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Senator Enverga leads a simple life without trappings of power

By Willie Jose

Senator Tobias Enverga Jr. on Parliament Hill in Ottawa with the East Block in the background
Senator Tobias Enverga Jr. on Parliament Hill in Ottawa with the East Block in background
TORONTO – Our recent visit to Senator Tobias “Jun” Enverga Jr. was a simple courtesy call to the First Filipino-Canadian in the Senate and also our way of re-connecting with him, an old-time friend. When my family and I were new here in Canada in the early ’90s, we had a chance to attend some get-togethers hosted by his family. His wife Rosemer is a close friend of my wife. When Rosemer’s Mom was still in the nursing home, my wife, Lilia was the nursing supervisor in that facility, so in short, that’s the way we came to know the Envergas.

When we arrived at his home together with some friends, Senator Enverga greeted us “Tuloy Kayo.” Despite the protocol of formally addressing him “Mr. Senator,” we were more at ease calling him Jun and he didn’t mind that. He was dressed in a casual T-shirt and casual pants or should I say feel-at-home attire, so all these led to a laid-back environment in the Enverga home.

After the normal exchange of pleasantries, we shook hands and Jun immediately ushered us to the dining table where some of his friends were already eating. “Kumain muna Kayo.” While I was discreetly watching his movements and gestures, what struck me most, was his behaviour. He has remained simple and good-natured in his ways. A soft-spoken and self-effacing guy who has not been affected by the trappings of his high office, he’s still the same old friend who would do whatever he could to make his friends feel at home.

At one point, I asked him in what ways his lifestyle has been radically affected by being a senator, he said “Well, it’s seven-days-a-week work because, from weekdays, I have to focus on my work in the parliament and occasionally, I would spend the weekends attending to some functions, speaking at different community gatherings in Toronto and all over Canada.

“I have to go home weekly to see my family, so maybe in the near future, I may get an apartment in Ottawa, so I don’t have to go home regularly on weekends.” he said.

At present, Enverga said he’s staying in a hotel in Ottawa, “but I have to take back home my soiled clothes for laundry.”

While we were at the dining table conversing, Jun’s daughter, Rocel, a special child, would from time to time lovingly embrace Jun and he in turn would hug and kiss her, prompting one of my friends to comment that “she’s the one bringing the success and happiness to the Envergas.”.The Envergas have two other grown-up daughters.

A typical Filipino, Jun is prudent when it comes to spending the money allocated for his office. If he could have his way, he would save some dollars officially allotted to cover his travel expenses by flying in economy class, even though he’s entitled to have first-class accommodation while doing his duty visiting the various Filipino and other ethic communities throughout Canada. However, Rosemer said, “there was a time when Jun while aboard the plane’s economy class, the stewardess upon recognizing him to be a senator, decided to serve him some snacks (Only passengers in the first class cabin were entitled to have snacks).

When I asked him why he had accepted Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s offer to appoint him as a senator despite the fact that he had been doing quite well in his job as an IT specialist at the Bank of Montreal and at the same being a trustee at the Toronto Catholic District School Board, his reply was, “This is an offer which is hard to refuse and I know this appointment will bring pride and honour to the Filipino community. Ito’y para sa atin lahat ng Filipino.”

“Unlike back home, senators here in Canada don’t have a pork barrel and all our expenses are well accounted for,” Enverga said. His salary? Well, Rosemer didn’t give us an exact figure regarding Enverga’s salary as a senator, but said, “Jun was getting more before with his combined salaries as a trustee of the school board and an IT specialist at the Bank of Montreal.”

One of the topics that Senator Enverga discussed with us was the need for our kababayans here in Canada to empower themselves, stressing, “with our big number, in Toronto alone, we are almost 300,000, and another 200,000 throughout Canada, so we can easily produce three more members of the parliament who can help us in addressing the various problems and other concerns facing our communities. But we have to work together, sama–sama tayo at sa dami natin kaya natin ito,” he said.

“As we assimilate in the mainstream, we should not forget our values and culture because this is one way we can prevent elder abuse, suicide and family break-ups,” Enverga said.

Since the Philippines is the main source of skilled workers coming to Canada, Enverga advised our kababayans that they should be more assertive in their workplaces and not to be mahiyain in order for them to move up to the managerial levels in their work.

After our dinner and animated conversation with Jun and Rosemer, we thanked both of them for their hospitality and as we were about to leave, they accompanied up to the doorway, telling us “maraming salamat at mag-ingat kayo.”

While going home that night, I was thinking that since Senator Enverga will have the opportunity to serve in the Senate until the age of 75, he has all the time in the world to be of service to the Filipino communities. Much is expected of him but with his kindness and humility, we all know he will never fail us.

Willie Jose was a member of the first batch of journalism graduates from the Pamantasan ng Lunsod ng Maynila. A former section editor and senior reporter of the Times Journal in the Philippines, he now lives in Toronto.

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