29 years
of
Community Service
MUNTING NAYON
News Magazine
Operated by couple Eddie Flores and Orquidia Valenzuela
News and Views of the
Filipino Community Worldwide
THE BERGHAUS GIRLS

Eddie Flores / Orquid Valenzuela
The Netherlands
November, 2007



In the early 60s, The Netherlands was recovering and rebuilding itself from the destructions of World War II. In many sectors of society there was a shortage of manpower. The country did not have enough medical personnel, construction workers, professionals in various fields.
 
Gendringen-1966, With "Miriam Catalan", group's social worker
 

It was the period for the country to open its doors to guest workers. People in specialized fields and those with experience in technology were offered jobs.


 
With Father Van Dooren-1966
 

The industrial sector had also a shortage of manpower. One of those experiencing difficulty in getting people to work in their factory was Berghaus BV, a garment manufacturer with a factory in Ulft, a town close to the German border .

Mr. Croonen(+), the company's personnel manager, saw the success of the hospitals which recruited Filipina nurses to work for them two years earlier. He broached the idea of contracting workers from the Philippines for their factory in Ulf to Berghaus officials.

Assisted by his brother Father Croonen, a Dutch missionary priest assigned in Guimba-Nueva Ecija and Fr. Lagerwey, head of Social Communications Center in Manila, Berghaus started its first recruitment.
 
1972-Kruitberg-Bijlmermeer-Amsterdam
 

In March 1966, the first group of 63 Filipinas arrived in this country with a three-year contract with Berghaus. They were accompanied by Miriam Catalan, as their Social Worker.

After deducting the costs of their food and lodging and their forced savings the "girls" received 25 Dutch florins a week. (approximately euro11,=). At the end of the contract every "girl" received a forced savings of Dutch florins 3000.

Berghaus provided the shuttle bus for the "girls" to and from the factory in Ulft.
 
Filipino Fiesta in Gendringen, 1966
 
Ambassador Rogelio dela Rosa and Consul Clemencio Montesa visit the girls in the Achterhoek

The Berghaus "girls" as they were fondly called by Fr. Josef van Doormen and their Dutch friends, occupied rows of houses, six or seven in one house in Gendringen, a Dutch town near the German border.

A Richard Burton-look-alike Catholic priest in his mid-30's, Fr.f van Dooren was assigned to be the spiritual counselor of all the groups in Achterhoek. When he learnt the "girls" as he called them, had only a net of about 25 guilders a week and from that amount they sent support to their families, he appointed himself the girls' "chauffeur", packing five or six of them in his beetle and drove them around the country and nearby Germany. Often, he did errands for them.

The first group to arrive in Amsterdam were the first tenants of the then newly -constructed Kruitberg complex in Bijlmermeer, occupying 10 apartments from the first to the sixth floors.

And so they came...ages ranging from 18 - 26 years, originating from far-away towns in the Philippines and from Manila, carrying with them "baggage" of innocence, dexterity, ingenuity, and above all...charm that won the hearts of local villagers of Gendringen, Ulft and Wehl as well as that of the Amsterdammers.
 
Group Wehl 1970-1974 (Laly Noble-Social Worker)
 
 
1971 - Ulft Group (Social worker-Dolly Magbitang)
 

Mr. Croonen's proposal to hire Filipina workers proved to be a success that Berghaus BV, in the years that followed until the mid 70s took more than 700 Filipinas in groups of 60, each group with a social worker, to work in the factories in Ulft and Amsterdam .A few Filipinas were given office jobs in the factory's office in Amsterdam.
Social workers Miriam Catalan, Dolly Magbitang and Laly Noble in their favorite pastime.

In total, there were 12 groups contracted, guided by Filipino social workers, Miriam Catalan (2x), Candida Belarmino(+), Aida Torrevillas, Alice Edano, Laly Noble, Esperanza Oliveros, Dolly Magbitang, Perla Jabate, Terry Trijo, and Marie Balesteros.

Their life in The Netherlands was one filled with fun, adventures, excitements.... and anecdotes.






