Ariston and Lordiemay (May) Dela Cruz came to Portage la Prairie recently and made the City of Possibilities their home. They attended MLA Jeff Bereza's welcome lunch. Among the guests was Mayor Sharilyn Knox who informed the newcomers that she only came here 11 years ago, and is now Mayor, showing the community's acceptance. Ariston is a renal nurse and hopes to get his license before the year is out.

"Back in 2016, we applied for a student visa for his travel visa," says May. "We were rejected once. Then in 2018, for a student visa in Canada, we were rejected twice. And then he flew to Saudi Arabia where he worked as a renal nurse in a government hospital. He had a good job there for two years, but he went home because it's not that warm there, just like here in Portage."

Ariston adds it was not only cold for him, but he was also away from his family. Here in Portage, he says, they're with him now.

"Back in Saudi it's just you alone," continues Ariston. "Some friends, but  it's different."

May adds he went back after the contract and then applied at the agency to work with a Canadian consultant, but unfortunately, they were entangled in a scam. He paid 98,000 Philippine pesos, and he was not provided with an employer. 

"Back then, it was a frustrating story. It was his separation pay. Then he went home, got frustrated, and he did not want to come to Canada anymore," continues May. "Of course, one of our priorities is our son because of the health care and the free education that is provided."

Ariston says it's quite different in the Philippines for education and health. 

"In the Philippines, you have to have money first. The taxes you paid, it really helps. Back in the Philippines, it's different."

So, May notes, she submitted a resume without Ariston's knowledge, and the agency staff helped him with the Shared Health recruitment. 

"John Reyes went with the delegates last year in February, and then he (Ariston) was one of the recruited nurses. He has nine years of experience back there as a renal nurse, and it was a great job. But for us to immigrate here, we needed a job offer, and luckily, Shared Health and the government of Manitoba gave us that job offer. The offer was very good because I could go with him with my son, so he will not suffer alone here. We don't have any regrets that we are here because. . . oh, this welcoming party. . .  The welcome committees. . . It's really great! There's no words you can speak."

She says it gave her such a warm feeling to also see Jon Reyes, former Minister of Labour and Immigration, and MLA Jeff Bereza with Mayor Sharilyn Knox together to meet them. 

The family also thanks Crescentview School for giving special attention to their son, including time spent in consulting them about his characteristic personality, even though they came late for this school year.

The Dela Cruz' family hails from Cagayan de Oro in the southern part of the Philippines. 

"It means Golden Friendship. When you go there, the people also are warm. Here it is the City of Possibilities. That's similar. I hope you can go there. Oh, it's really nice place. And the people are so friendly, as well."

MLA Jeff Bereza says politicians in the Philippines had bodyguards bearing firearms, and the newcomers felt so privileged to be personally greeted by our local municipal leaders this week.

He spoke to the families and said, "You probably left a lot of family back home. We want to be your family. This door is always open Monday to Friday, and we'd love to have you here."