Even as she stands only five feet two inches, Cebuana farmer Liezl Alegre turns heads in Canada. The lady may be lacking in the height department but there’s no missing her when she’s already driving and operating huge farm tractors, plowing about 700 acres of land. “It’s relaxing. I feel emotionally at peace when I’m driving it,” the Filipina farmer tells ANCX. “Nakakapag-isip ako. Nagdi-dream about the future.”
She loves her job so much she says she can do it up to 16 hours nonstop. And to think she had zero knowledge in driving and farming back home in the Philippines. In her hometown of Cebu City, she worked as a customer service staff and a factory worker. She also helped out in the family’s seashell craft business.
It wasn’t work that initially brought the Cebuana to Canada. It was love. She fell for a Canadian, got married in 2011, and had a baby. But the marriage was short-lived.
Liezl decided to start a new life in the Northern American country. She got to work in the kitchen of a military base but the money wasn’t enough. “Dito kasi sa Canada, if you live on your own, kailangan two jobs,” she says. So when her Filipina friend offered her a part-time gig at her husband’s farm, Liezl readily accepted.
It was thru her Filipina friend’s husband that Liezl met her current boyfriend, Martin, also a farm owner. Martin eventually hired Liezl and their love story blossomed in the corn and soy fields.
Liezl says it was Martin who encouraged her to learn to drive the tractor. “Siya mismo ang nagturo sa akin,” she offers. The Pinay farmer admits she was initially scared to drive the vehicle. “Stressed to the highest level lalo na pag nagda-drive ako sa highway. Nae-encounter ko ang mga ten-wheeler trucks,” she says, laughing.
In Canada, Liezl says women taking on traditionally manly jobs like operating heavy equipment is nothing new. But there’s also not too a lot of female tractor drivers around, so she’s quite proud to be one of the few.
In many of her YouTube videos, Liezl drives the tractor in the company of a little girl—four-year-old Alexa, her firstborn with Martin. In these videos, the little girl always seems to be having a swell time with her super mom.
“Nasanay na siya kasi four days old pa lang siya nagtatrabaho na ako kasama siya. She’s in her car seat, kaya parang normal na sa kanya ang pagsakay sa tractor,” Liezl says. Alexa is also such a well-behaved girl. “Hindi naman ako nahirapan mag-alaga sa kanya. Parang ang dali niyang nag-mature. Parang naiintidihan niya ang klase ng trabaho namin.” Her other daughter, now nine years old, stays with her ex-husband, and they see each other on weekends.
Liezl is busy with farm work from April to November. The rest of the year, she’s operating the tractor for another reason—plowing snow. Her boyfriend provides snow removal services to private companies. Liezl says snowplowing is much tougher than farming. “Mas gusto ko pang mag-araro kahit 20 hours,” she says, smiling. “Marami kasing sasakyan kaya maraming kailangan bantayan. Baka makabangga ng side mirror.”
The Pinay mom is happy and content with her life now but she admits she encountered challenges and discouragements along the way. “First three years ko, naiisip ko na baka hindi para sa akin ang trabahong ito. Sobrang mahirap para sa akin,” she says, referring in particular to soya planting, which entails monitoring and technical know-how. “Naiiyak talaga ako taun-taon.”
But it helps that she has a very encouraging and reassuring boyfriend. “He tells me that it’s normal to make mistakes. Pinapapalakas nya ang loob ko,” she says. “I have no regrets with my decisions. Kung may mga naging struggles man in life, it made me the strong woman that I am now,” she says.
To other women, she shares an empowering message: “Wag tayong matakot mag-try ng mga panglalaking trabaho. Kahit panglalaki, kaya din natin. Kailangan lang talagang mag-focus. Determinasyon lang talaga at tibay ng loob kasi lahat naman ng trabaho pwedeng aralin at matutunan,” she says.