“Everywhere!” (Musings From A Viewer)

Last Friday, September 28, marked the 40th anniversary of Citytv Toronto (call sign: CITY-TV). Contrary to expectations (my own, at least), the on-air celebration was quite modest, to say the least. There was a five-part special report about the station and its history aired during the station’s newscasts and posted online, two celebratory segments (one on Friday, another the Monday before) on morning show “Breakfast Television” both featuring chief news anchor Gord Martineau (who, incidentally, just celebrated his 35th year with the station), and an on-air gathering by the CityNews staff during Friday’s 6:00 edition, after they ran the last part of the anniversary special report. Not too much fanfare anywhere else on the station’s airwaves. A bit of a sad note, perhaps, to many Torontonians who grew up watching “the little station that could”. And for me, who, even as someone who had only been living in Canada and the GTA for five years, came to know and love the station.

The original Citytv building

The original Citytv building at what used to be 99 Queen Street East (currently 111 Queen East). Prior to the station moving into this building in 1972, it was the site of a nightclub named Electric Circus–which incidentally became the title of the station’s live dance/music video party in the late ’80s. This was Citytv’s headquarters until May 1987.
(Photo taken September 2010)

Citytv print ad, late '70s

A Citytv print ad for a primetime “Great Movies” double-bill from sometime in the late ’70s.
(Scanned from an old issue of Toronto Star’s StarWeek magazine, from my own personal collection)

To a generation of Toronto viewers, Citytv meant groundbreaking, revolutionary television especially during its prime in the ’80s and ’90s. It may not have become the top-rated station, but it definitely made a mark on both the industry and the city itself. To some, it was about being the music station even before the birth of MTV–with programs such as magazine show “The New Music,” music video shows “Toronto Rocks,” “City Limits” and “CHUM 30,” and concert simulcasts in stereo (along with now-former sister radio station CHUM-FM), and the fact that City spawned Canada’s first and original 24-hour music video channel, MuchMusic. To others, it was about the gutsy, action-packed, in-your-face reportage of the “CityPulse” news team, which perhaps became the ultimate personification of the station’s tagline, “Everywhere!” as they scoured Toronto and the GTA for the stories that mattered. For others still, it was about those “Great Movies,” “Late Great Movies” and even those “Not-So-Great Movies”, from box-office hits to the duds, all day and all night.

It was about the irreverent humor of “Ed’s Night Party” with cigar-smoking puppet Ed the Sock on Friday late-nights, or how lots of men secretly tuned in to every…uhm…extremely sexy “Baby Blue Movie”. For “Star Trek” fans all over the city, it was about being their “federation station”, being the home of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” through its entire run–and how City marked the series finale with a big screening event at the SkyDome (what is now the Rogers Centre). It was about how Brian Linehan surprised his celebrity interviewees every “City Lights” episode with his extensive research. Or how the beautiful Jeanne Beker took fashionistas around the world through their TV screens on “Fashion Television”–long before the term “fashionista” was even coined.  It was about the CityPulse news team reflecting the diversity of the city, the smooth delivery and sharp, witty writing of the late Bill Cameron on the late-night newscast, the revelations and hard truths about Toronto in the CityPulse “Newserials”, the occasional antics of CityPulse sports anchors such as Jim McKenny and Peter Gross, how reporter/ombudsman Peter Silverman was not afraid to stand up for the TO consumer, and how Gord Martineau has always been there forever on the 6:00 time slot, with Dini Petty and later, Anne Mroczkowski as his sparring partner. It was about being part of the dancing crowd every weekend on “Electric Circus”, or the live audience of “CityLine” or “Lunch Television.” It was about having a minute to speak out or strut your stuff for just a dollar at the “Speakers’ Corner” booth (something that helped start the careers of such hometown boys who’ve made it big like Mike Myers, Scott Speedman, and the Barenaked Ladies), and how the station’s now-former home at 299 Queen Street West in downtown TO was called “the living movie”, where passers-by can easily have a look at how television is made. More importantly, it was about how “The Voice”–the late, great Mark Dailey–gave Citytv its distinct identity with his signature baritone and his quick, cheeky one-liners teasing every program, and injected his sense of humor into every Citytv ident ending it with his trademark line, “This is Citytv…everywhere!” Citytv was all about the city, and the people who lived in it. Eventually, I learned, even the world started to take notice. And a lot of it was because of one Moses Znaimer–Citytv’s co-founder and bossman through most of its history–who aimed to take local television out of the box.

