British Filipinos in Earl’s Court

British Filipinos in Earl’s Court

Edylwise Romero ’19 & Natty Maneerit ’18

Our adventure first began when I was homesick and craved Filipino home cooked meals. When I visited my family in Dundee, Scotland, I complained about the limited access to Filipino food in London. Luckily, my uncle told me to check out Earl’s Court because of its reputation as the “Little Manila” of London. I told Natty about this and being the food fanatic that she is, we decided to check it out. At first, we were only interested in the Filipino restaurant Lutong Pinoy but due to the proximity of other Filipino businesses, we decided to look more into the Little Manila of Earl’s Court and how it came to be. We obtained information about Earl’s Court through interviews with Filipinos currently residing there and archival research. Here’s what we found:

Earl’s Court has always been located at the center of major transportation routes. In the mid 1800s, the neighborhood consisted of West Kensington, South Kensington, Gloucester Road, and Cromwell Road. Today, it continues to be an intersecting point of main roads and underground lines. Earl’s Court is a bustling area full of businesses because of its role as a transportation hub.

“District Line Railway: view of track from behind houses in Earl’s Court Road and Hogarth Road, London Underground, tube” taken 1983

Today, Earl’s Court is a district known as the center for British Filipinos. It is located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, United Kingdom. The streets that make up London’s “Little Manila” are Earl’s Court Road, Hogarth Road, and Kenway Road. Many Filipinos came in the 1970s after the British government recruited them for domestic labour. For others, it was simply to join family members who are already abroad. The motivating factors for many Filipinos to migrate to London are poverty in the Philippines, better academic and job opportunities, and family related needs. According to the local statistic most recently published on a website with data from the Office for National Statistic, Earl’s Court is made up of 9,104 people. Only 36.1% of those people were born in England and 44% are identified as Other. Other top answers for country of birth were 3.4% United States, 2.7% Philippines, 2.5% South America, 2.3% North Africa, 2.0% China, 2.0% Ireland, 1.8% Australia, 1.6% Iran, 1.6% Scotland. The percentage has grown since. There are various Filipino markets, restaurants, banks, and other services in the area, which are located conveniently next to Earl’s Court Underground Station. The businesses we visited are: Lutong Pinoy, Century Properties, Tindahang Pinoy, and Philip De Vera’s Hair Salon.

Lutong Pinoy Decoration

Lutong Pinoy, Filipino restaurant located on Kenway Road that was established in 1996. It is a small family-owned restaurant now run by Marc, a second generation British Filipino. The restaurant’s aim is to provide Filipino home cooked food at affordable prices. Their target audience are their ‘kabayans’ (fellow countryman) who miss the taste of Filipino food back home. Lutong Pinoy has a comforting atmosphere for many Filipinos, not just because of the food but also its authenticity. The walls are surrounded with various Filipino art and decorations that can be found in Filipino homes. Its intimate space and the hospitality of servers definitely make one feel right at home. Besides Lutong Pinoy, there is another Filipino restaurant called Kamayan. Though, Kamayan is a small Filipino-Thai restaurant chain, the two restaurants work together to provide their ‘kabayans’ comfort foods.

Filipino Postage Stamps

Across from Lutong Pinoy and Kamayan is one of Century Properties’ international office. Century Properties is a Philippine real estate development company established in 1986, which has become one of the top five leading Philippines real estate firms with offices worldwide. The target audience of Century Properties, according to one of its employees, is the Filipino community. Due to Earl’s Court’s reputation as the Filipino hub, Century Properties decided to open its London international office there. It also plays a role in the Filipinos migration to London after its office has opened. Their employees were able to transfer from their Philippine offices to the London office and obtain work visas through this office.

Tindahang Pinoy, a small Filipino-Asian market, is also located on Kenway Road–a few doors down from Century Properties office. Like the small businesses around Earl’s Court, Tindahang Pinoy is family owned. It was first opened by Tita (Auntie) Virginia in 2008 and is now currently run by her and her husband. It caters to not only  Filipino but also other Asian groups as well. They opened the market at Earl’s Court because of its proximity to Filipino restaurants, banks, and other services. Tita Virginia’s husband also mentioned that Earl’s Court is known as Little Manila and has two other Filipino markets on Earl’s Court Road and Hogarth Road. Although there are other Filipino markets, the business owners maintain a healthy competition as they all understand each other’s situation.

