Especially for you…

by Evans Yonson

(Note: This is a long overdue entry about a fellow traveller who has journeyed the world many times over.)

Barcelona – Today is a special religious holiday in Spain. It’s the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Being a religious country that it is, remember they propagated the Christian faith to the world in the early 16th century, all stores are closed except for those enterprising South Asians. The patron saint of the Philippines is the Immaculate Conception of Mary, so today is one of the three holy days of obligation among Filipino Catholics. Since it is a holiday, I would like to dedicate today’s entry to one of the persons that I dearly love here in Barcelona. Someone who I don’t get to see everyday but I know he thinks of me more often than I visit him. It’s not his birthday but I have been waiting for that special day for him to be featured in my blog. Today is the most appropriate one for him. A special day for a special man.

When I moved to Barcelona in 2006, I met Rod Estrella, through a common friend, who struck me as a happy-go-lucky type of guy. He is one of the more famous Filipino entrepreneurs in Barcelona, and his bar has the distinction of catering to mostly foreign clientele. He owns an Irish pub in the affluent side of the city. While most Filipinos in Barcelona have contented themselves as domestic helps and/or restaurant workers, he went beyond the stereotype. But the road leading to where he is now is one of Robert Frost’s roads not taken.

Tito Rod, as I fondly call him, is one of twelve siblings. At a tender age of 11, he wanted to see the world. Little did he know he would realize this dream sooner than he thought. He was accelerated twice in primary school. Finishing a degree in Business Administration in one of Manila’s prominent universities, his first international job happened by accident when his brother-in-law asked Tito Rod to accompany him for a job interview. In a week’s time, he left for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to work as an administrative assistant for an engineering consultancy firm composed mainly of East Asians and Europeans.

His cheerful character and diligence became his  prominent characteristic. Shortly, his European managers took a fondness of his determination and strong jolly personality. They brought him to England, Ireland, Germany, France, Greece and Belgium for 21 days. He assisted them in the conduct of several training and he did the accounting of all these activities. The success of this trip would lead to more trips to countries like Thailand, Hongkong, Amsterdam, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and finally Spain.

He arrived in Spain years before the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. His Irish managers started an Irish pub in after the Summer Games and the bar became an instant hit. He did the inventory and accounting for this new venture at night after his regular office work. Sometimes, he would take orders from clients and became a bartender overnight. Not long after, the managers decided to pack their stuff and Tito Rod made a decision to stay on and continue with the bar.

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Today, Flann O’Brien Irish Pub is one of Barcelona’s most famous bars and the second oldest Irish pub in town. The bar serves mainly three things: beer, sports and live music.

Guinness and Murphy’s Ale are the popular choice among its young and professional clients. Football is one game that this pub is crazy about -not only that it is in Barcelona- but it’s an Irish tradition. There are several TV sets within the pub whenever a football game is on especially the world famous, FCBarcelona. The bar is filled to the brim when Guardiola and his wards take the Camp Nou or when it’s Saint Patrick’s Day in March. Another trademark that this bar is famous for is it’s live music, ranging from rock to pop and sometimes hip-hop.

Tito Rod sees to it that a Filipino band gets to play every week in his bar. He believes that the Filipino community in Barcelona has helped him so much in the past, and he is just paying it forward by supporting young Filipino talents. He has somehow carved for himself the role of a community leader. A driving force that many admire. Ever since I came back to Barcelona in 2008, I have never missed a single Philippine Independence Day celebration. Tito Rod is a regular host of the main event. His antics and comedic punches make him famous among the crowd.

In a year’s time, Tito Rod flies between Barcelona, California, and Manila to see his wife (a bank manager in the US) and his daughter (a registered nurse in the Philippines). He sees to it that he spends time with them no matter how much it would cost him. He travels nine times a year. He has already been to more than 50 countries, now that’s something that I should set myself in the next few years. Of all his travels abroad, Tito Rod learned, among other things, reverence for others and the right manners due them. Breeding is one thing that this Filipino businessman values. “We need to respect others and at the same time not losing respect to ourselves.”

“I’m tired of being poor,” Tito Rod told me, “and I want to enjoy life to the fullest.” After all the hardships he has had in life, he deserves all the best in his lifetime. Travel. Friends. Business. Happiness. His early life experiences have taught him how to be a person for others. Now that’s a hard feat to follow.

The road to success may be narrow and unfamiliar but with hard work, purposefulness and a cheerful attitude then the struggle towards the end is already won.

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