New Canadian Media
Tuesday, 28 February 2017 08:14

Depicting the First 150 Days in Canada

by Tanya Mok in Toronto

OVER 300 movie-goers attended the recent world premiere of ‘My First 150 Days in Canada’, a documentary that strikes to the core of the Canadian immigrant experience.

The film screened at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema as part of TVO’s year-long programming dedicated to Canada’s 150th anniversary. It follows single mother Melona Banico and her family during their first 150 days together in Canada, after immigrating from the Philippines. It offers an emotional glimpse into the life of a matriarch struggling to provide for her family in a new country while coping with her own disappointments and expectations.

“All immigrants can relate to the story of the family one way or another,” says the documentary director and writer, Diana Dai. “We all experience loneliness, language problems, difficulty finding jobs.”

Coming to terms

‘My First 150 Days in Canada’ is particularly touching because it focuses on the spectrum of hardships new immigrants must face, from the external struggles like unemployment and cold climates to the emotional, more complex impacts of realigning with a new society under less than favourable circumstances.

The documentary begins nearly a year ago with a tearful reunion at Pearson Airport as the Banico family is reunited for the first time, but it’s bittersweet: Melona has toiled for nearly 10 years, sometimes working three jobs simultaneously, in order to sponsor her son Jade, 24, her daughters, Judelyn, 26, and Jeah, 14, and her grandson, Clyde, 10, to come to Canada.

The separation, though, has been too long. She’s become a stranger to her children, having missed out on their most formative years. Suddenly, the family of five is thrust together into a single apartment with one goal: to save enough money for a better future.

Dai, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, says she could relate to the Banico family as an immigrant herself. As a Chinese-born immigrant who first moved to England and then Canada, Dai has spent years documenting issues facing Chinese people and their diaspora community in Toronto.

“You have to work harder than local people, that’s a fact,” she says.  “It’s important for local Canadians to know how we live, what we’ve been through ... I want them to understand their hopes and expectations.”

The first few months

But Dai says the documentary also has a message for new immigrants as well. “I want them to know the first few months is hard.”  

Capturing the Banico family’s ups and downs was a tough process. The family was cooperative at first but, overtime, became less and less willing to share their vulnerable moments. Financial expectations had caused a rift between Melona and her children, especially with Jade and Judelyn, who were too old to go to school but lacked the experience for non-minimum wage jobs.

They also had mouths to feed back home: Jade’s one-year-old daughter and Clyde’s father still lived in the Philippines, and Jeah was facing health problems. Melona was fired from her job and the bills were ever-looming.

Sometimes, the family would ignore Dai’s calls and scheduling shoots became difficult. It was only when Dai shared her own experiences as a new immigrant from China that the Banico family became less resistant to sharing their own.

“That’s the one reason why we trust each other, because I can feel that frustration. I understand their difficulties,” the director says. “Very few [documentaries] touch the conflicts among [new immigrant] family members because people don’t want to talk about it ... I’m very lucky that they allowed me to enter their world.”

For many in Canada, that world is a reality not so different from their own. From first snowfalls to being made fun of in school or for eating too much rice for lunch, ‘My First 150 Days in Canada’ is not just a story of Filipino immigrants, but the story of families across the world trying to make a better life for themselves in a new country.

Ending in optimism

Though the Banico family seemed to face a seemingly endless list of obstacles in Canada, an undercurrent of love and Melona’s determination for a better future for her family carried them through the first five months towards an optimistic ending in the film.

After the screening, the Banico family and Dai were invited onstage to a question and answer session with TVO’s Nam Kiwanuka, host of The Agenda In The Summer, where audience members had more words of support and gratitude for the family than questions.

Though the Banico family’s journey has just begun, Melona had words to impart to the many immigrants who have recently arrived in Canada, just as her family did nearly a year ago.

“My advice is try to be strong and put your family first,” she says. “Fight for the challenges that might be encountered in life. Later on, once everything’s settles down, they’re going to get better.”


