A Filipino family calls Britain home (Part 2)

By Cristina DC Pastor

Alcantara, with children Melissa, Terence and Giselle, when he received the British Community Honours award at the House of Lords in 2017.

The Covid protocols introduced by the British government are not popular, particularly among businesses that had to shut down and individuals who lost their jobs, said Gene Alcantara, a Filipino community leader in the UK.

“Travel is banned, visits even to relatives are banned.  But everyone knows they are necessary to stop the virus,” he said.

The British government puts supportive measures in place, such as grants to businesses, allowing employees to go on furlough and enable them to survive. Just like in some parts of the United States, “there is resistance” from people who think the virus is one big hoax and from people who do not believe in vaccines.

“There are demonstrations or individual boycotts,” he said, adding the police have taken a stricter approach to enforcement, through raids and fines imposed on illegal gatherings. 

Said Alcantara, “My only wish is for the government to plan these things, rather than announcing confusing bombshells without notice.  You cannot really one day push for schools to remain open, only to close them the following day.  We know the rules, and we are all willing to sacrifice our freedoms for now, to help to stop the virus, not just in the UK but everywhere else around the world.”

The family enjoying the Eden Project rainforest in Cornwall. With Alcantara, his wife Carmen, daughter Melissa, Terence’s partner Nicla, son Terence, and grandson Gabriel.

A young man’s journey

Generoso Alcantara came to the UK in 1980 to visit his mother, Nelia Bartolome who was then working in hospital catering. At the time, he was employed in the Saudi Arabian office of Bechtel, an American company with engineering and construction projects worldwide. Shortly after visiting his mother, he left Bechtel, and returned to the UK to pursue Russian Studies in London.

While pursuing his degree, he got a position at the British Council where he worked for 20 years.  After another four years working in Poland as assistant director, he vowed to devote his time serving the Filipino community. He opened his immigration consultancy practice and immersed himself in various activities of the community.   He became the founding Chair of the Philippine Centre, which ran the largest Barrio Fiesta in the UK since 1985 until the pandemic put a stop to it.  In 2012, he took on the role of founding Chair of the European Network of Filipino Diaspora (ENFiD).

Hosting his online news magazine program called ‘Juan EU Konek.’

“It was a major challenge to organize ENFiD and I like to think we succeeded over the 4 to 5 years I led the organization,” he said.  “Unfortunately, with President Duterte’s rise to power, it became increasingly difficult for me to remain silent. My role as a critic of the current government was incompatible with ENFiD’s non-political stance.  I remain a member and attend their functions whenever I can to show them my continuing support.”

His involvement with the Filipino community currently revolves around the online news/documentary magazine called “Juan EU Konek”. Not exactly an alien venture for one who has spent 13 years as a news correspondent for ABS-CBN’s The Filipino Channel.

Alcantara and sister, the late Mayor Cllr Cynthia Barker, with their Filipino American cousin Dr. Marissa Estiva Magsino, a Filipina Women’s Network awardee.

Empty nesters

Gene and his wife Carmen, a Human Resources specialist, are all alone in their London home while their three children are living their best lives elsewhere.

“My family is just fine, and I hope and pray it remains that way,” he said.

His eldest daughter Giselle Mickel is married and lives with her husband in Edinburgh, Scotland, where they run a fishmonger or a shop for fish and seafood. Middle son, Terence, is a fashion model and has appeared in BMW ads across Europe.  He works as a private chauffeur and lives with his Italian partner and their son not too far from his parents.  Youngest daughter Melissa runs a brand consultancy with her friend from university.

“We are all British citizens and consider Britain our home.  I myself did not vote to leave the European Union, but here we are now at the beginning of Brexit proper and we just have to deal with it and make it work for everyone,” he said.

The Alcantaras have invested in a little house in Valencia, Spain, where they hope to retire eventually, possibly splitting the year between Spain and the UK weather permitting. He said, “I love the Philippines but for me it is not the best place to live for now.”

‘Filipino nurses are highly regarded in the UK’ – community leader Gene Alcantara (Part 1) » The FilAm

© The FilAm 2021

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