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Celebrating Pinay pioneers

Pinays MB officers, awardees and guests. Photos by Alex Canlapan & Nijrik Amaraco

by Lucille Nolasco

WINNIPEG – With the theme, Be Bold For Change, Pinays Manitoba, Inc. (Pinays MB) celebrated International Women’s Day (March 8) on Saturday, March 4, 2017, with a recognition luncheon for Filipino women pioneers in the community.

The luncheon, held at The Marlborough Hotel, was well attended by political leaders from different levels of government, special guests, members and their families and friends.


Now in its second year, the group gave deserving recognition to two pioneering individuals and a group, namely:

• The late Mrs. Rosalinda Natividad Cantiveros – a respected community leader who initially made her mark in the field of journalism. She also became known for her passion and dedication to community work and volunteerism. Her son, Ron Cantiveros, received the award on behalf of the family. In his short acceptance speech, an emotional Cantiveros said, it’s a bittersweet moment as on the day his mother is being honoured, their family is remembering her ninth-year death anniversary. She passed away on March 4, 2008. She was 61 years old.

Rosalinda Natividad Cantiveros was born in Gapan, Nueva Ecija, Philippines. In July 1974, Cantiveros and husband Rod immigrated to Canada. As a teacher in the Philippines, she continued with her education and work in Manitoba. She gained an education degree at the University of Manitoba, with a major in English and a minor in History; Pre-masters in the Education-Psychology Program and PBCE program; Post Baccalaureate on cross cultural and adult education, also at the U of M. She worked as a teacher under the Department of Indian Affairs, School Division No.1; she was a language-training consultant at Manitoba Education Training; ESL and open door education program, and others.

Cantiveros, as a dedicated volunteer, was involved in various groups and organizations such as the Citizen’s Equity and Manitoba Advisory for Foreign Policy. She was a founding member of the Philippine Canadian Centre of Manitoba (PCCM), Manitoba Association of Filipino Teachers (MAFTI), University of Santo Tomas Alumni Association and Gapan Association.

She was recognized with many different awards such as being one of the 100 outstanding Filipinos in Canada. And in 2002, Natividad-Cantiveros was among Manitobans honoured with the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal. It was created to commemorate the 50th anniversary the Queen’s reign. The Governor-General of Canada awarded the medal to those who have made outstanding and exemplary contributions to their communities or to Canada as a whole.

• Mrs. Erlinda Magnaye Ramos – an entrepreneur who established Manitoba’s first Filipino-owned cake-baking business in 1971 when she was still a very young wife and mother with small children. To this day, her cakes are part of special occasions like weddings and birthdays not only in and outside Winnipeg, but also south of the border. With her trademark smile and humility, nanay Linda received the award as her loving family happily applauded.

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.

At seventeen, she fell in love with Gerry Ramos whom she later married. It was summer of 1970 when Ramos, and two of her nine children arrived in Canada. Her husband had come to Canada two months prior. Through hard work, perseverance and living within their means, the couple were able to make things work and provide for their family.

It was in a gathering of friends at their home that a cake Ramos made started to get noticed. A female co-worker of Gerry’s liked the cake and asked Ramos to make her a wedding cake. From that wedding, and through word of mouth, Ramos’ clientele slowly grew. Most Filipino celebrations of weddings, birthdays and other occasions were not complete without a cake from Gelyn’s Wedding Lounge – the name derived from a combination of Gerry and Linda.

Ramos 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.”

While enjoying success in their business, Ramos and husband Gerry never forgot to give back to the community. The couple were among the very first members of the Coalition for Stronger Families and for more than 30 years, Linda worked as a treasurer for St. Edward’s School. She also served as a board member of the Philippine Canadian Centre of Manitoba (PCCM), and is known as a long-time and passionate volunteer at the Magdaragat’s Pearl of the Orient Pavilion during Folklorama, the Philippine Heritage Council of Manitoba, and in many other community events. Still for others, she is simply a wonderful person who provided them food and shelter when they most needed it.

