PICTURE IN PICTURE: FILIPINO WOMEN ACROSS DECADES
This self-portrait series features Filipino-Canadian women who have come to Canada during different periods of immigration from the 1960s to the present. The images are accompanied by an audio component where the women share their experiences in terms of expectations, aspirations, realizations, roles and responsibilities, before and after arriving to Canada. In each self-portrait, the woman holds a photograph – a personally selected image – of herself prior to or subsequently after her arrival to Canada.
My expectation is…..because we are poor, so I decided to come here and I want to help my parents, my brothers and sisters. In that time it was very hard, I had to go and apply to an agency and then went to Spain first. I was in Spain for a year. And a month and then I applied to an agency for three months then I was able to come into Canada.
The reason why I came here is because I know it is an English speaking country, and it is easier, not like in Spain, you have to speak Spanish. But there, just for one year, you can become a permanent residence. So when I came here, I had my first employer who picked me up at the airport, but after three months they released me, I think because they don’t want to pay anymore. So I had to go to another employer who had a baby, so I stayed there for a year until I found this multi-millionaire people who live in Rosedale.
So the life back in the Philippines…..you are so poor and now you try to come into another country, even though at the time it was so hard because you come to another country, you leave your parents, your brothers and sisters. And when I was there……I cried because I don’t know anybody and you are kind of scared; you don’t know what you are going to do; and your employer…..My employer was the one who took me from Spain and applied to the agency and I came here.
At that time there was offer a domestic helper. It was so easy to come in here.
It was a working permit for three years and I got my landed immigrant….and then in 1987 I got my Canadian citizenship. I was here in 1979.
To stay in a foreign country is so hard until you meet some of the people who are also working like a nanny or a domestic helper. And that is how you are able to…..have this kind of joy because you go out during the weekend; you meet them at the park, or go to the mall. And that makes you happy because you are far away from your country; you‘re halfway around the world. But at the same time, you miss your family….but I still have sacrifice to stay here; that is the reason why I came.
Back home, I was a student nurse, but because my parents could not afford…..I was not able to continue.
I did my two years preparatory. I had my one year capping ceremony. After the capping ceremony, I was supposed to go to San Lazaro for my internship, for communicable diseases, but after that I decided to quit because every semester I go home, at the time, I was going to school in Angeles City, Pampanga. I always come home and my parents they have to go borrow money from neighbours or whoever….because nursing back home is very very expensive.
When I came here, I went to Centennial College to take, at the time, it was called RNA (registered nursing assistant), but then they told me to give all my credits back home…..but back home is different than here. They said that its equivalent to grade 12. So they told me to take some subjects, in order to take nursing. But after that I decided not to because, at the time, I got married and had a baby. So I said, “Where will I get the money? Who is going to babysit?”. That is why I did not pursue.
So after that, I went and took Healthcare Aid, that was then at Centennial College, now it’s Personal Support Worker. So after that I started to work as a Healthcare Aid, but now it’s called PSW.
I came here because I want to help them, so I send money from time to time……money for medication or for food; I send money to my parents. It’s not every month, of course. And I also send for Christmas gifts. Also my nephew goes to school, I help them go to school.
It’s difficult because, at that time, I was not making much money….I was only making 150 a month, but when I moved to my other employer, I was making 400; so I was able to help them, but I cannot give too much because I need it for myself too. But I tried whatever I can, I send them. Plus I was paying what I owe, because my plane ticket, at that time was 1300……the money at the time was very cheap. When you work in the Philippines, its 3 pesos a day.
My husband is a shift worker for 24 hours. He works nights and days and …..it was so difficult. Lots of times he does not really help because he is working. At that time, I found a part time job…..working at a house, three times a week, so that’s how I was able to do some housework, and looking after the kids……with my husband, he doesn’t help much because he is working…and it’s so hard; I was not working then. It’s hard for our budget; you have to budget because he is paying the rent, paying his car insurance; I was not driving then, at that time….Because we were living in an apartment; if there is one person working, it’s hard to do all the expenses
It think, in terms of women’s role, we have to understand and do what we can to help your family, but, to me, it’s not only for……just because we are women, we do all the work, the husband also has to help. For example, cooking, cleaning, and whatever that has to be done. Also housework outside. I think to me, the husband also has to help for us women especially if the kids are young. And there should be equality….not just because we’re women…
For the Filipino community, everybody should cooperate and help with each other; that way, whatever we have to fulfill our dreams, and what we do….if we all cooperate and help each other, I think it’s a better way we can have a better community.
(refers to women’s roles within the Filipino community)
Some other Filipinos have the equality, but not everybody because….their life…..sometimes they don’t get along or maybe the husband wants to be in power…..I don’t think that there is equality if the time if the husband wants to be in power. I don’t think there is equality of life there. You at least try to understand and compromise whatever is there…..