The original CityPulse LiveEye

Canada’s first-ever microwave truck, the original “CityPulse” LiveEye–which, I learned, was built by a station engineer in the ’80s. It has since been replaced by the logo of CP24, the local all-news station that Citytv used to own (it’s now under the ownership of Bell Media).
(Photo taken April 2008)

299 Queen Street West

The second home of Citytv, 299 Queen Street West–originally known as the CHUM-City Building. It was famous for being one of the few television production facilities in the world without any legitimate studio. It was wired in such a way that anyone can easily do a shoot anywhere around the entire building. Citytv called this building home from May 1987 to September 2009, but its former TV assets now owned by CTV/Bell Media such as MuchMusic, MuchMore, CP24 and Bravo are still there.
(Photo taken April 2008)

"Everywhere!", the mural

The old “Everywhere!” mural at the 299 Queen West parking lot. The Citytv logos have since been replaced by CTV logos.
The 299 parking lot during the City days was used for some outdoor segments of morning show “Breakfast Television” and for big events and specials. Also, during a huge Toronto-wide blackout, “CityPulse” aired live from the parking lot with just one camera and their LiveEye truck making the newscast possible. CTV still uses the parking lot now for TV purposes, especially for MuchMusic’s annual Video Awards (or MMVAs) every summer, which usually closes off the entire intersection of Queen and John Streets.
(Photo taken April 2008)

City was the first local station I watched when I arrived in Toronto in 2007. I could still remember figuring out how to pronounce the last names of Anne Mroczkowski and Dina Pugliese everytime I saw them on the air, and how proud I was to see my Filipino lineage being represented in the station by some of their reporters at that time–Kris Reyes (whose roots, I learned, were from my parents’ hometown of San Pablo City in Laguna where I was also born), Richard Madan, Marianne Dimain, and later, Michael Serapio. I cannot exactly recall now how else it happened, but I easily related to City and its personalities. And the TV geek that I am (as some of you may recall from a previous post here on this blog), I began to read up more on Canadian and Toronto TV history, which, among other things, led me to YouTube and a ton of archival Citytv clips and idents–mostly from the Retrontario account, which I have since considered the “unofficial” digital archive of Toronto-area television. That was where I discovered bits and pieces of Citytv’s visual history and how valuable it had become to many a TV viewer in the city and beyond. And putting past and present together, I have since resolved that I would love to work for the station someday.

As the succeeding years since my move to Canada went on, it was also within the social media atmosphere where I found out what many of those who grew up watching Citytv have been lamenting all along: that the station is not the same as it used to be–not even a shadow of what it was. As most of them would point out, the corporate shake-up that began in the mid-2000s could be the biggest thing to blame: Moses Znaimer leaving the CHUM empire, then CTVglobemedia (later known as Bell Media, owner of leading Canadian private TV network CTV) buying all the CHUM assets but having to sell off Citytv (and its co-branded sister stations in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg) due to Canadian media ownership regulations–Rogers Communications, another telecom giant and staunch Bell competitor, being the eventual buyer of the City system. I, along with many viewers, witnessed some of those post-buyout changes on the air–things like the eventual axing of “Speakers’ Corner” and “Ed’s Night Party,” the remaining “Great Movies” primetime slots gradually being replaced by US network programming, the late-night “Late Great Movies” and “Baby Blue Movies” slots replaced by second-run reality shows and infomercials, and so on.

