The Canadian Connection

 

Symbol of Philippine-Canadian ties and friendshipI first became aware of Canada in elementary through, of all things, my then favorite de bote (bottled beverage).  My eldest brother, the late Atty. Fermin B. Catacutan (God bless his soul), would often bring me a bottle or two of “Canada Dry Uva” or “Canada Clicquot Club” — a rare refreshment treat for many in those days before these imported brands of soft drinks were chased out of the local market and into extinction by the giants Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola from the US of A.

My awareness turned into curiosity in high school when my former English teacher, Miss Alfonso, immigrated to Winnipeg to teach English to, of all people, Canadians.  I don’t remember her first name now, but back then Canada (not Georgia) was already “on my mind.”  And in the days long before the advent of personal computer and the Internet, my unexplained curiosity about Canada compelled me to scour our miniscule school and municipal libraries for bits and pieces of information on that huge but sparsely populated North American country.

In college, I followed the rise of that swashbuckling French-Canadian politician named Pierre Traudeau with great enthusiasm.  To a young and wet-behind-the-ears student of politics in the heady days of student unrest and social upheaval in the Philippines, Traudeau’s vision of “a unified, bilingual, multicultural and just society” for Canada had an idealistic, almost romantic, appeal to it.

Little did I know then that my unusual fascination with Canada was a precursor to fateful and life-changing events in my life many, many years into the future — the elegant woman who would be my wife and life partner would come full circle from the land of the Canucks and  maple leaf.  She was in my high school classroom sitting “only inches” from me all the while! Now if that’s not destiny, I don’t know what is.

Niagara Falls (photo credit - stockphototops)Yet the closest I ever got to Canada was in 1983 while sightseeing at the U.S. side of Niagara Falls with a couple of young Filipino political exiles in Buffalo, NY.  They say that the Americans own Niagara Falls, but the more spectacular view of the falls is in Canada.

Elsie could have been “only meters away” vacationing at the other side of the border at that time.  But as Lady Fate would have it, we would meet again 21 long years later in the Philippines, not in Canada, to fulfill our destiny.

Many of my former high school classmates have also immigrated to Canada in the late ’70s and early ’80s — Esther Salamanca, Chino dela Torre (God bless his soul), Gloria Sanvicente, Lito Aclan, Flor Tumibay, Cely Ramon, Becky Angeles and, yes, Elsie Fajardo.  They joined thousands of other Filipinos who found home and good life in Canada.

Filipinos have become familiar faces all over Canada since then.  Today, it is estimated that there are more than 800,000 Canadians of Filipino descent, located primarily in such cities as Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Winnipeg and Calgary.  Their social life and work in many fields and varied professions enrich the socio-culture and contribute immensely to the economy of Canada.  And their numbers will continue to grow as the Canadian economy prospers and expands.

They are among the most hardworking Canadians, and their accomplishments and feats in their chosen fields and professions are many.  Not long ago, Filipinos in Canada rejoiced when PM Stephen Harper appointed Tobias Enverga, Jr. to Canada’s Senate, making Enverga the first-ever Canadian senator of Filipino origin.  And just recently, Bea Rose Santiago, a Filipina stunner with Canadian roots, was crowned 2013 Miss International at the beauty pageant held in Tokyo, Japan on December 17, 2013, besting beauty contestants from 67 other countries.

Pilipino (Tagalog) is also said to be the fastest-growing foreign language in Canada, often spoken in shopping malls, parks, buses, train stations and just about every big hospital and business establishment throughout Canada.

Fil-Canadians have been assimilated into the mainstream society of their adopted country, but they have not forgotten their origin and identity.  Wherever there is a large Filipino community in Canada, one will find socio-civic clubs named after the hometown or home province of their organizers.  Such organizations do not only serve their local constituents, they are also among the most enthusiastic and generous foreign donors to victims of natural (or man-made) calamities in the Philippines.

Not the least, Filipino communities in key provinces of Canada celebrate Philippine Independence Day every year with cultural shows/festivals and gala nights on the weekend closest to June 12.  Such display of pride in their native heritage is heartwarming and unequaled by many insular Filipinos.

Finally, if a country keeps popping up in your head for no particular reason at all, my advice is give it some thought and don’t just dismiss it.  Your future and destiny might just be lying there in wait.

Published 01 March 2014
Pasig City, Metro Manila, PHILIPPINES
 

Related photos 

 

Symbol of Philippine-Canadian ties and friendship

Symbol of Philippine-Canadian ties and friendship (photo credit: Verth Verthverth of Ontario, Canada).

 

 

The spectacular Niagara Falls

The spectacular Niagara Falls (photo credit: Joy Olayta of Ontario, Canada).

Philippine Independence Day celebration in Canada

Philippine Independence Day celebration in Canada (photo credit: Verth Verthverth of Ontario, Canada).

Philippine Independence Day Gala Night in Canada

Philippine Independence Day gala night in Canada (photo credit: Elsie Fajardo of Ontario, Canada).

Fund-raising campaign for victims of super typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines

Fil-Canadians fund-raising campaign for victims of super typhoon “Yolanda” in the Philippines (photo credit: Verth Verthverth of Ontario, Canada).

Filipino cultural show in Canada

Filipino cultural show in Canada (photo credit: Verth Verthverth of Ontario, Canada).

Philippine cultural festival in Canada

Philippine Cultural Festival in Canada (photo credit: Verth Verthverth of Ontario, Canada).

Novo Ecijano Club in Canada

Novo Ecijano Club of Toronto, Canada (photo credit:  Elsie Fajardo of Ontario, Canada).

Socio-civic organization of Fil-Canadians from Guimba, Nueva Ecija

Socio-civic organization of Fil-Canadians from Guimba, Nueva Ecija (photo credit: Verth Verthverth of Ontario, Canada).

Former Prime  Minister Pierre Traudeau of Canada

Former Prime Minister Pierre Traudeau of Canada (photo credit: youronevoicecanmakeadifference@wordpress.com).

2013 Miss International Bea Rose Santiago

2013 Miss International Bea Rose Santiago of the Philippines (photo credit: Facebook account of Bea Rose Santiago).

Sen. Tobias Enverga, Jr. of Canada

Sen. Tobias Enverga, Jr. of Canada, the first-ever Canada senator of Filipino origin (photo credit: Facebook account of Tobias Enverga, Jr.).

High school photo of Elsie

High school photo of Elsie

Destiny Fulfilled, at a rice cake shop in Baguio City

Destiny Fulfilled: Elsie & RC at a rice cake shop in Baguio City, Philippines.

Mini reunion of HS classmates in Canada

Mini reunion of former high school classmates at the residence of Esther Salamanca-Rosal in Ontario, Canada.  L-R photo: Chino dela Torre, Llorente Aclan, Esther Salamanca, Flor Tumibay, Gloria Sanvicente, Lito Aclan, Cely Ramon, and Elsie Fajardo (photo credit: Esther Salamanca-Rosal of Ontario, Canada).

Elsie at her condo unit in Canada with HS classmates

Elsie with former high school classmates at her condo unit in Mississauga, Ontario.  L-R photo: Elsie, Esther Salamanca, Cely Ramon, niece of Cely Ramon (Yvette Tiongson), Gloria Sanvicente, and Becky Angeles (photo credit:  Elsie Fajardo of Ontario, Canada).