Norman’s search for meaning

For Norman, there was much he had to leave behind when he kissed his wife, the former Shirley R. Masangkay, and son Norman Aris, who was still in short pants, goodbye.

    It was a bright Saturday morning and should have been a happy send-off at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport but the then 41-year-old Norman C. Erediano was sad.

    He could be leaving for good. After a month, his wife and son would follow him on the same route across the vast Pacific: a two-hour China Airlines flight from Manila to Taipei, then a long haul connecting flight after a three-hour stopover across the ocean to Richmond in British Columbia, Canada.

    What made leaving difficult for Norman was the familiarity of country and home that was filled with love and laughter by  his late  parents, a good and stable job in a company in Caloocan City, and his position  as an official in a Quezon City barangay.

    He started working on his papers three years earlier, in 2002. But he deliberately took his time, hoping that something good would happen to keep him from leaving.

     But his older sister Weng was insistent and kept pushing him to work on his papers.

     He knew what life was in his own country. The thought that life could be more interesting and meaningful in another country crossed his mind.

    So on May 25, 2005, he left the country. He was then  41 years old.

    Weng was waiting to fetch him when his plane landed at the Vancouver International Airport in Richmond. She and her friend who drove the car dropped him off in a townhouse in Surrey.

   Weng initially provided what her brother, the youngest of four siblings, needed until he could find a job. She was working as a chef at the River Rock Casino Hotel near the airport, receiving CAN$13 per hour, although the minimum salary at the time was CAN$8 per hour.

    Compared to salaries in the Philippines, that was high by any stretch of the imagination. This was obviously the reason she worked hard to bring her two kids—Charwin and Kevin Clark Callejo—to Canada and encouraged Norman to also go there.

     Now 59, it has been 18 years since Norman made what was a defining moment in his life. What has happened to him?

    “I’m at present working at Wooden Palette Manufacturing, Inc. located at 198 Ave. in Langley,” he said in a text message. His job involves different responsibilities, like being a machine operator.

    He has been working in the company for 11 years and gets paid CAN$23 per hour.

    He did not mention any of the things he used to like doing in the Philippines. But when he was still here, he was doing different things like joining the barangay police patrols at night until early morning to ensure peace and security in the neighborhood.

     The closest thing to what he used to do is helping a new company recruit as an unofficial trainor. “Our company is not big. If there are new employees, I tell them what to do or guide them in what they’re doing,” he said.

       He is by nature silent but he enjoyed a good laugh. He recalled those barangay patrols, “At night, the other patrollers and I were virtually ‘Mariteses’ long before the term was coined,” he said.

    Over a cup of steaming coffee, he reminisced, “There was idle talk and loud laughter that seemed to reverberate in the silence of the night or early dawn.”

     He added, “I somehow miss those days when I was younger.“

    It was common for people in need to ask him for help—in cash or in kind. “Until now people in our barangay still send me text messages or call me for help,” he said.

     The first time someone asked for help he would oblige but if the requests became frequent, he would nicely decline.

     Another thing he enjoyed doing while still in the Philippines was riding his motorbike to work in the morning and to go home in the afternoon despite the heavy traffic.

    “I now have a 2020 model CRV Honda here but my satisfaction in driving it is different from the joy of riding my motorbike in the Philippines,” he said.

    He explained that he bought his car brand new on installment. An aunt in the United States gave him money for down payment.

     Aside from having relatives in British Columbia to count on in times of need and the satisfaction of having a car, he is also happy that he and his family now have their own house and lot in Surrey.

    “When Shirley and our son arrived, I was working at Penfolds Roofing Company in Vancouver, making CAN$12 per hour. In 2010, we transferred to another house in Surrey, which cost CAN$425,000 on installment,” he said.

   Shirley and Norman Aris are both employed and have their own financial responsibilities.

    Aside from the car and cable television, Norman pays the monthly house amortization.

    He is happy he and his family are on the other side of the Pacific although he hints at wanting to come home were it not for the free medical care in Canada.

    While working for Penfolds Roofing Company, he had chest pain and had difficulty breathing. He went to his car to rest and wait until the chest pain was gone. But it intensified. He requested to be brought to the hospital where it was found that he had a burst aorta, the body’s main artery.

    He was confined for one week  and paid nothing for his hospitalization.

    After his release from hospital, he left the company to find a less stressful job, thinking, with God’s grace, he could still work for the next ten to 15 years.

    “If I were a millionaire and capable of (paying for my) health maintenance, I’d come back to the country of my birth if only for the love and good memories of home and for old times’ sake,” he said.

   This was how much, he said, he cared for the country of his birth.

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