First Filipina elected City Councilor of Rome inspires new generation of migrants


In 1981, she was hired as a Domestic Helper to work for an Italian family. Twenty-three years later, Irma Perez Tobias became a household name when she was elected as City Councilor of Rome, the first Filipina to occupy the post in modern Italy. It was in 2004 and she was 50 years old at the time of election. In 2011, she was awarded as Bagong Bayani.

Irma has been overseas for 34 years now. She worked from scratch until her appointment as Cultural Linguistic Mediator. Now at 61 years of age, she continues to inspire Filipinos in her own unique ways.


She was awarded as few of exceptional Filipina women in the celebration of Women’s Day organized by CGIL labor union in Italy. She is Ombudswoman as Civic Defensor for migrant problems in Rome. She authored books for elementary schools in Italy (Italian-Filipino Languages), the  “Manila-Rome.” She is founder of Kampi, the first Filipino Migrant association in Italy.


In 2011, she was awarded as Bagong Bayani by the Bagong Bayani Foundation, Inc.

In the 1980s, she organized Kampi with the support of Filipinos, European missionaries and Italians. Kampi stands for Kaisahan ng mga Manggagawang Pilipino sa Italya. It is the first Rome-based Filipino association whose executive members are greatly involved in the protection of the rights of Filipino migrant workers.


Irma is a Cultural Linguistic Mediator who took active roles in seminars for all foreign migrants in Rome. “Interesting works were made for all the facilitators in different places like local offices, hospitals, schools and Tribunale. For the first time, we were known to be the important personality together with the Italian employees in different offices as the mediator between them and foreign nationalities to be entertained  regarding their culture and not only by languages.”

405701_315189391850522_2051461110_nIrma is a model and fulfilled family woman. “I have two children. One is a 27-year-old boy a boy who works for a multinational company as Personnel Manager. The other one is a 20-year-old university student. My husband is Italian who works for a government office.”

“I am still here doing what I started 34 years ago in Rome Italy and truly fulfilled. In my long years of working and living in this country as my second home, there is a complete turnaround of my normal life as an ordinary Filipina woman at the age of 25 who decided to go abroad to provide for the  economic needs of my family.”

She has realized after all that what makes her happy and truly fulfilled is to have a nice and peaceful living with her family, friends and the migrants’ community.


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IMG_3984THE BLOGGER. Ulysses Espartero is a journalist, historian and book author who traces his roots from two Philippine jewels – Laguna and Antique.  While in Dubai, he enjoyed his expat life documenting the struggles and victories of migrant workers in the Gulf Cooperation Council states. In 2014, he released Precious Gems in a Desert of Gold, the first and only coffee table book about Filipino achievers in the United Arab Emirates. Connect with him on facebook.


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