Rebuilding after tragedy
Oct. 31, 1999, I became an “ulilang lubos” meaning “complete orphan” and so did my little brother.
We were on our way home to our mining village in the Philippines, when our jeepney fell o the road. My mother died saving me; my father died saving my brother; my sister didn’t make it.
Afterwards, relatives came to care for us. My aunt was on her way to Canada, and it was decided that, we would be sponsored to go and live there.
My high school years in the Philippines involved illing out the paperwork for family sponsorship. In May 2007, I received my visa and my light was booked for Toronto.
It was my irst time on a plane, and I lew by myself. To say I was terri ied is an understatement. But during the irst leg, a connecting light through Japan, and the light to Toronto, there were many other Filipinos who were so kind and helpful.
When I landed at the airport, it was very sunny. Never had I seen the sun so bright at 9 p.m. before. I thought it was 9 a.m.! That was my irst culture shock moment and many more came.
I had been living for a month in St. Catharines, Ont., when I went to the high school to register myself. The principal wanted me in Grade 10 and ESL classes because I was only 16 and new to the country. I asked “Sir, can I please go to Grade 12? I just want to go to university as soon as I can.”
I was taken to a classroom, where the ESL teacher made conversation with me for a while, and asked me write several pages of paragraphs with speci ic grammatical instructions. I passed! I went straight to Grade 12, and took regular classes.
After graduating, I moved to Edmonton.
Working part time while going to school helped me complete my bachelor of commerce degree at the University of Alberta. I lived with my relatives, renting a room and sharing living expenses. The way things are set up here helped a lot, like free health care, supports integrated in the school system, jobs with lexible hours for students, and public transit.
It has been 10 years since I came, and my I miss the milder cool weather of the mountain regions where I lived, but I am learning to live and love the winter city character of Edmonton. brother also settled here six years ago.
Two types of transformations happened since then: the irst one from being a teenager to a con ident adult, and the second one from being a newcomer to a con ident resident.
My goal is to provide safety, stability, freedom and comfort for myself and my brother. This always dictated my decisions and goals.
We are now excitedly planning for our second visit to the Philippines next year with our signi icant others.
For me, it has been an exciting and empowering process. I would say in Canada, there are abundant opportunities to build a better life for one’s self and loved ones.