(First of three parts)
BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines — The very first thing the Gerardine “Daydine” Alcalde did when she received her first paycheck was send it to her family back home. A small part she used to buy Chinese takeout.
“Back home” is here in the Philippines. The first paycheck was the one she received as order picker for a book company – meaning, she picks orders sent by retailers on book titles – when she was starting a migrant’s life in Canada.
Daydine’s story reflects the similar stories told by compatriots, Filipinos looking for greener pastures, or “petitioned” by a relative for migration and eventually, for permanent residency.
A MIGRANT’S STORY
Daydine remembers the year. It was 13 August, 2002. At that time, Daydine was one of the best radio broadcasters in the city, not a small feat for a male-dominated industry. She was bright, young, only in her 30’s, and she had a promise of any career she chooses.
It was thus a rather rude wake-up call for her when she learned that to make it in Canada, to be able to carve a name for herself, she had to start from the bottom of the ladder.
“In the beginning, I was excited,” she tells DNX. When she was starting, she was renting a room with a friend, paying C$600 to C$800.
And since she was staying in Toronto, which hosts the annual Taste of Manila festival – touted as the biggest Filipino street food festival in the world – she didn’t have time to miss Filipino food.
From kadyos-baboy-langka, to batchoy, to Kapampangan food, to Cebu’s lechon, Toronto seems to have something for Filipinos missing home.
But of course, there is the weather, which could not have been more different from the warm, hot, humid weather in the Philippines.
Snow, for instance, looks pretty darn good in post cards, but it quickly loses its charm when it comes with sub-zero temperatures.
Fortunately, the cold in Toronto is not as punishing as the rest of the country, where certain areas – like Nova Scotia, for instance – can experience feet of fallen snow, some as tall as a regular person.
But that, for Daydine, is just part of the so-called adjustment phase, where everything from homesickness, culture shock, and even sometimes a shattered sense of dignity can be experienced by the migrant.
“You just have to be patient.”
This was Daydine’s advice to anybody who wishes to chart a new life in Canada.
At the start, she was living in a rented room with a friend, and by day she works as an order picker for a book company. The menial job, she says, would test anyone’s pride especially of anybody who is already somebody in their hometown.
This is because of Canada’s policy and belief that the work experience should be developed in the country itself. Even the educational system is also exacting, thus there are Filipino registered nurses whose licenses are not honored in Canada, or professionals who suddenly find out that their college diplomas do not amount to much.
Some of them, when faced with the prospect of going back to square one, would rather quit. But not Daydine. She persisted.
Besides, she’s not the only one going through with it.
For instance, when she was employed as order picker, she was working alongside managers – one in fact worked as a bank manager in China.
Despite the clerical job, Daydine says, she was still lucky.
Others worked for production lines, with the job demanding full attention – no washroom breaks, for you might ruin the production process, and you also have to stand the whole day.
For Daydine, though, the key is persistence. And hope.
“If you are persistent and hard-working, all the sacrifices pay off,” she says.
(For part 2, we will explore the requirements needed to migrate in Canada)