Filipinas never run short of ingenuity. A time when cell phones of today have yet to be invented...the girls in Kruitberg-Bijlmermeer devised a primitive, yet effective means of communication. They tapped their water pipes using their devised codes to send messages to other apartments, below or above theirs..






In the Achterhoek, Burgemeester (mayor) Mayor Pau endeared himself to the "girls" and told them, "Just give me a call...anytime you need my help."

The girls took this offer literally and seriously. When the toilet in one of the houses clogged one evening, they called Mayor Pau...in no time...he was there. ...complete with all the" tools-of-the-trade" and unclogged their toilet...himself.!!
 
2004 Renion -Dolly Magbitang / Aida Torrevillas groups
 






One time in summer, a farmer complained to the town's mayor that he caught some of the Filipinas stealing corn from his field.

The mayor's "Solomonic" solution: supply the "girls" with corn. Every corn season, the farmer delivered a car-load of corn to the "girls."






One anecdote that stands out was the incident in Rome. It was the group's first trip.

Inside their hotel room, a Filipina "needed to go to the bathroom" and with all her innocence...used the bidet. All efforts to flush the toilet failed! She heard someone calling her. Afraid that she would be left behind and miss the tour...she hurriedly scooped the thing with her hand, wrapped it in newspaper and threw it discreetly in the trash disposal infront of the pension house.....!!
 
2005 - Mini reunion in Toronto-Canada
 






Berghaus BV closed its operation in the Netherlands in 2006 after filing bankruptcy.

The last Filipinos working for Berghaus when it closed down were Rey Agbayani (married to a former Berghaus Girl Virginia del Rosario) and Linda Manalang (of Dolly Magbitang's group) who returned to The Netherlands after her contract.

Worth mentioning is the fact that the Berghaus Girls most probably was the biggest group of Filipino migrant workers in Europe contracted by a single (land-based) establishment in a span of 10 years.
 
Some of The Berghaus Girls who opted to stay in The Netherlands
 

Photo: the DPA DAY, September 2007. Except for a few who have opted to remain in the Netherlands, most migrated to Canada - a big number in Winnipeg while the rest in Toronto and Vancouver. Some went back to the Philippines while a few took residence in USA.

Now spread in three continents the Berghaus Girls still hold reunions, crossing oceans only to say..."Kumusta na kayo...hindi pa rin kayo nagbabago..." and relive memories of their days together.!!
Valentine's Party Yearly Reunion 2007 / Group 12-Wehl (last group)

Standing l to r: Edna dela Merced Balterocruz, Luz Castres, Divina Ancheta Imperial, Neneth Plata Sarao, Helen Panganiban Amaca and husband Ben Amaca, Amy Rebillaco Santos, Cora Borillo Dimalanta [V July 1, 2007], Myrna Bernabe dela Cruz, and Emmie [Yolanda] Barcelo Mapatac

Sitting l to r: Nneth Corpuz Gonzales, Delia Fuellos, Espie Oliveros Ramos [social worker, group 12], Ponciano Ramos [Espie's husband], Susan Carganilla Ponce and Malyne Granados Soliven

This feature article (and posted as well) in www.mnnetherlands.com is a tribute to all the Berghaus Girls who have contributed to the post-war economic recovery of the Netherlands and at the same time (together with the Filipina nurses) established a beachhead for today's thousands of Filipino migrants in The Netherlands.

They have been our close friends since 1966 ... warm friends....until now, 41 years later. They gave a stir of excitement to our early years in the Netherlands.

Eddie Flores / Orquid Valenzuela

November-2007




Berghaus Girls Upcoming Events:

(Group Wehl '67 is planning to hold their 40th Anniversary reunion on November 24 in Doetinchem and possibly in Manila in January 2008. For more info, those interested may contact Irma Galias, galias39@zonnet.nl).

A Valentine's Ball is being organized by the Berghaus Girls in Winnipeg-Manitoba-Canada to be held on February 16, 2008. For more info, contact Remy Ambay Alina, remie1@mts.net.

