Each year the Royal Bank of Canada awards 25 inspiring and deserving Canadian immigrants with the title of “Top 25 Canadian Immigrant of the Year.”
This year, out of 75 finalists vying for one of the top 25 spots, three of them are Filipino-Canadians. The Philippine Canadian Inquirer will be profiling these three finalists in upcoming issues.
By the time many people hit retirement age, they want nothing more than to have a relaxed and happy retired life.
But that’s not the case with Ver Cruz, president of Vercore International Services, an education and training institute based in Toronto, Ontario.
“When somebody retires, I just really have to ask myself, when I wake up in the morning and look out the window, where do I go? That’s actually the most scary thing to happen,” he said.
Indeed, Ver, who is in his late 70s, does have an incredibly busy and fulfilling life. Aside from being president of VIS, he finds time to travel around the globe to conduct career orientation symposiums. Last year saw him visit Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, where he met with business people at the behest of his students. From there he went to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Jordan to meet with doctors and nurses of Filipino and other nationalities interested in coming to Canada.
But before Vercore, and even before he came to Canada, Ver’s story sounds a lot like the typical story of the immigrant wanting to move to a country like Canada in order to have a chance at a better life.
Born in 1938 in Manila, Philippines, Ver grew up alongside his parents and three other siblings. Eventually, he found himself at the University of the East. Afterwards, he secured teaching positions at UE as well as San Sebastian College and Philippine Women’s University, before finding himself in a role as a senior vice-president of marketing for a company in the Philippines.
The job was stressful, however, and Ver, now with a wife, decided to make the jump to North America.
“The job in the Philippines is actually very stressful for me because I had been with sales, and you know how it is with sales, expectations are getting higher every year, the company always sets goals which are really fantastically high and you have to work to the bone,” he said.
So in 1988, Ver, now with a wife and child, made the jump to the US, where he found himself working in sales for an insurance company. The family stayed in the US for about a year before deciding to make the much shorter leap into Toronto, Canada.
“Well you know how it is, of course there is always an objective for a greener pasture, because well in the US it’s really a bit tough as well. Hearing things about what Canada offers, my wife and I decided why don’t we try, let’s apply to go to Canada, and so an application was approved and we just left the US,” he said.
Ver bounced around a while, looking for good work opportunities. He said he had to “dumb down” his resume, as listing that he was a senior VP in the Philippines would hurt his chances at employment. Eventually, through a newspaper listing, he found work as an admin assistant. Once the company found out about his real background, however, Ver was given a role there to teach job searching to others.
By 1994, Ver and his wife decided to start their own teaching institution.
“Since my wife and I had actually been exposed to training in the Philippines, and we said well why don’t we put up a small training institution here in Toronto” he said.
So Ver and his wife found a place to rent and designed a training program in something they were both familiar with: touch typing. Back in 94, computers were not that widespread, so to teach typing, they got a bunch of electric typewriters. To advertise their course, Ver printed fliers and handed them out himself in the subways. And thus Vercore International Services was born.
Tragedy struck in 96, when Vercore was just two years old, as his wife succumbed to a terminal illness. But Ver pressed on with the business. In 97, Vercore offered computer courses such as PC Assembly and Computer Networking. In 2000, to meet the demand of the health care industry, Vercore started offering training for Personal Support Workers.
Today, Vercore has celebrated its 21st anniversary, and now boasts hundreds of graduates that have gone on to fulfilling careers. As for Ver, by now in his late 70s, he has managed to travel to over 36 countries around the world on educational symposiums, and as a self-professed Canadian Ambassador of Goodwill. In addition to Tagalog, the native language of the Philippines, Ver learned to speak and write in Spanish upon coming to Canada, and is presently learning to speak Russian and Ukranian.
Ver has some parting words for his fellow would-be entrepreneurs: Courage, planning, and focus.
“First of all, you really have to be courageous enough to do things. And of course, you really have to plan properly. You have to be focused in what direction you would like to take. It cannot be that you would do this now and after a few months, you would say ‘oh this is not my cup of tea, I have to do something else’. You really have to be focused and really plan your objectives, properly written,” he said.
Ver Cruz is a finalist for the RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards for 2015. You can check out Ver’s bio and vote for him and other candidates at canadianimmigrant.ca/canadas-top-25-immigrants/vote.