And there was that big lay-off in January 2010, the “casualties” of which included veteran CityNews reporters Laura DiBattista (now with CBC Radio), Merella Fernandez (now with CTV National), Pam Seatle (who eventually returned September that year for the station’s G20 Summit coverage, and has remained with City since), and the biggest “victim,” long-time 6:00pm co-anchor Anne Mroczkowski (now with Global Toronto). That event affected me so much as a viewer because to me, perhaps as with a lot of other viewers, those involved were people we trusted–people we considered “friends” or acquaintances, even if we just knew them through the TV screens.

33 Dundas Street East

The current home of Citytv at 33 Dundas Street East, right by Yonge-Dundas Square and in front of the Eaton Centre mall. The station moved into this building (formerly the Olympic Spirit building) in September 2009, and shares the facility with the Rogers-owned OMNI multicultural stations. Just the same as at 299 Queen West, the building’s windows still allow passers-by a view of how television is made.
(Photo taken July 2011)

The City newsroom

Part of the current City newsroom at the building’s 4th floor. Also staying true to its previous years at Queen West, the station’s main newscasts are still done in and around the newsroom with no anchor desks.
(Photo taken July 2011)

Citytv has never been completely the same in the last few years. And in this day and age when the regulatory bodies seem to be more strict about broadcast standards, I don’t think that the Citytv most Torontonians knew and loved in its prime would be able to exist. However, the almost-eternal optimist that I am, I also think that all still isn’t lost. It’s in the way viewers could pack Yonge-Dundas Square even at the crack of dawn (with a few people lining up as early as 10:00pm the previous night) for “Breakfast Television’s” Viewer Appreciation Day event–which I’ve gone to for two consecutive years now. Or how their annual New Year’s Eve party outside Toronto’s City Hall still attracts thousands of people, whatever the weather. It’s about how the BT gang (particularly, main hosts Kevin Frankish and Dina Pugliese) unabashedly makes fun of themselves on live TV now and then. It’s about how host Tracy Moore and her panel of experts still make “Cityline” stay true to its aim of helping women coast to coast (not just in Toronto) live life better, perhaps more than previous hosts Dini Petty and Marilyn Denis would’ve ever imagined. It’s how sports anchor Kathryn Humphreys sneaks in a crazy one-liner or two while going through her sports highlights every night, or how fellow sports anchor Hugh Burrill writes his script for his weekly “HughLites” montage and how he once walked all over downtown Toronto in green tights–antics that could probably be reminiscent of their predecessors Gross, McKenny, Debbie Van Kiekebelt and Ann Rohmer. It’s about how the “Newserial” spirit seems to live on through reporter Avery Haines’ “Inside Story” segment on the 6:00pm edition–with such daring and eye-opening topics as the illegal drug called “bath salts” and female genital mutilation, and heartwarming ones like tonight’s story on a 16-year-old boy suffering from progeria.

It’s how the news team’s local focus is still there, as shown in tonight’s lead story on the 6:00 broadcast: a young cancer patient’s iPad stolen inside the SickKids Hospital. It’s about how viewers stood by reporter Cynthia Mulligan as she documented her battle against breast cancer, in the same manner that Mark Dailey did during his own bout with prostate cancer in the early 2000s. And speaking of Dailey, it’s about how the whole city and beyond–myself included–wept and stood by the station’s side when The Voice fell silent and succumbed to kidney cancer in December 2010. And the list could go on and on and on.

The little station that could has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 40 years. And while it is no longer the same Citytv that Toronto knew, I think we should still trust that the station’s old spirit will still be kept alive somehow by the stalwarts who were there during the glory years, and by new faces who still believe that the station will and should always belong to the city it serves.

Happy 40th anniversary, Citytv Toronto. I know that somehow, you are still loved. Everywhere.