Lastly, we visited Philip De Vera Hair Salon. Philip De Vera Hair Salon was opened in 2003. However, he began his hairdressing business in the late 1970s in his small flat. Tito Philip is well known in the Filipino community as someone who made a name for himself despite coming to the United Kingdom with nothing. Many Filipinos travel to London to have their hair done by him, especially Filipino celebrities like Ms. Philippines. Now that he is older and has accomplished his career goals, he wants to settle down with his husband. He would like to keep the business but wants to limit his presence in it.

Filipinos of Earl’s Court:

Ryan Kuemi, an accountant at Century Properties in Earl’s Court, moved to England in 2010 after his wife received an employment opportunity to work here as a nurse. He comments that he did not need to come to England because he was “doing okay” in the Philippines. But to be with family, he did. He says that the Filipino community is big here in England. With their help, he and his wife slowly embraced the English culture and found their way. The Filipino community can be subdivided into groups of people from the same regions within the Philippines. Bonded through their shared original neighborhood, they get together and try to build a sense of community within their new home. They even elect representatives.

Through Ryan, we learned about Barrio Fiesta, an annual event put on by the Filipino television company The Filipino Channel (TFC) and the Philippine Centre based in London. This event has been going on for thirty-three years, allowing Filipino businesses and restaurants to set up booths and showcase their products. It also provides a space for British Filipino to mingle and celebrate together.

(Interview conducted in person at Century Properties London Office on May 16, 2017)

Noemi Veniegez, another worker at Centuries Properties, moved to England in 2008. The reason she came here was because of her mother, who came to stay with her niece in 2007. However, other family members have been here a lot longer. Her aunt, who came in 1975, moved to England because of employment opportunity within the domestic sector: housekeeping, nannies, etc. During that time, these were the only jobs designated for immigrants. When we asked her if she considered England to be her home, she passionately said, “No! Definitely not. I am going back to my homeland.” She expresses that even though she has British citizenship, she is still treated as a second-class citizen, “Basically, you just acquire it. You’re not real.” Throughout the interview, Noemi finds herself reminiscing about her home in the Philippines. She discloses how lonely it is here in London, especially on Christmas and New Year’s. She raves about how the celebration in the Philippines would go on all night and all day, every day from Christmas to New Year’s. When we asked her why she does not go back, she says she is saving up money so when she does, she’ll be comfortable, adding, “I don’t want to grow old here. There’s no one to look after me….It’s rare that someone will offer their seat for you.” Unlike Ryan, who enjoys his life with his wife here in England, Noemi presents a reversed outlook.

(Interview conducted in person at Century Properties London Office on May 16, 2017)

Manong*, currently helping his wife run their family market, moved to London in 1990. He worked as a bus driver from 1995 until 2013 because of its good benefits. In 2013, his wife could no longer manage the store alone so he decided to quit his job as a bus driver to help in the store. He and his wife obtained their British citizenship in 2000 in order to receive access to services offered only to citizens. He told us that although he changed his status and is now legally a British citizen, he will always be Filipino at heart. They wanted to bring their children from the Philippines to England, but the children did not want to come because of their own academic and social interests at the time. He and his wife enjoy their life here in England. He feels that the government provides its citizens good services such as access to free health care. As he and his wife are getting older, they are contemplating going back home so that they can be with their grandchildren.

(Interview conducted in person at Tindahang Pinoy on May 23, 2017)

Image of Philip De Vera taken from his business website

Phillip de Vera, a famous hairdresser, moved to London in 1979 when the British Government recruited Filipino workers for domestic jobs in the 1970s. With no work experience and limited job opportunities for Filipino immigrants, being a waiter was the only job he could get. Although he was only earning minimum wage, he continued to send money back to his family in the Philippines. He studied political science in the Philippines and was only 25 years old when he moved to England. His first aim was to become a nurse; however, he realized his passion for cosmetology so he went to a hairdressing school instead. With the waitering job as the only reliable source of income but also wanting to pursue his passion, Phillip would go from house to house after his shift ended and do haircuts and make-up gigs. Fortunately, he met a Filipino woman who was in charge of the first Filipino newspaper in London called “Pahayagan” and she offered to feature him for publicity.