I think for this new generation….they have to pursue and go to school…..and what I would like for the is generation, when they come here, is if they pass whatever is required in Canada, they should start to work in their own field that they took back home. Because I don’t think that its right, when you come here and you already have your doctor’s back home; or your nurses’ back home……whatever you did back home, and you come here, and you cannot even use your profession…you cannot work your job…..you have to go back first to housekeeping or babysitting or working in places like McDonald’s….I think the generation should be able to work in what they did back home; their field. So that their dream will be fulfilled; and they work hard for it.
In my photo. I am happy and at the time, I’m single, and I just came back from my employer who I just got interviewed and then they hired me. And still you’re hoping for the best….for your future.
I took up nursing because I really want to go abroad, that was my first aim-I don’t care about the money, but I want to see places. And That is what I told to the one who interviewed me…..It was also for professional advancement
Graduated nursing at the age of 19, and worked as a nurse at Siniang(?) Memorial hospital, but it no longer exists. It is the hospital near Malacañang Palace.
At age 23, I heard that there was someone recruiting from Canada. Me and my friend went over and had an interview. I guess we got accepted right away; they gave us the requirements; the places we were going to; and in a matter of a few months we left the Philippines to come abroad.
It was February 14, 1966 when I arrived here. And it was cold, it was very very cold.
The money at the time was only 1 is to 2….1 Canadian to 2 Filipinos….That was the reason why not may filipinos came to Canada, especially to Canada. But we had a good time here, we were treated very well…
They gave us options to where to go. The recruiters…gave us a list of hospitals where we wanted to go. We selected Cidoq(Spelling?-Chedoke) because it was a steel industry, we were quite fascinated…..Hamilton is a steel city.
The first week, we were received by the mayor of the city of Hamilton. At city hall, they have given us the key to the city. Imagine that, you know? We were dressed in our Filipino costumes, each one of us. In spite of that we are kind of isolated because there are not so many Filipinos there. There was no Filipino association….the Filipinos that we know are in the city of Toronto. So we decided to apply to Toronto. When we came there we had no contract. So after two years, we moved to the city. Most of the nurses in Toronto were exchanged nurses from the States, who exited to Toronto. But they all want to go back to the States because of the salary. So we also decided to apply to the States. After a year of working in Toronto, we went to the States. But after I got…..and I got my American citizenship, we decided to come back, we found that it was better in Toronto. It’s good for the children.
We were not quite poor. So my father, when I left the Philippines said “Teresita don’t send money to the Philippines because you are the only one in America. What ever will happen to you, no one will help you.” I didn’t really expect to send anything there unless for birthdays and whatever the occasions.
Most of us who came here from the Philippines, at that time, in the 60’s, we are professional, we are usually in the upper brackets of….because only people who can afford, at that time, take up nursing. Nursing at that time is very expensive; that is one of the most expensive professions of that time. In the Philippines, most of those who can afford….I don’t know in other places, but in St. Mike’s, in St. Paul’s they always consider your financial status. So most us who are here, the new nurses, the first nurses, who came here in Canada, we were not really that poor. So we were not expected to send money to the Philippines…..We never worked double time. Never.
During my husband’s time, when I got married……because we are a growing family, we keep our money, we never send money to the Philippines. We don’t think about them there. It’s for the kids.
I always want to be here when they come home from school.
Personally, I think my role is, if you are married, you try to bring up your children in a very…..children first.
We never leave our children alone by themselves.
When I started having children, I sponsored people from back home. I have three children, so I sponsored three people. I don’t believe in leaving children in the care of others because they always want you.
Canada is a very good place; a very good place to live. But I have the feeling that sometimes there is also prejudice running around…well, we just have to deal with it in our own way.
I did not encounter any prejudice at the time. Only now that I am older.
Filipinos should be involved in…..they should go out of their shell……because Filipinos are very smart…..They can enter politics too. They should not be domestic and should go for higher education so that they can make a difference.
Once they’re here, they just accept a low income, and they never upgrade their education. Because they have too much to work on: They have to work on their family, their family back home even though this family back home does not really need their help.
The airport represents your dream for your family. Leaving the Philippines even though is hard for you to leave your family back home, you are going to other countries to give them a better life….From one country to another country, you are still expecting the best for your family; if it is not good in one country you have to look for another country, hopefully a “better” one.
This is picture…..was when I was processing my applications going to Canada. It is a picture for your employer to see; your profile picture….to choose over other applicants. This one was one of their requirements. There was no real employer; it was a ghost employer.
Arriving in Canada, there is an expectation of a better job; a better salary compared to Hong Kong. It didn’t happen because I didn’t have an employer(ghost employer) when arriving in Canada…..that time you’re expecting a better one, but it doesn’t happen……It’s very disappointing……you have this feeling that you cannot have this dream of yours for your family….because of these things that happen to you, which you don’t expect.
