed shoes share their journey.

Siti Noraizah Borja (Andrea Angeles Borja): “Oldest known Filipino (still) staying in Brunei is Visayan nurse Norma bte Abdullah (Milagros Sabas), who arrived July 1974.” Andy suggested Philippine Embassy invite Filipinos married to Bruneians.

Anyati Abdullah Orcullo (Mary Ann Duran Orcullo): “In Brunei 26 years. Married 23 years to 63-year-old widower. Inherited huge family, not fortune: Stepmom, stepgrandmother, stepgreat-great grandmother with 49 grandchildren, 70 great-great-grandchildren and more to come. Published “Brunei Malay Wedding” coffee table book.

Mariani Abdullah (Marivic Garcia Francisco): “I have a picture carrying a tampipi (palm leaves clothes chest) upon arri-val in October 1979 (as third generation OFW). I opened first Filipino store in 1992, Doods Video, until 2005. I do age-appropriate (stressless) business.”

Datin Hjh Juliana Abdullah (Jessica Buenaflor): “Married 1989, became Brunei housewife. I fed 200-300 people in United Nations, New York diplomatic functions my husband-ambassador hosted. I started with five warmers catering to Filipinos in an 18-year-old Lumapas restaurant. I handle up to 4,000 wedding guests. I have three Nur Wanita Northern Thai restaurants.”

Noorhayati Cynthia Noorhaizamdin (Marciana Cynthia Daquila Cabrera): “Arrived 1986. Was Brunei Surfing Association assistant manager; taught primary and technical education. I teach in SEAMEO-VOCTECH technical vocational education training programs in Southeast Asia,”

Datin Mariani Franco Abdullah (Mariam Gonzales): Datin’s family started in 2003 Brunei’s first, Filipino-staffed, Montessori school. “I was a Yaohan (Japanese) Department Store supervisor. I operate 25-year-old Anisah Beauty Salon.”

“Mataas na tsaa” menu: Halal sotanghon guisado (sauteed glass noodles), lumpiang Shanghai (bite-sized fried spring rolls), puto ( steamed white rice cakes topped with yellow cheese), pastries, keropok (shrimp crackers) and buko pandan (shredded white young coconut meat with green pandan-flavored gelatin).

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