|Lobby Atrium at the Marriott in Aruba|
i expected the sand, sun and surf. what i didn’t expect? the multitude of filipinos all over aruba. in retrospect, i shouldn’t have been surprised. our countrymen seem to tend to flock to where there is a thriving hospitality industry.
the guy who served us breakfast at the marriott was filipino (mang boogie), as was one of the restaurant managers, phine, (i bet her full name was josephine. she told us about a filipino restaurant in downtown aruba that offered $9 pancit and karaoke). mang claudio, one of the valets, taught us to call for the golf cart/short-range shuttle to get to the restaurant strip. the cashier at the lobby bar. then there were all the filipinos at benihana — the hostess, the performing chef and even the manager (i felt like i was running for office when i was leaving benihana, waving and saying goodbye to all the filipinos, LOL!).
funny thing about the knife-wieding, jokey chef … one of the women at our table (we shared it with a yonkers couple and their child and another couple) asked him where he was from and he said philippines. i looked up startled because i thought he was indonesian. i blurted out: “ay, filipino ka?” and he looks at me surprised and delighted, “akala ko baka hapon o intsik kayo (thought you were japanese or chinese)” referring to me and my cousin.
it was mang claudio, the valet at the marriott, who told us that the first wave of filipinos in aruba arrived after the huge earthquake in 1990 that leveled the hyatt regency in baguio. apparently, hyatt brought some of its remaining workers to aruba. people saw how hardworking and congenial filipinos were, mang claudio said, and an employment agency was set up in the philippines. he said he and his wife were among the second wave of workers. before long, they were telling relatives about the country and getting them to move there.
oh and there were a ton of filipino visitors, too! the family we spoke with were also from new york (queens, i think they said). and we kept hearing filipino wherever we went. not surprising either because there’s a direct flight from the city 🙂