Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

First snow an eye-opener for Filipino immigrants

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For Fred de Villa, a Filipino insurance agent and community leader who arrived in Winnipeg in 1977, the introduction to Manitoba winter was a frightful experience.

When his sister could not pick him up after he finished his shift as a custodian in the West End, de Villa was forced to navigate Winnipeg Transit for the first time -- and it was in the middle of blizzard.

"I was thinking, how can I get home? I didn't know where the bus was going," he said.

Eventually, de Villa said he was able to make it close to Ness Avenue, only to realize there were no buses back to his home in Crestview. Frustrated with transit, he decided to walk the rest of the way.

"And really, it was so bad, I just thought 'I want to go home to the Philippines,' " he said.

Eventually de Villa made it home, only to realize he was locked out.

When his sister told him this was common weather for Manitoba, de Villa was understandably not impressed.

"I said, 'If it's like this every year, I don't like it. I want to go back,' " he said with a laugh.

De Villa said he's adjusted quite well since that first winter, though he still finds the holiday season here much quieter than in his native country.

"The community in the Philippines, once it's reached December, you can hear Christmas songs on the radio and TV, people are going carolling, people come to your place and sing songs," he remarked.

"It's really like Las Vegas. People are walking around. Here, oh boy. But now I'm used to it.

Rod Cantiveros, publisher of the Filipino Journal, had a much different take on his first brush with snow.

Moving to Winnipeg in 1974, Cantiveros said he had been looking forward to arriving in the "winter wonderland" he had seen in postcards and films.

"As a guy from a tropical country, snow is the most important expectation when winter comes," he said.

Arriving in July, Cantiveros had to wait a few months for his first taste of snow. By then, he was so excited, he ran out in his pyjamas.

"I was dancing while the snow fell, and it was just like a child in me. It's such a good experience to touch and to taste the snow," he said.

Through the Filipino Journal, he and his son, Ron, now help organize activities to introduce Filipino newcomers to the joys of living in Canada during winter.

sarah.petz@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 13, 2012 B2

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