I was born on a Thursday evening in the Philippines to a large family with two older brothers, and two older sisters. As the youngest in the family, I grew up often trying to mimic the actions of my elder siblings. I had always dreamt of having a younger sibling in which I could care for. On my seventh birthday, Ina and Ama had gifted me a doll that looked almost identical to a real baby. I would care for it just as it was my own, cradling the doll and tucking her into the crib that had been the same one my parents had tucked my siblings and myself in when we were tiny and fragile. “Mahal kita,” I would say to the doll, speaking my native tongue, expressing my love for her in.
Eventually, I one day grew to become a midwife in my small town. Some would say that I was the best at my job, though I would often deny such a remark. But I did care for my patients in a way so genuine that had it feeling less of a job and more of a hobby. When I was 23 years old, I married a man with whom I had fallen in love, and we had two children. I was content with my life, but my husband dreamed of more for our children. One day, he brought up the array of opportunities our children would have if they immigrated to another country. The economic opportunities were decreasing, and we began to worry of the lack of options that our children would one day face. Although not wanting to leave everything behind, I knew it would be best for our children.
Elsewhere, during the process of the family’s immigration, a boy was born on the west coast of Canada to a young couple. The boy had fair skin, green eyes and grew up as a child who was timid towards others. With no other siblings to pass time with, he’d often listen in on the conversations of his parents. His mother was very opinionated and often wouldn’t accept much if it weren’t done in her favor; his father similar, always keeping an angry regard towards others. The boy though, learnt from his third-grade teacher, that kindness is more important than anything else one could ever possess. He became close friends with two other students he sat in class with. A girl whose parents were from India and who spoke Hindi just as good as she spoke English, and a boy whose hair defied gravity and skin is the color of his mother’s coffee before cream or sugar are added. These two people became some of the only people in with whom the boy was able to comfortably talk to.
In my eighth year of living in Canada, I had never stopped reflecting on the life I had lived back in the Philippines. I wasn’t unhappy, but I missed the way things were for me in a country where everyone spoke my language and where I had a job that I loved with each part of myself. In Canada, I had gone through a couple of jobs; my husband and I trying to provide as much as we could working full time are our kids were in school. It has been a few years since I began to work at a retail store in our town. Similar to myself, my manager had also come from the Philippines, though he had lived in Canada nearly a decade longer than I had. Every day I would stock aisles, from magazines to makeup, and I would aid customers as a cashier. I would make it home every night before my children would fall asleep to tell them, “Mashal kita,” and kiss them goodnight.
After school on a Tuesday, the boy’s mother had told him he was going to help her run some errands. They stopped at the store for a couple of items, while the boy’s father was at work. After finding most of what they needed, the woman approached the cashier awaiting the assistance of a store clerk. Witnessing the woman waiting impatiently, a middle-aged Filipino woman rushed to the cashier.
A woman stood before me holding hands with a young boy. The woman spoke in a rushed tone asking me why they didn’t have one of the items she had come to the store to buy. It took me a moment to piece together what the woman was saying and so I stared at her blankly. Overhearing, my manager translated in Tagalog what the mother was asking for. The boy looked up at his mother as she grew enraged. “Speak English in Canada,” she spat to the cashier and manager. The boy immediately saw the hurt his mother had caused me just by staring into my eyes. The mother repeatedly told me that I was rude, but the boy couldn’t help but see that it was his mother who spat awful words to an innocent woman. I would like to imagine that the boy promised himself he would never treat another person in the way his mother had treated me on that day.
After my shift, I prayed that my children, or anyone else for that matter, would experience the feeling that I had that day. I worried of the woman’s child who had witnessed the entire event, and who he would grow up to one day become. But most importantly, I wondered how I felt like an outsider in a country that promised to be a mosaic of different cultures and, historically, wasn’t built on English.