Coming to Canada, I have this responsibility that I need to have a job-a better paying job, so I can support my family back home. Even though my husband is still working, it is not enough to support three kids who are now going to school, and supporting their needs, and at the same time you’re also helping extended family. Even though they won’t say that they need your support, it’s already there ;………(there is an obligation to help)
Agencies are advertised….after two years coming to Canada, you can get your family……you can get your permanent residence. Majority of caregivers who come to Canada, do not get the promise to be with their family after two years and getting their permanent residence. I’ve been here in Canada for 5 years, but my papers for permanent residence is still in process. Working abroad, your main responsibility is to support them, and give them a better life…..you work hard and sacrifice everything even though you are educated in the Philippines-you have your bachelor’s degree. You attended higher education, but in Canada you can’t do any work aside from being a caregiver……that is one of the restrictions on your work permit. As an LCP, you’re not allowed to work. And you cannot take any academic courses….You are stuck in this kind of situation.
For decades, it is the woman who is expected to do the household chores, and the woman is not supposed to work; you cannot be a professional; you just stay in the house taking care of your family. You can still see that women, today, still have these kinds of limitations; the view that women are not at the forefront of success.
Majority of the caregivers are highly educated…..if they are given the chance to be in their profession…..I think we need to educate them-not only to accept(the current situation), and also educate the community.
Experiencing this at work…..I cannot accept this. We come to Canada as a caregiver; we have our profession, we have our abilities….we are educated…..if we are given the opportunity to improve our skills in Canada rather than being deskilled…..
Most of the caregivers take care of the kids and also have their own family. When they bring their family to Canada or have kids, who is going to take care of their kids? In Canada there is no national childcare. Being a caregiver, for how many years, I think, your salary is not enough to send your kids to a daycare…..how much you earn in a month…and then you have expenses….That is another issue that caregivers are facing. Another one is the housing;…..getting an apartment or a house here is expensive. An apartment alone is around 1300 to 1400 a month; I you are earning 1200 a month, how can you survive with all these expenses?
We do have access, but not all in our community-we can see there is a huge waiting list for affordable housing………..Canada is now are home; we are living here, and we need to have access to affordable housing…… unlike living in a basement with how many members, 7 members, 6 members, even families.
I chose this photo because…i haven’t seen my sister in five years….when we get the chance to….her company sent her to the US so we got the chance to spend to meet her there. I got the chance to spend some time there, because I am an LCP, I cannot just go home right away because I have to complete the 24 months and have to wait for the papers…..
She there for a business trip(in the states)….I got the chance to spend with her for 10 days.
It was not planned at all. I worked in Manila….I was planning to work in Dubai, but things were not meant to be, so my friends said, “Oh why don’t you apply to Hong Kong because it is easier to go to Canada, and after two years….you can get your PR(permanent residence), and you can get your parents, and so on”. So I went to work in Hong Kong for a year…..and 7 months before, I applied and I got employer….after one year, I left Hong Kong, and I came here. That’s what my friends said, it is much easier come to Canada, because all you have to get is 1 year experience, and you can come here(Canada).
I take care of two kids. I prepare their food for school, but I don’t usually cook; its the grandma. And I help out with cleaning the house; the grandma stays at the house.
I really want to quit my job…I don’t know…I still don’t have the courage to tell the employer to resign now. I’m still the process of thinking of going to school or finding another job…..in Marketing. The thing is….they say my course is very competitive here. I really want to go to school, but i really don’t know what course should I take.
I live here all by myself. I have to pay for everything.
They do the laundry, they do the cooking, all the household stuff.
No, you have to be fair; you take care of the kids; you do the cooking; you do the laundry and cleaning the house.
I disagree…..it is not equal….especially when the kids doesn’t have school, I feel like I have to take care of them. Yeah, it’s my job, but while they’re there, I have to cook for everybody, and I have to tidy up.
She has do all the stuff for all the boys. The husband just work, work, and work…..
Whatever is written on the contract; 8 hours of work; they should follow it.
I hope there is no exploitation and abuse….
I have lots of friends who are nurses, and because of the limited resources…..they came here as caregivers. It is not they came here just for the money, they have to send money to the Philippines. So they only have limited resources.
When you go to…….when you bring all your requirements, you still have to pay the school….to check if it is accredited….
Childcare: It is hard especially if you are a single parent, because you can’t just leave your kid to a babysitter because you have to pay…….
I hope for universal childcare…..affordable housing
I don’t have my work permit. I cannot renew my OHIP. We tried to email Immigration…..but we can’t because it’s different. The Provincial and the Federal……they have different rules…
If I get sick. Since I don’t have OHIP, I have to pay for doctor’s fees…..
I waited 10 months or 11 months to renew my OHIP….If you’re going to renew your work permit, you’re going to pay another $150….I did not renew(OHIP); I did not pay it…..The side effects….If I’m going to get sick, I’m going to pay for a doctor.