“It’s important to share your blessings,” Ramos advised. “We have always taught our children to never discriminate. Help others and they will help you back. Trust God and never lose your sense of humour!”

Garment Workers Batch 1968-69 – a group of young and courageous Filipino women, and a handful of men, that left the Philippines in the late 1960s to seek a better future overseas. The first batch arrived on October 21, 1968 as the first government-sponsored group of foreign-trained garment workers. Eventually they settled in Manitoba and raised families here. Among the members of Batch 1968-69 who attended the luncheon and received Recognition Awards were: Linda Tesoro, Danilo Sevilla and Linda Mauricio.

Danilo Sevilla who arrived with the first group was one of only two males out of 15 people in Batch ‘68. He was in the design and cutting department. “I was only 21 then. But I decided to come here for a better life for myself and my family.”

Linda Mauricio was only 20 years old when she arrived in Winnipeg. Living in Manila, she was a self-supporting student, studying Education during the day and working at PAE (Philippine American Embroideries, Inc.) at night. At work, she was originally a gofer who was a sort of Jane-of-all-trades, when an opportunity came to be able to work abroad.

“We heard they were recruiting for garment workers in Canada, but I was hesitant at first because I thought it might be a scam,” Mauricio said.

“But then, a relative who was working at CP Air where the job recruitment will be held, said it was real. So I gave it a try. But we had to keep our application secret from our company. Those wanting to apply took turns in taking a day off to travel to Dewey Blvd. in Pasay.”

Aside from a face-to-face interview, applicants also had to undergo a skill test before their application could be completed.

“When it was my turn, I just held the scissors to begin, when the person in-charge said I passed! I guess they know who is skilled or not, just by the way you hold the scissors,” Linda said.

The application process was completed in less than two months. But Mauricio was not able to join the first batch that left in October 1968, and instead travelled with 20 to 30 people on August 04, 1969. That is why they celebrate their anniversary each year collectively as Batch 1968-69.

“The government of Manitoba paid for our airfare and medical, and they even gave us a $50.00 allowance.”

As with other new immigrants, Mauricio had to adjust to the weather and deal with homesickness.

“I endured because I’m doing this for my family and our future.”

The group was divided into smaller groups and were sent to different employers. Mauricio entered ACME and worked there two years. Four years later, with the constant reminder of her mother to finish her studies, Mauricio saved enough money to take short courses at Red River College.

“I took data courses and was able to work as a computer clerk and merchandiser. I also studied design and fabric content at the University of Manitoba. Until I worked at the CRA, where I retired.”

While working in Canada, Mauricio was able to support her family back home and send her siblings to school. She was able to sponsor all of them to come to Canada, except for one sister who still lives in the Philippines.

Mauricio met her husband in Winnipeg, and they have two grown children, each with their own families.

“When I think back, if I remained in the Philippines and became a teacher, life would not be as good. Oftentimes, even college or university graduates find it hard to get a nice, steady job in the Philippines. So I am really thankful to God and to the government of Canada for giving us this wonderful opportunity.”

Now, Mauricio says she is happy and content with her life. She spends most of her time volunteering in Church, now that she is retired.

Loissa Aquino and Maya Duque, as guest speakers, shared their experiences, challenges and triumphs, and perspectives regarding the role of Filipino women in today’s trying times.

Aside from giving the recognition awards, Pinays MB also welcomed new members at the luncheon, namely: Donna Arenas, Maya Duque, Daisy Mendez, Winnie Navarro, Lucille Nolasco, Emy Tipan and Sheryll Zamora.

The 2017 Officers of Pinays MB Inc. are: Chairperson, Roselyn Advincula; Vice Chairperson, Connie De Villa; Secretary, Araceli Ancheta, Asst. Secretary, Mila Dacwag; Treasurer, Perla Javate; Asst. Treasurer, Irene Medina; PROs, Tess Aiello and Emmie Joaquin.

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