Filipinos in Greece upset over “racist” remarks

by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano

MANILA—Filipinos in Greece, for nearly a month, are complaining of a renowned Greek politician’s remarks likening the European country’s debt woes to the Filipino domestic worker.

The statement of famous Greek composer Miki Theodorakis on June 27 that Greece had become the “Filipina” of a troika of financial institutions brings back memories of how the word “Filipineza” created an uproar over the word’s inclusion in a Greek dictionary 13 years ago.

Filipina-Greek Margie Doyle Papadopoulou finds Theodorakis’ statement “thoughtless, hurtful and racist”.

 

Papadopoulou was referring to Theodorakis’ statement that Greece is the “Fiipina” of a troika of financial institutions and the International Monetary Fund, given Greece’s ongoing economic woes and debt repayment issues.

A newspaper report by Greek journalist Stelios Barmiatzis wrote Theodorakis said the words at a gathering of the movement “Spark” in Naoussa (a fishing village on the Greek island of Paros, an island in the Central Aegean Sea).

Theodorakis was calling on citizens to join protest marches at Syntagma Square, as well as criticized Greek Vice President Theodoros Pangalos.

“At the same time, (Theodoraris) noted that PASOK and ND are in favor of a memorandum with the troika, and he berated (Greek President George) Papandereou’s government for ‘national humiliation’ and emphasized how they have reduced Greece to ‘Filipina’ of the troika and of the IMF,” Barmiatzis wrote in his report.

Theodorakis, who turns 86 this July 29, is among Greece’s popular composers and was a former member of parliament and government minister.

Reinforcement

Papadopoulou actually acknowledged Theodorakis as a “good man,” but said the politician’s remarks are reinforcing Greek racist attitudes on Filipinos.

“Why should a floundering nation of Greeks be compared to Filipinas? How can you callously categorize Philippine women in a way that ignores their individuality, their intelligence, their strengths and their charms? How can you use hard-working and courageous people as a symbol of everything that you find humiliating, a symbol of servitude?”

Then Papadopoulou acknowledge the lingo in common Greek parlance that Greeks use the word “Filipina” to refer to domestic worker.

In 1998, Filipinos protested the use of the word “Filipineza” in a modern Greek language dictionary, defining the word as “a domestic worker from the Philippines or a person who performs non-essential auxiliary tasks.”

It was alleged that George Babiniotis, compiler of the said dictionary, distanced himself from all responsibility of Filipineza’s use in the publication since, Papadopoulou observes, “he was merely recording the common usage given to the word by the Greek people themselves”.

“He rightly claimed that he was not responsible for giving words their meaning. However, while defending himself, he obviously felt no obligation to attempt to right the wrong that has grown within the Greek language that he claims to love so well,” Papadopoulou wrote.

Reminder

BUT Papadopoulou’s open letter that circulated across blogs and on Facebook last July 22nd was not meant to make a counter-racist attack on the Greek composer.

“Filipinos are a just people. They are your allies and stand in solidarity with Greeks in the hope of finding common solutions. They deserve and it is their right to be treated better,” Papadopoulou wrote.

Nearly a month ago, the Filipino group Kasapi Hellas lamented Theodorakis’ statement:

“You use the term ‘Filipina’ as a synonym for submissiveness and servitude, as someone low and insignificant: a non-person, so helpless in the presence of employers that she only has to obey blindly.”

Yet the group, led by long-time settler and migrant advocate Joe Valencia, told Theodorakis in a statement that “While you wish, thus, to portray an image of blind obedience of the Greek people to the demands of the Troika, at the same time you are demeaning the Filipino people.”

“We are outraged at your making this analogy between Filipinas and the situation Greece finds itself in.”

There are an estimated 51,656 Filipinos in Greece as of the 2009 stock estimates of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (to include 45,560 temporary migrant workers, mostly domestic workers). These Filipinos, in 2010, sent a seven-year-high US$.222.771 million to the Philippines.

Nevertheless, Theodroakis’ thought is inexcusable, says Papadopoulou.

“Just the fact that you choose Filipinas to show your indignation means that you know something of the injustices that these people face. This does not give you the right to humiliate them in trying to express your own humiliation in the face of the measures being forced on Greece during the current economic situation,” she wrote.

There are no reports, as of this writing, of any rejoinder coming from Theodorakis. (OFW Journalism Consortium)

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