That’s why we came here, to have a better future. Like, how to establish our life. ‘Cause this is the only country, it’s a free country that we can have a future…. Until now, I’m still working with little children…. I studied a secretarial course which I use there, back home. Then here, I ended up looking after little children and that is my profession here… Not like cleaning… You’re like a teacher with those little children. So, my expectation before is to work in the office, but I ended up being with little children…. I still have the chance to go back, but the thing is I work full-time and it’s so hard, especially is you have the flexible schedule, and it’s so hard to go to school in the nights. That’s the thing. Sometimes you work late in the night and you can’t really get the regular hours. But, I still want to. That’s why I am planning to go back to go to computer courses… To use the knowledge that I used to do… Yes, I do still communicating with my family back home… They’re not demanding, not like other people like having the responsibility of sending money home every week. I give them money once in a while only if they ask. They have their own families and they know that I am the only one living here. They don’t really rely on my money because I explain it to them, I have my own place. That’s my responsibility, so they really don’t expect much from me…. In Canada, if you don’t get up like 6 o’clock and get ready to work, you won’t eat. I told them that. We’re not just like, picking money on the street. We have to work. If I don’t work, I dont eat…. Life in Canada is not easy….
Well, it should be 50/50. Especially if you’re both working. It should be 50/50… Not like we Filipino, if the husband works, the woman…the wide stays home. They husband brings the money, so he just go, oh it’s your responsibilty to do all these things. Look after the kids and everythinh. But here, it should be 50/50… But, to me, if I have a partner, we have to be 50/50…
Whatever this education that they have back home, when they get to this country, they need to go back to school, to upgrade what they have done back home so that can improve their life, not like just being a housekeeper, a nanny… I am sure that Canada, yea to recognize their education because whatever you have done back home, if you don’t go back to upgrade here, they won’t recognize what they have done back home… Like, as far as I know, if you come here like a contract worker, that’s how you gain your permanent residence. Because if you come here as a tourist visa, I’m not sure about if you can gain your permanent residence. Like me when I came here as a contract worker, that’s how I gained my permanent residence… but you need to go to school, but you need to go to do lots of volunteer work, but you still gain your permanent residence… To get your permanent residence, it’s like 2-3 years because you have to, under the FDM (Foreign Domestic Movement) for two years and then what happens is after two years, you get your open permit. After two years, you get your open permit. After a year when you get your open permit, then you get your landing status.
It takes exactly three years to process…but I don’t know now, it takes four years… So I think maybe every 5-10 years, they always change the system here. It depends on who is the immigration minister, like Chris Alexander. It takes longer now to get the permanent residence… If you come here with permanent residence right away, it is better. Not like us before, just to go and renew your working permit and renew your student permit. That time in 1989-1990s, you cannot go to school unless you have a student permit. I don’t know if they’re still doing that here… When we came here, you cannot go to school here if you don’t have a student permit. So, I don’t realize now that they change a lot. Is that why when you come here as a Live-in-Caregiver, you have to have at least two years university? Is that what I heard?.. Before if you’re just a high school graduate, you have come in this country. That’s why they let us have a student permit.. When we went to school, they asked right away, do you have a student permit. So they changed a lot of the system… In 1989-90s, to get the student permit and to renew your working permit, you had to be at the immigration centre, the earliest is 1:30-2 in the morning. The office opened at 8 o’clock. You’ll be the first one being served. You’re done at 8:30…I’ll never forget, we paid 75 dollars… But the employee pay, not the employer. Even if you are a living-in nanny, you have to pay, for your student permit, from your own pocket…. But before, you know that you’re getting your permanent residence. If they say we will send you a letter to pick up your immigrant status, in two months, you get a letter and you go. At least you know when you get it… Exactly two years, you get your open permit. Open permit is you’re free to work everywhere… You’re expecting your landing immigrant like after three years… Cause if you don’t show up, you waited another 6 months… With us before, I think it’s like easier than this system what they are doing now. I think it’s easier for us before… That’s why there are lots of living in nannies that say “I don’t get my papers, my permanent I’ve been here two years”. And they have all these medical status… I’m not sure if they’re still doing, they have to go for a medical and they send it to immigration. The family doctor send the result to the immigration and if there’s something wrong that they found out with you, then you are not granted immigration status…
What I can recommend to those new women who comes here, like we Filipinos, if they want to improve their life, I will recommend that they will go back to school if they want to because some, if they want to, some they don’t want to go back to school. When you hook up with your job because I’m happy what I am doing because this is my profession, to be with little children…
When I was a living in nanny, August 1991 at Wilkett Park. I had to bring one of the boy I have to look after. He was three years old. I asked my friend can he can stay with him because I just want to have a picture with myself, without him.