See Also:
Write a Comment
Various Comments
Mon 15th August 2016
Oh what a story, this is worth reading!!!

The Burgemeester (Mayor) unclogging the toilet one evening; the girls caught stealing corn from the farmer's field...oh really funny,

hahaha made me giggle and laughing out loud. The typical innocent, naive yet warm and friendly Pinoys!!!

Well written article Munting Nayon!!!

Leah Flora D. Klein-Sanchez
Netherlands
August 15, 2016
======================
Thanks to all of your effort in writing this article.

yes am so happy for all the blessings God give me and for all the memories l will never forget .

May God bless Us Aĺl

​Dominga Mateo
August 15, 2016
====================​
It's nice to see a family history! It is important to recognize where we came from and how we started our roots

​Katja Tomba
August 14, 2016
 
Various Comments
Fri 12th August 2016
Good story !!

Severina Nadres-Escondo
Tayabas-Quezon August 11, 2016
-------------------------------------------
I,m proud of you ladies to be in another part of the world

Linda Aban
August 11, 2016
-------------------------------------------------

Before I moved to the USA, I worked in the textile group with a Japanese trading company named Mitsui in the late 80's and one of our clients was Berghaus. They were a lovely bunch of Belgians and Dutch guys. Actually this is how I met Joan M. Silvosa - as she was working with one of our garment suppliers. I wonder how the expats I met are now?

They did mention that had a lot of Filipinos working for them in the Netherlands.

Gigi Alino
August 12, 2016
============================
Great story!
isn't this such an interesting piece?

Thanks again Eddie Flores! And the most heartwarming part is the fact that these girls still have reunions till now;

the bond of OFWs and intensely close relations developed when living far from home is such a great human social phenomenon.

Brigitte Henschel
August 11, 2016
--------------------------------------------------
'm sure my parents knew a few of them

Ethelyn David
Vancouver
August 11, 2016
-----------------------------------------------
i remember welcoming 1 new year with them. amazing experience for the locals who watched the filipinas banging their pots and pans !!

Bing Zaide
Manila
August 12, 2016
-----------------------------------------------
So wonderful to bring back memories especially here on Facebook where the Social Media is around the world to connect with our family and friends.

First, thank you to Eddie and Orquid for sharing us the Munting Nayon News, about the story of 700 Filipina girls that went to Holland back in the mid 60's. Never to forget all the people from Holland who then help us make things possible. Especially Fr. Cronen, Fr. Lagerway and Mr. Cronen, if not with them we will not be here.

Yes, that is true. And also to those friends around that share this wonderful opportunity Fr. Van Dooren, Mayor Pouw, and all the people behind us that helps not to mention everybody here, to all of us Girls that went to Holland Mabuhay!

There are among the groups that only memories left behind us, we Thank You also. They are now in a better place. And to majority of the girls that continue supporting our family, God Bless to all of us. I am going to find time to tell more stories about our groups.

When and where we started from Guimba, Nueva Ecija, Philippines. Coming sooner or later something to share with all of you too. Stay in touch everyone. Good Luck to all of us. Happiness always. - Hamster '2016.

Helen Medina
Netherlands
Augus 1, 2016
----------------------------------------
Epic !!

Jon Bustamente
Netherlans
August 12, 2016
-----------------------------------------
Same year as the first Filipinas in the Federal State of Northrhine Westphalia,-Germany, and their story has been written a few times, but this is where we would like to start as well...

Thank you for your inspiration Munting Nayon

Mary Agnes Mendoza - Urban
Germany
August 12, 2016
----------------------------------------

We have begun celebrating our 50th anniversaries. The first group has celebrated theirs.

The 1st Wehl group is next in 2017.

Bernadette Santos
Manila
August 12, 2016
 
NM Blancaflor
Mon 24th November 2014
Netherlands
Great story ..... and Mabuhay sa mga Berghaus Girls !!!
NM Blancaflor
Netherlands
November 23, 2014
 
Josie Albores
Sun 23rd November 2014
Manila
Hi Eddie and Orquid! Will share this article with family and friends.

