I am Cleofe Bandilao- Curatolo, a Filipina-Canadian from the southernmost part of the Philippines. I am the first-born of ten children and because I am the eldest, I have many responsibilities. I helped my parents take care of my eight sisters and one brother. We struggled to make ends meet constantly.
When I was in High School, I worked during the day and attended school in the evenings. After my graduation, I worked as a furniture salesperson. I saved all the money I could from my meager salary so I could help my parents provide food and clothing for my siblings. My father worked as a supervisor and my mother was a midwife but they couldn’t earn enough for our basic needs and to pay for our tuition. Unlike Canada, in the Philippines we pay tuition from Grade School to University.
After High School, I received a scholarship to St. Peter’s College where I studied Liberal Arts majoring in History. I continued to work at the college even if I didn’t pay tuition so I could buy my textbooks, pay for transportation, and buy material for my projects. I decided to shift to Midwifery after two years because my mother was a Midwife, I loved babies, and I liked the white uniform that they wore at the hospital. I worked all the time I was in school so I would not be a burden to my parents. I graduated with excellent marks and spent four happy years working at the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital.
1986- 1988 Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
In the Philippines, very often, one does not earn enough so I decided to try my luck overseas. Many Filipinos leave the country in search of a better life for their families.
I left for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1986 and worked there for two years. I was a nanny for three young children. I took good care of them and I taught them how to speak English and they in turn taught me how to speak Arabic. I had to adjust to a different culture and it wasn’t easy for me. We shopped in the evenings because the heat was unbearable in the daytime. We even went to the Parks at night. We stayed indoors whenever there were sandstorms because they were dangerous. It is a male-dominated culture and rules had to be followed such as separate rooms for men and women at socials and the women covered their faces in public.
From the Middle East I moved to Asia. I took care of newly born Matthew until he was three years old. I learned to speak Chinese. I worked hard and did not earn enough because I sent most of my salary back to the Philippines to help my parents send my younger brother and sisters to school. I survived being homesick because I needed to earn money for my family. Today my brother and sisters are all college educated and have professional careers.
1993- 2013 Kelowna, Canada
I was looking for a better life and through Direct Hiring I left Singapore to work in Kelowna. Waiting for me in Canada was nine-month old Jessie, a special child with cerebral palsy. I took care of him from 1993-1996 as a live-in caregiver.
I joined the Okanagan Filipino Club (OFC) and became active in the Community. The Filipino-Canadians shared their culture and traditions in events such as FolkFest, Family Fun Day, and many others. Through OFC I met other Filipino-Canadians in Kelowna. I was President of the Club in 2002.