Filipino guest workers: “Working in Hungary is a sacrifice for the future”

They have been with us for a year, we see them every day on the streets of Szombathely, but we know very little about them. It was time to sit down with them for a coffee.

A year ago, it was big news in Szombathely that several factories had received guest workers from the Philippines. Later, the company that recruits Asian workers to Hungary also gave an interview to our news site. The Filipinos are becoming more and more a part of Szombathely, and the residents are used to seeing them. It seems have integrated easily into the daily life of the town and its factories. However, we do not know what they think about us and our country, what their joys and sorrows are.

We meet Cindy, Iyan and John outside their staff house on a sunny Saturday morning. We tell them that we want to interview them, and after some hesitation they say yes, so a few minutes later we are sitting on the terrace of a downtown café. At first the questions and answers sound a bit formal, but then the mood warms up and the smiles grow wider.

Fülöp-szigeteki vendégmunkások interjú
Mészáros D. Zsolt

It soon becomes clear that Cindy and Iyan are married, with two sons in the Philippines: one aged 7 and the other 4. Iyan has been in Szombathely for a year now, having come with the first group, Cindy arrived two months ago. The children are now being looked after at home by their grandparents.

"Of course, I miss the boys, we talk to them every night. We understand that these two years of work in Hungary are a sacrifice we are making for the future, so that they can live in better conditions and we can send them to good schools," explains Cindy.

Life in the Philippines is very difficult for young and old alike, we learn. The average salary in Hungary is several times higher than in the Philippines, where they worked in a factory, for example, earning around €100 a month.

Fülöp-szigeteki vendégmunkások interjú
Mészáros D. Zsolt

John is still independent, he arrived in Szombathely this spring. He was also motivated by money, but he also mentions gaining experience and seeing the world. Not only do they collect money, they also send part of their salary home every month. "It's a great help for those left at home," they agree.

All three are visiting Hungary for the first time, and even Europe. The first big oddity they encountered was the weather. In the Philippines the temperature is between 30 and 40 degrees all year round, and the only difference is whether it rains or not.

"When I got off the plane in April this year, it was 4 degrees in Budapest," recalls John.

However, they are now somewhat used to the 'oddities' of Hungarian weather and find the October sunshine very pleasant, but are a little worried about the approaching winter.

City transport is also very different. They have a lot of bikes, motorbikes and jeeps on the roads, whereas here it's mostly cars and buses. They - perhaps for this reason - walk everywhere.

Fülöp-szigeteki vendégmunkások interjú
Mészáros D. Zsolt

All three of them have a two-year contract, which means they won't be travelling home during that time. When the two years are up, they don't know whether they will stay or go home for good. What is certain is that they love Hungary, they are happy to be here and they love their jobs.

They work in three shifts, but the work is not particularly difficult and they have nice Hungarian colleagues whom they meet occasionally outside work. There is no conflict between them, but unfortunately communication is difficult due to language barriers, helped somewhat by the Google translator. They have learned a few words in Hungarian. "Sziasztok!" is how they wave to colleagues they know when they meet on the street.

They are also very happy with their accommodation, where the staff are very friendly. Two or three people share a room, so they feel a bit like a hotel.

They haven't been outside Szombathely much, except for John, who plays basketball in his spare time and has played in Sárvár and Zalaegerszeg. Cindy and Iyan are planning to visit Budapest over the Christmas break, something they've heard a lot about and are very curious about.

Fülöp-szigeteki vendégmunkások
Mészáros D. Zsolt

When they're not working, they watch Netflix, relax, go shopping. They don't take advantage of the workplace canteen, preferring to cook for themselves every day, partly because they miss rice, which they eat on average two or three times a day. In Asia, eating is easier as there are cheap takeaways all over the street, of which there are very few here. Among Hungarian dishes, they cite “lángos” as one of their favourites.

They are from Manila, the country's bustling capital, which is very different from small, quiet Szombathely. In Manila, after work, everyone keeps hustling, walking the streets, visiting relatives and acquaintances. But here, everyone goes home, minds his or her business and then goes to work the next day. Life is very different here, but on the whole they like it.

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