Roger Petersen

Me with current 11:00pm weeknight anchor Roger Petersen. I told him after I had my photo op with him that the late Mark Dailey must be proud of him taking over the late-night newscast.
(Photo taken July 2011)

Hugh Burrill

With CityNews sports anchor Hugh Burrill.
(Photo taken July 2011)

Tracy Moore

With “Cityline” host Tracy Moore.
(Photo taken July 2011)

Breakfast Television

With “Breakfast Television” hosts Dina Pugliese, Jennifer Valentyne, Kevin Frankish and Frank Ferragine. I believe this is my 4th or 5th photo-op with them since I started going to some of their big broadcasts. Might as well call it a “tradition”?
(Photo taken August 2012)

 

9/11

It was one of those events wherein you’d absolutely remember where you were when it happened.

In my case? I was just 17, still living in the Philippines back then. And at the exact time it happened, I was out having dinner with my family at a Filipino restaurant a few minutes away from my college dorm. I didn’t even have a clue about what was happening–all we just knew back then was that someone sent my Dad a text (SMS had just become popular during that time), telling him to watch CNN. I don’t even recall watching the late-night news that evening, but definitely, it wasn’t until the next morning when I found out what happened half a world away–the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, reduced to mere rubble after two passenger planes crashed into them. Thousands of people dead, thousands (and even millions) more left in shock. The US President, vowing to pull out all the stops to make whoever was responsible pay.

And when did all of those events happen? On my birthday.

Growing up and prior to 9/11/2001, I would think once in a while that I must’ve been born on a bad date. I knew for a fact that I shared the same birthday with a former Philippine President who became a dictator in the eyes of many–God rest his soul. History lessons gave me an idea that the last 5-10 years of his term was one of the worst, if the not the worst period in my Motherland’s life.

And then, for a while after it happened, I thought that 9/11/2001 just made my birthdate THE worst. Ever.

I don’t think I can ever blame anybody, though. The WTC tragedy was definitely one of the most horrific anyone has ever seen. Like I said earlier, thousands of lives were lost that day. And every year since then, I remember them in my prayers just as the rest of the world does. However, it just made me sad that I felt like the tragedy took away a good chunk of the happiness that September 11 always brought into my life–and into the lives of many other people who I share my birthday with all over the world. It felt like we who were born on this date had no right to celebrate because the whole world would always be in mourning. And then, there would be those rare occasions I would get jokes about my birthday being “malas” (“unlucky” in Filipino) or whatever other negative adjective. Much to the point that sometimes, I would always answer a casual “When is your birthday?” question with a lot of caution. I don’t know, maybe I just became unreasonably sensitive.

We can never change how most of the world feels about this date anymore. I understand that. I began looking at it as something bigger than myself. Last year, my good buddy Mark seemed to put it in perspective with what he said on my Facebook: “[W]e should take a few minutes to remember, and then get on with life. Perspective and love of life can be worked in together.” Perhaps, he’s right. While I do know that we will (and should) never forget the WTC tragedy and all the heartbreak, loss, and maybe even the anger that it left this world behind, life must continue. And in my case, a celebration of life can go on–perhaps, in the most appropriate manner, of course.

That being said, I say another prayer tonight before I head off to la-la land for those whose lives were lost, and the families affected by those deaths 11 years ago today. And another prayer that a similar event of worldwide catastrophic proportions will never happen again–EVER. If anything, the 9/11 tragedy was yet another event that will always remind of how fragile and fleeting life can become, and to, therefore, live it to the fullest. And when you think about it, maybe there couldn’t be another more appropriate time for that than on your own birthday.

Back To Square One

It was just supposed to be a typical work day–me waking up almost on cue at 5:35 even with just four hours of sleep, firing up the stove for some breakfast, missing the bus by a few minutes (and ergo, ending up calling a cab to get to the GO train station), starting off the train ride with the daily free paper and some music, squeezing in a quick power nap while Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” (my new favorite song–don’t judge) was playing, and finally arriving in downtown Toronto, rushing to catch the 8:10 office shuttle bus. I’ve had that routine pretty much down pat (with just a few hits and misses) for the last few months. And as I headed to my desk, I already had in mind the stuff I’m supposed to accomplish for the day–which break log I’ll be working on, which program episodes have still not been sent for airing, which editors I should be bugging, err, emailing about content, even what time I intend to go home for the day.

