Northumberland’s Filipino Women Talk About Their Culture In Canada

July 24, 2015 News,Our Blog
COBOURG -- Carrie Osborne played a kulintang, a traditional instrument from the Philippines, during a performance with the Northumberland Multicultural Centre in 2014. Ms. Osborne came to Northumberland County in 1972. June 2015

COBOURG — Carrie Osborne played a kulintang, a traditional instrument from the Philippines, during a performance with the Northumberland Multicultural Centre in 2014. Ms. Osborne came to Northumberland County in 1972. June 2015

This is the first story in an ongoing series on breaking myths about women from different cultures. Each story is based on the monthly talk, Constructed Identities: Unpacking the myths of women, presented by Northumberland County, United Way Northumberland, The Help Centre, Status of Women Canada and the New Canadians Centre.    

COBOURG  — When Carrie Osborne came to Port Hope in 1972 she was one of the first Filipino immigrants to the area. She first went the Untied States as an X-ray technician when she was 25 years old. At the age of 29 she moved to Port Hope, which she now calls home. She is now part of a large community of Filipino immigrants in Northumberland County.

According to 2011 Statistics Canada numbers, there were 135 Philippine immigrants, 40 men and 90 women, living in Northumberland County. Numbers now are estimated at more than 200.

Ms. Osborne shared her thoughts on the myths and realties of Filipino women along with more recent immigrants, Dindin Villarino, Thelma Dillon, Bing Webster, Juvy Ling and Carmela Valles.

THE MYTH: Women are submissive, sexually accommodating and take on jobs such as a caregivers or nurses. They don’t complain and many are mail-order brides.

REALITY: Historically women had a high status in a matriarchal society. Women had the right to name children, divorce and pass on property. Society changed to become patriarchal after foreign influence, first colonization by Spain and through an influx of Americans in the Second World War. The Philippines is the number-one source of female caregivers to Canada.

In the 1960 a number of health professionals left the Philippines including female doctors and lab technicians.

Although many are caregivers, Filipino women choose a number of different careers these days. There have been two female presidents of the Philippines.

CHALLENGES OF MOVING TO CANADA: Juvy Ling said the homesickness and food were the biggest issues moving to Canada. Ms. Ling still remembers going to the grocery store and seeing a huge bag of rice.

 “Oh my God, I am not going to die here,” she recalled thinking when she saw the rice. Thelma Dillon remembers calling home so many times that she caused the phone bill to skyrocket.

“I just wanted to hear their voices,” she said.

WHY CHOOSE CANADA: Most came for economic reasons, not so much for themselves but to give better opportunities to their children.

Carmela Valles said Canada offers an opportunity for immigrants to become full-fledged citizens and nation builders unlike other countries where they can stay for a short period of time on work permits.

CULTURE SHOCK: In the Philippines students respect their elders, including teachers.

Dindin Villarino said when she started university, she was surprised when students just joined into conversations in class, without raising their hand. She found it unusual when students addressed professors by their first name.

Another cultural difference is to bow when passing by two people in a conversation or when entering a room full of people in a lecture or talk.

SURPRISING FACTS: Mail-order brides are frowned upon but not illegal in the Philippines. The number one source of revenue in the Philippines is foreign remittances from former residents sending money home, said Ms. Villarino.

Source: Karen Longwell is a photographer/reporter for the Northumberland News.