 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Arts & Culture
Thursday, 06 October 2016 11:16

Duterte a Grossly Misunderstood Leader

Commentary by Yul Baritugo in Vancouver

On October 7, Digong -- as he is known in shantytowns and barrios in Mindanao Island -- marks his first 100 days in office.

 He is a grossly misunderstood Philippine leader. His critics label his penchant for Filipino cuss words as shock politics.  Still others are at a loss as to whether he is the country’s saviour or simply a madman.

 Court records annulling his marriage to Elizabeth Zimmerman, his first wife, cited Duterte’s mental incapacity based on a psychologist’s report saying that Duterte suffered from “Antisocial Narcissistic Personality Disorder”. The report claimed that Duterte has an “inability for loyalty and commitment, gross indifference to others’ needs and feelings, heightened by a lack of capacity for remorse and guilt.”

The report also described Duterte as “a highly impulsive individual who has difficulty controlling his urges and emotions. He is unable to reflect on the consequences of his actions.”  Duterte himself has said he is “bipolar”.

A Moro President

His rant against U.S. President Barrack Obama labelling him as a “son of a whore”, according to sources, resulted in the release of Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad by the Abu Sayyaf, a self-styled Philippine affiliate of ISIS. The same group beheaded two Canadians earlier after Canada under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to pay ransom money.

According to Southern Philippine sources, Muslims there now believe they have a Moro (Muslim peoples of the southern Philippines) president. The Norwegian release was a gift and no ransom was paid.

Close aides said he personally worked for the release of the hostage since Norway is host to the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Philippine Communist Party, National Democratic Front and New People’s Army to end a bloody 33-year insurgency that has cost over 100,000 lives.

Duterte’s worldview

Duterte is the epitome of a collective desire by a majority of people outside the Philippine capital -- described by outsiders as Imperial Manila -- to end a political dynasty dominated by 10 families that continue to run and dominate Philippine business and politics.

His worldview is best described as rural, but clearly anchored in the aspirations of the poor and marginalized. His blood lineage with the Maranao tribe made him a leader in the strife-torn Southern Philippines dominated by Muslims, although he is a Catholic.

Rodrigo "Rody" Roa Duterte is also a jurist and the first Mindanaoan to hold the office, and the fourth of Visayan descent. He was born in Maasin, Leyte but traces his roots to Danao, Cebu and his mom’s province Agusan.

The family later settled in Davao where his father became governor.  After a short political stint, his father worked with deposed strongman Ferdinand Marcos in the presidential palace Malacanang.

Duterte studied political science at the Lyceum of the Philippines University, graduating in 1968, before obtaining a law degree from San Beda College of Law in 1972. He then worked as a lawyer and was a prosecutor for Davao City, a highly urbanized city, before becoming mayor of Davao following the Philippine revolution in 1986 against the Marcos dictatorship.   

Duterte was among the longest-serving mayor in the Philippines: seven terms over 22 years.

Duterte the Punisher

Filipino Canadians generally support Duterte’s actions because our pet peeve is the endemic corruption in the country.

I covered Duterte’s Ateneo high school classmate, former Congressman Jesus “Jess” Dureza, now negotiating the peace process with rebels as a Congress reporter.   He observed that Duterte is a punisher. He then told the story about a bully who was terrorizing students outside their school. Duterte reportedly hunted down the bully and found him in a café.  He went straight up to the guy and punched him in the face.

I favour the way Duterte is handling the country’s problems.  His pivot to China and Russia has resulted in a halt to the planned Chinese fortified garrison in one of the man-made islands just 150 miles from Palawan.

The country cannot afford to blindly follow a tainted foreign policy influenced mostly by the United States which is currently waging a proxy war against many nations.

(Yul Baritugo is a retired editor with years of experience first as a justice and court reporter, later becoming business reporter and editor.  He also edited a now defunct Filipino Canadian magazine and later a Filipino Canadian newspaper. Yul is spearheading an effort to form a Collective of Immigrant Journalists. Reach him at yul3452@yahoo.ca)

Published in Commentary
Wednesday, 28 September 2016 03:06

US Elections make Asia Vulnerable

The Philippines is one of the Asia Pacific economies bound to get hit by the impact of possible shifts in foreign policy in the United States after the November elections, credit watchdog Moody’s Investors Service said in a report released this week.