But I bumped into one of my co-workers who came in earlier than usual. “Did you know we have a meeting today?” she said. True enough, as I opened my email, there it was. The email from one of our bosses came in after I left work the day before. It was around 8:20 by then, so I just checked some more emails, and suddenly remembered that today was exactly six months since I started working for the company. Kicking it off with an “all-hands meeting” as the email stated? That was interesting, I thought

The clock struck 8:30, and off we went to the meeting room. And the hour or so that followed became pretty much the proverbial “first day of the rest of our (me and my co-workers’) lives.”

In short, I am out of a job again. For the meantime. Of course, I won’t discuss details for obvious reasons (and with that in mind, I am very, VERY grateful to the company I worked for). But needless to say, the last few hours since this morning have been pretty tough–at least on the inside.

It was my Mom who I first called to tell what happened. And honestly, I have to admire her positivity–summed up in this age-old saying that never fails: “When God closes a door, he opens a window.” Of course, in typical Mom fashion, she’ll start asking question after question again eventually, if, God forbid, nothing happens for a while. But for at least those ten minutes I was on the phone with her, I found it comforting to talk about my situation with her, and listening to her present some options and suggestions for the job hunt. I mean, come on, mothers know best, right?

As I cleaned out my desk before leaving the office, I got my hands on this “smiley ball” my high school friend Liza gave me before I left the Philippines in ’07:

“Smile though your heart is aching…”

I just thought that it was an appropriate reminder of how to best deal with this situation.  If anything, I’m doing my best to just stay positive about it–simply because, I think, it’s the better and less stressful thing to do.

So what’s next? To be honest, I’m still trying to put things together. The immediate answer in the interim has been to go back and do some more shows for our community cable station, especially now that our fall programming season is about to end. In fact, it was the first thing I did as soon as I was given my walking papers in the morning (and boy, was I happy to be back–like “the prodigal son” coming home). But for sure, there will be lots of emailing and resume editing and online job hunting to do again. Mom also brought up the idea of looking westward–Saskatchewan, to be exact, where my Dad is staying and working right now. The signs, she said, might be pointing towards there. But frankly, that particular option’s the last thing on my mind at the moment–even if I’m trying to heed Mom’s constant reminder to be open to anything. I don’t know. Maybe, eventually, I’ll look into that with a bit more interest. In any case, I would love to do this whole temporary unemployment thing all over again at my own pace, if possible–keeping in mind, of course, that I have to be practical and not be complacent. As long as anyone doesn’t get on my case too much, I think I’ll be all right.

On the other hand, there’s the fact that I can sleep in again on most weekdays, although I would also still most likely be cooking breakfast for the family (I can probably work around that). And I can get some other “domestic” stuff done more often, like cooking or doing the laundry and all that. Maybe less grocery-shopping in the meantime, though (due to the limited finances).

So, there you go. Back to square one. It’s not a good place to be right now, but I’m eager to see where the next adventure will take me.

Saw this during the train ride back east today–it was like Mother Nature knew how I felt. But I thought that the sunshine would be back again soon (and true enough, the sun was high and mighty later in the afternoon).

Pounding The Pavement

One of the “Team Diabetes” runners representing the Canadian Diabetes Association

Last May 6, my family and I headed for downtown Toronto to watch the annual GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon, originally to cheer for the team fielded by the Canadian Diabetes Association (which one of my sisters volunteered for a few months back). We ended up cheering for practically every runner throughout the four hours or so that we were there. And they came from almost all walks of life. Some were, just like “Team Diabetes”, representing their organizations, companies or communities, while others were just on their own. Either way, the full marathon covered more than 40 kilometres from Yonge and Sheppard to Lake Shore West, then turning back a bit to head for Ontario Place (where the finish line was).

