My family history
by Isabella Ramirez
Isabella Ramirez (right) with Johsa Manzanilla of ANAK
Isabella Ramirez was awarded the ANAK Liwayway Scholarship for Leadership Excellence last June based on her high school GPA, a group interview, and an essay based on an oral history interview she conducted. The following essay was her submission.
Filipinos are known for their strong family ties. We value the love of our family and we work hard to make them proud. I believe that remembering our family history and conserving our Filipino heritage is very important, especially for those of us who no longer live in the Philippines. For the Liwayway Scholarship for Leadership Excellence, I chose to interview my father, Lazaro Ramirez.
My first question for my father was, “why is family history so important?” He had four sisters growing up, and money was a constant struggle for his family. There never seemed to be enough to support all of them.
“I would spend my afternoons after school selling banana-que, fish balls, kwek-kwek and barbeque. That was every day, even on weekends,” he said. He remembers his own mother telling him, “We are very poor anak; we are small compared to other people. We should not put ourselves out there; we are not as important as the rest of them.”
My father was forced to become the breadwinner of his family when he was still a teenager, following the death of his father. He worked in Jollibee all throughout his high school and college years. Remembering his family and the struggles he experienced motivates my father to provide for us.
“Life was so hard anak, I do not want you and your mother to experience the hardships that I went through before,” he exclaims. He says that family history is important because, “what was done in the past pushes us to do better at the present, and for the future.”
My second question was, “how can we keep in touch with our Filipino roots now that we live in Canada?” His answer was “that’s very simple, we can never truly lose our Filipino heritage, it is always there.” We are “westernized” when we move to Canada. We have O Canada instead of Lupang Hinirang, poutine instead of sinigang, and eternal winter instead of endless sunshine and warmth. Despite this, we still practice our Filipino ways. We bless and say, “mano po,” to our elders during parties where our titas are not content until our bellies are full and we have extra food to baon home. We still gather around when Pambansang Kamao Manny Pacquiao has a fight and the crime rate in the Philippines drops. We rejoiced when Pia Wurtzbach was crowned as Miss Universe as being “confidently beautiful with a heart.” We always have long distance calls and frequent Skype sessions with our loved ones back home. “It is important to fit in and adjust to life here in Canada, but it is also valuable to remember where we came from,” says my father.
My parents tell me that the main reason we moved to Canada was to ensure a better future for us. The sacrifices my parents made for our family are a constant reminder to myself to work harder and do well here. My family history is my father’s humble beginnings and the man that he is today. It is my mother’s hopes and dreams as a child to travel the world and have the best future possible. It is my grandfather’s journey from China to the Philippines and the experiences he gained from all the years he worked as a businessman in Japan. It is my grandmother’s funny stories of how she spent her childhood playing on the streets and how she rescued me from being stranded by a typhoon while I was at school. There is a saying that goes “past is past.” I believe differently. My family history is always with me, now, and in the future.
Ramirez, Lazaro. Personal Interview. 27 April 2016.
Isabella Ramirez is a recent graduate from Maples Collegiate and currently in her first year of studies at the University of Winnipeg. Visit www.anak.ca to learn more about ANAK programs and opportunities.