The Immigrant Mother

This piece is a true story about a Filipino mother who hasn’t seen her two sons since 2015.

On January 5th, 2022, Vancouver was hit with a crazy snowfall. The day started with me doing some work and general cleaning the house. My partner was coming to visit. So, naturally, I had to brave through the heavy snow and go grocery shopping before picking him up at midnight.

With the heavy grocery bags, the no. 25 bus finally came to the rescue. Sadly, due to the super heavy snow blocking most roads and was still not cleaned, the bus had to stop at Trafalgar street because a bus got stuck in the snow. They had to wait for their supervisor to help remove it. That would take another hour of my time to stay.

Public transportation failed me because I had to wait one hour and a half for the bus ride home.

Most people chose to walk home. It was a 30 min walk home for me. Before putting on my earphones, a middle-aged Filipino woman approached me and asked if I could tell her where were we. She said her phone was dead, so she’s not sure how to get home. So, I walked her home since her place is just 6 blocks away from mine.

A stranger to a stranger. I started with the typical set of questions of how she ended up in Vancouver? Study or work? How long has she been here?

She is a single mother of two sons, age 24 and another 13. She started working as a caregiver in Singapore, Malaysia and ended up in Coquitlam, BC, in 2018. Now, she worked at a local grocery store 5 blocks away from her. Her kids have been living with their uncle (her older brother) because she is trying to pursue a Permanent Resident status in Canada. She was still waiting for the results of her application when this conversation occurred.

I enjoyed the walk, and once I sent her off, I was filled with emotions on my walk home. So many different ones. I was weirded out that she chose to leave her kids to work abroad, leaving her sons without a mother for 7 whole years. But, I came from a southeast Asian country nearby too; Malaysia. All the years learning about neighbouring countries, we often refer to developing countries. Speaking for the past 15 years, I have had more downfalls than developments in Malaysia.

Southeast Asian countries’ governments are overwhelmed with too many discrepancies and problems after being colonized in the past century. And also, maybe, in some ways, they rely too much on help from more prominent countries that they stopped on the genuine efforts; helping their people.

This Filipino mother was a clear example of an assertive persona who took a leap of faith to better the future generation of her family. She wanted a generational change, and she had to sacrifice being a mother to be a breadwinner for her family back home.

To be honest, I’m not sure what I’m trying to say. I’m not sure what I learned from this encounter. If I had to choose some takeaways, it would be that:

  1. The privilege I had, growing up with both parents alive and well.
  2. The availability of a government loan that sends students overseas to further higher education in science and technology in more developed countries. And that I had access to it, being a Malay and Muslim in Malaysia, the majority.
  3. This experience will remind me of the harsh reality every time I think of complaining about the minor inconvenience I have studying.

No excuses to me and you reading this. There are always sacrifices in the choices that we make in our life. But, we can continuously improve and move forward.

Thank you to this stranger that showed how narrow my perspective has become.

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