By Mona Lunot Kuker
New York City – Paris, the city of love, is everyone’s dream to visit, known to be the most beautiful city in the world. I remember as a child I dug into my father’s old magazines and found a 1960’s edition of the Readers Digest at the bottom of his chest drawer. It already had yellowish pages with a strong moldy smell.
My young curious self started to kick in and I turned the pages one by one. I saw a picture of the Eiffel Tower – this gigantic metal structure that was built on January 28, 1887 and completed in March 15, 1889 and named after an Engineer Gustave Eiffel who’s company built and designed it. I told myself that one day, I will see this tower. And I didn’t know that dream will become reality.
I feel like I am a miniature as I looked up at the proud giant structure made of wrought iron, finally when I visited Paris with my husband Steve. It is ranked as the world’s greatest engineering marvel in those times.
We walked towards Pont d’ lena Bridge over looking the Seine River to view the Eiffel Tower from afar and it’s absolutely magnificent. We continued to walk to find Cafe Kleber restaurant near the Trocadero train station, to meet a friend named Marian Jonas Cabuhat, a “kababaryo” and schoolmate way back home.
We had a wonderful dinner and of course, tete-a-tete, for there was a lot of catching up to do, growing up in the same barrio and now as immigrants. Marian lives in Paris for 30 years, since she was 18 years old. She said that she migrated very young to avoid her grandmother’s wish for her to finish Nursing which she didn’t take seriously.
She just wanted to work and explore Paris, following her sister’s footsteps. Though many of our Filipina overseas workers suffered abuses in different countries, she rarely heard domestic workers being abused in Paris. Marian also expressed her sentiments on the government’s failure to eradicate extreme poverty in the Philippines and wished that Filipinos avoided working in the Middle East and other parts in Asia where abuses by employers are common.
After dinner, she volunteered to tour us around the area. We continued our highly opinionated conversation. Marian is so opposed to the rampant killings of impoverished addicts and the innocent civilians. “I am so worried for my nephews although they are not drug users, because anyone can be a subject for murder” She said while we both marveled at the Arc de Triompe guarding vigilantly the famous Champs-Élysées avenue.
Even in the most beautiful places and wonderful food we savor, we always talk about the plight of our people in our native land. We have endured the difficult circumstances we went through in the Philippine diaspora, but our hearts remain in our Motherland. “I am still dreaming that the Philippines will recover and rise since I want to return one day for good,” Marian said.
My husband and I enjoyed many places in France. And as we flew back to New York, I realized no matter how difficult our challenges in life are, there is hope for everyone. Just continue to love, believe and pursue, and it is possible to happen. Never give up for our personal dreams and for our beloved country.