Ace’s journey to New Zealand was almost by accident.
AUCKLAND - Going abroad hadn’t been on her agenda – but, more or less on a whim, her father had suggested she talk to an immigration agent in Manila – who proposed she study Business Management at Auckland’s Concordia Institute.
At 22 she had left her home city of Legazpi City in Bicol and followed in the footsteps of so many young provincial Filipinos, heading to Manila in search of a career and a future. She had ended up working in Pasay, and in her spare time helping out at her aunt’s turo-turo in Caloocan City, Nancy’s Eatery.
But in 2011, after that meeting with the immigration agent, her life changed.
She arrived in New Zealand in late spring and was adopted into a Filipino family in West Auckland along with several other students. One of the greatest strengths of Filipino culture is its sense of community, of looking after each other, and her New Zealand Filipino family made sure her introduction to life here was thorough.
Restaurants, picnics, sightseeing jaunts, fruit picking – all part of the adventure in a new country, while studying towards her Diploma of Business Management.
Philippine pesos don’t go far in New Zealand, and while her family had saved hard to help her get started it was quickly evident that she would need to find work. One of her housemates spotted an advertisement for Turo-Turo Café on the far side of town, and Ace, with her experience at her aunt’s restaurant, landed the job.
Most Aucklanders would shudder at the thought of commuting by bus and train from Glen Eden to Glen Innes and back so many times a week, with long waits at railway stations and bus stops en route, but coming from a country where hours-long commutes are just part of life Ace took it in her stride.
In October 2012, Ace graduated from the Concordia Institute and soon after was granted a Graduate Work Search Visa. It is likely that her work experience at Turo-Turo will lead to other opportunities and that she will find the skilled work she now needs for her residency.
Not everybody’s story is as straightforward as Ace’s. The immigration process can be tough, and it needs to be said that even Ace has already encountered stress, uncertainty, and sleepless nights: these things are par for the course.
But with a supportive migrant community, Pinoy tenacity, diligence, and patience, and the willingness to seize opportunities with both hands, many more new Filipino migrants will find their home in New Zealand.