Through the years the Filipino Journal has graciously allowed me the opportunity to share my experiences when I have travelled to the Philippines, something I have been doing since 1991. I remember my first trip and when I returned to Winnipeg the late Linda Cantiverous sat down with me and the the pictures that I had developed from the film that I used. We talked about the pictures and put together a story that reflected why I wanted to go to the Philippines.
Back in 1991 it was more about me wanting to be a tourist and just experience the Philippines but because of Fred DeVilla I met the Vice President back than in that was cool. I also have a good family friend in Neil Cruz, I got to know Neil back than. If you talk to my daughter (MLA from Burrows she will tell you that during that trip she was created.
Since my 1st trip I have travelled many times to the Philippines and the 2,000 plus digital pictures that I have taken have some common themes that I would like to share with you.
The primary reason has evolved to be me and my office assisting people with immigration. In fact over the years I have hosted free immigration workshops from Pangasinan to Cavite to Cebu and many other locations, in total we have had thousands of people attend the workshops. Did you know that if it were not for immigration to our province in the last 10 years our province would have actually decreased.
Meeting politicians has also been a priority and I have met with many including barangay captains, Mayors, Governors, Congress Representatives, and many more.
One of the more interesting Mayors I met with at the time was Mayor of Davao who is currently the President of the Philippines R. Duterte met for almost two hours in a hotel room in Davao where we had a one on one talk about a wide variety of things including about a group of people outside of where we were meeting who wanted him to run for President
I enjoy meeting with young people and when I can I will lecture at Universities or make other arrangements at schools and on one occasion a group of kids at a GK Village. I have had the opportunity to speak at the following universities: University of the Philippines and Bulacan State University. I believe stronger educational links would help both Canada and Philippines, imagine graduating from a High School in Winnipeg being able to take a first year program in the Philippines and being able to have it accepted as part of a four year degree program at the Uof W or the UofM.
My trips are not long stays but I also take the opportunity as I did in 1991 to enjoy the Philippines also as a tourist which has allowed me to gain wonderful experience and better appreciate the heritage of Philippines which ultimately makes me a better person. My most recent trip allowed me to see close up how lechon is really made and over the years I have travelled on many different things from tricycle to jeepneyes to air con taxis to boats to luxury vehicles and much more. The foods are fantastic the traffic is amazing and the number of people can be overwhelming at times not to mention the art of shopping. Bottom line is my trips have enabled me to not only learn things but they have also allowed me to become a better politician.
I believe that both Canada and Philippines are great nations and that together we are both better. If not for the Philippines Canada would be a very different place today and nowhere is that better illustrated than here in Manitoba. I agree with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he talks about Canada’s diversity we should all embrace it and be proud of who we are. For me my trips are about bridging better relationships whether it is between families, friends or Governments.