Nomura, an Asia-based financial services group also shared the same view, said the Manila Times.

Asian Pacific Post

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Published in The Philippines
Wednesday, 14 September 2016 02:15

Pinoys in Canada, U.S. Rally Behind Drug War

Eric Sison was still alive after he fell three storeys from the roof opposite Maria's house, snagged his shorts on her neighbours' awning, and, in his underwear, crawled underneath her bed.

When the police drew back the yellow curtain that partitions her shanty home from Pasay City's F Munoz street, Maria faced their gun barrels. "I shouted, 'Have mercy on us, don't fire, we don't know who this guy is,'" she told Al Jazeera through an interpreter.

The police told Maria and her family to leave their house. She heard Sison plead for his life. And then she heard the gunshots.

Sison is one of more than 2,500 people to have been killed between July 1 and September 5 during President Duterte's bloody war on drugs, which has had a death rate of about 38 people per day.

A Philippine National Report released last weekend said that a total of 1,466 suspected people involved in drugs were killed during police operations. Another 1,490 were killed by suspected vigilantes since Duterte took over as President.

More than 16,000 suspects involved in illegal drugs have been arrested while the number of those who voluntarily handed themselves in numbered 700,000, the Philippines Star reported.

While Western nations, leaders and activists have condemned the vigilante killings, Asian nations embolden by the reported success in reducing the drug inflow into the Philippines are resorting to adopt hardline anti-narcotics policies. Experts say they are likely to only make things worse but Pinoys in the U.S. and Canada say Duterte is doing the right thing.

Filipinos in the United States and Canada held rallies last Sunday to show their support to Duterte’s all-out war to end the drug menace gripping the Philippines.

“There is no political color here. Like every Filipino, we simply want to save our country!” said Jess A. Gatchalian, one of the organizers of the newly formed group called US Pinoys for Real Change in the Philippines (USPRCP), in an e-mail

Gatchalian said that the rallies were held in Washington, DC, Anchorage, Las Vegas and Vancouver in Canada where thousands of Filipino immigrants live, he said.

The blood anti-drug drivein the Philippines has prompted neighboring Indonesia to declare a "narcotics emergency" and resume executing drug convicts after a long hiatus.

In Thailand and Myanmar, petty drug users are being sentenced to long jail terms in prisons already bursting at the seams due to the soaring popularity of methamphetamine - a cheap and highly addictive drug also known as meth.

Geoff Monaghan investigated narco-trafficking gangs during his 30-year career as a detective with London's Metropolitan Police, then witnessed the impact of draconian anti-drug policies as an HIV/AIDS expert in Russia.

He believes President Duterte's anti-drugs campaign in the Philippines will fuel more violence and entrench rather than uproot trafficking networks. "I'm very fearful about the situation," he said, according to a news report in Asia.

Reflecting the regional explosion in use, the amount of meth seized in East and Southeast Asia almost quadrupled from about 11 tons in 2009 to 42 tons in 2013, said the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Meth was the "primary drug of concern" in nine Asian countries, the UNODC said, including Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Japan and South Korea.

A rising chorus of experts blame this surge in production and use of meth in Asia on ineffective and even counterproductive government responses.

They say national drug-control policies are skewed towards harsh measures that criminalize users but have failed to staunch the deluge of drugs or catch the kingpins behind it.

They also want a greater emphasis on reducing demand through more and better quality drug rehabilitation.

"There is so much scaremongering and hysteria surrounding the issue of drugs," says Gloria Lai of the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), a global network of 154 non-governmental groups. "That's a disincentive for challenging old ways of thinking."

Meth is a transnational business, worth around $15 billion in mainland Southeast Asia alone in 2013, the UNODC says.

Much of the production takes place in laboratories in lawless western Myanmar. Ingredients such as pseudoephedrine and caffeine are smuggled across porous borders from India, China and Vietnam.

Laos and Thailand are major trafficking routes, with the finished product traveling by road or along the Mekong River for distribution throughout Southeast Asia and China.

