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Pinoy Inhinyero by Ethel Clemente FernandezEngineered with love – part 2 of 3

By Ethel Clemente Fernandez

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Baptism of Roger’s son, Rommel, St. Edward’s Church, June 1980
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In front of their home in the Maples with children Rommel and Michelle, Summer 1987
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Farewell lunch with colleagues at AEB Engineering Group, Winnipeg, April 1989

There are no crystal balls in life. There is no way of telling what lies ahead and what our future will be like. At some point in our lives, we are faced with making a difficult decision that could either make or break our future. While some decisions are thought over carefully, some need to be made quickly.

Such was the case of Mr. Rogelio Calderon, whom we came to know in the first part of this three-part series, as the first known Filipino Professional Engineer registered in the province of Manitoba.

He was just starting a very promising engineering career in Guam, USA when he had to abandon it to build a future with the love of his life here in Winnipeg.

He recognized that the plan was risky with many uncertainties. Nevertheless, he packed his bags, boarded a plane and never looked back.

Rebuilding a life in Winnipeg

Upon arrival in Winnipeg in the summer of 1978, stories about immigrant engineers working as taxi drivers or performing any menial jobs was a common subject. In addition to this demoralizing fact, there were even some who told him that he would be lucky if he could earn his P. Eng. designation.

Instead of being discouraged, he took this as a challenge to try and change that notion.

He forwarded queries to the Association of Professional Engineers of the Province of Manitoba (APEM) on how to get registered as a P. Eng and subsequently submitted his assessment application with the required documents.

While waiting for the result, like most newcomers, he wanted a job desperately to start a living in the city. He was hired as an electrical labourer to work with young electrical apprentices. It was not a “walk-in-the-park” job. He flexed muscles as he climbed ladders, installed outlet boxes on the ceiling steel deck and pulled electrical cables, among others. He was laid off as soon as the projects were completed.

During these trying times, he forwarded countless of application letters as an engineer, but to no avail.

He applied to Burroughs Corp. and was hired as a quality control assembly worker earning $3.75 an hour. That golden chance gave him the opportunity to have a stable job and qualified him to buy a new car – a necessity for living in Manitoba where the normal winter weather temperature could drop extremely low to about minus 40 C.

Working toward the P. Eng designation

Calderon’s papers at APEM were processed, and he was assigned to take the first set of exams in April 1979. He took three courses (Linear Algebra and Numerical Analysis, Calculus and Theory of Circuits).

Preparing for an exam was not easy, as he also needed to work for his basic food and shelter needs. To him, his duty to look after his family’s well being takes precedence to keep family relationship, affection and love intact.

Adding to the pressure and challenge was the policy at the time, where if you fail one course, you are required to repeat all the three given courses plus another three new separate courses.

After passing the first set of exams, the following year in April 1980, he was assigned the second set with two more courses (Circuit Analysis and Power Systems). He successfully passed all three courses.

During this time, Calderon moved to work for the A&E firm on Broadway Ave as draftsman and technician.

A Filipino architect who worked there as an architectural designer inspired him to join their firm and encouraged him further to pursue his engineering career. His strong words of conviction that architectural and engineering theories are universal anywhere in the world resonate with him to this day – the calculus we learned back home is also the same calculus being taught in other countries, in the USA or anywhere else in the world.

The third and last set of exams (Professional Practice and Ethics) was not as difficult as the first two sets because this time, specific review materials were given where questions would be taken from.

Patience + persistence = P. Eng.

On Oct 7, 1980, his hard work paid off for Calderon when APEM wrote him a letter with great news – he was now considered academically qualified for registration as of May 1980. APEM also asked him to submit references of six years work experience in engineering work, one year of which must be in North America. His references supported and signed his papers for P. Eng. certification, completing all of APEM’s requirements.

In May 1981, he was welcomed as a new P. Eng. together with other new professional engineers at the Winter Club in St Boniface for recognition.

After he received his P. Eng. designation, he was hired by one of the largest electrical engineering firms in Winnipeg as a lead design engineer.

It was the beginning of a prolific career in engineering and he continued to seek higher-level adventures. Where would these adventures take him?

In the conclusion of this series, we will catch up with Roger Calderon, P. Eng.

Ethel Clemente Fernandez is registered as an Engineer-in-Training (EIT) with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of the Province of Manitoba (APEGM). She currently works for a federal crown corporation and is serving on the Executive Committee of the Filipino Members Chapter (FMC) - APEGM. For inquiries, please e-mail fmc_apegm@yahoo.ca