Nanay Linda Ramos: cakes and community
Erlinda "Linda" Ramos • Photo by Rey-ar Reyes
by Lucille Nolasco
Her eyes twinkle when talking about her younger years as a self-confessed “trouble-maker” in the Philippines. Now at 84 years old, Erlinda Magnaye Ramos, still clearly remembers the friends she hung out with in school, her unforgettable adventures, and the love of her life.
This is her story.
Life in the Philippines
Nanay Linda, as she is fondly called, hails from Lipa, Batangas but grew up in Quezon province.
Her family was in the business of milling rice and copra – the dried meat of the coconut used to extract coconut oil.
The eldest among eight children, Linda’s parents doted on her, letting her go wherever her wanderlust took her – with pocket money of course.
In high school, and later at the Philippine Women’s University in Manila, Linda became friends with daughters of some of the more well-to-do families as well as with popular actors such as Pancho Magalona and Alicia Vergel. Linda recalls she would almost always be the instigator of their escapades.
When she was 17, she suddenly decided to visit an uncle in faraway Zamboanga. There, she met 19-year-old Geronimo “Gerry” Ramos, who would later follow her to Manila. They fell in love. But her parents, especially her mother, were against their relationship because they had someone else in mind for her.
“It was very hard, I had to leave home to be with Gerry,” Linda said. “It took a long time before my mother forgave me and accepted me again. Although she did not fully accepted my husband.”
To prove to her mother that she married a good man, they decided to immigrate to Canada, with the help of her brother Dr. Arturo Magnaye, an eye doctor.
New life, new challenges
It was summer of 1970 when Linda and two of her nine children arrived in Canada. Her husband Gerry had come to the country two months prior. For someone who grew up with helpers for practically everything, Linda felt lost with the challenges they had to face.
“We rented a small room with our two children, a five-year old and a two-year old. We didn’t have our own kitchen or bathroom, so we had to share with other residents of the rooming house. We had to adjust to the food, to the weather, to the way things are done in this country.”
Linda remembers working at Safeway and in the garment industry for a month until she got a job at the Canadian National Institute For the Blind (CNIB). There, she worked as a utility person at first, helping out wherever needed. Linda’s helping nature and care for others got her promoted after 43 days on the job.
“One day, my supervisor suddenly handed me a different uniform and told me to wear it from now on. It had a name tag showing ‘assistant matron.’ I was really surprised! It was an easier job and it paid more.”
Through hard work, perseverance and by living within their means, they were able to buy their very first house within six months of arriving in Winnipeg – a five-bedroom house on Ruby St. They rented out the upper rooms while the family lived in the basement. After two years, they owned three houses.
“I wanted to show my mother that my husband was my intended partner in life and that he was hard-working and good to his family. I really wanted the silent feud to end.”
After ten children and some few years later, Linda’s mother finally visited, but she still did not speak much to Gerry. Although she did accept the food he prepared for her.
“That really meant a lot,” Linda said.
The creation of Gelyn’s Wedding Lounge
Drawing from her high school Home Economics class, Linda happened to bake a cake for some guests that her husband had brought home. They liked the cake, especially one young lady who was soon to be married.
“She asked me if I could bake a wedding cake for her. And I readily said yes!”
From that wedding, and through word of mouth, Linda’s clientele slowly grew. From simple folks to affluent clients, their parties were not complete without a cake from Gelyn’s Wedding Lounge – the name derived from a combination of “Gerry” and “Linda.”
She got her certificate and license to operate their business with the help of former City Councilor Grant Nordman.
“He helped us purchase the building, with the license, even with the equipment. He told us we have good potential,” said Linda. “He would often visit and chat with us. He became our good friend.”
More than 40 years later, Gelyn’s beautifully made and affordable cakes remain a party favourite. Clients rave about the delicious taste and well-crafted designs. Although Gelyn’s specializes in wedding cakes, they also offer cakes for all occasions, balloons, invitations, accessories and yes, marriage licenses.
Linda is the only member of the International Cake Exploration Societé (ICES) in Winnipeg. According to their website, members gather to “preserve, advance and encourage exploration of the sugar arts.”
“I attend the yearly convention in Las Vegas for a week, to learn about fresh ideas and new techniques about cake-making.”
Giving back to the community
Aside from her love of family, Linda also loves her community. She and Gerry were among the very first members of the Coalition for Stronger Families and for more than 30 years, she worked as a treasurer for St. Edward’s School. She also served as a board member of the Philippine-Canadian Centre of Manitoba and is known as a long-time and passionate volunteer at the Magdaragat Philippine pavilion of Folklorama, the Philippine Heritage Council of Manitoba, and in many other community events.
“It’s important to share your blessings. We have always taught our children to never discriminate. Help others and they will help you back. Trust God and everything will be all right.”
Another important thing for Linda is to never lose our sense of humour.
“Laugh! My deceased husband never failed to surprise me with his funny antics. Even after so many years of being together, he always amazed me with how funny he could be. So be happy with what you do, and you won’t feel your age, like me!”