Meth is sold in cheap pills called "ya ba", a Thai name meaning "crazy medicine", or in a more potent, crystalline form known as "crystal meth", "ice" or "shabu".

Contraband is effectively hidden amid rising volumes of regional trade, leaving law enforcement to play catch-up, said Jeremy Douglas, the UNODC's Asia Pacific chief.

"We need to start thinking about big-time regional engagement, up to the highest level. It's impossible to deal with the problem on a country-by-country basis," he said.

"I can't recall the last time a major trafficking kingpin was caught."

The meth explosion carries huge social consequences: overburdened health services, overcrowded prisons, families and communities torn apart.

Small-time users and dealers bear the brunt of unsparing law enforcement that is popular in crime-weary communities. In mid-July, as drug war killings escalated in the Philippines, one survey put President Duterte's approval rating at 91 percent.

Thailand launched an equally popular "war on drugs" in 2003 that killed about 2,800 people in three months. But figures show it had no lasting impact on meth supply or demand in Thailand.

Policy in Asia is largely moving in the opposite direction, with drug rehabilitation underfunded and inadequate.

Less than 1 percent of dependent drug users in Indonesia got treatment in 2014, said the UNODC. Lacking alternatives, desperate Indonesians resort to herbal baths, Islamic prayer and other remedies of unproven efficacy.

"Rehab" in many countries often means detention at a state facility.

by arrangement with the Asian Pacific Post

Published in Top Stories

 


A recent ruling on a territorial dispute in the South China Sea between China and the Philippines has left Canada “deeply concerned” about escalating tensions in that region. Meanwhile, China is furious that the ruling favoured the Philippines, and the ruling poses a dilemma for Taiwan.

Several countries in East Asia including China, the Philippines, and Taiwan have competing claims over the South China Sea area, which includes fishing grounds and some of the world’s busiest  shipping lanes, with 30 percent of global trade passing through these waters. The region also includes two chains of islands, the Spratly and the Paracel islands, some of which are believed to be untapped sources of natural gas and minerals.

 

Epoch Times

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Published in Top Stories

Canadian mining companies operating in the Philippines have a right to be concerned with the policies of new President Rodrigo Duterte and his recently appointed environment chief, Regina Lopez, an outspoken critic of mining.

Although Duterte has been quoted as saying, “Lopez is an ardent [advocate] for responsible mining”, statements she has said betray her lack of understanding of the science and engineering of mining, said Resource World, an industry publication based in Vancouver.

 

Asian Pacific Post

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Published in Economy

 

By BENJIE OLIVEROS Since the beginning of his campaign for the presidency, Rodrigo Duterte has been accused of disregarding due process, especially with his endorsement of extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals by the so-called Davao death squad. His campaign promise of ending criminality and the drug menace within the first six months into his presidency 

The Philippine Reporter

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Published in The Philippines

The Philippine government's top lawyer called for police to kill more suspected drug criminals, as he defended President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal war on crime against mounting criticism.

Police have confirmed killing more than 110 suspects since Duterte won elections in May promising a law-and-order crackdown that would claim thousands of lives and fill funeral parlours.

Asian Pacific Post

Read Full Article

Published in The Philippines
Friday, 10 June 2016 17:00

Journalists are Not the Enemy

Statement Of Altermidya (People’s Alternative Media Network) June 03, 2016 President-elect Rodrigo Duterte errs in declaring that most journalists are being killed for being corrupt and in implying that only corrupt journalists have been killed in the Philippines. While corruption is a continuing problem in the press and media, it is simply not true that most of 

The Philippine Reporter

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Published in The Philippines

by Melissa Shaw in Vancouver 

A new novel reflects on the experiences of Filipino Canadians through the story of one family, and aims to inspire newcomers to achieve their dreams. 

Eleanor Guerrero-Campbell’s novel, Stumbling Through Paradise: A Feast of Mercy for Manuel del Mundo, is a work of fiction inspired by the author's experiences working with immigrants. 

