CCHA Historical Studies, 71 (2005), 29-59
From the Tropics to the Freezer:
Filipino Catholics Acclimatize to Canada, 1972-2002
Terence J. FAY SJ
Filipino Catholics within the last forty years are newcomers to Canada and have not yet become the subject of historical research. In this study, the techniques of narrative analysis are employed along with the traditional methods of history to incorporate the contemporary experiences of living human beings into historical analysis. People love to tell their stories, and stories are everywhere. In her volume Narrative Analysis, Catherine Kohler Riessman states that narrative inquiry guides historians to gather contemporary stories to record, assess, analyse, and interpret them.1 As memories are always selective reconstructions and contain plots of their own, historical analysis asks why these stories are being told in this way rather than another. Narrative analysis attempts to unpack the loaded words and weighty meanings behind the storyteller’s account. It reconstructs the environment in which these events happened, checks them against historical sources, and places them in a meaningful context. Jean Clandinin and Michael Connelly in Narrative Inquiry explain that the techniques of qualitative analysis are heuristic and are not necessarily seeking “certainty.” Through careful attention to the importance of dialogue, it seeks a clearer understanding in the midst of human ambiguity and complexity.2 Juanita Johnson-Bailey explains the delicacy of narrative analysis as “a joyous balancing act among the data, the methodology, the story, the participant, and the researcher.”3 A leader in the postmodern approaches to ethnography, Norman K. Denzin assures researchers that their balancing act will ultimately produce an ethnographic report which will present “an integrated synthesis of experience and theory.”4 Thus the techniques of narrative analysis are part of postmodern history, and when they are verified and extended by the historical methods of library and archival research, become doubly effective. Throughout the study the techniques of both narrative analysis and historiography are employed.
Once the techniques of narrative analysis are admitted in the service of historiography the written style and format change radically, and the style becomes postmodern. Rather than as in the historical survey, the techniques of qualitative analysis allow specific information of particular individuals to be recorded. Instead of objective information, there will be the warmth and informality of real people subjectively telling their stories. This means that the contradictions, gaps, and uncertainties of the subjects are allowed to creep into the text instead of it being polished into the consistency of a seamless narrative. Beginning in the early 1970s, North American postmodern history quickly moved away from general historiography to pay attention to the particular histories of women, family, Amerindians, ethnics, rural areas, and other neglected areas of investigation.5
Ignoring the traditional canons of professional history, postmodern historians network information from unusual sources and prefer the depiction of life in its diversity. Post moderns construct a history without a centre. Life is seen as a montage of conflicting images and diverse points of view. They postulate that histories and creative works are produced by cultural communities which make up the language and by artists who work out the forms. Communities shape the historical context in which artists and historians work, and ultimately, cultural products are constructed. Although individuals create artistic work, the community around them shapes the culture in which they work.6 Modern historians, unlike post moderns, presume that the world “is built on the assumption that knowledge is certain, objective, and good.” Postmodern historians, unlike moderns, do not “search for universal, ultimate truth because they are convinced that there is nothing more to find than a host of conflicting interpretations or an infinity of linguistically created worlds.”7
Television in many ways illustrates the postmodern montage in which the images of documentaries, news programs, ads, sitcoms, and dramas are spun across the screen as if they have equal validity and veracity.8 There is no rational priority for these images except for the shock value they have to hold the viewer’s attention. Postmodern history as presented here will not read like the traditional history, but will deliberately juxtapose personal stories with historical commentary. This essay links the postmodern techniques of qualitative analysis with the traditional techniques of historiography to produce an integrated narrative combining personal storytelling with general analysis.
Since the late 1960s, Filipinos have migrated to Canada indirectly from Italy, Spain, Holland, Hong Kong, the Middle East, the United States, and United Kingdom, and more recently, directly from the Philippines itself. Eleanor Laquian relates that Filipinos in Canada in 1972 numbered 25,000 and were likely to be young female professionals living in Ontario.9 Some came to study in Canadian universities and others to pursue work opportunities. As teachers, engineers, medical professionals, skilled technicians, and commercial graduates, they gained work in health care and other assorted fields, and then, applied for landed immigrant status. During the last quarter of the twentieth century, Anita Beltran asserts, Filipinos supplied four to six percent of immigrants, placing themselves among “the top ten sources of newcomers to Canada.”10
According to the 2001 Canadian Census, Filipinos increased numerically to 327,550, of which eighty-two percent, or 268,591 are Catholic.11 Filipino Catholics assimilate easily into Catholic parishes, and their numbers in Canadian cities continue to rise. In Toronto, for instance, twenty-seven Filipino priests minister in parishes, in Winnipeg twelve, and in Vancouver five. Filipino Catholics in Toronto number 115,132, Vancouver 50,471, Winnipeg 25,592, Montreal 15,568, Calgary 14,313, and Edmonton 12,343. Urban Filipino Canadians have Mass available to them in the Filipino language.12
During this period Filipinos in the United States, along with other Asians, have gravitated to the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco. It is said that the Filipinos seek out Los Angeles, and the Chinese New York City. Migrants in these cities are quickly entrenched “in well-defined occupational niches –– [and] for some groups –– extremely low levels of political clout will make their road to full economic and political incorporation challenging.”13 Others end up on the high-end of the economic spectrum. The second generation, speaking American English and identifying themselves “as hyphenated Americans,” suggest “a potential for later assimilation, linked to both upward and outward movement.” Other American cities attracting Asians by their high-tech industries are Las Vegas, Atlanta, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis, Portland, Boston, Seattle, Detroit, Denver, and Miami.14 The United States Census of 2000 counts the number of Filipinos to be 2.4 million.15
This essay considers the Filipino Canadian ability to acclimatize to the Canadian social and cultural environment and discusses the personal and cultural clashes which parents, grandparents, and children experience as part of the rite of passage to a new home. Lastly, the essay explores the positive contributions made by Filipino Canadians in the process of integration in Canada. The themes of acclimatization, cultural clash, and contributions to Canada are considered by focusing on the principal centers of Filipino Canadian settlement: Vancouver, Winnipeg and Toronto.
Filipinos in Vancouver may be found at Holy Rosary Cathedral, Good Shepherd and St Patrick’s Parishes, in Richmond at St Monica’s, St Paul’s (fifteen to twenty percent), and St Joseph the Worker (forty percent), and in Burnaby at St Helen’s. St Patrick’s Church serves 3000 families, seventy-five percent of which are Filipino. The pastor, Father Donald Larson, remarks that Filipinos enjoy coming to church on Sunday and staying for a good part of the day. For spiritual strength during the week, they also come to daily Mass and make church visits. Filipino children fill St Patrick’s School, and there is little need for special language classes, as Filipinos speak English. In Vancouver, Filipinos network with one another, and information is passed along by word of mouth.16 In an unpretentious manner, Filipinos reveal their flexibility to new situations and acclimatize quickly to the Canadian workplace, schools, churches, and culture. And Geraldine Sherman points out that information for Filipinos does not need to get into print. For example on public transport, when two Filipinas meet, their conversation goes like this: “We smile. We start talking. ‘You’re Filipino?’ ‘Yeah, I look after kids, how about you?’ ‘I do too.’ We exchange phone numbers.”17
At St Patrick’s, the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) serves mainly the members of the Chinese minority, not the Filipinos. The Filipinos, being baptized at birth, feel they have little need for the RCIA and do not enroll in the program. Father Larson says that baptisms at St Patrick’s number one hundred and ten yearly, but the baptized are Chinese adults and Filipino babies. The Legion of Mary has formed several prayer groups which meet in the members’ homes. They visit the parish shut-ins and engage in other ministries. Filipinos are highly active in this ministry but allow themselves only brief periods for reflective prayer. Father Don concludes that in their busy schedules, which often include two or three jobs, Filipinos leave themselves little opportunity for a deeper understanding of the faith and do not get beyond the appearances of Catholic devotional life. They shy away, he feels, from the theological distinctions of western culture and its confrontational style.18 Filipino theologians Dindo Tesoro and Joselito Jose write: “The Filipino tends to focus more on the unity of human existence’s multiple dimensions (mental, volitional, psychic, physical) rather than on their separation and distinction (in a sense this view appears closer to the Biblical vision of human reality, and farther from Platonism, with its strongly dualistic and spiritualistic tones).”19 As a colonized people for five hundred years, Filipinos exude gentleness and kindness and avoid being hambog, that is, being boastful and lording it over others, preferring to fit into a community peacefully.20
When Filipinos first arrive in Canada they follow the Filipino system of church support in which lower and middle income families are only expected to contribute small change.21 Historically, the Spanish crown gave the land, transported clergy to the Philippines, and supplied small clergy stipends. Filipinos by corvee labour built their churches. Thus in the Filipino church a weekly collection was not part of the Sunday Observance, but parishioners were accustomed to paying stole fees for what they asked of the church, such as baptisms, marriages, and burials. “As a Spanish heritage, active Catholics will contribute generously to the building of a new church, with the wealthy expected to give substantial amounts,” states Philippine historian Professor John Schumacher. “Among more educated people, this is gradually changing, depending on the quality of service of the priest.”22 Upon arriving in Canada, the challenges of finding employment, coupled with the need to send money home to their family, add to the new reality facing newly arrived Filipinos. Yet after a Filipino family becomes established in Canada, buys a car, owns a house, and adjusts to the higher cost of living, the family learns the Canadian volunteer church system of contributions and donates generously. For instance, St Patrick’s Church community in Vancouver, which is pre-dominantly Filipino, has completed a $6,500,000 church and is constructing a $3,500,000 recreation centre -- all paid for by voluntary contributions.
