From Manila to Alberta

February 6, 2022

Julia Magsombol (she/her/hers), Low Entropy Volunteer Writer


I was reading some news about immigration, and it stunned me how there are so many people from different countries wanting to live here in Alberta, Canada. Canada opened its doors to over 400,00 new permanent residents in 2021. I wonder why so many people wanted to live here. Did they have the same reason as my family? 


Almost eight years ago, my family and I packed our things and left the Philippines to move to Alberta. I was never part of the decision to move here. It was a huge decision that both my parents made for me and my siblings. 


My aunt sponsored my family. I never really cared about immigration applications, but I knew that it took many years and effort for us to validly live here. I tend to question my parents and even our fellow immigrants in choosing this path. Why this? 


When my family and I were starting out in Canada, it was a difficult time for all of us. My parents’ life completely changed in Alberta. They were both homesick, but for the sake of our future, they persevered and stayed here. They had the strength to stay in this strange country for us, their kids. 


My life completely changed when I moved into our new home as well. I remember one incident that I will never forget. After two months in Canada, I started going to school. Everything was new to me, including the system, the people and the culture. I was like a lost kid who was trying to find her mom, but couldn’t. What was more annoying was that I couldn’t talk about this loneliness to my parents because we were all adjusting to this new place. 


At school, there were times when I would sit in front of the lockers or inside the washroom all by myself and stay there for a very long time just to kill time before classes started. I would get lost on my way home too, because I would take the wrong bus. I had no one to talk with about all those things, and I wish I did during those times. 


I believe that there are two types of loneliness: the kind that we choose, and the kind that we don’t.


During those times, it wasn’t my choice to be alone. I didn’t want to be alone, especially when I needed to talk to somebody.


But not long ago, I found friends. In all honesty, they were people I wouldn’t think I could be friends with, but I felt comfort and relief. That was enough, and I felt happy. 


When I moved to Alberta, I wanted to be someone else, someone better. As my friendships developed, I found myself changing in the most bizarre ways. They weren’t changes that I wanted to because of my own will; they were changes that I needed because of other people, and perhaps their acceptance. Those changes were not good. I felt far from not only my home or my family, but also from myself. 


As I spent more time with my friends, I changed the way I dressed and spoke. I changed my attitude and the things I liked. I spent less time with my family. 


My mother started to get frustrated with the new me and how I spent more time with other people. I felt guilty then, because I knew that she was also trying to adjust to everything, yet I was ignoring her. Still, I didn’t listen to her,  only to myself.  


My mother’s frustrations grew bigger, and we would fight constantly. I have always guessed that she never understood me and how I felt lonely all the time. I said words that I should not have in those fights, because I knew how hurtful they were to my mother. I hurt her a lot. 


One day, when I came home late in the winter, I found my mother crying in the living room. The lights were off, and it was very dark. I went to her and asked her what had happened. She wouldn’t say. 


I wondered if my dad was fired from his job, or my siblings were bullied at their school, or maybe she was frustrated because she couldn’t find a job. I couldn’t guess. 


Then my mother suddenly reached for me and hugged me. It had been a long time since she hugged me, and it felt odd how her hands were so rough. Her tears fell onto my face, and I wanted to pull away from her. But she hugged me so tightly that I couldn’t move. 


Still crying, my mother told me that her grandma had just died. She said that she couldn’t do anything. She couldn’t go home because we’d only been in Alberta for two months. It wouldn’t be ideal to go back to our home country and spend a lot more money when our new lives were still not settled. 


I wanted to cry in that moment, but I knew I had been so selfish. I only listened to myself and my feelings, but not my mother or the rest of my family. My feelings were valid, but I should have at least cared for my family too. I knew they felt lonely like me. 


I couldn’t do anything, but I reached for my mother and hugged her too. I felt some comfort, and maybe a hug was all we needed. 


From that winter onwards, everything indeed changed. I changed, and so did my perspective. My parents changed. My siblings changed. Our lives changed. But I know one thing: our relationship with each other never changed. Though we all felt somewhat estranged, we were still warm. 



Julia Magsombol is currently a journalism student from Edmonton, Canada, who desires to bring hope to people through her writing. When not writing or reading, you can catch her sewing clothes, painting nature and drinking instant coffee.

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