Saturday, February 25, 2017

The State of Happiness

Several  years ago, my Mom's friend was visiting her at our home and randomly asked me, "May asawa ka na ba?" (Are you already married?)  I answered honestly that I wasn't married, to which she replied, "Kawawa naman ang baby namin. Yung anak ko may asawa na at tatlo na ang anak." (Poor baby. My daughter is already married and she has three kids.)

I was insulted by this little exchange. First of all, she used the word "na" (already) like it meant that the state of marriage is something that everyone has to achieve in their lifetime. Second, she was pitying me because I was unmarried in my thirties. This was coming from a woman whose daughter (about 10 years younger than me) was married to a good-for-nothing man, and was living in her parents' house because they couldn't afford to raise their kids on their own. That made me think that our society has a very warped value system to consider someone like me as a pitiable person, someone who had a successful career, a happy life and who took care of her parents instead of leeching from them.

I have always been a loner. Growing up, I didn't think it weird that I spent hours and hours alone in my black-walled room. This was before the time of Facebook and Social Media. I was very happy and content in my room reading, drawing, writing short stories, designing floor plans for houses, making my own paper dolls and doing cross-stitch projects. When I was in Grade School and High School, I made a lot of friends but even then, I still liked going home to my room and doing whatever I enjoyed doing. My friends called me Homer, because I actually liked going home. I started coming out of my shell in college, making friends and spending time with them but I was still perfectly happy in my dorm room, reading a good book.

I don't think people believe for a minute that I'm single because no one wanted me. I think some of them might have thought I was gay, not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm just not. It seems impossible that absolutely no man was ever attracted to me in my 40 years in this planet because there were. I just wasn't interested.

I don't think I'm an ugly person. Not to brag but I have many talents: singing, drawing, writing and I have heaps of brains. I also think I have a pretty good personality. I make friends very easily. I have lifelong friends that other women would envy but new people that I meet tend to love spending time with me too. I have been in Toronto for only 3 whole months and I already have people coming to visit me in my little apartment. One co-worker even asked me recently, "You have a dinner party? How long have you been here? Five minutes?"

I know a lot of people that seem to think that being single is the worst tragedy in the world but not me. I don't think that it is unnatural that I don't want to get married, at least not right now. I am not against the state of marriage. I have a lot of family members and friends who are happily married and I respect that. However, I don't envy them because I'm probably as happy as most of them.

Being single allows me to do whatever I want, whenever I want. It allows me to support my family without feeling guilty that I'm depriving anyone of anything. It allowed me to move from Calgary to Toronto on a whim. My co-workers back in Calgary, who I still trade messages with, are actually envious of that. They said if they didn't have husbands, kids or boyfriends, they would have loved to do the same. I could not be happier now.

I may change my mind in the future but I can certainly say that right now, I'm perfectly happy and --- dare I say it? --- I pity anyone who isn't.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

...'Til It's Gone (Part 1)

One early morning in July, I was eating "suman" for breakfast. My mom used to buy it for me when she went to the market every Sunday. I  realized that I never even knew how much I loved it until I had to pay more than $1 a piece. It is true. You never really know what you got 'til it's gone. This got me thinking about the things that I took for granted when I was back home that I miss so much that I would gladly pay an exorbitant shipping fee just to be able to have them.

At the top of my list is - please don't judge me - Jollibee Chickenjoy and Burger Steak! I miss them so much. I know they're junk food but I don't care. I miss the crispy chicken goodness that, try as I might, I could never manage to replicate. It's so good that even Anthony Bourdain himself tried and actually liked it even though he loathes fast food. Filipinos in the US are lucky. They have Jollibee  in a lot of major cities there like LA and New York. Here in Calgary, it is still just a dream. 

I also miss mangoes, both green and yellow. I know there are mangoes here but the ones they sell here are usually from Mexico. I'm not dissing Mexican produce because I love their avocados, but you have never really had mangoes until you have tried the golden deliciousness that is the Philippine mango.

Third on my list is seafood, seafood, seafood. I miss  fresh seafood. My mom's hometown is by the sea so I used  be able to get fish, crab, shrimp, clams, prawns and mussles on the day they were caught. They were also so cheap that I would swear off meat for the duration of my vacations and would only eat seafood. Calgary, being landlocked, usually gets frozen seafood and because they are imported from elsewhere, the varieties are not that many and the price could be exorbitant.

