The Del Rosario family is celebrating its sixth year as Canadian citizens. Photo courtrsy Sonia Del Rosario
  • June 26, 2020

July 1 marks the six-year anniversary of the Canada Day that the Del Rosario family became Canadian citizens.

Emigrating from the Philippines in 2009 with no relatives in Canada, Sonia Del Rosario and her husband were not sure what the future held for them or their four children, but they gripped firmly to their faith and their Canadian dream as they left their birthplace in search of a better life.

“We took our oath on Canada Day and we were so happy,” said Del Rosario, still almost in disbelief at the serendipity of that moment. “When we were about to go to Canada, we were scared and excited. We had mixed emotions.

“Our friend, a priest from the Philippines, told us to always lift everything that you do to the Lord and He will always guide you. We think this was all in His divine will.”

Arriving in November, the family was excited to experience their first snowfall within their first week. Adjusting to their new Canadian life was made easier thanks to their connection to St. Paschal Baylon Church in Thornhill, Ont., which boasts one of the largest Catholic Filipino congregations in the Greater Toronto Area.

The parish’s Filipino Support Group, lead by Rick Cortes, is instrumental in helping families acclimatize to Canadian life, connecting them with programs and services to help make their transition easier. 

“We had to start from zero all over again when we moved here,” said Del Rosario. “Thankfully, we had a good friend here that adopted us, and we lived in her house for a month.

“She recommended the church and we went to the novena Mass at Christmas time and prayed that we would find work. Right after that, in the first week of January, I got a job.”

Unlike many new immigrants, Del Rosario found a position in the field in which she was previously employed, accounting.

“Most people in our support group are working as caregivers,” said Cortes, whose programs were halted due to the COVID-19 shutdown. “For many of them, going to church is the only time that they can get out, network and be a part of the community away from their work.

“We hold different activities sometimes even workouts on Saturday night. We’re just doing whatever we can think of that can help out the community.”

Due to the pandemic, Cortes says the group has been unable to fully celebrate Filipino Heritage Month in Canada, which is celebrated in June.

When Toronto Mayor John Tory raised the flag of the Philippines at City Hall in early June, it meant a lot to Dina Arimbuyutan, who immigrated in 2014, and resides here with her husband and 17-year-old son. While she is not yet a citizen, she says Canada Day holds a special place in her heart.

“As we celebrate, I’m also celebrating that I have been a part of this wonderful country that welcomed me and almost all nations and all races,” said Arimbuyutan, who lived in Italy, South Korea and Taiwan before settling in Canada. “It’s a very open country and family-oriented. I can say this has been really good and greener pasture for us, especially as Filipinos.”

Arimbuyutan and her husband are in the process of applying to take the written test and hope to gain full citizenship sometime this year. They are grateful to the Filipino Support Group, which connected them with an immigration lawyer for a free consultation, and other essential programs.

Arimbuyutan worked as a caregiver before landing a job at the company that employs her husband manufacturing airplane parts. At 48, she hopes to return to school one day and continue to work and give back to the nation she says has given her so much.

“I think I would like to become an immigration consultant,” said Arimbuyutan. “I think there’s so many immigrants here that need help like I did before. Maybe in this way I could show my gratefulness for this country.”

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