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Life of Canadian PI by Ethel Clemente Fernandez

Forged to last

How two metallurgical engineers shaped their future together


     Angelito and Jeraldine at one of the chapters events
Angelito (Lito) and Jeraldine (Jhie) Velasco
  Lito and Jhie with sons Jemuel and Adriel
Lito & Jhie with sons Jemuel and Adriel
  Lito receiving his P.Eng. certificate
Lito receiving his P.Eng. certificate
  Litos induction as Filipino Members Chapter President
Lito's induction as FMC president
  Jeraldine's parents, Mr. & Mrs. Ocampo
Jeraldine's parents, Mr. & Mrs. Ocampo
  Angelito's parents, Mr. & Mrs. Velasco
Angelito's parents, Mr. & Mrs. Velasco

by Ethel Clemente-Fernandez

First meeting

University of the Philippines (UP), 2001. Engineering classroom. He was standing in front and she was sitting at the back.

Angelito (Lito) and Jeraldine (Jhie) Velasco met while both were attending classes at UP. Lito was taking his masters degree in engineering while also teaching classes. Jhie was in her third year of undergraduate engineering and taking one of the Lito’s courses classes.

He thought she was smart and pretty with a bubbly personality.

She thought he was a very determined guy and someone who looked like he knew exactly what he wanted in life, confident and in control of his actions.

While they would see each other in class, they never dated until Jhie finished her degree three years after they first met. The classroom was a silent witness to a union forged to last.

Lito, originally from Davao City, graduated with a metallurgical engineering degree and followed it up with a master’s degree in material science and engineering both at UP, Diliman. Not one to sit on his laurels, he continued his higher learning at Toyohashi University of Technology in Japan, where he successfully completed his doctor’s degree in engineering. He loves science and math, which drew him to engineering. Though admittedly, he didn’t know much about metallurgical engineering, he eventually found it very interesting.

“Metallurgical engineering is a broad field of engineering that covers mining, extraction, design and processing of metals,” he said.

Jeraldine, a 2004 metallurgical engineering graduate, took up the profession at the prodding of her big sister, Ria. Her sister’s friend was a metallurgical engineer whose job enabled her to travel for business overseas. This appealed so much to Jhie that she held on to that vision of landing a job with good compensation and the opportunity to travel outside the country. As fate would have it, upon graduating, she was hired at Intel Technologies – the same company where her sister’s friend was working!

One of the many things they had in common is that they both regard their parents as their inspiration in life. They remarked, “Our parents are our role models and they have been very supportive to us, their children, in anything we do.”

First date

Jhie made the first move by asking Lito for a dinner meeting, which he accepted, thinking that she was asking him on a date. He was wrong, as it was just a business dinner. Jhie asked him if he could join her and her partners in their multi-level marketing business, which he was known to be good at. Jhie recalled, “My business partners wanted to make sure Lito wouldn’t say “No.” Apparently, he had a crush on me way back when I was a student. True enough, he joined our team and we have worked together since.”

Needless to say, they became business partners and their relationship soon turned into more than just that.

They were separated by distance when Lito left for Japan for his doctorate degree, while she stayed to work in the Philippines. But despite the distance, their relationship stayed strong.

The proposal

On the way home from work-related training in Arizona, Jhie briefly visited Lito in Toyohashi, Japan.

“I took her to a nature park where I asked her to marry me, ” said Lito. To which, she said “Yes.”

They were married on October 19, 2008, after four years of dating.

The union

While blissfully married, there are some things about each other that drive them a little crazy. Jhie said, “Back then, when I texted him he would reply more than once right away. Now, I have to read my message to him when I get home.” Lito on the other hand said, “When she ask me for my opinion, but it doesn’t matter anyway.” But these little things only spice up their married life.

Like their parents – whom they look up to as a couple – and fine wine, their relationship improves with age.

Careers then

Jhie was hired at Intel Philippines as a Quality & Reliability Engineer.

“It was a great place to work with a great group of people from top managers to assembly workers, excellent benefits which included travel opportunities, fitness facilities, flexible time.” she said.

Lito’s professional career in the Philippines has always been in the academe, starting as an instructor of Engineering at UP, until he became an associate professor of Metallurgical Engineering and a doctoral researcher.

Though content with her career at Intel, Jhie applied as a permanent resident (PR) through the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program as a back-up plan, in case things didn’t work out. She must have seen the future, as when she got her PR visa, Intel announced that it was closing its facility. It was not a hard decision for her to make. Lito, on the other hand, went with the flow. He said, “I promised my wife that I would go with her anywhere she wanted to go.”