Now, the situation may not have allowed it, but it would have been really interesting to find out (especially from those who weren’t part of a group or organization) why they ran. Or perhaps, more importantly, who they ran for. Maybe there were personal records or “personal bests” waiting to be beaten. Maybe it was just for kicks or “bragging rights”. Or maybe, it was for a loved one suffering cancer (after all, proceeds from the marathon went to the Princess Margaret Hospital in downtown Toronto–one of the premiere facilities for cancer patients and cancer research, I’ve always believed). We never knew, of course. Nonetheless, there was enough inspiration from every runner we saw.

Some runners already having made a “U-turn” along Lake Shore West, on their way to Ontario Place

I might have missed the runners who could’ve eventually been among the first to finish. But perhaps, for everyone else who passed that stretch of Lake Shore where we stood and cheered, it was never a race at all. As we saw the runners heading back east towards Ontario Place, there were those who steadily kept their pace and a few who became visibly tired. The whole time we were watching the marathon, I kept asking myself how these runners can withstand such a physical challenge. I mean, sure, they train for it and all that, but it’s still amazing how a lot of them can stay strong and steady throughout the 40-kilometre distance–I know I can’t.

I then realized that maybe, for a lot of the participants in the Toronto Marathon, it wasn’t about getting to the finish line first. Instead, it was about simply the fun–or the challenge–of getting there. In the bigger picture, a lot of us could probably have become so used to life becoming a race that we sometimes fail to enjoy the journey. Now, I wouldn’t expound more on that part, lest I sound too cheesy or preachy. But…I’m sure you guys catch my drift. It’s something that even I am trying to remind myself everyday, especially whenever I’m caught in the middle of, say, the fast-paced world that is downtown Toronto every work day (now that, of course, would be for another time and another blog entry).

So how’s your own “marathon” in life coming along? Who are you (figuratively) pounding the pavement for? I hope you too are enjoying the run, as much as I am doing my best to enjoy mine.

Sometimes, it’s not about getting there first–instead, it’s about simply getting there.

Te-LOVE-vision

If you’ll give my little profile page a check, you’ll see the words “TV geek” on it. And indeed, I am. I’ve always been. And for the life of me, I can’t remember anymore how that came about as early as my childhood years. All I know is that, back then, I memorized pretty much every TV network jingle or signature tune by heart, and I practiced drawing their logos until I got them right (or…close enough). Some days, I would also pretend to be a news anchor–and actually do a 30-minute newscast during the supper hour with the bench from my grandma’s electric organ as my “anchor desk”, a pile of scratch papers, plus the day’s newspaper as my “script”, then do the whole news anchor routine right down to shuffling my pieces of paper. Other times, I’d pretend to be a host by grabbing a pen or a pencil and make it my handheld microphone. The house became my “studio” and that was my “role play.” And if you knew me and saw me doing that, you would think I was crazy.

One day–and again, I can’t remember when, I just decided that I wanted to become a news anchor when I grow up, while every other kid wanted to be a doctor, a fireman, a police officer or what-have-you. I don’t even know why, but maybe because I became so engrossed with watching pretty much every TV news program, I must have thought that being a news anchor was a cool job. I stuck with it for the next handful of years–even as I headed into college.

That changed a bit over time, though, partly because of the things I’ve seen on the air. But one thing was for sure: I wanted to work in television, in whatever position I could handle. I was fortunate enough to have gotten a headstart early on. There were the classes I took in college, where I got a chance to “get my feet wet” and try many different things like producing and directing a show, editing, writing and even going in front of the camera.  Then, there was the summer internship before my senior year at my favorite broadcast network. I got to work with and meet some personalities I have always admired, and had a chance to help out even in a small way with the news division’s biggest regular-event broadcast (the national elections). A few months after that, I headed the radio route for a bit, also with the same network, and did it on an unpaid/volunteer basis for nearly three years on and off (and loved it just the same). Career-wise, though, it appeared that I was headed a completely different direction.

