I was born and raised in the Philippines. My family and I immigrated here 5 years ago. There were actually quite a few reasons why we came to Canada. There are better opportunities here of course, and also because education in the Philippines was not a right, it was a privilege. If you didn’t have the money, you couldn’t go to school at all, which is a very scary thing. Another reason was that it’s not very safe over there. It is a very conservative country. One of the things that my parents were scared of was the tendency for young girls to be pregnant early because of their lack of education due and thus was unable to support themselves with an income.
Equality for women, it wasn’t something that I was passionate about when I was in my own country. It’s one single culture over there, and I was not exposed to these kind of ideas. I became passionate about equality when I came to Canada, through volunteering and getting to know my community. In my own country, women were seen as “extensions of men”. Women were expected to do the household chores, stay at home, and to care for children. And there was a pressure in society that women must dress a certain way and act a certain way. One ridiculous thing was that women would always have to be on guard. Like when we are walking home by ourselves at night, we have to be cautious of our surroundings. How come men don’t have that problem? It’s also not easy to just tell people that I’m a “feminist” in my country because it’s gotten such a bad reputation that people start to consider me a “man-hater”.
I started working for ISS, the Immigrant Services Society of BC, in my grade 12 year. Working for ISS, one of the most empowering moments I had with them was when I shared my journey was immigrant youths. I don’t always get the opportunity to have a safe and comfortable space where I can share your experiences and talk about the problems that immigrant youths face. I felt very comfortable knowing other people went through the same things as I did. It was also empowering to hear about other people’s stories and how they overcame it. It really opened my mind.
My ideas and passions hasn’t stopped developing. It’s not something that will stop growing. It’s changing especially when I meet new people. When I meet new people with different ideas than me, they challenge my ideas. And the more I get challenged, the more I think about it.
Overall, I like to surrounded myself with positive people that had similar experiences as I did. A group of people who not only supports me, but also challenges me and my views in a healthy way. People like that helped me to mold my views and principles. I would advise people to really expose themselves to new things. It’s okay to be different. You learn so much more about our world when we expose ourselves to new things.