Joycelyn’s family lived in Santa Rosa, Laguna in the early 1970s. Her grandfather worked for CN Rail as a Machinist, and her grandmother was a nurse. When they migrated to Canada, they were blessed with seven children, led by her mother Restita Espiritu. Later on, her parents moved to Edmonton, Alberta which became Joycelyn’s home for most of her life.
Joycelyn was the first of the family to be born in Canada. As a young Filipino-Canadian growing up in Winnipeg, and later in Edmonton, Joycelyn noticed that she was not the only Asian in her school.
“I noticed how few Filipinos or Asians there were in my class, even in my school! I remember bringing Sago to ‘International Food’ share day at school, and everyone was fascinated to see something new than Italian Pizza, or Ukrainian Perogies,” said Joycelyn as she reminisced her life as a grade school student.
At 14, she visited Philippines for the first time, and considered it as a life changing event in her life.
“My entire family in Santa Rosa, Laguna had never met me, but embraced me as though I had lived in the Philippines all my life. They helped me adjust to the culture shock and really made my trip memorable and unforgettable. I remember we spent a day at a swimming pool, and all my cousins couldn’t believe that me, a girl from Canada, knew how to swim! I ‘We thought Canada had only ice and snow’ they quipped. Today, I swim at my local pool at least twice a week.”
At her young age of 7, Joycelyn began her piano lessons and became involved in church choir until today. She loves to do covers from OPM which helped her connects to her Filipino roots in a big way.
Life in Canada
Joycelyn holds a Bachelor’s Honors degree from the University of Alberta, and a Master of Arts degree from York University. For her, it’s not only the education she gained that motivates her, but the opportunity to learn something new. Reading books and learning from others are her sources of knowledge.
Growing up in Canada made her get used to the cold weather, but the thing that makes her feel warm were the characteristics that Canada embraced — being family-oriented and multicultural, which made her keep their Filipino customs alive.
Filipino values such as paying respect to the elders. “My sisters are calling me ‘Ate,’ not Joycelyn,” or saying “mano po” to the elderly in every party we go to. For 10 minutes, we walk around (slightly bent over) to properly say ‘mano’ to everyone,” she said.
“My husband, Abraham immigrated to Canada in 1991. He is the major reason we keep our family life connected to the values of our Filipino heritage. He reminds me of the hardships of growing up poor in the province, and how blessed we are as a family to be here together in Canada.”
Perks of Her Work
Joycelyn leads the Digital business and Product Marketing divisions for Western Union in Canada working closely with Western Union Agents.
Being with Western Union for 8 years has kept Joycelyn closely connected with the Filipino culture. It has its perks, she says, like meeting prominent personalities from the Philippines.
“I’ve met some amazing people through work, including Basil Valdez, Imelda Papin, President (Gloria Macapagal) Arroyo and President (Noynoy) Aquino at Malacanang palace! A big highlight for me was singing Bakit Ngayon Kalang at a Western Union event in Toronto, with Gabby Concepcion!” she said. “The Department of Foreign Affairs also recognized me and a fellow Western Union colleague, Chito Gonzalez, for our company’s relief efforts following Typhoon Ondoy.”
Her work as a National Director of the company made her feel humbled to serve millions of customers to send money home, including to the Philippines.
Worth the Journey
“I’ve been with my company for nearly 8 years now, and I have to admit, it’s been a great place to grow, learn and develop my skills. I love most working with my diverse team across Canada,” she said.
Looking back, Joycelyn said her grandparents’ brave decision to move to Canada changed her life forever.
“I am forever grateful to them,” said Joycelyn, who has this advice to Filipinos in Canada, especially the new ones: “Your children, and your children’s children will thank you for moving to Canada. Even if they don’t know it, or see it today, as a child of immigrant family, I can say first hand it was worth the journey!”