The lay members of St Patrick’s Church formed Couples for Christ (CFC) as a covenanted charismatic community. CFC began among the middle class in the Philippines in 1981 and, from the zeal of three couples, spread quickly to one hundred and forty countries around the world. CFC was founded to strengthen the marriage bond between husband and wife and to incorporate the children into family dialogue. The group is strongly devotional and well organized, forming into “households” of extended families. They have a strong commitment to Christ and the Church but, as Father Don Larson suggests, are not well-catechized in understanding the Christian faith. Father Don contends they have a definite western orientation, and many of their priests, sisters, and laity travel to the west for higher degrees and put down roots in their adopted countries because western academic degrees are looked upon as being widely recognized and more marketable. The Catholic Women’s League at St Patrick’s is divided into three groups: one for young mothers, another for adult women, and a third for senior women.23 By contrast, Filipino Canadian men are just beginning to show interest in the Knights of Columbus, as the membership for many years has remained under Irish Canadian control. Filipino men were reluctant to joint an organization they knew little about.24 In the Philippines, parishes are large and overflowing communities compared with the smaller North American and European parish communities. Similar to Italians, Filipinos presume charter membership in the Catholic Faith, and that they possess its beliefs without further investigation.
Filipino women are traditionally heroic in their self-sacrifice for their family. It is a Filipino phenomenon that a family will send the eldest daughter, or young wife ahead to emigrate to a North American country. They are usually admitted as domestics with the expectation that they will earn permanent resident status to bring their families to the new country. Father Larson relates the story of a Filipino mother to illustrate this point. Her family of three children in the Philippines included a disabled son who needed expensive medical treatment. She sought work in France and then in Germany to enable her to send money to the Philippines for the medical treatment of her son. To care for a friend in Canada, she next migrated to Vancouver. Eventually she was hired by St Patrick’s Church, where she was able to sponsor her husband and two children. During the lengthy separation, the couple focussed on their eventual reunion and remained faithful to each other.25 The strength of the Filipino mother is graphically demonstrated in this story. With the family reunited in Vancouver and the number of wage earners increased, they soon moved from an apartment to a house and sponsored a third daughter and her husband to come to Canada.26 The Filipino commitment to the family and the church is deep-seated. Extended families morally support absentee mothers by taking care of their children, and these heroic sacrifices gain the mothers prestige and power. Myriam Bals comments on their personal heroism: “Filipina women are supported by their religious faith, believing that God has sent them on the difficult mission in order to strengthen them.” She goes on to comment in her study of foreign domestics that, in contrast, Moroccan women can be “completely destroyed” by similar experience.27 Heroism and family loyalties become a stabilizing consolation to lonely Filipinos in a foreign land.
St Paul’s Parish in Richmond is the centre for 7,700 Catholics in a multicultural context. One of the most active groups in the parish is Couples for Christ. Arturo and Rafaella Macapinlac were active in CFC in the Philippines. While helping a friend file landed immigrant papers at the Canadian embassy, Rafaella spontaneously decided to file papers for their family. When Arturo learned of this, it caught him by surprise, but both partners felt migration to Canada might give their son educational opportunities. In the Philippines, Arturo was a production manager for a food company, and coming to Canada in 1991 he found employment with an internet company in Vancouver. Arturo and Rafaella established themselves in Richmond and became Canadian citizens. They did not encounter racism or other difficulties finding work which indicated that they were being readily assimilated into a multicultural society. During the first year, they did encounter cultural difficulties, such as when they discovered that Canadians talked too fast for them easily to understand.28
In March 1993, Arturo and Rafaella Macapinlac came together with Marilen and Jojie Catibog and Luis and Angie Untalan in Richmond as a result of what they believe was the Holy Spirit bringing them together in a foreign land to found the first Canadian branch of Couples for Christ. Soon three more couples from the Philippines, Bert and Ely Barte, Butching and Carrie Locsin, and Clem and Anning Mabasa were added to their numbers. They initiated a ten-week Christian Life Program to train future members and “the first seeds were sown.”29 Nine volunteer couples arrived from the Philippines at their own expense to help train the new members, bringing with them the episcopal approval of their home archdiocese in the Philippines.30 After establishing themselves in Richmond in the Vancouver archdiocese, the leaders of Couples for Christ, Luis Untalan and Arturo Macapinlac, built a working relationship with the archdiocesan director of Marriage and Family Formation, Father Joseph Hattie.31 In the spring of 1994, Luis Untalan and Arturo Macapinlac asked for archdiocesan approval. Nine months later a letter arrived stating that CFC “did not fit into the pastoral orientation of the archdiocese at that time.”32 The letter indicated that enough married couples’ organizations already existed in the diocese, the duplication of services already offered was not desirable at this time. As a result, episcopal approval would not be given.33
Meanwhile, there was a growing line up of couples clamouring to take the Christian Life Program to join the CFC membership. As this was happening, the administrator of St Monica’s Parish, Father Bede, complained of a dead parish and asked the leaders of Couples for Christ to help. The parish administrator reasoned that as the archbishop had said “no” to a diocesan organization, he would not object to a parish group. During the ninth week of their ten-week program at St Monica’s, the archbishop called Luis and Arturo and told them to stop the program and come to his office. After the interruption of the program in St Monica’s Parish, Father John Malloy of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Surrey asked the Couples to finish the tenth session of their program in his church hall. Summoning Luis Untalan and Arturo Macapinlac to his office, Archbishop Exner welcomed them, peered at them, and asked with a firm voice, “What in my letter did you not understand?” Luis explained that the acting pastor of St Monica’s for pastoral reasons had asked them to help revive parish spirituality. Leaning forward and sitting on the end of his chair, the archbishop repeated his opening question, “What in my letter did you not understand?” Louis replied that Vancouver Filipinos were looking for prayer groups, and Father Bede of Good Counsel invited Couples for Christ to come and help. How could they refuse? After the explanation, the bishop softened and assured them, “What you are doing is good,” and he would look at it again.34
CFC scheduled a Christian Life Program for 24 February 1995 and needed archepiscopal approval. Not giving up, Couples for Christ knew that Archbishop Exner was flying to the Philippines in January 1995 for the World Youth Day. At the time in the Philippines, CFC was the only volunteer group having the resources to organize World Youth Day. Arturo immediately contacted CFC in the Philippines to talk with Exner and show him how the prayer group was the most resourceful Catholic organization in Manila. CFC searched the hotels and could not locate the archbishop’s hotel. Only later did they discover that, as an Oblate religious, Archbishop Exner was staying with his confreres in the Oblate house and not in a hotel. Contact with Couples for Christ in Manila and the Philippine bishops transformed the archbishop. When he returned to Vancouver, he found a beautifully crafted but “impatient” letter from Luis Untalan urgently petitioning for approval.35 Having exercised his prerogative of allowing time to pass for observation of CFC in the archdiocese, the archbishop approved the CFC ministry in early February 1995 in the nick of time for the scheduled Christian Life Program. He also appointed the Chinese-born Father Peter Chiang as their spiritual director. The archbishop’s letter arrived in Luis Untalan’s mailbox on 14 February and proved to be a wonderful St Valentine’s Day greeting for CFC.36 Thus from the shadows of Vancouver, twenty-five couples gathered to launch Couples for Christ. Christian Life Programs were immediately initiated in St Monica’s, St Matthew’s, and St Francis of Assisi Parishes. In a short time, the membership increased to four hundred couples, along with the related groups of two hundred youths, one hundred singles, and fifty widowers.37 In the next few years, CFC spread to Edmonton and Calgary. In 1997 a capacity crowd joined celebratory CFC members at the Vancouver cathedral as Archbishop Exner presided over a second anniversary Mass.38
Expanding on these early initiatives, Father Peter Chiang, pastor of St Paul’s, relates that the Couples for Christ are divided into households which see themselves as Christ-driven and very evangelical. They attach themselves to local parishes and are solidly committed to the Church. They have yearly conventions for couples, youths, men, and women. Father Chiang points to other groups active in his parish –– the three presidia of the Legion of Mary, El Shadai, Bukas Loob Sa Diyos (BLD), the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Women’s League, two large Bible study groups, the very active Alpha group, three youth groups, and five choirs for the six weekend Masses.39
Filipinos have a natural empathy for the extensive Asian culture of British Columbia and acclimatize easily to the new environment. They come to improve their economic prospects. Under stress from long work days, their faith remains firm but can become static if there is no time for them to deepen religious understanding. Filipino religious faith is intuitive in the eastern tradition and not analytical as in the western tradition. When family members go abroad, there is much stress on the family remaining in the Philippines. Filipino families send abroad their most prized and best adjusted family members. Yet much humility is demanded from these workers in the host country, and much patience is demanded of the family left behind in the Philippines. A sustaining element among lonely Filipinos in the host country is warm-hearted sharing in Catholic devotional life. Prayer groups like Couples for Christ travel across the Pacific Ocean to Canada and are welcomed in its churches. By intense activity and constant agility, the Canadian Filipinos in Vancouver endure the hardships of the Canadian workplace to gain landed immigrant status and establish their hearth and home in the country of their choice. Aspects of their Vancouver experience are shared also by Filipinos who settle in Winnipeg.
