Hardly a day goes by that I can't believe the good place that I find myself in, hardly a day goes by that I don't feel gratitude for the three events that have made all the difference in my life. Here they are presented in chronological order.
First, Papa and Mama.
They may not have been aware of it at the time, and I wish they are still around for me to tell them this, but my parents' decision to immigrate to Canada was the ultimate gift. They did not have to leave the Philippines. By the time they applied to immigrate in 1975, they had established full and productive lives in the Philippines. Papa went ahead in 1976, Mama and the five of us followed in 1977. Papa was 49, Mama was 43.
Up until 1976, Papa was the Chief Engineer for the Power Plant at the Central Azucarera de Bais, at that time the only sugar and paper mill in the premier sugar-producing province in the Philippines. By 1976, he was the longest serving consejal (21 years) in the Bais Town Council, later on the Bais City Council (incorporated as a city in 1968). He also farmed a relatively small piece of land, growing sugar. Papa used to tell me that he survived politics with relatively little money, surviving politics on talk and his mestizo good looks. Typically, to succeed in politics, you needed to be an haciendero, or have the support of the hacienderos (wealthy land owners).
Mama made her way up by working her way through university, to becoming the City Treasurer for the City of Bais by 1976. She was an active and well-respected member of our community. We had all the trappings of an upper middle class family: a big house, big yard, 2 cars, a motorcycle, servants. private schools.
The people who leave the Philippines, then and now, are mainly those who are looking for a better life, better opportunities. Families, with a lot less than what we had, elect to stay in the Philippines.
Our first month in Toronto was spent with my Tita Emma and Tito Jun. Jameson Avenue, 2 families of 7 members each (14 total) in a 2 bedroom apt with 1 bathroom. After 4 weeks, we moved to a 2nd floor townhouse in Flemingdon Park/Thorncliffe Park; then and now the landing place for immigrants and refugees to Canada from around the world.
Papa and Mama did not have to leave the Philippines. But they did and I will be eternally grateful.