Thanks for continuing this work of sharing. All the best to you and all those who went to Holland through our office in Manila, the SCC, which later became CFA.

Josie Albores
Manila
November 22, 2014
 
Faye S. Sangalang
Thu 21st May 2009
Winnepeg-Canada
to the Editor of this MNNM,

Congratulations for operating this wonderful mag, there in Holland it was captivating stories especially the ladies from BERGHAUS, it happened that i belong from one of this ll groups staying here in Winnipeg MB. Canada home base mostly of the Hollandsjes meisjes (ladies from Berghaus).

FILI-GEN '69-72 group Terry Trijo Carbonell is the group Social worker the 4th group.
Tot Zien Meisjes and more power to your wonderful magazine!!!!!!!!!

Faye S. Sangalang
fayelang143@yahoo.com
Winnepeg-Canada
 
Celia Chiu
Toronto, Canada
"My heartfelt thanks to Curie Sawit for forwarding this article to me...your friendship and thoughtfullness my very dear friend is very much appreciated."

I'm deeply touched as it brought back some memorable moments for the wonderful years I've shared with the "girls" in House#25 -in Wehl (Group12 - E.Oliveros). The backyard parties, bell bottom pants, field trips to neighboring countries, one of the highlights was the modern dance routine we've performed (i was 19 yrs.old then) in front a huge crowd during the summer of 1975 - a Filipino reunion in The Hague with Rogelio De La Rosa as our special guest...tho' it was nerve-wrecking...we were great! Anybody r'mber the dance craze 34 yrs.ago? Anyways, we had a lot of fun. I have all these memories in photos, a special one (solo) with the Ambassador... Isn't that coool!

Although I wasn't able to attend our Wehl's group 25th Anniversary in June 1999 held in Winnipeg; our 30th Anniversary as well (in Holland), I'm proud of all of them... "hats off" to all the girls who made it possible...after all these years...it's PRICELESS!!!

I'll be on my 54th this year, if there will be a 40th Anniversary celebration for our group again in the year 2014...I'll be there!

God bless.

Cheers

Celia Chiu
(Toronto, Canada)
 
Evangeline Curie Sawit
Thank you kuya Vic it was indeed a very beautiful layout with allure syempre. Keep up the good work po.

Kayo po din kuya Eddie and ate Orchid well done indeed without your column it will not spread to the whole BERGHAUS GIRLS!!!! Wow the whole world knows this column already...di ba ang galing nito.

At this moment I am here in the Philippines spending the Christmas with my Mom from Seattle and my only 2 sisters in the Philippines. It's my first Christmas eversince 1982 that's a long time ago. That's the only one I love to our country malayo pa ang Christmas they're already preparing for this great event...hay mga Filipino nga naman. The Mall of Asia is really huge millions of people are coming in and out..wow really amazing!!!! I wanted to tell more pero I know you have seen already so what's news huh!! Just sharing...

Greetings to all and HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO EACH AND EVERYONE!!!

Kind regards,
Evangeline Curie Sawit (group 12 under Miss Espie Oliveros)
December 11
 
MARITS MIER
NY
" Thanks and a million kudos for this wonderful feature of your mag!!!

Marits (NY)
 
ANDY SALMINGO
Toronto, Canada
"Thanks Eddie and Orchid for the link. Will pass it on.....
Congratulations for a job well done.
Take care and blessings from Toronto.....

Andrea Salmingo (Toronto)
 
DOLLY MAGBITANG
Toronto, Canada
Eddie and Orquid,

maraming maraming salamat po - it is amazing how we all look then - 30 to 49 years ago. It always gives a very good feeling remembering those days in Holland that we spent with our second families (our groups/girls); the week-ends we spent with very good and generous friends and people like you;the tremendous support you gave to all of us to make it easier for us to forget being away so far from our families for the first time; and the friendships we have all established with the good people of The Netherlands. Those memories have a special place in our hearts, and will never be forgotten
maraming maraming salamat po uli take care

Dolly (Toronto)
 
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