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.
“A lot of my friends know that I’m a very private person, so that’s why when I got nominated, I just really don’t want it, I don’t want any recognition,” said Amphy Calma, founder of ATA Pain Rehabilitation Laser Therapy Center and a top 75 finalist for the 7th annual RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards.
“But a certain friend of mine who used to be a patient at my clinic, I’ve known her for many years now, and she said ‘No. You inspire people’ . . . I know it can inspire a lot of our immigrants, especially in our Filipino community, that’s why I’m doing it,” she said.
Indeed, Amphy’s story of coming to Canada as an immigrant and working her way up from nothing is a familiar one with immigrants. But what sets her story apart is her drive and her attitude, no matter her circumstances.
Amphy’s story starts in Manila back in 1974, where she was born to parents Rogelio and Guadalupe as the youngest of four children. Rogelio worked overseas, while Guadalupe ran a cafeteria. when Rogelio came home after 10 years, the family opened a Sari-sari store (convenience store). When Amphy was ready for post-secondary schooling, she went to Baguio City to study physiotherapy.
After finishing school, Amphy had plans to go to the US to practice her Physiotherapy. But plans changed. When visiting Canada in 1998 to see her sister, she met her future husband, Gerry, who had been in Canada since 1989.
Things moved fast from there. After Amphy and Gerry got married in the Philippines in 1999, she decided to cancel her application to the US, and instead decided to come here to Canada in June 1999. Shortly after arriving, she got pregnant with their first and only child, Mikaela, who was born in April 2000.
Life was difficult back then for Amphy, as her credentials as a certified physical therapist were not recognized in Canada. After the family moved to Calgary, Amphy started looking for work, and eventually found a job in a chicken processing plant.
“Throughout the months that I worked there, I put in my mind that ‘hey, I can do better than this’. Nothing wrong working in a processing plant, but you want to achieve a little bit more,” she said.
Amphy’s hard work got her a promotion, but she always wanted to keep pushing herself to look for something better for herself and her family. She worked at Tim Hortons for a while. She also did some cleaning. Then she worked at a nursing home, helping to take care of the folks there.
Some good fortune finally came her way when she landed a job as an aide at a laser therapy clinic. Amphy greatly enjoyed the environment of working in a medical facility, but unfortunately she was laid off from that job. However, her experience there helped pave the way for what would eventually become Amphy’s calling of opening her own clinic.
“That laser therapy clinic that hired me, I practised laser therapy, like fixing a lot of people in pain, helping people in the rehabilitation of their injury. I worked there and I said, ‘I will have my own clinic.'” she said.
So in 2007, Amphy borrowed some money from a relative to go to school for massage therapy, specialising in soft tissue manipulation, to increase her knowledge, and in 2008, she opened her own clinic, ATA Pain Rehabilitation Laser Therapy Center. Named after Amphy and her two sisters Tita and Alma (hence the ATA), the clinic is still running today. To date, the clinic has had 10,000 patients go through its doors, and according to Amphy the success rate of her therapy sessions is about 95%. More importantly, her clients are all happy with the service they received from ATA.
“It’s very rewarding for me when I see people who used to be patients at the mall, and I come and greet them, and they say ‘Wow! I’m doing this now because you had fixed me, your clinic fixed me,’ and that is priceless when people say that,” she said.
“I am thankful for people who surround me and people who work with me, and I won’t have the success at the clinic if it wasn’t for the staff and the people and my friends,” she added.
Amphy also became involved with the Peace for Paul Foundation, where she sat as a director on the board until just recently. Peace for Paul Foundation is a charity that operates children’s homes in Uganda. Amphy became involved with the program after going on a trip to Uganda shortly after opening her clinic. She was donating to charities there, and she wanted to see where her money was going. It was there she met a boy named Luke, living in the slums. Despite the fact that Luke was too young to be in the PFP, Amphy arranged everything so Luke could get in there.
“That inspired me. Like, hey I cannot complain about what I’m going through, because look at these kids,” she said.
On a personal level, Amphy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. Despite the illness, she refuses to let it affect her outlook on life or the level of care and attention she gives to her clients.
“Unless you know me, you will not know what I am going through. But I don’t show it to the people because they have more things that they are going through,” she said.
“But again it will not stop me from coming to work because I love seeing my patients, I love making people better, and on top of that, I go home and rest and deal with my own problems,” she added.
In the end, Amphy has some advice for immigrants who have dreams of finding something they truly love doing.
“My mom and dad always said, no matter what you do, you have to love it, and you will go further after that, which is true. Even if you’re killing chickens, don’t hate your job, because if you’re hating it, you’re going to be miserable,” she said.
“Always be positive, just dream big. Dreaming big, it’s not a bad thing, as long as you don’t step on someone else. You have your love and passion, to do what you do, that’s the important thing, and that will give you happiness,” she added.