I also miss going to our neighborhood Mom-and-Pop bakery just at the end of our street where I could choose from a smorgasbord of baked goodies for our breakfast or afternoon snack. Yes, Filipinos love bread as well as rice. We're obviously not scared of carbs. Now where can I find a Filipino bakeshop here? I remember watching a show on the Food Network where Adam Sandler said he loves the Filipino bread that he gets from a Filipino bakeshop in LA. I miss ensaymada, pan de coco, monggo bread, Spanish bread and mamon so much.

Another thing that I miss if the street food. The neighborhood Barbecue-han, is one of my favorite places to go after school. When I was still in U.P, I would never have survived university if not for the street food. For 5 pesos a meal, I could eat isaw, fishballs, kwek-kwek and all other types of grilled or fried street food.

Bulalo is a very rich beef soup that is slow-cooked with the bone marrow. I tried making it here but it didn't taste as good because the meat here usually has trimmed fat. I could barely find any fat in the beef that I buy from the supermarkets. In the Philippines though, the beef is cooked in all its fatty glory and the result is a creamy soup that is a little bit too rich to eat every day, but a little indulgence once in a while wouldn't kill us, right?

Finally, the food that I miss the most is Pork Sisig! A list of food that most Filipinos abroad would miss would not be complete without it. I think the picture speaks for itself. Yum!

These are just a few of the food I miss from home. This list could go on and on. I miss them so much, I have an actual list is a tiny notebook so I'd remember to eat all of them when I go back home. I can't wait to take a vacation.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Becoming an Immigrant

A lot of people have been asking me about how I applied for permanent residency in Canada. I know a lot of people who have gone through a lot of stress to get theirs and they wonder why it was so easy for me to get mine. I have gotten so many personal messages from people asking me about it so I thought it might be good to blog about it.

For the benefit of my friends who aren’t familiar with the Filipino diaspora, I’d like to give a little bit of a background. Since the ‘70s, Filipinos have been immigrating to the United States and other Western countries in search of a “better” life. I put the word in quotes because leaving their country does not necessarily mean they would live a better life. It just means they would earn more money than they would have, had they stayed where they were. It also means they would have the means to support their families back home because even the minimum wage salaries in Western countries would become a great deal of money when converted to the Philippine Peso. The immigrants themselves usually suffer because they’d spend years away from their families in jobs that the people in that country just didn’t want.

Most Filipinos who immigrate go through the circuitous route to residency. They come in as workers and then wait to qualify for residency which would eventually lead to citizenship. The whole process usually takes years and sometimes decades. The waiting is so stressful and it could cost so much money in lawyer's fees. I'm not a very patient person and I don't like uncertainty. When I set my heart out to immigrate to Canada, I decided early on that I didn’t want to go the long route. I have already applied to be an immigrant previously but I withdrew that because LIFE happened. This time, I hired a CIC-recognized immigration consultant in Makati to help me with my application. Their services cost a lot of money but they are totally worth it. They helped me with every step of the application process. All I had to do was pay them, submit everything that they asked for and they did the rest. Everything cost about US $6,000 but I got my Confirmation of Permanent Residence in 10 months. I highly recommend them.

Now, the process. First of all, people who want to immigrate to Canada as Federal Skilled Workers have to pass qualifying factors. Each factor gives an applicant a certain number of points. An applicant in Canada has to have at least 67 points out of 100 on the six factors:
  •           English or French Language Skills (28 points maximum)
  •           Education (25 points maximum)
  •           Experience (15 points maximum)
  •           Age (12 points maximum)
  •           Arranged employment in Canada (10 points maximum)
  •           Adaptability – extra points for having family in Canada or families with children immigrating at the same time (10 points maximum)

I had so many things working against me. I was disadvantaged in the last 3 factors. First of all, I was already in my late 30s so I only got 9 points for age. I did not have arranged employment in Canada so I got zero on that one. I also did not have any first degree relatives in Canada, nor was I immigrating with a husband and children. I have aunts, uncles and cousins galore here but they’re not considered first degree relatives so I also got zilch on that category. That meant I had to make up for the lost points in the first 3 categories.

To prove my language skills, I had to take the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test. IELTS is the preferred English language test by Commonwealth countries like the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. I got 9, the highest possible score on the test so I got the maximum points for that category.

To prove that I had adequate education, I had my credentials assessed by World Education Service (WES) in Toronto. I paid to have them contact my school to get my credentials, verify my transcript, course by course, and provide a certificate to the CIC that my education would qualify as a Bachelor’s Degree. I am very fortunate that they have certified my degree from the University of the Philippines as a Bachelor’s Degree so I also got the maximum points for that.

