Delta Grand Okanagan Resort in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. Photo courtesy of Tourismkelowna.com
CANADA – Thousands of Filipinos have settled in the orchard city of Kelowna in British Columbia.
Hermie Silva has lived in Kelowna for almost 20 years now. After working in Hong Kong for more than a decade, she accepted a job here as a caregiver and has not left ever since.
"Maganda dito sa Kelowna, at saka ang mga tao dito, friendly kasi, hindi sila yung snob. Friendly dito, kasi ang ethnic community dito ay malaki," said Silva.
Kelowna is a paradise of fruit orchards and wineries, voted as the second best in the world. It is also home to some 3,000 Filipinos who have organized themselves into a community.
Just eight years ago, less than 400 Filipinos lived in the Okanagan Valley. But the numbers have steadily grown, as more and more kababayans have found jobs in this tourism city.
The summer months here are especially busy for hotels like the one where Silva works. The hotel is owned and operated by the former manager of the Westin Philippine Plaza Hotel and his Filipino wife.
"Kelowna is just basically a madhouse during July and August. I always recommend, if people want a recommendation of when to come, try to pick those shoulder seasons like June and September. Those would be nice months to come, and the weather is still nice. You don't end up with quite so many people in town, it's just a little bit more relaxing,' said Paul Ross, owner and general manager of Econolodge Hotel.
Lilia Manjares, another Filipino who works at the hotel, said it can be quite stressful for the staff during the peak season.
"Mahirap talaga pag busy dahil pag kailangan ng room, kailangan mo tapusin. Ayoko naman silang iwanan kasi alam ko naman kailangan nila ng trabahador," said Manjares.
Silva said on their off days, they socialize with their friends or sometimes go to events organized by the Okanagan Filipino community.
But Manjares, who came here only two years ago, finds life still a bit of a challenge without her grandchildren.
"Minsan naiiyak ako dahil pag naalala ko yung mga bata. Sabi lang ng anak ko, tatagan mo yan loob mo. Talagang ganon, minsan lang naman yan, magbabakasyon tayo pag may pera," she said.
Like Manjares, the Philippines also holds a special place for Ross. Despite Okanagan's offerings, he plans on selling his business to retire and build a small resort and spa in his wife's hometown of Masbate.