Recruited from the Philippines and the Netherlands, the first Filipinos to arrive in Winnipeg during the 1970s came to work in the garment trade. Initially most of the newcomers were women, but this study focuses on both men and women, Filipino professionals who followed in time and deliberately chose Canada for their new country. In Winnipeg five persons were chosen from St Edward’s Parish to participate in this study: a single woman, a married couple, and two parish priests. Their lives reveal the process of acclimatization into the Winnipeg community, and the accompanying cultural clashes which resulted between parents and children, and the young and old.
Manuelita Mejos came to Winnipeg in 1972 as a single woman to join her sister. In the Philippines she had earned a Bachelor of Education degree in 1967 and taught for four years. Arriving in Winnipeg, she found her degree and teaching experience were not recognized. Manuelita found a job as a nurse’s aide before discovering that she could re-qualify as a teacher in Canada by enrolling for a second education degree at the University of Manitoba. Completing her studies in 1983, she taught for thirteen years in northern Manitoba in Frontier School Division No. 48. When choosing a teaching position, Manuelita selected Pelican Rapids School, located near a parish church. Adjusting to the northern Canadian climate and culture, she found teaching in English very challenging. Finding that different pronunciations abounded, she adjusted to this pronouncing words exactly as she heard others pronouncing them. Retiring from the northern school division, she continued to work in Winnipeg at a day care centre and taught ESL classes.40
Retaining her traditional values, Manuelita maintains close family ties and remains a single person. The young Filipino Canadians she knows struggle to retain their heritage, but at the same time quickly adapt to Canadian life. The Filipino Canadian parents she observed found themselves all but unable to impose Filipino family discipline and Filipino customs on their Canadian teenagers.41 Families in the Philippines would express similar reluctance to impose traditional discipline on their children who are adjusting to westernization.42 But even more than the reluctance to impose their values on the youth is the lack of time that parents in Canada have to relate with their children and to see that they are cared for. In Canada both parents have jobs and household tasks to do which demand their attention, unlike the way it is in the Philippines. Back home, working parents of middle class families would have several domestics to prepare meals, answer the telephone, drive the car, clean the house, and do the laundry. Filipinos in Canada are middle class and miss the domestic support they would presume in the Philippines. Although her Filipino degrees were not accepted in Canada, Manuelita overcame these barriers to enjoy the life of a professional teacher in Manitoba. She has relinquished her Filipino passport and will remain in Canada as her home. For her health, Manuelita prefers the readily available herbal remedies to becoming dependent on pharmaceutical drugs. Manuelita is a member of the Catholic Women’s League and teaches catechism to students who do not attend Catholic schools. As a member of the Catholic Women’s League, she welcomes new arrivals and recruits some for future membership. Manuelita maintains family cohesion, remains close to her church, and is an active participant in Canadian life.43
Married couples also discover anxieties and cultural conflicts in moving to Canada. Sonia Salazar completed her Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering at the University of the Philippines in 1972 and then worked for a government corporation doing research in metallurgy. In the same year, Alberto Sangalang completed his degree in architecture at St Louis University in the Philippines and gained experience by working for a number of government corporations, such as Human Settlements, Farm Systems Development Corporation, and the Satellite Housing Contractors Corporation. Sonia and Alberto married in 1980 and looked forward to establishing their own family. As Alberto had relatives in Winnipeg, Canada was their logical choice to raise and educate their family when he and Sonia decided to immigrate.44
Arriving in 1991, Alberto was anxious to get work in his profession, yet resolved to take the first job he found. He accepted work on the night shift at a sewing machine factory, and six years later got a better job on an assembly line elsewhere. Alberto’s experience is not uncommon for newcomers to Canada. Susan Brigham comments that “many migrants experience down grading of their credentials by Canadian professional institutions. This is a move of Canadian institutions to protect the interests of their current membership more than by the need to ensure parity.”45 Alberto Sangalang did not allow the down grading from his profession to inhibit his ability to support his family and to get on with Canadian life. In a similar job shift, Sonia Sangalang came to Canada and welcomed the opportunity to leave chemical research behind and try her skills in accounting. She has been employed and has taken on a variety of positions in Winnipeg, including an administrator of cooperative housing, accountant for a nursing home, and parish secretary. Her positive attitude to life allowed her to accept the adjustments demanded of her in the Winnipeg workplace.46
The Sangalangs found it took time to adjust to the Canadian climate, culture, and language. For instance, Alberto discovered a large number of Canadians were uninformed about Asian geography and hardly knew from where he and his family had come. Also, the Sangalangs quickly learned how much Filipino culture differed from life in Canada. Educated in American English, Filipinos have to adjust to Canadian pronunciations and idioms. Alberto and Sonia were trained in a formal school tradition which assigned much homework to students and demanded high academic performance. Filipinos in the lower schools have been meticulously drilled in proper grammar and correct spelling, skills which the Canadian system de-emphasizes. Alberto found that Canadians use contractions in speech which are difficult for newcomers to hear and understand.47 Interestingly, these newcomers are surprised that they look different from other Canadians when they arrive and that their credentials are different from Canadian credentials when they report to the workplace. They do not find themselves accepted until they become embedded in a neighbourhood and prove their skills in the workplace.48
Sonia and Alberto have communicated to their adult son, Pierre Jordache Sangalang, the Filipino values of honesty, celebration, family honour, and the importance of education. In Canada, children can report their parents to the authorities for being abusive, and thus Filipino parents find it difficult to know how to discipline their children. Some parents find the young are less respectful to the elders than they would like. In the Orient young Filipinos were expected to listen politely to elders as part of the discipline.49 Thus when young people in Canada openly express their opinions, Filipino elders see the young as being disrespectful. A language barrier inevitably develops between the traditionalism of the old and spontaneity of the young. The grandparents have Asian expectations of their grandchildren which can cause generational conflict, and the parents find they are caught in the middle. In Canada, school age Filipinos blend Canadian values along with their Filipino values and are eclectic in what they retain from the two cultures.
Filipino Canadians, who have begun their education in the Philippines and are completing it in Canada, are good students for the first few years, but becoming more Canadian, they can ease off.50 They find Canadian schools encourage the young to become better persons, cautioning them against the dangers of unbridled competition and encouraging them in the direction of cooperative competition. The personal feelings and social welfare of students in the Canadian schools are more important to educators than ribbons and trophies. In Asia there is less concern for the students’ personal adjustment and “fitting in.” In the Philippines, good schools impart to their students the professional skills which will give them a competitive edge to earn for their family in a very businesslike Asian world. As only a minimal social service network exists in the Philippines, Filipinos do not look to their government for retirement or medical assistance.
Desiring to make their home in Canada, Sonia and Alberto Sangalang came as a family and now carry Canadian passports. They appreciate the Canadian medical system but, when returning from the Philippines, they bring back to Canada Filipino home remedies for colds and flu. Sonia and Alberto are also familiar with home healers in the Philippines who use natural methods of healing.51 As a team couple for both Marriage and Engaged Encounter, they make their family decisions by means of dialogue and shared responsibility. They also are involved in a number of prayer groups, such as, the Lord of Pardon Association, which was founded in the Philippines and brought to Canada in 1979, and the Worldwide Marriage Encounter which arrived in Canada in the early 1970s. To keep their spirits high in leisure time, Sonia and Alberto enjoy singing “I’ll never find another you!” or humming “The Impossible Dream” from Don Quixote.52 The prayer groups and singing are at the heart of a charismatic Filipino spirituality. These spiritual movements promote solid friendship among married couples, dedicated service among clergy, and bible studies, block rosary, and family prayer among the laity.