For my work experience, I had to prove that I would be useful to Canadian society by submitting proof that I was employed in a field that is in the list of the National Occupation Classification (NOC). Each year, Citizenship and Immigration Canada releases a list of the NOCs that they will accept applications for in that year. In my case, I submitted my application for NOC 0112 – Human Resources Manager because of my extensive experience in Human Resources and Learning & Development. I had to give them a 5-page curriculum vitae, certificates of employment from previous employers and supporting letters from my previous managers. I am just so fortunate that I have worked for reputable internationally recognized companies so a big thanks to American Express, HSBC and Accenture.

After compiling all of the documents I needed, I got 74 points. Here’s my final tally:
  •           Language Skills - 28 points
  •           Education - 22 points
  •           Experience - 15 points
  •           Age – 9 points
  •           Arranged employment in Canada – no point
  •           Adaptability – no point

The last thing that I had to prepare for the application was my proof of funds. The amount required for proof of funds vary according to the number of people immigrating at the same time. A single immigrant has to have at least CAD 12,164 but a family of four needs CAD 22,603. I submitted my bank certificate along with my other documents.

My immigration consultant filed my documents and after only 7 months, I got my notice for medical examination. This is a very important date because the immigrant visa will only be valid for one year after this letter is received. I got my visa stamping notice a month later and I arrived in Canada as an immigrant the next month, so I’m here.

This blog is just based on my personal experience. I'm not saying this is the only way to do it or this is the best way to do it. I chose to pay a consultant because I was employed full-time at the time of application and I just didn’t have the time to do everything on my own. If I had the time, I probably would have been able to save a lot of money by doing some research and applying on my own, but I would not have had the expertise to know what specific things they would be looking for in my application. For instance, the checklist says to include a resume but it doesn’t say what needs to be on the resume. My consultant knew that and was able to advise me to include what they are looking for, with supporting documents of course. Every point counts so knowing little things like that helps your application. I’m not saying that hiring a consultant will guarantee an approved application. It just increases the chances of getting approved.

There you have it, my immigration experience. I hope it helps anyone who is planning to immigrate to Canada. Let me know if you have any questions and I'll try my best to answer them.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Nomad No More

Exactly one year ago, I got off the plane after an exhausting 14-hour flight from Manila. I felt excited for my new life but I was also very apprehensive about my future. I have left my family, my friends and my successful career. At 38 years old, I have left my pretty good life to start another chapter that was so vague and uncertain, it caused me a lot of sleepless nights.

I have been thinking about it for years but I have always wavered in my decision to immigrate to another country. I had the heart of a nomad. I liked going from place to place and experiencing new things. I have been to dozens of different cities in North America, Europe and Asia. I felt like I would never be completely satisfied living in one country without going away every now and then. 

Going to a different country as a tourist or a temporary worker isn’t a hard decision at all because it’s only temporary. Deciding to leave one’s own country for good, however, is a momentous one. It took me years and years to make the biggest decision of my life and for good reason.

Back home, I was in no way destitute. I had a higher than average salary that would have enabled me to live for the rest of my life comfortably and free from financial worries. I had an excellent career in Learning and Development working in Junior Management. I have worked for prestigious Global corporations. I have also had the opportunity to work with some of the best HR and Learning professionals in the world (a big shout out to my previous colleagues at HSBC Workplace Learning and Performance and Accenture Capability Development). Some of my previous employers have sent me to different countries for process migration and knowledge transfer. I got perks that most people my age only dreamed of. Some of my relatives thought I was crazy to give all these up and they did have a point.

The truth is, I would have happily stayed where I was if it wasn't for stress. I didn’t really mind it too much when I was younger. I was young and I had the energy to face the daily torment of living in a huge and overcrowded city. It was when I started traveling that I realized that life is not supposed to be just one endless struggle. I could choose how to live. That made me finally take the leap into the big unknown.

The most important decision made, I had to make the second most important one - where to settle. I have been in the US and didn’t really want to live there permanently. It’s a good place to visit but I didn’t want to stay there for good. I toyed with the idea of migrating to Japan. I am fascinated by that country and would have wanted to go back but then I would have to learn Nihonggo and that would take time. I also loved the UK. I would have wanted to emigrate there if it wasn’t so expensive. It was not a good place for me if I wanted financial freedom.

