Our transition from the Philippines to Canada took place when I least expected it, and at a time when I truly felt one with my community. These past seven years in Canada have passed with shocking speed, however I still have not adjusted to the fact that my close friends and family are no longer within walking distance. Manila was where I went to school, spent time with my friends, and visited my beloved grandmother. I used to imagine that I would spend my whole life in the Philippines. That would be my life, and I was looking forward to it: that is, until everything changed. My father told us that we would have to move to Canada for his work. It was more than a shock for me; I had to leave everything that I valued behind and start anew. It was jarring to say the least, and something I had to be strong to find my way through. Everything I knew would be flipped on its head, and that was something I had to learn to deal with.
Many adjustments had to be made in coming to Canada: in fact, I continue to adjust to this day. In the early stages of the process, I was honestly waiting for it to end so I could go back home. I had no part in the decision-making, felt incredibly alone, and did not want to leave a life I loved. The feeling could be most accurately described in this way: my arrival in Canada was not something I “chose” or “did.” Rather, I was forced to leave my home because this move to Canada “happened” to me and my family. Friends and family I left behind weighed heavily on my conscience. The everyday routine that I enjoyed and thrived within would now be replaced with a completely new and yet unknown way of life. However, as much as these challenges were big adjustments, it was not seeing my loved one which was by far the most difficult. I was not able to be there for them as they moved through their lives, and they were not able to do the same for me. This was something which admittedly ate at me for a long time, as growing together with the people around me was something which I valued dearly. All of a sudden, the family dynamics were different, and I lost an important network that I had relied upon for my whole life. This was especially hard when considering I could not see the friends I had known since I was 3 years old. We had gone through everything together, and to go from that to occasional video calls with each other hurt deeply.
When it comes to feeling accepted in Canada, it did not start off well. Our move was sudden and unexpected; before I knew it, we were saying tearful goodbyes and boarding a plane to Canada. Weeks after landing, I finally realized that this was really happening. I was living somewhere completely foreign, and it was going to be my home for the foreseeable future. I was not used to Canadian customs, most prominent of which was how people interacted. The openness and kindness of Canadian culture made me feel welcome, but out of place. For example, people held doors, smiled, and were overall very friendly; it was both heart-warming and something which made me feel deeply uncomfortable. Looking back now, I think it was because I did not allow myself to feel accepted. People in Canada are uncommonly kind and welcoming, but I often felt that accepting that kindness was in some way rejecting or forgetting my first home. Ultimately though, this generosity was what got me to love Canada as my second home.
In high school, I met someone of a similar background, and from that point on, my outlook started to shift. We were in constant contact, often bonding over shared struggles and experiences. In meeting more people over time, I learned that everyone has a story to tell. Canada proved itself as a home for those stories to be accepted and valued. With time, I made more friends, attended events, and sought to enjoy my time in Canada for what it was. Now, I can confidently say Canada is a beloved second home for me and my family.
Seven years ago, I landed in the airport with dread and despair in my heart. However, despite my initial lack of faith in the country, Canada has been nothing but kind, welcoming, and open to me and my family, and for that I am truly grateful. I now have countless experiences that I cherish and would not trade for anything. The friends I have made here, alongside those from the Philippines, are life-long friends who I love like family. Even so, it would be a lie to say there is not a part of me which continues to yearn for the Philippines. Maybe one day I will return to the place I first called home; however, until that day comes, I have found somewhere I truly love and am happy to call home.
Please note that certain facts have been altered for anonymity This story is a collaborative effort between Noor Abubaker and Adrian Reyes