Name: Florfina de Guzman-Marcelino
Place of Birth:  Manila, Philippines
Elementary School: Bagong Pag-Asa Elementary School
High School: San Francisco High School

1. Could you please describe how you came to be in Canada.

Up until the early 80s Canada’s immigration stream included the assisted relative category. My husband, Orlando, and our two young children arrived in June 1982 through this assisted-relative category where the applicants’ qualifications were assessed and given additional points if there were relatives willing to sponsor them.

2. Describe your experience of growing up, living, and/or working in Canada?

Very early in life until adulthood all I knew was hand-to-mouth existence. I did not know I was missing much material things  because family life was happy with my loving father, hardworking mother, and five other siblings. As the sole breadwinner, the sudden death of my father when I was ten years old was a major, life-shattering incident for me and my family. Despite many challenges with full-time working and studying in the evening, I completed a bachelor’s degree. As first-generation immigrants in the 80s, any work that brought food in the table was most welcome and highly prized. Under-employment did bring angst and frustration but that was overcome with joy and fulfillment brought by doing church and community work on the side.

3. What are some of your major accomplishments? What were/are some of your major struggles?

I would list being a proud wife, dutiful mother and grandmother as major accomplishments.  My husband Orli and I have 5 children and 5 grandsons with, hopefully, God-willing, more grandchildren on the way in the future.

Being elected three times as a Member of the Manitoba Legislature, serving my downtown constituents, my work as a Cabinet Minister and later becoming the Interim Leader of the Official Opposition have been the career highlights of my working life up to this point.

My most difficult struggles occurred early as a young child when my father died suddenly leaving behind our large family.  We were truly in dire straits and my mother made the heart-wrenching decision to send my brothers and sisters to orphanages.  I had to put myself through school (through scholarships) while working full-time.  Together, my mother and I were eventually able to get my siblings back from the orphanages.  My family’s experience of living in poverty and being vulnerable indelibly shaped my character.   I can empathize with the most vulnerable sectors of our society and I firmly believe in a strong, social safety net to protect and nurture the most vulnerable members among us. I believe that given the support, marginalized, vulnerable members of our community can lift themselves up and be productive members of our society.

4. What are some of future goals that you envision for yourself and for the Filipino community in Canada?

I would like to see more of our organizations participating in the life of refugees, migrants and new immigrants to Canada and contributing to an easier transition in Canadian life.  I would like to see our community organizations participating fully in Reconciliation efforts and in correcting past political mistakes in our society. Also, it would be great if our organizations could participate in a conversation about the causes and effects of our Filipino diaspora around the world and what we can do collectively to mitigate or eradicate some of the more negative effects such as exploitation of workers, broken families, even child abuse (incest).