In Winnipeg, Sonia and Alberto participate in welcoming new Canadians in a fellowship potluck supper and invite them to Marriage Encounter Weekends. The weekend retreat is followed by introducing the new parishioners to parish life and encouraging them to become active members. Composing their presentations for the weekends, Sonia and Alberto share their life experiences with the couples taking the weekend.53 They brought to Manitoba their religious values, hard work, and regular church attendance. They adjusted to Canadian culture, managed their family life, and helped mold a closely-knit Winnipeg church community. They encouraged other couples to see how, by dealing with the cultural differences which arose in their lives, they have acclimatized to Winnipeg’s culture, language, and weather.
Not only are the Filipino Canadian laity struggling to adjust to Winnipeg, but also their clergy. Father Vicente Tungolh came to St Edward’s in 1995. He had completed his seminary education at Divine Word College and San Carlos Seminary in the Philippines. Afterward, he served parishes in the Philippines for five years, then was assigned as military chaplain for the next twenty-three years. Upon retirement from the Philippine military, the Archdiocese of Winnipeg invited Father Vicente to come to Canada to serve Winnipeg’s growing population of Filipinos. He arrived fluent in English but he, too, found Canadian speech fast, often spoken in a low voice, and laced with strange idioms and different vocabulary. He learned to like the Canadian medical system and, upon retirement, intends to remain in Canada, with occasional visits to relatives in the Philippines. When in difficulty, Asian Catholics, according to Father Tungolh, look to the priest for support. When Filipinos have “mental, behavioural, financial, or spiritual problems” they first seek out their pastor, and perhaps later, accept referral for financial, medical, or psychiatric help. This reflects the Filipino lack of confidence in the government and its agencies and their experience that the priest is the most reliable official to consult.
Father Tungolh makes an effort to retain Filipino customs to attract newcomers. He finds Filipino Catholics in Manitoba are regular church goers and look for devotions from home. For instance, preparing for Christmas, the Misa de Gallo brings out Filipinos at the early hours of the morning for a novena of Masses. On Holy Thursday and Good Friday, the seven last words of Jesus are sung in Filipino during the Pabasa. The parish dramatizes the Encuentro, the meeting between Jesus and His Blessed Mother following the resurrection. Prayer groups are also active at St Edward’s, including Couples for Christ, two charismatic groups, the Miraculous Medal, and Santo Niño. Father Tungolh believes that the older parishioners born in the Philippines, embrace these devotions eagerly, but that younger Canadian-born Filipinos have difficulty with such religious piety. Canadian distances and winter snows militate, especially for the young, against easy church attendance for devotions at Christmas and Easter. The children and seniors have to be driven to church, and in cold weather outside processions are impossible. Fellow priests in the archdiocese are grateful that Father Tungolh and his associate, Father Francisco Francis, are serving the needs of Winnipeg Filipinos in the way they deserve. On the other hand, some Anglo-Canadian Catholics raised in a Protestant environment are dazzled by the elaborate Filipino devotional style, the free display of sentimental emotion, and feel uncomfortable.
Young Filipino Canadians do not always attend family meals and prayer. They force their parents to be open to the demands of Canadian secular life. Separated from the Asian way of raising children, Father Tungolh explains that the parents are not always sure how they are permitted to discipline their children. After being educated in Canadian schools, the young people can lose their taste for family and church devotions. Among Filipino Canadians, inter-race and interfaith marriage is common, as among Euro-Canadians. On the positive side, clinical psychologist and university professor Maria Root believes that such mixed marriages will expand the Filipino community and make it more diverse and flexible. This is shocking to senior Filipinos, as they recall that weddings in the Philippines that were exclusively Filipino Catholic. It could be pointed out, however, that the memories of the older generation are not always indicative of what is happening in the Philippines today, and westernization has meant for the Philippines more inter-ethnic and interfaith marriages. After Canadian Filipinos are married, they retain the tradition that husbands are the leaders of the family, paying bills and resolving family problems. Wives seldom contest this custom and are willing to give their husband due respect, while quietly developing their own life style and independence.
Filipino Canadian organizations designed to assist newcomers in their adjustment are not proactive as Canadian organizations would be. Father Tungolh explains that Filipino Canadians wait for the need to arise before action is taken. Filipino assistance to others, whether in the Philippines or Canada is spontaneous and heart-felt but decidedly short term. Once the crisis is over, the help ceases, and both the helper and the helped get back to normal. From their culture of generosity, Filipino Canadians down on their luck know that they can ask for help and it will be forthcoming. Filipino families will not turn away the needy.
Filipino cultural and religious traditions are sustained as well by Father Francisco Francis, who completed his seminary training at San Carlos Seminary in the Philippines. Father worked as an associate pastor for seven years and a pastor for twenty-five years before coming to Winnipeg. Arriving in 1996 at the invitation of the Archbishop of Winnipeg, he began work as associate pastor at St Edward’s Parish. Father Francis likes to promote traditional Filipino devotions such as novenas and the recitation of the rosary, and he encourages family ties, home visits, gift-giving, and assistance to those in need. At St Edward’s, he is the spiritual director of the Catholic Women’s League and the Legion of Mary. Their members carry out the visitation of parish homes and help a nearby parish with a yearly lunch to the needy. Filipino women’s groups are integrated into Manitoban and Canadian church structures through diocesan, national, and international organizations. Avoiding an ethnic ghetto, Filipinos become part of Canadian Catholic international organizations, and Filipino devotional life reinforces Canadian devotions and enriches Canadian piety with its regularity and faithfulness. 
Reflecting on his personal challenges in Canada, Father Francis finds that Canadians use slang in speaking English, and thus, it is difficult for a person from another culture to know exactly what is being said. He believes that children who are well nurtured by their parents at home are more likely to attend Filipino devotional and social events. When parental guidance is accepted, Father Francis insists generational conflict is avoided. Yet he admits that in Canada young people preparing for marriage often live together before marriage. Observing his own flock, Father believes that what Canadians do, Filipino Canadians do. In the Philippines, he postulates that such conduct is frowned upon, but others would add that when adult children outside the Philippines live with partners without the benefit of marriage parents learn to tolerate the new reality.
While Father Francis consoles the lonely Filipinos living in Winnipeg, he maintains dual Philippine and Canadian citizenship. He personally likes the Canadian medical system but intends to return to the Philippines after retirement. In his senior years he would prefer to live in the warmth of an extended family in the Philippines over a private nursing home in Canada. His Filipino diocese offers him a health care plan when he returns.
It becomes apparent that Winnipeg Filipinos endure the cultural conflict and adjust to the new workplace, culture, accent, and discipline for the sake of their children. Lacking “Canadian experience,” they have had to lower their job expectations but acknowledge that the work they do offers better salaries than in the Philippines. They have to adjust to Canadian verbal sounds and dialectical idioms. Their children are educated in Canadian schools which teach them how to deal with the Canadian culture. Through these cultural challenges, the families keep their courage high by close ties with the Filipino Catholic community. Filipino clergy coming to Winnipeg in the 1990s strengthened the resolve of a national church to reinforce a struggling ethnic community. For Filipinos, it is important to preserve the clarity of their identity. E. San Juan Jr affirms this process, writing that: “the construction of a Filipino ethnic identity as a dynamic, complex phenomenon” which defies the American assimilationist model. Yet in the multicultural Canadian society, the Filipinos, like the Irish, Germans, Ukrainians, and Poles before them, are asked from time to time to describe their origin and identity. It is important for Filipino Canadians to resolve the clash of cultures they are experiencing and work out a clear idea of who they are and from where they came.
In Toronto, Filipinos cluster principally in eight core parishes but are also found in substantial numbers in other parishes throughout the urban area. Of these eight principal parishes, Masses in Filipino are celebrated monthly at Blessed John XXIII, St Anthony, St Catherine of Siena, St Paschal Baylon, and St Joseph in Mississauga. Filipinos are also make up fifty to seventy percent of the attendees at Our Lady of the Assumption, Our Lady of Lourdes, and St Thomas More. To a lesser extent, Christ the King, Prince of Peace, St Aidan, St Bartholomew, St Boniface’s Scarborough, St Edward’s North York, St Joseph’s West Hill, and St Martin de Porres are ten to thirty-five percent Filipino. In these Catholic parishes, sizable Filipino communities are active and make positive contributions to parochial life.