And then, there was the move to Canada. Given that clean slate as our family started from scratch in our new home, I tried my luck in broadcasting again–and did so for the next couple of years, even as I continued working in the call centre industry. I failed so many times, to the point that I was really frustrated and almost became disillusioned. I was ready to surrender to the possibility that maybe, the industry I’ve loved and would’ve loved to be part of for years was never going to love me back and give me a shot. Moving to the Durham Region from Toronto, however, did give me another glimmer of hope: I began volunteering for community television at a time when I was out of a job. For almost a year, I would be there at least five times a week–so much that our volunteer coordinator always joked that I “lived” at the studio. But on a more serious note, I learned a lot of new skills, and got to experience actual work in live television. I loved the rush, so much that, on some days, I would do a studio show in the morning then head out for a live mobile right after and come home really late at night. My parents would often ask me what the whole point in volunteering was, seeing that I wasn’t getting anywhere (career-wise) at that time. But I stood my ground and tried to be patient, even as I knew that my finances were starting to run dangerously low. Until just last December.

I’m nearly four months now into my current job as media management coordinator for a new multicultural broadcaster–nothing too fancy about the job title, though, because the “media management” part is basically transcoding program and promo materials into broadcast standards and sending it to the master control facility.  But I love it, especially whenever I beat deadlines and get to see how our materials go to air.  I still do my volunteer work for community TV as well, working behind-the-scenes for a weekly public affairs talk show, doing mobiles for sports and other special events whenever possible, and yes, going in front of the camera to host every now and then. More importantly, I’ve further appreciated all the effort that comes with making a TV show happen, and gained a lot of new friends and professional contacts along the way.

It seems that dreams do come true after all, even in different ways. And I’m just happy and grateful to have been given these opportunities. God-willing, I’ll be around for as long as I can, helping contribute to a medium I’ve grown up with and loved so much.

Salamat**, Oh Canada

First of all, welcome to my brand-new blog, Roll and Record. It’s been years since I last put one up, and after shutting it down some years ago, I maintained a LiveJournal account, then did a short-lived attempt to blog again at Blogspot, gradually abandoned the LiveJournal account (though I’ve never deactivated it–it still exists), then went to Tumblr for a bit but also gradually abandoned it (it also still exists). Well, here I am again. But this time, I promise to be a bit more active. After all, this is, as you’d see in my profile, my newest venture into attempting to write beyond 150 characters (which, by the way, you’ll also see somewhere else on this screen). Wish me luck.

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My family at our citizenship ceremony in Oshawa, ON on March 22, 2012, along with an RCMP officer (whose name I can't remember at the moment--my apologies), Oshawa Mayor John Henry and Citizenship Judge Philip Gaynor

If you knew me some four and a half years ago as a scrawny twenty-something with a twisted body clock after nearly two years as a call centre agent working in beautiful Eastwood City, you would know that I never, ever wanted to leave the Philippines. Migration was sort of a taboo word to me. And I never wanted to leave my friends, the simple joys I was comfortable with, and the country where I grew up. Because if I did, it would feel like I’ve switched loyalties–pretty much, perhaps, like being traded to another team in sports, or, particularly in the Filipino context, moving to your rival network after your contract expires or you had a fall-out with the bosses or whatever other reason.

Enter Canada. My parents had been planning for years to move the entire family there. It didn’t work out the first time (much to my delight), so they tried again (much to my dismay). Eventually, there also came a plan to move to New Zealand. Ahh, somewhere a bit nearer, I thought. But it was still migration–and I never wanted to hear a word about it. But as the years went on, I kept all the objections to myself. When the request from Citizenship Canada for us to take a medical exam came in January 2007, I started to think that that was it–the “beginning of the end”.

