Diserens: Tough, tested Swiss Pinays

CECILE Diserens

ZURICH, Switzerland — She comes across as the outdoorsy type, easy to imagine her being at home in the Swiss Alps, her comely ruggedness borne out of her Filipino-Swiss genes.

Trained as a chef, Cecile Diserens, however, has worked in the security sector nearly all her professional life. She is one of the three daughters of the former Marjorie Velasquez, a businesswoman, and erstwhile model.

Not as lithe as her mother, Cecile presently serves as a prison warden in a facility of the Switzerland Department of Justice for persons under provisional arrest or in pre-trial detention.

While she’s gotten her superior’s nod for this interview, when it comes to her job, suffice it to say that she firmly believes she’s serving the ends of justice and the rule of law.

And she says she’s open to one day returning to the Philippines to see how her experiences as a former member of an elite airport security detail and in her current job can help her Filipino counterparts.

“As I see from the news and documentaries, there are a lot of things that can be improved upon in Philippine prisons,” Cecile tells this writer, citing the overcrowding in Philippine jails.

“Change is always difficult to implement but it’s never impossible,” she adds, advising Filipinos who may want to build their dreams in Switzerland to just go for it.

“Check if your diploma is equivalent to or valid in Switzerland for that profession you have back in the Philippines that you want to practice here. Live your dream. Life’s a struggle but hard work is rewarding.”

Sisters, from left, Katrina, Cecile and Marjorie Diserens

Cecile’s mother had done just that a long time ago before settling in with daughters Katrina and Cecile and their husbands in the town of Egg, about an hour away by train from the Zurich Central Train Station.

Marjorie’s eldest, Windy, who has two kids, has relocated to the United States where she is a medical assistant.

In nearby Davos where the World Economic Forum is winding down, government and business leaders are grappling with the threat of a global recession in 2023. The gloomy forecasts flooded Marjorie with memories.

She recalls how she and her Swiss husband moved in the mid-90s their engineering company based in Germany and Switzerland to Singapore and the Philippines.

It would prove to be an ill-timed move as the Asian financial crisis of 1997 struck and the Diserens’ business of supplying fiber optics to Philippine telcos was hit hard after the peso shed its value by about 60 percent.

“You spent over twice as many pesos importing at that time and so we decided to go back to Switzerland. Eventually, we parted ways and, looking back, despite those trials my kids and I, we’ve survived through simple living and giving back,” Marjorie reveals.

“I am now looking after the needs of my two grandsons here. We’re very happy and blessed to have them in my life. My sons-in-law Alen and Yves are both wonderful,” she adds.

“Cecile, she has been sponsoring the education of an Indian girl. My grandson Charlie, young as he is, has decided to donate his pay to charity,” Marjorie says, adding that she has been going back to Surigao regularly to help indigent people in the province of her birth.

With the Ukraine conflict hitting economies hard, the Diserens are surely more than ready to meet this newest challenge head-on.

“We’ve been down this road before — the economic slowdown the suits in Davos are deathly afraid of. However, I still hope President (Ferdinand) Marcos Jr. would be proven correct with his upbeat prognosis for the Philippines and, of course, Switzerland,” Marjorie says.

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