Father Rodolfo Imperial, the pastor of Blessed John XXIII, is the chaplain for the Filipino community in the Archdiocese of Toronto. The Filipino community sponsors yearly Marriage Encounters, as well as a community service committee and a Filipino choir. According to Father Imperial, parishes attended by Filipinos are energetic in family activities such as the baptism of children, community services, and choral singing. In addition, the 3,000 parishioners of Blessed John XXIII are composed of forty to fifty percent Filipino with twenty-seven other ethnic groups being represented including Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and East Indian Canadians. The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) is mostly run for Chinese and East Indian Canadians.
While welcoming substantial numbers of Filipinos, these Toronto parishes are also open to other ethnic groups and cater to Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and East Indian Canadians. At Our Lady of Lourdes, just north of St Michael’s Cathedral in downtown Toronto, Filipino Canadians represent about sixty-five percent of the 13,640 parishioners which include fifteen percent Tamil, and a sprinkling of Hispanic, Vietnamese, Korean, Caribbean, English, and French Catholics. Of the 6,200 parishioners at Our Lady of the Assumption, seventy percent are Filipino Canadians, twenty-five percent Euro-Canadians, and the remainder being made up of West Indian Canadians. The RCIA caters to twenty Euro-Canadians and West Indian Canadians. In 2001 the average number of parish baptisms in the archdiocese was eighty-three. In this same year parishes with a heavy overlay of Filipinos, such as Our Lady of Lourdes baptized one hundred and ninety-five, St Paschal Baylon and St Joseph of Mississauga one hundred and eighty-four, Blessed John XXIII one hundred and twenty-seven, and St Anthony’s one hundred and thirty. Filipino Catholics in Toronto number more than 115,132 and are positively changing the Catholic demography and customs in the archdiocese.
Among Canadian prayer groups which help Filipinos manage the transition to life in Canada are Bukas Loob Sa Diyos (BLD or “Opening Up to God”) and Couples for Christ. BLD members in Toronto and St Catharines gained diocesan approval in 1990 and have met regularly since then. Philippine BLD members, Mariano and Fanny Quimson, came to Canada in 1990 and, along with eight Filipino couples and two singles, resolved to found a Toronto-based BLD. In a short time, five hundred to seven hundred BLD members were gathered to provide Marriage Encounter Weekends, Life in the Spirit Seminars, and Basic Bible Study. Members meet monthly at healing Masses at Assumption Church and gather weekly to share common faith and worship. They group themselves into ministry teams to pray together, reflect on the Scripture, and be of service to the community.
Organizing a First Friday Charismatic celebration at Assumption Church in North Forest Hill, BLD attracts five hundred to seven hundred Canadian Filipinos each month. Having lived in Toronto fifteen or twenty years, BLD members have found regular employment, purchased homes, raised their children in Canadian schools, and have become established Catholics. They have found BLD a source of personal inspiration and a good forum for dealing with adjustment and generational tensions. Yet some Filipinas, who are newly arrived Canadians and doing domestic work in the neighbourhood, will not attend Friday evening celebration because of their own sense of Filipino class consciousness and the prosperous appearance of established BLD members. The newly arrived, especially young women, can bring with them from the Philippines their memories of intimidation by the well-established. Similar intra-Filipino conflict can arise, when three generations of a family are living in the same house. The senior generation grew up with the specters of tropical islands, indigenous religious culture, and Tagalog and English. By contrast, their grandchildren are growing up with the images of apartment dwellers, hockey playing, secular culture, and English and French languages. The various Filipino Canadian generations do not share these diverse worlds which are as dissimilar as the Philippine tropical climate and the Canadian winter.
Concerned with the plight of new Filipino Canadians, BLD offers a program of service for their welfare, encompassing spiritual consolation and physical help. Individuals and families in difficulty seek help through the parishes. Here Filipino volunteers are willing to do menial tasks in organizations which indoctrinate them into the needs of the local parish community to learn what has to be done and who needs help. While Filipino Canadians in the 1970s did not find immediate acceptance, the passage of time has seen Filipino Canadians find more genuine acceptance in Canada. Thirty years later, Euro-Canadians are impressed with hard working Filipino Canadians and welcome them more fully into their workplace and neighbourhoods. The staunch devotion of the Filipinos in Canadian churches gives genuine encouragement to Euro-Canadian Catholics.
BLD members Roberto and Paciencia Santos, a professional couple, described their unusual route to Canada in the 1980s. Bert and Cita knew each other as youths growing up in the Philippines. Cita arrived in New York to study medicine, and was soon followed by the youthful engineer Bert. He established himself as a Canadian citizen in Toronto. When Cita completed her training, she and Bert returned to the Philippines to celebrate their wedding among family and friends. After marriage, they returned to Toronto to initiate their professional careers in medicine and engineering. Initially they experienced discrimination. For example, they located a house with the help of colleagues in the pleasant mid-Toronto neighbourhood. A nosy neighbour seeing Bert at work on his lawn inquired how they could afford a house in such an up-scale neighbourhood. Becoming more insistent, demanding “Where are you getting your funds from? What work do you have for a living? Where were you from? Bert recalled that “When I answered him that we were from the Philippines, and my wife is a medical doctor, and I am an engineer, he seemed surprised. What about the money? We worked hard and saved money to buy what we want and, in this case, our house. He asked me further about the geographical location of the Philippines.” Reflecting on this experience, Bert now views these probes stemming less from discrimination than from ignorance.
Bert also experienced discrimination in the workplace. Employed by a multinational company for eighteen years, he encountered discrimination. Assistant manager of his division, he was known to be “the firefighter of the company, crisscrossing the country to solve problems.” Despite his position, competence, and seniority, he was passed over three times for the manager’s position. Bert realized that he had “reached my glass ceiling and it was time to go.” In 1984 the Canadian Government published Equality Now, which perfectly described Bert’s situation: “Barriers also exist for the advancement and promotion through relegation of the minority persons to low status and low-income positions, through seniority policies, and through limited exposure to new job openings.” Discrimination in the workplace is a constant factor used by those who are protecting jobs for themselves and their associates.
In contrast, Cita Santos, with a North American degree, did not experience professional discrimination. Canada was in need of her skills in anaesthesiology, and with her American degree and four years of additional training in Canadian hospitals, she was “welcomed” into her profession. She became an associate professor at the University of Toronto and Chief of Staff of the Anaesthesia Department at the Orthopaedic and Arthritic Hospital in downtown Toronto. Arriving forty years ago to Canada, Bert and Cita Santos were Filipino pioneers in Toronto. Their experience is that Canadians have become much more appreciative of the positive value of Filipinos.
After their son and daughter were born in Toronto, Bert and Cita focussed on the importance of family bonding by speaking Filipino at home and celebrating Christian holidays. Following the Filipino custom, their children Neil and Maria Theresa were not allowed to go to other family homes for sleep-overs. Such a breach of family etiquette was considered unacceptable to Filipinos. Their effort to speak Filipino, however, never materialized as Neil and Maria Theresa preferred responding in English. Again, rather than choosing the Filipino sport of basketball, Neil preferred playing hockey. Nor did Neil pick a Filipina as his bride, as his parents might have expected, choosing instead Jennifer Aycan, an Armenian Canadian, who has since become dear to the parents and the Santos family. Bert and Cita, as first generation Filipinos, attend their church weekly and are lectors and ministers of bread and cup in their parish. They are involved in BLD as a team couple for Marriage Encounter Weekends. Neil and Jennifer, as second generation, go to Sunday Mass when they are free but are not involved in their church community. The strategy of Bert and Cita Santos proved to be effective as their children continue to enjoy their friendship and, in Filipino custom, visit their parents on Sundays.
Filipino Canadians retain many of their Asian customs and instill them in their children. They try to maintain Asian discipline with their children, retain religious devotions, and will sponsor a debutant party if possible for their daughters when they turn eighteen. The Santos admit that Filipino Canadian parents are puzzled when they are cautioned against using physical punishment acceptable in Asia but not in Canadian law. The parents wish to have a voice in the marriage of their children, resist interfaith and inter-ethnic marriages, and expect married children to visit on Sunday. They have great hope for the first male child that, when he becomes adult, he will do well and provide both the younger siblings with school tuition and assure the parents of a respectable retirement. In the 1980s and 1990s, Susan Brigham believes that this phenomenon was responsible for the first child of Filipino families coming to Canada to set up a household and to sponsor other family members. If the first child was a woman, she might have been admitted as a nanny on a temporary work visa for two years. The next step was to begin a permanent residency period of three years in Canada, to establish a home, and bring out the family. Filipinos follow practical wisdom which says, “Wherever there is a loophole, fill it.” The North American Filipino family is an extended family rather than a nuclear family, it may include an uncle, aunt, in-law, or a friend of the family who has just arrived. Parents try to guide their growing children and find it difficult when the children attend Canadian schools. The parents dress modestly and encourage their children to follow the Christian Gospel and the Golden Rule. Yet the children demand from their parents more freedom and choose to hang out with their friends rather than the family. The parents are shocked to find their daughter calling boys on the telephone and receiving calls after 9:00 p.m. The children are under peer pressure to conform to Canadian youth mores, while the parents feel pushed to make more concessions.