A life less ordinary

They moved to Canada in October of 2009, a year after getting married. As with most immigrants starting a new life, their first year in Winnipeg had many challenges. However, their situation may be different than most newcomers, in that they were just starting out as a married couple and were expecting their first-born.

Jhie described it as the most depressing period of her life. She was four months pregnant when they arrived. She said, “My first pregnancy coupled with the fear of the unknown turned my life upside down.” Lito added, “We did not have a lot of cash, but we had very supportive relatives.”

They both used to have very successful individual professional careers back in the Philippines and were in full control of their lives. Now faced with no jobs, no house of their own, unfamiliar surroundings, approaching the winter season and being expectant parents, they found themselves with a seemingly bleak future.

Jhie recalled, “I had to wait for him to come home from work just so I could go outside the house. It was winter and I was pregnant. It was like that for months, until my son was five months old that I finally was able to get to work, landing a job as a wheel inspector at Griffin Wheels Canada. I was depressed.”

Lito was a professor and research assistant with a PhD degree but he took a cleaning job, delivered newspapers and worked as a labourer to make ends meet. Jhie knew her husband was equally depressed, but she never heard him complain. In fact, even in trying times, Lito was able to build a great relationship and got along well with Jhie’s aunts, who took them in when they were just starting. He was even referred to as a “favourite nephew” by one of the aunts.

“Those memories only confirm that Lito is truly the one for me and I made the right decision choosing him to be with the rest of my life,” Jhie said.

Forming their future

Lito started his academic assessment in February 2010 and decided to write the two confirmatory exams assigned to him, as this option would still enable him to continue to work to support his family. It took him less than a year to complete the exams and in September of 2011 he was registered as an engineer-in-training (EIT). Then, less than two years later, he got his professional engineer (P.Eng.) designation.

Jhie started the process in April 2012, taking the same route as her husband. Only instead of taking two exams, she was assigned five. She would have considered the interview option, if it were made available for her. Unfortunately, Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba would take a long time to gather metallurgical engineers to complete a panel. She took one exam per session (every 6 months) and successfully passed all five exams in two and half years. She got her EIT designation in March 2015.

Careers now

Upon getting his professional designation, Lito, who is employed at Custom Castings, was reassigned from a production operator to a design engineering position. Now, he is the Quality and Process Improvement Manager.

The management at Griffin Wheel, Jhie’s employer, recognized her potential and shouldered the expenses for her academic assessment and exams. In fact, before she completed all her exams, she was promoted twice, as a Quality Engineer and then as a Metallurgist, being the first ever person to hold both positions at the Winnipeg plant.

Filipino Members Chapter (FMC)

Lito learned about the FMC through the academic staff of Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba (EGM). He wrote an e-mail to Ramon Cairo, then-chapter president, which led to an invitation to participate in chapter events.

He said, “I chose to get involved because I believed the chapter can provide encouragement and support to its members towards becoming professional engineers or geoscientists through networking, professional development seminars and social events”.

Lito was elected and served as chapter president from 2012-2014. He established a bursary award for deserving chapter members to help ease the financial burden of completing the academic qualification to get their professional designation.

When asked about how she got involved in the chapter, Jhie good-humouredly said, “I was dragged in by Lito!” But on a serious note, she said, “I’m happy I let myself get involved because I got to know amazing and wonderful fellow Filipino Engineers who inspire me to continue going forward on the road to PEng.”

Jhie was the only female speaker at the chapter’s first Roadmap to Peng information session. She said, “I know female engineers who are also mothers can relate to what I’ve been through and get inspired somehow.”

With all that they’ve been through, Angelito and Jeraldine are truly an inspirational couple who triumph through life’s challenges.

“I know the five years spent in the University to graduate with an engineering degree is gruelling. We all know the effort, time and money that we and our parents spent just to get us through all those years. Don’t let your decision to go to Canada end the rewards that you are supposed to be reaping as an engineer. This process is not as tough as before when you were starting university. Your brains have acquired that knowledge and wisdom throughout the years of experience. You just need to have faith in God and yourself that anything is possible, ” says Jeraldine Velasco, EIT.

“Not to give up, but persevere. To get involved with the Filipino Chapter, where you can meet fellow engineers who can provide guidance, encouragement and support,” says Angelito Velasco, PhD, P.Eng.

And indeed, in a true metallurgical engineer’s approach, they have defined and optimized their life chemistries for a very bright and solid future with their two adorable sons, Jemuel (8) and Adriel (2).

Ethel Clemente-Fernandez is a professional engineer registered in the province of Manitoba. She is an active member of the Filipino Members Chapter - Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Manitoba (FMC-APEGM).