Filipino man says sacrifices worth effort
Fri May 15 2015
Byline: Katie Smith
Nothing worth having in life comes easy, as the saying goes, and for one immigrant living in Miramichi, the act of sacrifice is all too familiar.
Joel Ligad landed in New Brunswick from the Philippines in 2010, looking for work and a better life for himself and his family.
With little work in his native land, Ligad often travelled to Taiwan for months at a time, working various contract jobs. But because of Taiwanese laws, migrant workers can only work there for a maximum of nine years.
Wanting a more sustainable way to earn money, Ligad knew he needed to head west.
“Here, there’s a good life. From our perception, Canada is a great country,” Ligad told the Miramichi Leader in a recent interview. “That why we were aiming to go to Canada.”
After looking into making the move, Ligad discovered there was a need for caregivers in Canada, so he returned to school and enrolled in a caregiver program. It wasn’t until after that he learned the jobs for men in that field were few and far between.
“But then my friend told me that even if you’re not a caregiver, Canada still needs employees.”
With this in mind, Ligad applied to come to Canada via Taiwan because there are fewer applicants who apply from there, so he would have a better chance of getting to Canada.
“So I said, ‘OK, I’ll just go for any job, as long as I’m here in Canada,’ and I just submitted my resumé to the agency, and it’s up to them (to place me somewhere).”
It was soon time to head to his chosen new country, which was a mix of emotions for Ligad because, while on the one hand he was leaving to find a better life, he also had to leave his wife and unborn child behind.
“When I left, she was pregnant,” he said, adding he has never had the chance to hold his baby in his arms.
Ligad’s first job in Canada was in Richiboucto at a fish plant, but because it was only contract/seasonal employment, and because immigrants are required to work for a full year in a full-time position before they apply for their residency, he wasn’t able to apply for his.
Eventually he landed a job in Miramichi as a Subway employee, and after a year of full-time employment, he was eligible to apply for his residency.
In April, the 36-year-old Ligad was finally granted permission to live in Miramichi, a permission extended to his wife and daughter.
It’s been five years since he’s seen his wife, Conchita, and has never once met his daughter, Summer, who turns four in June.
He is able to communicate with his family via computer over Skype, but Ligad said his situation has been challenging.
“It’s hard. A lot of people don’t know. You work at Subway, you face different kinds of people, you smile. And sometimes people don’t know what your life (is about),” he said. “It’s hard, wondering if (my family) are OK and how things with the baby are going. It’s very difficult.”
But things are about to look up for the family because Ligad is heading to the Philippines this month to visit with his family and friends and will bring his wife and daughter back to Canada with him.
“I’m so happy that finally all of the sacrifices are worth it. You finally get what you want if you keep on pursuing it.”
Apart for five years, Ligad will soon have his wife and daughter under one roof, something he says is worth more than anything else in the world.
As Ligad started talking about his daughter, he paused and looked away as his eyes filled with tears.
“I can just remember the first time she said, ‘I love you, Daddy,’?” he said, his voice cracking. “I’m just happy.”
Ligad say he draws strength from his family, and they keep him going.
“My family motivates me. I’m doing this for them, so that’s why you can’t stop. Even though you are here alone, there can be problems with work or personal, but you can get through it.”
Ligad said his wife has been strong through this whole process.
“She’s OK. I owe her a lot for taking care of my baby. It’s really hard. She’s just alone. I’m not there for her every time the baby got sick. I owe her a lot for my baby.”
And once he has her back in his life permanently, Ligad said he won’t leave them again.
“I told my wife, ‘I can’t promise you an easy life, but the most important thing is that we have each other.’ I told her, ‘I’m not going to leave you anymore. Whatever happens, I don’t care, as long as we have each other.’?”
Ligad is not only going to see his wife and daughter when he goes home, but he is also planning on surprising his mother and two brothers with a visit because it has also been five years since he’s seen them.
“I didn’t tell them I’m coming. I just told them I got the residency and I told them that before my wife and my daughter will come here, they will visit. So they are expecting my wife and my daughter to visit them, but not me.”
Ligad said he has joined the Point Church and has met a lot of wonderful, supportive people through that, which has helped curb the loneliness of living here without his family.
“The church helped. I (met) people in the community, and some of them have helped me. They are really nice people,” he said. “If there’s a Thanksgiving, I’ll go to their house with their family. That helps a lot.”
The Philippines, which is made up of more than seven thousand small islands, is a country that enjoys a tropical climate, so the idea of snow is foreign to Ligad’s family.
“My daughter, every time we talk on the Internet, she will ask me, ‘Can you show me the snow?’ The good thing is, they will come here in the summer for an easier transition because where we come from, it’s so warm there.”
Snow or not, Ligad said in the end, all that matters is that he and his family will again be reunited.
“I am so happy.”