With two jobs, Phillip was only able to sleep three hours a day. He was living in a small room in Earl’s court at the time so with a mirror and a chair, he would sometimes have clients over, charging only three pounds. Since he is the eldest son of the family, he continues to take care of his family back home by sending money.

In 1990s, with some money saved up, he was able to bring one of his sisters over to England. She is now doing manicure and pedicure. After 24 years of working, he was able to start his own business in 2003. Phillip claims that he was the first Filipino business in Earl’s Court. Over the years; Filipino grocery stores, restaurants, and banks started popping up. When we asked him what he likes about England, he says that he feels a sense of community here, “Good unity in London. Easy to communicate. Unlike other parts of the world.” By other parts of the world, Phillip refers to the United States where other members of his family lives. His father was actually an American citizen. Phillip comments on how spread out the country is, making it hard for him to get anywhere. He raves about the health care and benefits that England has for immigrants. Although without an education, an immigrant can get jobs here because of the government recruitment and support. Nannies and domestic workers can earn up to 700 pounds a week. Phillip is actually involved with a lot of projects with the Philippine Embassy. He is asked to train other Filipinos to become a professional hairdresser. Actually, there are many projects at the embassy put in place to facilitate the transition for Filipino immigrants–computer classes, cooking classes, etc.

Despite his love for England, he still says, “I’m Filipino. My heart is Filipino. There’s no place like home. I could feel life in the Philippines—the hospitality.” He reminisces about Christmas in the Philippines, commenting on how everyone is happy and smiling unlike here where “everyone is miserable.” According to Phillip, moneywise, it’s in London. But life? That’s in the Philippines. He firmly states that eventually, he’s going to go home.

(Interview conducted in person at Philip De Vera Hair Salon on May 23, 2017)


It is interesting to see a common theme among these Filipinos’ outlook. Although they are at different stages in their lives and working in different fields, the Philippines will always be their home. No matter how many years have gone by, no matter how progressive we’ve become, no matter how much awareness has been raised, as seen with the Filipinos we’ve interviewed, the Philippines will always be their home. This strongly resonates with what we have learned  about many immigrant groups. When time gets tough, they always reminisce back to what they remember about their homeland–the life before and how their future will be infinitely better once they go back because of the means and experiences garnered over their time aboard. Even if one succeeds, he or she always plans to save up and return to the homeland to THEN actually “enjoy” the fruit of their labor.


*Manong is an endearing term used to refer to older male, we used this term for our interviewee because he wanted to remain anonymous.


“About Us | Century Properties Group Inc. | Real Estate with Passion.” Century Properties. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2017. .

Anonymous, Manong. “Interview with Tindahang Pinoy Owner.” Personal interview. 23 May 2017.

Brothers, Mann. Earl’s Court Road: by Earl’s Court Underground Station. 1969. Collage – The London Picture Archive, London.

De Vera, Philip. “Interview with Philip De Vera Hair Salon Owner.” Personal interview. 23 May 2017.

District Line Railway: view of track from behind houses in Earl’s Court Road and Hogarth Road, London Underground, tube. 1983. Collage – The London Picture Archive, London.

Earl’s Court Demographics (Kensington and Chelsea, England). Office for National Statistics, 2011.Web. 22 May 2017..

Kuemi, Ryan. “Interview with Century Properties Employee.” Personal interview. 16 May 2017.

Philip De Vera | London’s Finest Hairdresser. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2017..

Pracbiztvclips, and Global News Network. “Little Manila in the U.K. (Practical Business 10.11.12).” YouTube. YouTube, 26 Jan. 2013. Web. 22 May 2017. .

‘The Kensington Canal, railways and related developments’, in Survey of London: Volume 42, Kensington Square To Earl’s Court, ed. Hermione Hobhouse (London, 1986), pp. 322-338. British History Online [accessed 29 May 2017].

Viniegez, Noemi. “Interview with Century Properties Employee.” Personal interview. 16 May 2017.

1-9 Kenway Road: shop fronts. 1983. Collage – The London Picture Archive, London.

Author: romeroe

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