Similar in many ways to Roberto and Paciencia Santos, the Marquez family had to make profound adjustments to Canadian culture. Armin Marquez and Florinda Mapa were married after finishing their university degrees in the Philippines. At first, Armin worked as a contract personnel officer overseas in Saudi Arabia, while Linda remained in the Philippines working as a teacher. Their desire to live together as a married couple brought Linda to Saudi Arabia to work as a private tutor. They discovered the economic advantages of working overseas, especially when they began raising their children, Aurora and Armand. Soon Armin moved up the ladder of company management, and Linda opened a play-school for their children and the children of their associates. Through their enterprise, they became more financially stable. When their children reached school age, they attended an American international school. A chance visit to Toronto impressed the couple that it was a city in which they could live and work comfortably, especially in the light of the increased educational opportunities it offered to their children. The Marquez family landed in Toronto as immigrants in 1996. Armin found a position as a student counsellor at the University of Toronto, and Linda was hired as a claims specialist by a Toronto insurance company. A host of transitions faced the couple, as Armin adjusted from guiding workers to counseling students and Linda switched from teaching children in the Philippines and Saudi Arabia to working in the business world. Putting aside the dawn to dusk hours of a Filipino teacher, Linda entered into the nine-to-five world of Canadian business and enjoyed the shorter hours and better pay.
By this time, Aurora and Armand were teenagers and attended Canadian high schools. It was important to Armin and Linda that the family retain their religious identity, prayer life, and sense of respect for the elderly. While the family retained its Filipino values, the pressure to conform to Canadian ways soon proved daunting. When Aurora reached eighteen years of age, she wanted to date, which would be considered comparatively late for Canadian teenagers. This seemed to her parents much too soon for a Filipino girl. Linda’s time frame required twenty-five years of age and then only in the company of a chaperon. Linda was aghast at her daughter’s Canadian ideas, but Armin was more receptive. Upon meeting his daughter’s date, he requested that a 10:00 p.m. curfew be respected. Linda and Armin also learned to accept the possibility of inter-racial marriage as part of Canadian society. Armin adds that such unions must involve strong persons who are deeply in love in order to cope with the misunderstanding that will occur among family and friends. Armin and Linda and their adult children find Toronto offers excellent opportunities for the future and want to be rooted in Canada. In their view, Canada offers a better quality of life, and when travelling, the Canadian passport provides entrance to most nations of the world without visas or additional payments.
Linda has both discovered racism in herself and encountered North American racism in Canadians. On the street in Toronto she and her young daughter Aurora were frightened by an African Canadian, and she remarked to her daughter that one has to avoid black people. Her Canadian educated daughter admonished her mother, “Mom, you’re a racist. We don’t say that in Canada!” Linda admitted that her daughter was right, and Linda began changing her attitude. Yen le Espiritu in Home Bound comments that “Filipinos live within and in tension with a racist system that defines white middle-class culture as the norm.” On a ship cruise in the Caribbean, one of her fellow passengers inquired “where are you from?” Linda replied Canada. And the response came back, “But you don’t look like a Canadian!” Again in Toronto she encountered the bigoted comment, “Why did you come to Canada? Go home to your own country!” According to researcher Susan Brigham, this is a typical comment of Canadian-born bigots to strangers they meet.
Linda and Armin were warmly welcomed by the Couples for Christ when they arrived in Toronto. The members were helpful to Linda and Armin for their first years in Canada, but Linda and Armin became involved in numerous parish activities at Our Lady of Lourdes. They made the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola which helped them to decide to commit themselves in service (bayanihan) at the downtown parish in Toronto. They are team members of Marriage Preparation and deeply involved with the Parish Social ministry. Through volunteers like Linda and Armin, Lourdes parish helps new Canadians adjusting to Canadian ways and assists them in coping with the demands of the Canadian immigration department.
As members of the Engaged Encounter Movement at Lourdes preparing young couples for marriage, Linda and Armin openly share their marriage experiences with those preparing for marriage. Their artistic and dramatic talents are employed to motivate parishioners to understand the neighbourhood needs and alleviate them. They believe that Filipinos, because they are English speaking and bicultural, blend well into Canadian parishes and the Toronto workplace. In fact, Filipinos bring with them to Canada the gifts of song and celebration to those they meet. Armin surmises that “Filipinos by virtue of their centuries of colonial background are raised to serve, help, and provide service. Their eagerness to serve is carried out as welcomers, choir members, and volunteer workers of the Canadian church.” What this means, according to Susan Brigham, is that it is a “Filipino’s nature not to respond in a confrontational manner” but to handle conflict quietly and at a suitable time. Theologians Dindo Tesoro and Joselito Jose would contend that “the Filipino instinct” seeks “harmonious human relations,” a “conciliatory rather than confrontational bent.” Professor Felipe M. de Leon Jr argues that “Filipinos are essentially unitive [sic], harmonious, [and] non-confrontational.” To the many parts of the world where they work, Filipino missionaries and overseas contract workers bring the tranquility of the Christian Gospel to Europeans and Americans, from whom they originally received it. In doing this, migrant Filipinos are sensitive to the cultural imperatives and religious customs of their host countries.
Five thousand Filipina domestics have arrived in Canada each year since the 1990s so that now eighty percent of Canadian domestics are Filipinas. In Ontario where over two-thirds of the Filipinas work, they are paid a minimum wage of $6.85 for a forty-four hour week, and are off work on holidays and during summer vacation. After twenty-four months of live-in service with one employer, they can apply for permanent residency in Canada. Filipina domestic workers are sought after, “have created a genuine bond of mutual respect” with the families they serve, and have interesting stories to tell. Jean La Torre and Audie Olano speak of their pilgrimage to Hong Kong, and then to Canada in search of work. For seven and nine years respectively in Hong Kong, their lives were very busy with long hours of work, but socially they shared activities at the Filipino Catholic Centre. Filipino religious sisters were stationed by the Archdiocese of Hong Kong at the Filipino Centre in 1989 to welcome Filipinas in their off hours. They attend weekly Mass and socialize with their compatriots.
Leaving Hong Kong, Audie Olano arrived in Canada in April 2003 and found domestic work in Toronto; Jean La Torre came in June 2003, and previously was employed as a domestic. Compared to the long hours of work in Hong Kong, Jean and Audie see that the hours are shorter and working conditions more agreeable in Toronto. Ontario winters were initially to be feared, and they stocked up on vitamin pills. Jean La Torre immigrated to Canada for her access to relatives and friends in Seattle, Washington. For financial reasons, Audie decided to migrate to Toronto to establish a home in the city to which she could bring her brothers and sisters.
From her fond memories of the Philippines, Jean missed the respectful titles given to family members and elders, such as “po” or “opo.” She also believes the public manifestation of affection in Canada by young couples inappropriate. Although not married, Audie believes in the Filipino custom of married faithfulness until death, but both she and Jean admire North Americans for keeping romance alive in marriages. They like the custom of visiting the Philippines and returning with an abundance of pasalubông (gifts). Jean and Audie find the excessive use of makeup by the Filipino Canadian young people upsets their parents and causes family tension. Both Filipinas find little difficulty with inter-racial marriages as long as couples have strong love for each other. Both have experienced discrimination in Hong Kong, but not in Canada except when their English was deemed inadequate. Both have completed bachelor’s degrees in the Philippines and a one-year caring course. In Canada, Jean after completing her two-year period would like to study chiropractic or reflexology, and Audie would like to prepare for teaching.
In Hong Kong, Jean and Audie attended Mary Queen of Love Prayer Group at the Filipino Centre which offered Bible study, social outreach, and sharing prayer, but in Toronto they have yet to find a similar prayer or social group. Mary Queen of Love Prayer Group was founded in Hong Kong for Filipinas who were looking for social and religious groups.
With a similar story of loneliness is the widow, Virgincita Cepeda. Returning to Canada for the third time as a domestic, she sighed, “I would have loved to work here [the Philippines], where I can be close to my children, but my earnings as an elementary school teacher can never sustain my five kids.” After returning from two years in Canada, she grieved that her four year-old “didn’t recognize me any more. The older kids seemed cold and distant.” When in Canada, she worried about her children growing up in the Philippines undisciplined and disrespectful to their parents. Homesick in Canada, Virgincita “couldn’t sleep” and worried “about my kids and their condition; if they were eating well; if they are doing their schoolwork.” But she confessed the benefits, sending home $400 monthly compared with $180 earned by teachers in the Philippines. “When it’s a matter of family survival, do we really have a choice?”