And then, later that summer, I finally got the text from my Mom one midday as I prepared for work: “We’re going to Canada.” I wasn’t as negative anymore as I was years back–or so I thought. But I still felt my heart sink. I thought of that old song line, “So little time, so much to do”. And indeed, there was so much to do: serve my resignation letter and get my work clearance done, pack our stuff and clean up the house we would leave behind, say goodbye to friends and relatives and all that. But we got through it somehow. And as we exited the plane into the Vancouver International Airport on July 24, 2007, all eight of us in the family knew that life was never going to be the same.

Fast forward to Thursday, March 22. Four years and close to eight months, three houses, thousands of kilometres travelled and a ton of challenges later, we finally swore our allegiance to Canada as new citizens. I’m amazed at some of my friends telling me that I’ve actually become more Canadian than, say, anyone they know or even a piece of Canadiana like maple syrup. To be honest, I couldn’t really say the same thing for myself.

Well…okay, for one, I love watching hockey now–heck, I have been helping put hockey broadcasts to air for a year now. Whereas, a few years ago, I never really understood how Canadians are so darn passionate about the sport and why they keep saying “Canada’s game” this and “Canada’s game” that. Until I saw that historic Canada-USA men’s championship hockey game in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, leading up to the OT–and that “golden goal” by Sidney Crosby–all the way to the celebrations that happened coast to coast from Robson and Burrard in downtown Vancouver to Yonge and Dundas in downtown Toronto.

There is also the weather. Ahh, the change of the seasons, which I’ve become so used to–or “acclimatized”, as they say. Everyone here in this country can say so many things about the weather, especially the tail-end of the year when winter arrives. Okay, I’ll be honest: I still hate winter, especially after having experienced two bad winter seasons during my first two years here. Although I can’t complain about what we had this past winter–it was much nicer. There’s still that part of me who grew up in the tropics after all.

And I still have yet to get to know which side–or color–of the political spectrum I would eventually support when I finally get a chance to vote. But at least, I’ve seen how elections here are like–a bit more organized, results are out much faster (proof: TV networks here do a 2 or 3-hour primetime broadcast on election night, just like in the US…back home, it’s a marathon broadcast running about a day and a half), less possibility of violence (thank God), and–as far as I know–less chance for fraud. However, voter turnouts over the last few elections here, I’ve learned, still leaves so much to be desired. Well…I think Canada can absolutely work on that.

The one good thing about moving to a different country in this day and age is how the world has gotten smaller and smaller. If the Philippines’ two biggest and most popular TV networks broadcasting their international feeds into Canada isn’t good enough an example of that in itself, then I don’t know what is. I mean, we’re lucky enough to have that, as well as the power of social media and the internet to stay in touch with whatever’s going on in the country or with the friends and family we left behind. Sure, nothing compares to actually being there, but technology has made it possible to be on step closer to that.

However, other than that–plus…yes, I admit, the eventual weight gain–I don’t think too many things have changed. Our family is still together under one roof (except for my Dad, who recently just got an opportunity to work in another province), and we try our darndest to be together at least for dinner every night, as well as during the weekends. We still find time for occasional gatherings with relatives and our Filipino friends here (and believe me, food is always overflowing–just like back home). And yes, I still speak my native tongue every chance I get. You see, I think the best thing about becoming Canadian is how we who came from other countries and different backgrounds are still highly encouraged to embrace and stay true to the culture we grew up into while trying to integrate whatever we’ve learned from being in this country. You don’t have to change who you are or forget where you came from to belong here.

And so, I am grateful–to my family, our relatives, and all my friends here in Canada. Salamat. You’ve helped me change my outlook from years back. I have loved living here. And although I look forward to the day I could come home to the Philippines for a visit, I can honestly call Canada my second home now. After more than four years, I don’t think I’ll have it any other way.

** “Salamat” means “Thanks” in Filipino