“Home – one's identity – is not geographic-based, it's not culture-based, it's not age-based. It's who you love and who loves you and who you care about and who cares about you,” says Guerrero-Campbell, who co-founded the non-profit organization Multicultural Helping House Society to assist newcomers with settlement, education, housing and employment in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“This is our home and we will never be torn when we think of home this way.” 

The story follows Josie and Manuel del Mundo's journey from the Philippines to Vancouver with their children. 

Manuel is a proud engineer who has trouble adjusting to his new work environment in Canada. Josie has a teaching background, but finds work as a cook and eventually becomes the chief executive officer of a catering company. 

“Home – one's identity – is not geographic-based, it's not culture-based, it's not age-based.”

Manuel later helps a caregiver in distress, which leads to an affair. His son Bobby discovers his father's secret, resulting in the family's separation. 

After a confrontation between father and son, Manuel has a heart attack. The next section of the novel focuses on the lives of the older del Mundo children: Sonia, who faces racial discrimination, and Bobby, who becomes involved in a Filipino gang.

The third section of the book focuses on the youngest child, Manolita, who becomes involved in politics. 

Familiar stories 

“When I was reading the book, I had to stop for a little bit and wipe my tears. It really resonated with me as a newcomer in Canada,” says Irene Querubin, who was born in the Philippines and now hosts the Vancouver radio program The Filipino Edition. 

Querubin was emcee at the book’s launch at the Creekside Community Centre in Vancouver. The event featured dramatic readings by members of Anyone Can Act Theatre, which sponsored the launch. 

Vancouver-Kensington New Democratic Party member of legislative assembly (MLA), Mable Elmore, B.C.’s first MLA of Filipino descent, read Manolita's political campaign speech from the book. Elmore says the novel captures the challenges and struggles immigrants face in Canada, including racial tensions and underemployment. 

She says although the Filipino community in B.C. is relatively young, she has noticed increasing participation of Filipino immigrants in their community through literary work, council presentations and musical performances. 

“When I was reading the book, I had to stop for a little bit and wipe my tears.”

Challenges for Filipino youth

Among those using the arts to promote inter-cultural dialogue are members of DALOY-PUSO, a mentorship and arts program for Filipino newcomers in high school. The group, whose name means “flowing from the heart” in Tagalog, benefitted from proceeds collected at the launch. 

“The mom and the dad are working three jobs and they don't have a lot of supervision at home,” Vancouver School Board youth settlement worker Adrian Bontuyan says of young newcomers. 

He explains that many mothers come to Canada from the Philippines through the Caregiver Program, through which they provide childcare in Canadian homes. After working for 24 months or 3,900 hours, they can apply to become permanent residents and bring their family members to Canada if their application is approved. 

Bontuyan says he will read Stumbling Through Paradise to learn about how he can further support immigrant youth and start discussions to help them understand their parents’ experiences. 

“The aspect of mentorship that [Guerrero-Campbell] mentioned is very important, because the youth need someone to look up to as an example of success and basically someone that the youth can be comfortable with sharing his or her struggles of being a newcomer,” he says. 

“They came all the way to achieve something and I want them to know that they can achieve their dreams.”

Guerrero-Campbell also explores the idea of home through her young characters. The del Mundos' daughter Sonia finds belonging through the satisfying relationships she builds with people in the Philippines and in Canada. 

Empowering other newcomers 

Guerrero-Campbell says she hopes people who have read her book will discuss it with others and start a dialogue about the challenges immigrants face. 

“The one message I really want to convey is empowerment – for our newcomers to feel empowered,” she says. “They came all the way to achieve something and I want them to know that they can achieve their dreams.” 

Guerrero-Campbell came to Canada in the late 1970s with a master's degree in urban planning and regional planning from the Philippines. She was a planner for the City of Edmonton, Alberta, and continued to work in planning in Surrey, B.C. and Richmond, B.C. 

She helped author Hiring and Retaining Skilled Immigrants: A Cultural Competence Toolkit for B.C. human resources managers. Guerrero-Campbell was the CEO of the Minerva Foundation for BC Women and a co-convenor for the Vancouver Immigrant Partnership’s Access to Services strategy group. Stumbling Through Paradise is her first novel. 


This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Books
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