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Barcelona, Spain: Bernard’s Life After His Term

Barcelona, Spain: Bernard’s Life After His Term

More than 10 million Filipinos live abroad, and more than 1 million leave the country each year to work, including Bernard Bauyon and his family. Bernard Bauyon is a 49-year-old Filipino immigrant living in Barcelona, Spain, and a dual citizen. He was born and raised in the Philippines and graduated from Far Eastern University with a degree in Architecture. He is currently a machine operator, and his third job is in a sausage factory “SCHARA” in Barcelona.

Reputation and capabilities

Before moving to Spain, Bernard’s reputation and capabilities guided his life in many ways. He had a reputable life back home in the Philippines, where he was once a barangay captain, and many people trusted him. His office spearheaded several projects in the Barangay, making it a peaceful place to live for Tumalim residents. However, rather than staying and running the entire Barangay office himself and finishing his term, which was his passion, and everyone regarded it as a ‘high-paying job’, he decided to go to Spain after his wife petitioned him in 2004. He handed over his position as Barangay Captain to the first councilor. It was a difficult choice for him. His kabarangay and those who trusted his leadership were saddened by his decision to leave the barangay.

When deciding whether to stay or go, he thought, “If you are family-oriented, you will choose to go because family comes first.”, and he stood firm in his decision and left. On the other hand, his wife, Dolores Bauyon, was overjoyed with his decision to finally move to Spain with her.  

The untold migrant story

“Unang una, [hinanda ko] ang aking mental mindset na ako ay maninirahan sa isang bansa, hinanda ko ang aking mga expectations dahil may mga obstacles at pag-aayos ng barangay bago ako umalis at huli sa lahat hinanda ko ang aking maleta at ang mga pasalubong”, he shared with all smiles.

Bernard had his suitcases fixed, low expectations, and established mindsets when he was preparing to leave the country. And he knew he wouldn’t be able to bring his reputation there. He set foot in Spain as an outcast and a regular person, not the Barangay Captain he was. However, no readiness had prepared him for the changes he would be confronted with.

Struggles, culture shocks, and discrimination

Bernard faced struggles, culture shocks, and discrimination while living in a foreign country, where nothing was easy. Still, he rose to the occasion, worked things out, and accomplished everything he believed was best for his life and his family’s future. He has now been living and working in Barcelona, Spain, for the past 16 years. 

Bernard Bauyon has been working with machines for 15 years already. His first job was as a machine operator in a factory, but when the financial crisis hit Barcelona in 2011, his company closed down, forcing him to look for another machine-based job. He was, however, a victim of workplace discrimination. 

“Nakaranas [ako] na parang ikaw ay minamaliit, ‘yung iyong mga kakayahan at turing sayo ay estranghero. Tinarato ako na parang walang alam. he shared. He realized that he had never been treated like that in the Philippines, where people respected him and knew what he was capable of. When he was a barangay captain, everyone recognized his contributions and knew he was doing an excellent job. In Spain, however, things were completely different. Fortunately for him, there was no physical harm done. 

He proved that he was nothing but capable

Bernard believed that some of his coworkers and Spanish people discriminated against him because he couldn’t speak Spanish. He couldn’t interact and communicate well with them. And to avoid any workplace discrimination that made him appear weak and without options for change, Bernard studied the Spanish language until his third-level conversation. He always went to the market to listen to Spanish people speak to see if he could already understand them and watched local movies and TV shows. Eventually, he learned the language not only the most common words like ‘Hola,’ ‘Gracias,’ te Quiero” but he is now able to communicate, build relationships with the Spanish community, and most importantly, discrimination came to an end. He proved them wrong; he proved that he was nothing but capable. 

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Mix of benefits and drawbacks

Living in Spain is a mix of benefits and drawbacks, as well as hope and despair. Putting aside the discrimination Bernard had experienced at work, there are far too many advantages and benefits, especially if you are already a citizen and it has benefited him and his family. One of them is traveling to places in Europe without obtaining a visa. Also, the healthcare program is excellent, minor to major diseases, and operations are all free— citizen or not— a significant difference compared to the Philippines’ healthcare program. A good climate, modernized and 24/7 transportation (buses, trains, subways), and no traffic are just among those good things they all enjoy while living in Barcelona. However, there is still a single pang of homesickness present. 

Homesickness has a significant impact on those from a country where people are always happy, welcoming, optimistic, and friendly, such as the Philippines. Not only Bernard, but all immigrants and those with family abroad, have to deal with virtual hugs and kisses, a bunch of ‘we miss you, and we’ll see you soon’ messages. And, to lessen homesickness, Bernard always pays visits to his siblings who also live and work in Barcelona, or talk with his Filipino friends. If it lingers, Bernard and his wife go on dates and enjoy themselves in the streets of Barcelona.

A life-changing experience

Bernard realized that adjusting to life abroad is not as simple as it appears, with all of the stereotyping, discrimination, and homesickness he had to deal with. Everything seemed different from his hometown, the life and work differences began to hit him. He had realized that things were not the same in Barcelona, Spain. It was indeed a life-changing experience, but he broke free from his bubble and immersed himself in the local culture.

Every challenging experience Bernard Bauyon has as a migrant in Spain helps him grow as a person. He is aware that there will be many along the way. Nonetheless, he will never forget those difficult times; they provided him with an entirely different career. It brought him the opportunity to be the best version of himself as well as inspiring stories to share. Undoubtedly, living and working abroad add something more to his life and motivate him to remain strong for his family. 

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