I chose Canada because it is immigrant-friendly. The country really takes care of its immigrants. Even before I left my country, I got to attend seminars to help prepare me for what is coming. After landing, there are Government and privately-funded agencies like the Centre for Newcomers that help newly arrived immigrants to have a smoother transition and integrate successfully. They have weekly seminars here that help people with everything from building credit to building a resume. They even have places where newcomers can print out resumes for free! Now isn’t that nice?

So there I was a year ago, so exhausted it took me a week to get over the jet lag. My future was very uncertain but not for long. Canada has been very good to me, so far. I got a job 7 days after I arrived and I’ve been working there since. Everyone here has free health care, even non-citizens like me. I arrived in Canada as a Permanent Resident and I have all the benefits of a citizen, save one. I could not vote yet but that will come later. I thought 4 years was such a long time to wait but the first year flew by so fast. In 3 more years, I could apply for citizenship.

I love Calgary. It is so far from the bustling and noisy city that I used to work in. I feel so safe here. I could walk the streets with my phone out at 10:00 PM and not feel scared that I would get mugged. The public transportation here is so convenient that people would just drive their cars to the nearest train station and take the train to the city. Even during the rush hour, it is not too crowded. I could still maintain my personal space in the train, which is unimaginable in the MRT at 5 PM. Driving is a dream here. The roads are so wide and there are no hour-long traffic jams. What people consider to be traffic jams here are just like regular traffic light pile-ups in Manila.

I also love the people here. Canadians are nice. Strangers would keep doors open for the people behind them. People would keep the train door open for you so you don’t miss it. Cars would actually stop when you are crossing the street. I used to get so embarrassed because there would literally be 4 cars waiting for me to pass even though I would signal them to go ahead. People would stop what they’re doing to help the elderly with their walkers and mothers with their baby strollers. It is a nice thing to experience when you come from a city where a lot of people are just too busy with their own concerns to care.

What can I say about my life 365 days later? I have a job with great co-workers. I live in an apartment so close to my workplace that I could wake up 30 minutes before my shift and I would still be there on time. I have cousins here that have supported me from day one. I have found wonderful friends. I have made a good life for myself here that is free from stress. The only thing that would make it perfect is if I had my family with me but that will come soon. I’m no longer a nomad and I am happy.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Butterfly Wall Art

I love my room. I've spent a lot of effort into making it lovely and it's turned out to be a real sanctuary.

I've been wondering for a long time about what to do with my blank lavender walls. I've been toying with the idea of using wall stencils to add some interest but I thought that was a bit too blah. Being of artistic bent, I also thought about painting my own art on it but it would take too long and I didn't have the time.

This past weekend, I decided to do something about that blank wall and I must say, I am very proud of my handiwork. Before I show you what I've done though, I want to give a little background.

My inspiration was from the TV Show Gossip Girl. In particular, Serena van der Woodsen's room in the Waldorf Apartment. She had beautiful floating black butterflies configured in an ellipse on her neutral walls.

Isn't it pretty?

I realized, I may not have the money to get an actual Paul Villinski wall installation but I am a good crafter so why not make my own?

Two days later, here's what my wall looks like.

Butterfly Wall Art

Butterfly Wall Ellipse

I made 5 different kinds of butterflies that range from 4"x5" to 2"x3". I also added a few red butterflies for interest. I made about 100 butterflies in all.

I folded them to make them 3D.

I even added red butterflies for interest.

Tell me what you think. Does this work on my wall?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Confessions of an Online Shopaholic

I have been an online shopper for a very long time and I must admit, I am quite addicted. I've been hooked since I bought my very first digital camera from Amazon in the early 2000s and I've been happily shopping ever since.

Now you might ask, why shop online? Well, for one, it's very convenient. Sure, it's not the same as going to the mall, trying on a million pairs of shoes just to get a single pair. It might be fun for a lot of people but there's also the possibility that despite spending 4 hours looking at stuff, you might still not find that perfect pair of ballet flats to go with your new cute dress. All that work for nothing. If I did it online, I still might not have found it but at least I wouldn't have walked the equivalent of 5 miles amid a huge crowd.

Besides, I don't really shop for the experience. I only shop when there's something in particular that I want or need to buy. I don't like asking for anyone's opinion when I buy something. I'm a solitary shopper and my friends are all the same. That's why online shopping is perfect for me. I can just browse for what I need and with a few simple clicks, I can buy it. No fuss!

