Nunavut – The preceding month is an auspicious period of sorts. For one, it is EDSA ’86 Anniversary, as well, it is my birth month. Two, it is the Death Anniversary of Linda, the late Editor-in-Chief of the Filipino Journal, who is the topic of my article on this issue—-the celebration of her life, how she had been an influence to this writer in one way or the other.
I met Linda at Casa Buena through Rod Cantiveros. I left the Philippines with my family on 22 December 1987. The following day of our arrival my sister-in-law, Bernadette, suggested if I need to mingle with Filipinos I shall visit Casa Buena where Filipinos congregate to socialize and buy Oriental foods. At Casa Bueno, curious to discover my new environment I keep turning left and right when I heard a baritone voice, “Bagong dating ka ano?” Albeit startled, I managed to reply, “Paano mong nalaman na bagong salta ako?” My greeter gave out a wide grin with chuckles, “Ang suot mo, manipis, halata, hindi gawa dito sa Canada”.
Thereafter, Rod invited me for coffee. We chat about the latest news from the old homeland. Learning I had formal studies in Journalism,Rod gleefully shared that he and his wife, Linda, recently bought out a community paper and renamed it, The Filipino Journal. That if I am interested to contribute a column, I would be introduced to Linda being the Editor of the paper. I disclosed to Rod that in the Philippines I do not regularly write an opinion column except when I was asked to write editorials as guest, or write policy speeches of some politicians, or help draft policy papers to bureaucrats. I am more of a “ghost writer” in terms of writing experience.
“When are you prepared to submit your maiden column?” Linda inquired with her soft voice when I was introduced to her. “I will find fine time since I still need a sufficient period to adjust”, I reluctantly replied since I am not certain of the instance I could start writing.
In the period that I work with her for two decades until her body succumbed to the debilitating ailment, I find Linda a paragon of patience. I never felt any pressure when we have deadlines to beat since the printer has schedules too to beat to finish their job orders. Her reminders are gentle when I am remiss in my in my submission. Linda would gently say, “Rod is driving tomorrow to Steinbach to print the last edition. Do you think before 12:00 midnight you can send off your column?”
I remember the days when The Filipino Journal and the radio program, Good Morning Philippines took the lead role in boycotting a chain of grocery stores. After a yearlong boycott the Head Office of said grocery chain contacted me through a kababayan explaining that since The Filipino Journal and Good Morning Philippines were in tandem in leading the boycott against them, the query was conveyed if it is possible the Filipino Community could now “forgive” and be “reconciled” with the establishment?
(I received the information that the store was losing sales of $50,000.00 per day. The other members of the migrant groups, i.e., East Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Pakistani joined the boycott too).
The first party I conferred with regarding the sensitive matter are the spouses Rod and Linda. The latter opined, “Bob, we are Christians. We have the right to defend our honor. But, we neither harbor grudges, nor are we vindictive people”.On that note the other community leaders at the time were contacted to discuss the issue of lifting the call of boycott and “accept” the offer of apology of the offending establishment. The seven of us including Linda Cantiveros and I, were dubbed as the Committee of Seven. The five others were Rey “Kaka” Pacheco, Fred de Villa, Ric dela Cruz, Edda Pangilinan, and the late Joe Sulit. When the Commission of Overseas Filipinos sought documented information about the precedent setting act of expatriate Filipinos not only in North America but elsewhere, copies of The Filipino Journal were mailed out to Malacanang Palace.
Linda, being the Editor-in-Chief, is always in the forefront on issues that affect the interests of the old homeland. Occasions I vividly recall was the lobby in behalf of the Philippine Airlines to grant the Flag Carrier landing rights in Canada. It was a long drawn effort. But today, Canada, have granted the airlines direct flight from Manila to Toronto and return.
When I lodged the complaint of racial discrimination against Winnipeg Free Press and the Winnipeg Police Service for naming the ethnic background of offenders who are members of the Filipino-Canadian Community when they were suspected of violation; but, does not name the country of origin of convicted criminals who are Caucasian looking—-Linda supported me to grieve with the concerned respective parties. A meeting with the management of Winnipeg Free Press were convened joined by a police officer. Curiously, in 1999, I was named by Winnipeg Free Press in their rooster of “Who is Who”, earning the moniker of “community activist”.
Trying times are the best gauge in determining who the true friends are. In 1988, I proposed to the Provincial Government to recruit Philippine trained nurses to address the shortage of hospital beds for lack of healthcare delivery workers. It took the incumbent government ten years to approve the long delayed proposal. But it was the NDP government that executed the proposal after additional two years of waiting. Bringing Philippine trained nurses was no excursion. I was reviled by many that my proposal was a scam and I was falsely accused of bilking 1,000 Filipino Nurses at $1,000.00 dollars each. I never earned a single cent out of my civic initiative. I lobbied the government to grant settlement funds to nurses who successfully entered Manitoba, yet, some kababayan maliciously suggested in their newsletter that my house be lobbed with a grenade bomb for fooling Filipino Nurses. Sinister innuendos reached my wife that I impregnated five recruited nurses. The days that I was seething with anger plotting my revenge, Linda, all along calmed me down. That I should pray for patience for eventually vindication would come. “Vengeance is mine, said the Lord”, Linda would remind me when rage seem to overcome me.
As I write this essay, my wife and I commiserate with the survivors of Linda. I still have the feelings of sorrow over the loss of Linda due to Cancer. We grieved when we lost our job, some mourn when they undergo divorce. But bereavement over the death of a dear one is far deeper than sorrowful feelings when one loses a job, or had gone through divorce.
From a Biblical perspective, however, the death of God fearing people is precious in His sight. For in death there is no more suffering, not more pain, and no more sorrow.
Yes, life is fragile. Life is short. Death is sure. Life must be handled with care.