Publisher's Note

  • Publisher’s Note

    It was 22 years ago when I arrived in Canada and chose Calgary, Alberta to be my home.  Leaving my family and friends behind, it was a new adventure for me to be in a new country without knowing anyone.  That was the time I looked for a Filipino community paper and never found any, [...]

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Page added on February 27, 2012

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Pinoy Insights

By Romeo Montoya

Mary, Jude, Gerard and Francis

I do not have my Lovelyn and Yan-Yan here with me. My wife and best friend, Lovelyn is my ultimate shopping buddy so I can’t help but think of her all the time that I’m at the mall. Whenever I see a colourful floral short dress, I can already hear her giggling, and that is before she spots a pair of boots and another pair of pumps. When it comes to our daughter’s stuff, I am, ehem, quite well-versed. In fact, whenever a sales associate approaches me and asks if I need assistance with the girl’s stuff, I am quick to answer, “I’m fine”, which actually means “Trust me I’m a dad who’s absolutely sure of what to get for his daughter.” I have the tendency, however, of taking a lot of stuff for my daughter, of which I have no regrets at all. Maybe partly it’s about making up for lost time, but I’d like to say that it’s more about feeling their presence through things and activities that you used to do together.

Working for 12 hours or more at least five times a week is nothing compared to the pain that one feels for being thousand miles away from your wife or husband and children, or parents, brothers and sisters, or friends. To quote a fellow Filipino here in Calgary, “Kung malapit lang ang Canada sa Pilipinas at mura lang ang pamasahe, naku perfect na talaga ang Canada.” A lot of employers here are awed by Filipinos who could juggle two to three jobs. The truth is that it helps ease the pain. Your overtime work or second or third job actually becomes your time off, not from work, but from crying and feeling so lonely. But what is most noticeable among Filipinos abroad is that we have been spending more time praying. I’ve never been this prayerful my entire life. While going to church every Sunday is not unusual for every Filipino family even back in the Philippines, here in Canada, there are weeks that I would hear mass everyday. It is not about religion. Rather, it is having stronger faith that despite the unfortunate separation from your loved ones, you know that it is merely temporary. It is about asking for guidance and strength to remain hopeful despite the element of time – that in time you will be together again. It is about telling God to take your fears away – fear about the safety and health of your family back home. One thing I have learned though is that I should pray not only for my family but also for my own safety and health, which is just logical because if one of the working family members gets sick, the family could be crippled financially which could also mean that the other parent who used to take care of the children and household chores would be forced to find a job.

I could not claim that I am religious. In fact, it does not matter whether or not people think I am religious. But for almost half a year of not being with my wife and daughter, I discovered the big truth to the power of prayers – my biggest source of strength eversince I’ve come to Canada. While I never miss thanking God for a new day, I feel even better praying the Rosary and asking help from Mother Mary upon waking up in the morning. I feel so light and free talking and confiding to Mary, that even if I would sometimes have a hard time composing my prayers in my mind, I feel confident that she’s hearing me and that she’s just always ready to help me out. Admittedly, it’s just recently that I have been praying the Rosary again daily. Indeed, there is that kind of ease in obtaining peace when you pray the Rosary every day. It is not the immediate peace that most of us would want, especially when we are in trouble. It is that inner peace that gives us hope and faith that sooner or later, everything will be in order.

Like most Filipinos, one of the first things I asked about upon arriving here in Canada is the way to the nearest Church. Just a few minutes of train ride from my apartment is the St. Francis of Assissi Church. It has been my Saturday or Sunday destination, where you can witness a gathering with at least 95 percent in attendance are Filipinos. While I can see lots of Filipino families attending together, there are a bunch of Filipinos who possibly are, like me, alone and living a life miles away from their families. Somehow, I can sense conviction in their prayers.

Undeniably, Filipinos compose a big number of Facebook users. If you are a Filipino working abroad, how can you not get addicted to Facebook when it’s the best way of getting updated with what’s happening with your family and friends back home? Interestingly, groups are created through Facebook, such as religious groups. I am part of the St. Jude Thaddaeus Facebook group. We know how other people could misinterpret or simply make malicious meanings to our Facebook posts. It may help pouring out your emotions through Faaebook, but personally I opt not to show through my own profile or timeline my feelings whenever I miss my family back home. To make my family back home worry about me is the last thing I want to happen. Through the St. Jude group, however, I could comfortably say my piece – my pains, my problems, my worries. Group members are there to support you, and you also get the chance to support others. You do not personally know each other, but you feel that you are in equal footing – that you are all there to ask help and to help back. The anonymity among the members probably also helps because neither one of you is judged for who you are and for what you are.

St. Jude is quite a household name among Catholics, particularly Filipinos, but not St. Gerard of Majella. My wife and I became St. Gerard devotees when my wife almost had a miscarriage with our daughter Yan-Yan. Yes, St. Gerard is the patron saint of mothers – mothers praying for the protection of their children, most especially when they are sick. Fathers I believe are not excluded, so I always ask for the intercession of St. Gerard. Nothing hurts me more when my three-year old Yan-Yan gets hurt. Just a small bump on her head breaks my heart. That’s why everyday, before ending my Skype call with her and my wife I always remind her to…”Take care because if you get hurt, Mommy and Daddy will cry.”

—0—-

“Kahit maghirap, basta magkakasama,” I remember one older fellow Filipino telling me. Yes, I agree, I realized – that there are only two choices supposed to be. One, stay in the Philippines together; two, leave the Philippines together. My wife and I chose neither. We left together, but she has to come home to my daughter. There are reasons, personal ones. With conviction, I chose to stay here by myself. Need I say more how hard it is living by yourself in a foreign land? But then I have also come to realize that it is difficult as well for our families back home that we are not with them. To make things less difficult for each other, we have to keep our faith alive. Hope floats. Pray. Prayer has made me stronger and less lonely.

Mary, Jude, Gerard and Francis, thanks for keeping me company.









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