February: CANADA: LAND THAT I LOVE

Manuel (Boy) A. Negado

I left the Philippines, the land of my birth at the age of 27…11 September 1973 exactly…after an obligatory one-night layover in Japan, I arrived in Winnipeg on the afternoon of the 13th September…I jokingly referred to this incident as ‘what can be today in the Philippines is tomorrow in Canada…’ But as I witnessed the change in the international dateline, a moment of joy struck me…seeing the division of light into darkness so clearly.

During those early and heady days, Canada was not the preferred first idea for an immigrants’ destination…it was still the US of A…then dubbed the ‘promised land’ or the ‘land of milk and honey’ by millions of dreamers worldwide.

I learned that Canada was the second largest country, land-wise next to Russia, but had only less than 30 million souls even compared to the much-smaller Philippines, at that time which was already populated by more than 70 million inhabitants.

My mother had been my sponsor to this great nation…as she, in turn, was sponsored by my sister (a nurse at the Misericordia Hospital) who came over much earlier…like so many newcomers back then, I was more apprehensive than excited at being here…doubts clouded my way of thinking then…anxious and somewhat scared, a lot of unwanted baggage was in my head at such a moment.

And the chilly weather played a big factor in my anxiety and confusion…specially from one who came from a country with only two seasons – dry and wet – not to mention quite humid.

However, my pre-immigration seminar at the Canadian Embassy in Manila, should have prepared me for what to expect as far as the temperatures could get to in Winnipeg during winter…our seminar-host said that the ‘corner of Portage Avenue and Main Street might be the windiest spot in the world!’…then there was mention of Winnipeg as being among the most conservative of cities in Canada…I also found out that stores were closed on Sundays and public transportation (bus system) was on a limited- or special-run on such days and holidays…but it was also a comfort to know that Winnipegans observed the Lord’s Day quite religiously…and yet, with all this doubt, I came to believe in what our seminar-host told us – that the province’s come-on slogan  was ‘Friendly Manitoba.’

My early days here, living with my mum and sister, made me realise that customs and traditions differ from one place to another…one such example I learned (and shocked!) was that of being a ‘gentleman’…don’t get me wrong…coming from country whose people were under the yoke of foreign aggression for more than 400 years had ingrained in its people to be overly polite, if not cautious…I once walked ahead of an early female acquaintance with the intention of protecting her from incoming vehicular traffic…well, it was an embarrassing lesson back then…as the old western adage goes and was applicable in this instance…’the gander must walk behind the goose!’

My mum landed a job as a pre-nurse at the Health Sciences Centre (HSC)…normally, my mum and sister would come from work very late at night back then…now, as the lone male in the family here, and a ‘newbie’ at that…I would be at wits-end waiting for two of my most precious jewels to arrive…as I didn’t have a job yet during those early days.

During those early years, there weren’t too many Filipinos in Winnipeg…probably just close to 500 of us around. It was easy to recognise faces, later becoming more familiar, in and around the city.

On September this year, God willing, I would have been here for 45 very satisfying and progressive years…I consider myself blessed in being a true Winnipegan…a staunch Manitoban and a proud Canadian.

I owe much of my well-being here in Winnipeg to my dear mother and sweet sister…above all, I owe my life to Our Dear Lord God…He prepared me for this life…He made it easier and clearer with each passing day through his guiding light and love.

*For the ways of the Lord are right (Hosea 14:9)

*If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it…where He leads I will follow…the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord (Psalms 37:23)

*where you are does not change who you are

*you make your own surrounding

*our view of changing circumstances and contentment is a personal choice…I’ve learned to be content in whatever state I am (Philippians 4:11)

When I was 10 years old, a singer and tenor by the name of Norman Nelson sang a song I learned to love…when my family had gatherings with visitors around, my mum would ask me to sing it while my older sister accompanied me on our piano…I loved to entertaining on this level at home…”I trust in God wherever I may be upon the hills or on the rolling seas for come what may from day to day my Heavenly Father watches over me…the billows roll He keeps my soul my Heavenly Father watches over me.” Canada is the only country that has God being acknowledged in its National Anthem “…God keep our land glorious and free…O Canada!”

My dear reader friends…anywhere you are or may be at, is the best place to be …because everything God created is very good and beautiful (Genesis 1:31)…besides, God gave us this assurance…be strong and of good courage neither be thou dismayed for I, The Lord Your God will be with you wherever you are and wherever you go (Joshua 1:9)…an surely I will be with you always even unto the end of the world (Matthew 28:20)…”Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:3)…surely, the arm of the Lord is not shortened that it cannot reach (Isiah 59:1) Yes, Dear Reader Friend, God’s love for all has no limit, measure, has no boundaries known unto man, God’s love is all encompassing…the fullness of God who fills everything every time (Ephesians 1:23)

Thank you so very much and Happy Valentine’s to you all, my dear reader friends…you can get in touch with me at 204-615-7268.