Living Leeside: ‘Cork is home — I would like to stay’

Roisin Burke talks to a nurse who has gone from working in a prison in the Philippines to opening a cafe and sushi bar in Cork
Living Leeside: ‘Cork is home — I would like to stay’

9yo Cairo, Ryan, and Christina Lumor with Chenny and Sam Dimaandal at Sensei Coffee & Sushi cafe. Mardyke Street, Cork. Pic: Larry Cummins

A NURSE and a businessman with an enthusiastic personality, Ryan Lumour has flourished personally and professionally since moving to Ireland from the Philippines four years ago.

Ryan said that moving away with a nursing qualification to a wealthier country is very common in the Philippines.

“Many healthcare professionals want to use their degree in other countries,” he said. “The UK is the most popular, followed by the U.S, but Ireland is the cheapest, easiest and shortest way to become a nurse in another jurisdiction.

“In Australia, it would cost me 1m [Philippine] pesos [€16,800] to transfer my qualification and a year of study,” he explains. “In Ireland, it is two weeks of intensive exams and the majority of my expenses are paid for by my employer.

“It is very common for Filipinos to come to Ireland to work in healthcare.”

 People seated and queuing at Sensei Coffee & Sushi cafe. Mardyke Street, Cork.  Pic: Larry Cummins
People seated and queuing at Sensei Coffee & Sushi cafe. Mardyke Street, Cork.  Pic: Larry Cummins

Before coming to Ireland, Ryan worked as a nurse in a large prison in the southern part of the Philippines, where he looked after the welfare of prisoners.

Moving to Cork with his wife, Christine, and their son, Cairo, 9, Ryan never imagined that he would be leaving his nursing career to open a cafe and sushi bar with his best friend Chenny and her husband, Sam. However, that is where life in the Rebel City has taken the 34-year-old.

“I met Chenny at a Chinese New Year celebration. We are from the same home town. We knew the minute we spoke to each other, because we have the same dialect.”

During the pandemic, Ryan and Christine, who were college classmates in the Philippines, started selling crepe cakes online.

The pair then met a sushi chef, who had lost his job due to the pandemic, and the trio decided to work together to establish a niche business selling coffee and cakes, as well as sushi, and Filipino meals and desserts.

Chenny and Sam also got involved, making it a very friendly and supportive business venture.

Despite having a solid plan, Ryan said it was tough getting the business off the ground.

“We searched the city for a premise. We tried 15 properties before we eventually found our place on Mardyke Street.”

Since opening at the start of this month, Ryan said the business has been doing extremely well, with people from the Tyndall Institute across the road and the Mercy Hospital trying out their food, as well as the local residents and the Filipino community.

“The feedback has been amazing. Every day the phone is [ringing] off the hook and the business is getting tagged in loads of social media posts. It’s fantastic.”

 Ryan Lumor at Sensei Coffee & Sushi cafe. Mardyke Street, Cork.Pic: Larry Cummins
Ryan Lumor at Sensei Coffee & Sushi cafe. Mardyke Street, Cork.Pic: Larry Cummins

Since the pandemic, Ryan has also got involved in volunteering to help out within the Filipino community, assisting those who need help, in any form, from picking up their shopping to financial assistance.

“There is a strong Filipino community in Cork and, when I saw the need, I wanted to help.”

Since coming to Ireland, Ryan said he has been overwhelmed by the beautiful scenery, which is so plentiful here. Everywhere I look there is a frame I would happily put in my home,” he said.

Ryan has found Corkonians to be very welcoming and polite, and he believes Cork people have a strong family bond that mirrors the importance of the family connection in the Philippines.

“Cork people value their family like how Filipinos value our family,” Ryan said.

“When I first moved to Cork, I worked in a nursing home and I could see the importance of family, people dropping in all the time. There is a high value on family here.”

Since moving to Cork, Ryan has developed a fondness for pints of Guinness — something he can’t get back home.

“In the Philippines, the beer is much stronger, 7% or 7.5% alcohol — it would burn your throat. Beer is much weaker here, but Guinness has a rusty taste. You can’t get that at home.”

While Ryan is happy in Cork with his wife, son and friends, he often misses the warm weather and his mother’s cooking.

“Sometimes I miss her cooking, sometimes I don’t. Chenny often cooks for us and she makes lovely food.”

Looking ahead, Ryan said Cork was his home.

“I have had offers in the U.S and the UK, but I have found a good supportive community here in Cork. I would like to stay.”

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