Another reason is the fact that I hate crowded places. Try going to any mall at around 2 PM on a Sunday and you'll get what I mean. I just don't like walking for hours in a mob just to buy 3 items. The mere mention of midnight sale also makes me a little nauseous. Why do that to yourself when you can do your shopping in less than half an hour at home? Seriously?

Now online shopping is not only convenient, it is also saves me money. This is especially true for gadgets and electronics. I bought my laptop for about 40% less than what I would have paid had I gotten it here. It was customized to my preferred specs, too. I bought my digital camera for 50% of it's actual price here. I even bought my running shoes at a 25% discount. All these were inclusive of International Shipping. At these prices, I'd be willing to pay cash than get it here at 0% installment.

Finally, I like online shopping because I have more choices. There are a lot of stuff in the U.S., Canada, U.K. & Australia that are not available here. For example, my purple laptop was only available here in Blue, Pink, Green & White. Of course, I just had to have purple so I ordered it from

My shoes only come in white with blue or red trim here. I wanted dark with a pop of color so of course, I had to get the dark grey and green from Amazon.

Ipods are available here, of course, but how else can you have your funny quote etched on it for free if you don't buy it online?

Now having said all of that, I must say that online shopping is not without it's drawbacks. It doesn't have that instant gratification that you get from finding that perfect cellphone, actually bringing it home and using it the very next day. With online shopping, you'll need patience. You have to wait at least 2 weeks to get it. It could even take a month, depending on where it's coming from. It's all worth it once you get the item but the waiting might put a lot of people off.

There's also the possibility that the item could get lost in the mail. It happens very rarely but if you buy from reputable online merchants like Amazon or Target that have great Customer Service, this is not something to worry about. I've had very good experiences with them for the past decade.

You could also get hooked on it so much that you would buy even the smallest things online. It happened to me despite my FINANCIAL DISCIPLINE. I have ordered everything from silver jewelry, watch batteries, hard drive cases, lip balms, rechargeable batteries, dvds, audio cds.... I could go on and on.

I am proud to say though that despite all this shopping, I never paid for more than the actual price of a single item in the Philippines. I'm a pro at this so if you're thinking of starting online shopping and need advice, just shoot me a message and I'll be glad to help. =)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Backlit LCD vs. E Ink, which is better?

Consider this part 2 of my ebook reader review. I have a friend who is still torn between an LCD reader and an E Ink one so I decided to write this follow-up to my previous review.

The big question is, which one is better? There's no straight answer to this, unfortunately. Whether one or the other is better depends on what you need it for.

I have listed down several questions that helped me decide which one to buy. If you were as confused as I was a few months ago, try to answer these questions. It should help you decide what's best.

Question #1: Why am I buying this?
Do I need it to surf the net, or update my status in all my social network sites? Uhm, no. I had a laptop for that as well as my trusty old iPhone. When I'm at home or out with my friends, I don't even look at my cellphones, let alone post Tweets. I needed a book reader, plain and simple.

Question #2: How light is the gadget?
One reason why I never even thought of wanting the iPad is its size and weight. It might look cool but it's simply too big for my purpose. I needed a gadget that is small and compact and the iPad is definitely NOT that. Even the B&N Nook Color is a bit too big for me. I read in bed so having to hold up 1.5 lbs as I try to read is not my idea of relaxation. I wanted something that I can carry on long flights or out of town trips without breaking my back with its weight.

Question #3: Do I really need to read in color?
My answer is no. I literally have hundreds of books and very few of them are picture books. The picture books that I do have, and I'm particularly proud of this, are from my collection of children's books. Frankly, if you're interested in the type, I highly recommend actually buying the children's books. They don't really make great ebook material. I don't read comic books or magazines either. So that means, whether I'm reading a hardcover book, trade paperback or just a mass market one, I'm used to reading in black and white.

Question #4: Can my eyes stand staring at it for hours on end?
I'm going to give you a 'for instance.' My primary reason for choosing E Ink is the length of time I will use it every day. I've already mentioned in my previous blog that I am a heavy reader. On regular days when I'm working, I read for about 2 - 3 hours before I go to sleep. On weekends that number gets doubled. I could read up to 16 hours in one go if I really like the book. It's not unusual for me to finish reading 2 books a night, from cover to cover.

All these questions made me realize what I needed. I might have been tempted with the look of the Nook Color but it doesn't really suit my purpose. All the extras are just fluff since I already have other gadgets that can do everything that a tablet can do. E Ink was the best fit for me. I bought the Nook and I've been happily reading ever since.