Re­build­ing af­ter tragedy

Metro Canada (Ottawa) - - Front Page - Lives in Ed­mon­ton af­ter leav­ing the Phillip­pines in 2007.

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.

Giselle Gen­eral

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