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Welcome Home to Canada Participant:
Mark Tambal (2015)

A Journey Towards Independence

Written by Jo Kostin

My name is Mark Tambal and I have been here for four years now. I did not come to Canada as an immigrant but as a temporary foreign worker from the Philippines and just recently became a permanent resident. It was a desperate way to come to Canada. I applied on my own without any support especially from my mom who didn’t want to see me go so far away. I can’t really explain why I was drawn to Canada. It took two years to make it happen. I had to prove that I had an employer waiting here. My employer backed out at the last minute but I was able to find a different one in Nova Scotia and that is how I found myself here instead of Manitoba.

My first few years were very hard and I often doubted my decision to immigrate. I worked at a dining facility in downtown Halifax as a temporary worker and my experience wasn’t a very good one. I feel that I was definitely one of the abused workers. I was given the worst shifts (the night shifts up until 4 a.m.) and I endured a lot of dangerous and very unpleasant experiences. I had to be all alone when other shifts had three people working. I was talked down to a lot and suffered undignified attitudes. They forced me to work when I was sick, I didn’t get any vacations and so on... it was a very stressful time for me. Even my physical appearance was affected, I lost a lot of hair, and my skin became less healthy looking. In some way I am glad for this awful time for it gave me the chance to find my personal strength. I was creative in finding my own ways to survive. I did everything myself —applying for permanent residency and finding solutions to my situation. I learned my rights as a worker and I started to fight for them. It didn’t work for me but at least people in the immigration organizations learned about the way my employers treated foreign workers.

After I finally found a different job and was able to get my own place I felt very proud of myself for I was able to pull through. Now I feel that coming here wasn’t a bad idea after all. I now work at the Halifax Central Library and enjoy my work very much. There is stiff competition to get ahead there and I’m looking forward to getting more challenging roles. Immigrant Service Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) referred me to Pier 21 and I got the position as a Reference Assistant at the Scotiabank Family History Centre. I helped people trace their genealogy. It was an amazing experience and it helped me to gain more library experience. The people I worked with were very helpful. I was trained by a former Welcome Home to Canada program participant.

I made a lot of friends but all are from the Philippines. I feel that there is an invisible wall when it comes to Canadians. The cultural difference is an obvious barrier. It is hard to make a solid personal connection. Coming to Canada I knew that the language barrier wasn’t a real problem for me because I speak English well but, I was afraid of the different mentality that I would encounter here. I was afraid of racism but fortunately, I don’t encounter that often.

I have always wanted to be a humanitarian worker in the global programs such as the United Nations Peace Corp. Back in the Philippines, I was studying law but in my third year of school I had a motorcycle accident. I was hospitalized and couldn’t finish my studies.

The recovery and rehabilitation were very costly so I wasn’t able to go back to school and become a lawyer. I worked as an Election Assistant for the government but I felt that I wasn’t compensated properly and it turned out to be a dead end job. It’s all about connections there and not about skills, education or commitment. So even though I worked there for ten years I couldn’t get a permanent position. I was skipped over for someone who did not have the right education or training but had the right connections. After that I went to work for different not for profit organizations. I find it ridiculous that people here complain about the government after living in a country where the government is so riddled with corruption and red tape. Furthermore, the social services are not answering the needs of the people at all. The services you can get from the government here are quick and efficient. I remember how proud I was to get my Nova Scotia ID. This is a utopian place for me in this respect.

I chose to come to Canada although I had a very convenient life in the Philippines. All my life I stayed at my parents’ house. It’s a common practice there even for grown up people and those who have their own families too. My mom is a retired health worker and my dad is a retired school principal. We had maids, people who washed my clothes, made my breakfast and cared for my every need.

I miss my homeland and plan to go for a visit sometime. I miss the cultural atmosphere; it is so laid back. I lived close to the sea and I could take breaks and go read a book at the beach. I miss the food. It was always very fresh, right off the tree or out of the ocean. It really was a convenient life but, at some point your parents can be very controlling. Going to Canada was my decision. Although I’m very close with my father and we talk a lot and have a great relationship, I never told my parents about my hardships here and lied about my first job. My father is always motivating me and has a very positive personality. There is a positive part of my heart too that helps me be a happy person and keeps me going forward. I can’t express how satisfied I am with my life now. I don’t have regrets, I’m very proud of myself for coming here and surviving on my own merit. I feel at home here. I love the ocean, and I don’t know why but I love lighthouses. I have a collection of pictures and miniatures of lighthouses. I am realizing my dream here. I’m not looking for a fancy life, I just want some personal satisfaction, to be happy and feel that I have built my own life.