Some commentators from her homeland would dispute Virgincita’s choice and argue it was unfortunate for her family. It is contended that in the long run the money sent home from foreign nations is not beneficial to the Philippine economy and leaves wounded families. The money sent is often used for school and survival but also for luxuries not needed. Some Filipinos say it would have been better for Virgincita to be present in her home and “to rear her children in good moral values and live within their means.” They would argue that it is more useful for the Philippines and for her family that she employ her teaching skills in Filipino education which, in the long run, would improve the national standard of living.
A study of the Asian Development Bank states that Filipinos will send home to the Philippines in 2004 over $9.1 billion Canadian dollars, and informally perhaps twice this amount. The report continues that “the money that workers and emigrants send home each year is spent putting sons, daughters, nieces and nephews through school, while the rest is blown on food and village fiestas as well as ill-advised small-business ventures that usually fail.” These remittances represent eleven percent of the gross domestic product and are thought to be important to the Philippine economy. The bank study goes on to comment that “considerable spending” was used “for non-essentials and luxuries” and could be used “for more productive use and as a tool for poverty reduction.”
Despite diverse opinions on the impact of Filipino-Canadian remittances on the Philippines, Filipinos have made a positive contribution in Canada by care giving, a service which is well recognized by the Immigration Department and the Canadian populace. Filipinos are nurses in most Canadian hospitals and doctors and dentists in many Canadian cities. In the SARS scare in Toronto in 2003, the only medical workers who died during the crisis were two Filipino Canadian nurses and one Filipino Canadian doctor. Since the 1990s, Filipinos have dominated the field of domestic employment in Canada. They are treasured as domestics because they are helpful in the home and most loving with children. To the business community, Filipinos bring excellent administrative skills and strong company loyalty. They are positive and cheerful and have a vigorous commitment to the Canadian Catholic Church. They are generally from middle class families who are attracted to medical, teaching, and caring professions and are less intrigued with the world of business, economics, and politics.
Care giving and service can be explained as the trait of a colonized people. Yet Professor Felipe M. de Leon Jr explains the inherent generosity of Filipinos as deeply embedded in their culture. Filipinos come to earn for their families but also to bring the gifts of hard work, family values, and simple faith to a secularized North America. Filipinos will not forget favours given to them, they will remain a long term debt on their conscience. Filipinos occasionally experience discrimination when they first come to Canada, but they can also bring with them their own class
consciousness and discriminatory practices.
The question arises whether Filipinos in Canada prefer to be temporary labour, returning home with earnings, or choose to establish themselves permanently in Canada. Many Italians came as “sojourners,” or temporary workers, to return to their family with earnings in hand after a few years. By contrast, Irish immigrants in the nineteenth century came to Canada to stay and not to return. Do the Filipinos fall into the category of temporary workers as some Italians, or of permanent residents as the Irish? In Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Arab countries, Filipinos, like the Italians, are necessarily temporary workers who are not allowed to remain once their contract is completed. Yet in Canada, Filipinos, like the Irish, become permanent residents because immigration policy encourages this. Many Filipinos have integrated permanently into Canadian society, sponsoring the immigration of their family, and giving their adult skills to the nation.
Professor E. San Juan Jr considers the main obstacle to the resolution of cultural conflict and the emergence of Filipino Canadian identity to be the “colonial mentality” imposed by “structural discrimination” both in the Philippines and in Canada. For four hundred years, the Spanish and the American colonizers controlled the Philippines from abroad. Yet domestic colonialism, or “internal colonialism,” as Juanita Tamayo Lott explains, is also common in the Philippines. This type of colonialism means that dominant Filipino groups exploit and oppress subordinate groups. Wealthy Filipinos in the Philippines find life comfortable, the weather pleasant, and intend to live out their life at home. Rather, “the great majority of those who migrate do so on account of the better economic opportunities they find abroad. Most of them come from the lower and middle income brackets.” By immigrating, many are released from internal oppression, take three jobs overseas, and become more creative, productive, and successful in their life goals. It is interesting that Filipino Canadians, struggling to have clear insight into their new identity, share with Euro-Canadians a similar search. Both have the common bond of having been colonized by Europeans and live in the shadow of the most powerful colonizer of modern times. As Filipinos search to transcend the colonial mentality, they realize their own hyphenated Canadian identity, and enrich the Christian faith with their committed Catholic service.
Research such as this can help Filipino Canadians arrive at a fundamental understanding of their new identity. The techniques of qualitative analysis affirmed by historiographical literature help us to recognize more clearly the Filipino commitment to religion and culture. Some Filipino parents see their brand of Catholicism offering a healthier life style than Canadian secularism. They believe Canadian schools to be less competitive than Filipino schools, but know that Canadian university degrees are prestigious around the world. Parents adjust their family life style to accommodate to the Canadian climate and cultural imperatives, but remain committed to Filipino Catholic cultural values. Generational conflict is muted when families through regular discussion, soften their desire to maintain Filipino traditions and make adjustments to Canadian culture. Yet it must be admitted that the Canadian-educated younger Filipinos are less committed to Filipino traditions and Catholic religious exercises than their parents and grandparents.
Filipino parents encountered discrimination in Canada until they adjusted to the new culture by getting work, finding a home, and sending their children to Canadian schools. They appreciate the Canadian medical system with its surgery and wonder drugs. Yet Filipinos, like other Asians, find natural remedies suitable for minor illnesses. Listening carefully to Canadian speech rhythms, Filipinos quickly mimic Canadian phonemes and assimilate Canadian idioms. Although the Asian façade of male dominance is maintained, decision making in Catholic marriages among the middle class often follows family discussion which includes the notion of shared decision-making and gender equality. Filipino charity relief compared with Canadian is enthusiastic through less structured.
Jonathan Okamura writes that the common perception of any nation is an “imagined” reality of a people scattered in far distant lands perceiving themselves to be united as one people. The Filipino communities in Canada have this imagined sense of unity with Filipinos around the world, but this same ethnic community is also reinforced by the international religious bonds which weld them together into world solidarity. By the techniques of narrative analysis and historical research, it becomes more obvious that Filipinos, as a people, share the double bond of faith and ethnicity. Despite external pressures, we see in this study that the ethnic identity of Filipino Canadian Catholics, which includes a deep commitment to the preservation of religious and cultural values, remains intact in the first generation, as Anita Beltran Chen also points out, but is considerably weaker in the second generation. The Canadian-born generation assists older Filipino Canadians to cast off the colonial mentality but to retain the core traditions of Filipino culture. Immigration trends affirm for us that Filipinos in Canada are becoming a strong, cohesive, and acculturated Catholic community, but as Professor Chen points out, the far-off future remains yet to be written. Over the past thirty years Filipino Canadians have made significant contributions to the energy of the Canadian nation in their ability to acclimatize and in their ready willingness to resolve inevitable cultural clashes.
1 Catherine Kohler Riessman, Narrative Analysis (Thousand Oaks CA: Sage Publications, 1993), 1-7.
2 D. Jean Clandinin and F. Michael Connelly, Narrative Inquiry: Experience and Story in Qualitative Research (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000), 1-10, 54-55; N. K. Denzin and Y. S. Lincoln, eds., Collecting and Interpreting Qualitative Materials (Thousand Oaks CA: Sage Publications, 1998).
3 Juanita Johnson-Bailey, “Dancing between the Swords: My Foray into Constructing Narratives” in Qualitative Research in Practice: Examples for Discussion and Analysis, edited by Sharan B. Merriam and Associates (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002), 323-325.
4 Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, eds., The Landscape of Qualitative Research: Theories and Issues (Thousand Oaks CA: Sage, 1998), 80.
5 Stanley J. Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism (Grand Rapids MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1996), 39.
6 Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism,15-20; 41-53.
8 Ibid., 35.
9 Eleanor R. Laquian, A Study of Filipino Immigration to Canada, 1962-1972 (Ottawa: United Council of Filipino Associations in Canada, 1973), 1; Ruben J. Cusipag and M.C. Buenafe, Portrait of Filipino Canadians in Ontario, 1960-1990 (Toronto: Kababayan Community Centre and Kalayaan Media Ltd, 1993), 146.
10 Anita Beltran Chen, “Filipinos,” Encyclopedia of Canada’s People, edited by Paul Robert Magocsi (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), 502.
