From palm trees to pine trees

Bonnie Learning
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Filipino friends enjoying new lives in Labrador

Rose Anne Pormento (left) and Baby Christina Delacruz, both of the Philippines, are spending their first Christmas in Labrador, having arrived last month. The two are happy to be in Canada and say they are looking forward to hopefully making it permanent someday. 

From a land of beaches and humid temperatures, to a land of snow and bitter wind chills — life could not be more different for two Filipino women who now find themselves in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

But, they say, they are happy and grateful to be here.

Baby Christina Delacruz (known simply as ‘Baby’ to her family and friends) and Rose Anne Pormento (known as ‘Anne’ to her family and friends) have come from different parts of their home country to become friends and roommates, as they start a new life in a new country.

“It was my dream to come (to Canada) and see the snow,” laughed Anne, who is 26 years old.

“It was my dream to work here and eventually, have my family come here.”

“Our families are very proud of us (for coming to Canada),” added Baby, who is 29.

“The money is much better here.”

Both women arrived in town on Nov. 14th.

Baby hails from Malabon City, one of the cities and municipalities that make up the Metro Manila. Located just north of Manila, the city has approximately 353,000 people located within just 19.7 square kilometeres, making it one of the most densely populated cities in the metropolis.

In order to come to Canada, Baby had to leave behind her 76-year old father and her 10-year old son. As a single mother, Baby said she felt this was one of the best options for her.

“I had to make sacrifices (to help) them,” she said.

“They were very supportive of me coming to Canada.”

Both Baby and Anne work at Tim Horton’s, where several other Filipinos are also employed.

They both listed with the Mercan Agency in the Philippines, which helped them to eventually come to Labrador.

Of course, coming from the Philippines, both women arrived at Pearson International Airport in Toronto before making their way to Labrador.

Their first thought upon arriving in Canada?

“Amazing,” said Anne. “But really cold,” adding the temperatures in her home region never get lower than 18-20 degrees Celsius.

Upon arriving in Labrador, Baby said one of the aspects that struck her most was the houses.

“They’re made of wood!” she smiled. “Very different from home (which are made of cement).”

Difficult to work at home

Both women have post-secondary degrees, but say it is very difficult to find work in their home country.

Anne, who has a university business management degree, said she got ‘bored’ working in an office setting, and ended up working in a pub-restaurant in her home city of Taytay, located in the province of Rizal.

Anne said she would work an eight-hour shift, but the wages were so low, she decided she could make a better life for herself abroad.

“One Canadian dollar is equal to 40-41 pisos (pesos),” she explained.

“I can work here and still make enough money to send home to my family.”

Baby has a university education degree.

She agreed it is very difficult to find work in their home country.

“If you are not a college graduate, you cannot get work in a company or organization, unless you have connections in the company” she explained.

Baby noted the majority of businesses and companies also only hire younger people, and once they hit a certain age, most are let go to make way for another younger set of employees, which left herself and Anne in a difficult age bracket to find work.

“This is why many Filipinos apply to work abroad,” she said.

Baby and Anne are making the most of their stay in Labrador and are looking forward to spending Christmas with some other members of the Filipino community.

They both say it will be hard to be away from their loved ones for the first time.

“It is very different,” said Anne, noting she has sent money home to her family to buy new clothes and shoes for Christmas, which is very important.

“We would go to church for nine days leading up to Christmas Day,” she explained.

“We would go to mass on Christmas Eve at 11 p.m. and again at 7 a.m. on Christmas Day.”

Gifts would also be bought for their loves ones and decorations made. There are also several entertainment venues going on, including actors in the local parks putting in shows, amusement parks, and bands and other musical acts to be found around the city at this time of year, say the women.

Despite the distance from home, they both stay in regular contact with their families — “We’re waiting for our Wi-Fi to be connected (in our apartment)!” noted Anne — and are enjoying the snow immensely.

“We are taking lots of pictures!” they exclaim, adding they also like how friendly Canadian people are.

“Even if someone comes in looking really tired or something, you ask them how they are, and they always say, “I’m good” or “I’m fine,” laughed the women.

“Everyone is always good!”

Both Baby and Anne say their ultimate goal is to one day have their families join them in Canada — Baby’s father and son, and Anne’s parents, brother and two sisters.

“I’m planning on staying in Goose Bay,” said Baby, who is in Canada on a one-year contract for now.

“I want to save money and maybe one day become a Canadian citizen.”

“That is my dream, too,” added Anne.

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