The first thing that Lovelee Manalo, 30, noticed when she arrived in Malta was the weather. “In the Philippines, it’s summer all year round. We do have rain – but when it rains, the temperatures are hotter. In Malta, however, it gets cold in winter and I wasn’t used to that.”

Lovelee comes from a big family – she has three brothers and two sisters. Her father’s side of the family mostly live in Manila, while her other relatives live in the provinces, where she was born and raised. Her mother used to teach at the same primary school that Lovelee attended.

When she was 18 years old, Lovelee went to study business management for four years at a college in Manila. “Then after two years, I decided to change job and started looking for other opportunities. A friend of my aunt, who lives in Malta, told me of an opportunity here and I packed my bags and bought a ticket to Malta.”

For Lovelee, her journey to Malta was the first time she had boarded a plane and travelled outside the Philippines. “I was a bit nervous, but I’m not one to be discouraged easily. God is with me so I never give up.”

Lovelee has now been living in Malta for six years and takes care of Rita and Kevin Vella, who are both wheelchair users. Lovelee started caring for Rita and Kevin ever since they got married six years ago. “My responsibility is to make Rita and Kevin happy,” she says.

“For us, Lovelee is family,” Rita says. “We involve her a lot and even when we go out, we make sure that she is happy with our plans. “Lovelee has a quiet and pleasant personality and takes good care of us. We feel safe with her,” Rita says. “And even when she misses her family, she makes sure that this is not a burden.”

“Thanks to Lovelee, we can lead a comfortable life,” Kevin adds.

“For me, family is very important and I dream of one day raising a family of my own,” Lovelee says. “I always help my family and am thinking of them all the time. I am in Malta both to help my family and for my future.”

 

Recipe

Chicken adobo – A spicy dish from the Philippines with a hint of Spain.

Ingredients: 1kg chicken pieces; 4 potatoes, cubed; 4 tbsp soy sauce; 1 garlic head, chopped; 1 onion, chopped; 2 cups water; Half cup vinegar; 2 tbsp oil; 2 bay leaves; Pepper to taste.

Method: Boil the chicken for 15 minutes. Mix all the ingredients in a pan and cook for approximately one hour. Serve with rice.

Serves 4.

This interview was included in the publication InterAct – A Portrait of Third-Country Nationals in Malta, published as part of the Media InterAct project (IF 2010 02) and distributed with The Times. They are based on the TV programme Minn Lenti Interkulturali, produced/presented by Maria Muscat (PBS), and directed/edited by Godfrey Smith (PBS) and  broadcast on Education22/TVM2 and TVM between January and March, 2012 and on TVM between April and June, 2012. The project is co-financed through the European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals. The project is led by SOS Malta, in partnership with the Public Broadcasting Services and the Institute of Maltese Journalists.