11 Statistics Canada 2001, Population by selected ethnic Origins; Religion (95) and Visible Minority Groups (97F0022XCB01005); and Visible Minority Groups (15) and Immigrant Status and Period of Immigration (11) for Population of Canada (97f0010XCB01003).
12 Statistics Canada, 2001, Populations by selected ethnic origins; Visible Minority Population Metropolitan Areas.
13 William H. Frey, “The United States Population: Where the New Immigrants Are,” www.usinfo.state.gov/journals/itsv/0699/ijse/frey/htm, 12 November 2004.
15 Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence, San Francisco CA, www.apiahf.org/apidvinstitute/GenderViolence/statistics.htm, 12 November 2004.
16 Interview with Father Donald Larson, St Patrick Parish, Vancouver, 18 July 2003.
18 Interview with Father Donald Larson, St Patrick Parish, Vancouver, 18 July 2003; Maria Elena C. Samson, “What Does It Mean to Be a Filipino?” unpublished manuscript, 7 and 11.
19 Dindo Rei M. Tesoro and Joselito Alviar Jose, The Rise of Filipino Theology (Paasay City, Philippines: Paulines, 2004), 263-264.
20 “The Filipinos Colonized Psyche,” PN Magazine, The Philippine Star Life (Manila), Week of 27 September - 3 October 1995.
21 Interview with Father Donald Larson, St Patrick Parish, Vancouver, 18 July 2003.
22 Dr. John Schumacher SJ, written answers to written questions of this author, Ateneo de Manila University, 4 November 2004.
23 Interview with Father Donald Larson, St Patrick Parish, Vancouver, 18 July 2003.
24 Telephone interview with Father Mario Marin, member of the Knights of Columbus, St Patrick’s Parish, Vancouver, 3 February 2005.
25 Interview with Father Donald Larson, St Patrick Parish, Vancouver, 18 July 2003.
28 Interview with Arturo (Tito) Macapinlac, St Paul Parish, Richmond BC, 20 July 2003.
29 CFC Newsletter 1:1 (September 1995), 8-9, Couples for Christ Archives, Edmonton.
30 Episcopal Commission on the Apostolate of the Laity, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, “Certification of Approval of Couples for Christ,” signed by Bishop Angel H. Lagdameo, 26 July 1993; Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila, “Certification and Endorsement of Couples of Christ,” signed by Teodoro C. Bacani, Jr, Auxiliary Bishop of Manila, 17 August 1993, Couples for Christ Archives, Edmonton.
31 Rouquel Ponte, Director of Couples for Christ, to Fr. Joe Hattie OMI, 26 August 1993, Couples for Christ Archives, Edmonton.
32 CFC Newsletter 1: 1 (September 1995), 9, Couples for Christ Archives, Edmonton.
33 Interview with Arturo (Tito) Macapinlac, St Paul Parish, Richmond BC, 20 July 2003.
35 Luis Untalan to Archbishop Adam Exner OMI, 5 February 1995, Couples for Christ Archives, Edmonton.
36 Archbishop Adam Exner OMI to Luis M. Untalan, 10 February 1995, Couples for Christ Archives, Edmonton.
37 Interview with Arturo (Tito) Macapinlac, St Paul Parish, Richmond BC, 20 July 2003.
39 Interview with Father Peter Chiang, St Paul Parish, Richmond BC, 20 July 2003.
40 Interview with Manuelita Mejos, St Edward’s Parish, Winnipeg, 11 March 2004.
42 Interview with Mary Anne and Francisco Colayco, St Rose of Lima, Manila, 14 September 2004.
43 Interview with Manuelita Mejos, St Edward’s Parish, Winnipeg, 11 March 2004.
44 Interview with Sonia and Alberto Sangalang, St Edward’s Parish, Winnipeg, 11 March 2004.
45 Susan Brigham, “‘I Want to Voice It Out!’: Learning to Integrate in Canadian Multicultural Society,” summary of her master’s thesis at the University of Alberta, 1995, http:www.geog.queensu.ca/era21/papers/brigham.htm, 12 November 2004, 15-16.
46 Interview with Sonia and Alberto Sangalang, St Edward’s Parish, Winnipeg, 11 March 2004.
 Interview with Father Mariano Batucan, St Edward’s Parish, Winnipeg, 11 March 2004.
 E. San Juan Jr, “Filipino Bodies: From the Philippines to the United States and Around the World,” www.boondocksnet.com/centennial/sctests/esj_97a.html, 11, 16 November 2004.
 Telephone interview with Fathers Rodolfo Imperial and Mario Lorenzana, Blessed John XXIII, Toronto, 26-27 February 2003.
 Spiritual Statistics for the Year 2001, Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto (hereafter ARCAT).
 Bukas Loob Sa Diyos: “The BLD,” www. bldworld.org, “BLD Vancouver Outreach,” 18 April 2004.
 Maria Elena C. Samson, “What Does It Mean to Be a Filipino?” to be published in a journal for educators and professionals in June 2005, 6-7.
 Interview with Manuel and Elizabeth Gorespe, St Christopher Parish, Mississauga, Ontario, and Andy and Isabelle Escaño, St Matthew Parish, Oakville, Ontario, 8 November 2003.
 Interview with Roberto and Paciencia Santos, St Bonaventure Parish, Toronto, 29 November 2003; additional email letter from Roberto and Paciencia Santos, 15 October 2004.
 Interview with Roberto and Paciencia Santos, St Bonaventure Parish, Toronto, 29 November 2003.
 Interview with Roberto and Paciencia Santos, St Bonaventure Parish, Toronto, 8 November 2003.
 Yen le Espiritu writes: “‘Eleonor Ocampo confided, ‘It’s like an understood silence in my family; don’t ever cross the line and marry an African American. It just saddens me because of the perception that my parents have of African Americans as being on welfare and lazy and crimes and gangs.’... they have internalized the anti-Asian and anti-immigrant rhetorics and practices that characterized so much of the culture and social structure in the United States.” See Yen le Espiritu, Home Bound: Filipino American Lives across Cultures, Communities, and Countries (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), 182.
 Interview with Armin Marquez and Florinda Mapa, Our Lady of Lourdes Rectory, Toronto, 23 December 2003.
 Brigham, “‘I Want to Voice It Out!’…,” 12-13.
 See also Sampson, “What Does It Mean to Be a Filipino?” unpublished manuscript, 6-7.
 Felipe M. de Leon Jr, “Beyond the Dona Victorina Syndrome,” read on 25 June 2004 at the “Pagkataong Filipino: Looking for the Filipino Among Filipinos - The Theory, Practice and Value of Filipino Personhood” Conference held at the University of the Philippines Film Centre, 13.
 Ryerson University School of Journalism Diversity Watch, www.diversitywatch.ryerson.ca/backgrounds/filipino.htm; Myriam Bals, “Foreign Domestics in Canada: Slaves of Hope,” www.myriambals.com/en/excerpt.html, 12 November 2004;Tina liboro-Pimentel, “Caregiver law splits Filipino Canadian Community,” www.philippinenews.com/news/view.html, 12 November 2004.
 Interview with Jean Nora La Torre, St Michael Parish, Scarborough, and Audie Glynn F. Olano, St Bonaventure Parish, Toronto, 29 November 2003; Filipino Canadians in Ontario, 145-147.
 Written submission by Irene G. Peralejo, Manila, 16 November 2004; collaborating view as told by Onofre Pagsanghan, Our Lady of Pentecost Church, 14 November 2004.
 The Philippine Star, 16 November 2004.
 Felipe M. de Leon Jr, “Beyond the Dona Victorina Syndrome,” read on 24 June 2004 at the “Pagkataong Filipino: Looking for the Filipino Among the Filipinos - The Theory, Practice and Value of Filipino Personhood” Conference, University of the Philippines Film Centre, 15.
 Toronto was not a permanent settlement but a labour distribution centre ...” SeeJohn E. Zucchi, Italians in Toronto: Development of a National Identity, 1875-1935 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1988), 41-47.
 “Whole regions of Irish were created and maintained, and the longevity of these regions ... challenges the notion of widespread rootlessness.” See Cecil J. Houston and W. J. Smyth, Irish Emigration and Canadian Settlement: Patterns, Links, and Letters (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990), 152-162.
 Interview with Antonio F. B. de Castro SJ, Ateneo de Manila University, 11 October 2004.
 Arsenio C. Jesena, “The Sacadas of Sugarland,” Solidarity VI, 5 (May 1971), 27-31.
 Interview with Father Caesar R.V. Santos, University of Asia and the Pacific, Manila, 21 September 2004.
 Okamura, Jonathan Y., Imagining the Filipino American Diaspora: Transnational Relations, Identities, and Communities (New York: Garland, 1998), 117-127.