“Your attitude is the key to your success. Keep your eyes on the prize. Remember your goal and enjoy the ride.”
Michele Serrano sums up what she thinks will help Filipino immigrants succeed in Canada.
Michele for sure knows whereof she speaks. She is one Fil-Canadian who may have been lucky enough to have stumbled upon a lot of opportunities for herself but really it is her attitude towards these opportunities that made them work to her advantage. While many of the opportunities were not things she dreamed of doing, she implied that she just happened to be somebody to whom you can throw tomatoes to and she will turn them into rich pasta sauce.
Excellence and Michele are thus no strange bedfellows. “I simply try to excel in everything I do,” she mused. About the string of licenses, certificates and diplomas attached to her educational achievements, Michele revealed that these were simply borne out of her desire to always become a subject matter expert on areas where she happened to find herself working on or working with, be it – Business Management, Business Administration, Human Resources Management, Finance, Accounting, Information Technology and Immigration – for all of which she formally educated herself and received her completion papers. Currently, she is still working on her CFP (Certified Financial Planner) designation.
Financial planning is an area which she thinks her expertise will be needed by the Filipino community. She realizes that financial planning is one of the two (2) critical areas of concern where she wants to be of service to her kababayans; the other being immigration. Filipino migration to Canada has already taken so many forms – caregivers, temporary foreign workers, international students, permanent residents, professional and skilled workers, business immigrants and entrepreneurs and new Canadian citizens, she said.
Being a confused newcomer is a stage that most immigrants go through when they arrive and settle in a new country. Michele was in her 3rd year of high school from Stella Maris College of Quezon City when the whole family was sponsored by her Mom’s sister, Nechita Lim-King. Mom is Monina Lim, while Dad is Franklin Serrano. They hail from Albay and Masbate. Michele is eldest of 4 sisters, the others being Madeleine, Monina Jr. and Margrethe.
As eldest and most rooted in the Philippines in terms of friends and grandmother pampering, Michele was the most agitated during her first few months in Canada. Add to that, her need to be fully integrated in high school with subjects she needed to advance to like Canadian History and Canadian Geography, and some others which she needed to take in the lower grade like Grade 9 or to complete in other levels. Her grandma at one point had to ask her parents to send her back to the Philippines because she was too sad and confused. Nevertheless, her parents stood pat in keeping all siblings intact and Michele had to adapt as fast as she could, whether she liked it or not.
Michele is also aware that every Filipino may not be as lucky as she was or as malleable. In this light, she had recently allowed herself to be pushed to the center of public service. Michele said that she used to believe that one does not have to be in politics to be of service. For the longest time, she would always be asked if she intended to run for public office but it was not an idea she entertained. First, she considered herself to be a very private person. Secondly, she helps even without the benefit of the spotlight. As more people continued to ask her, she had to come to terms with the reality that may be this is not about her, this is about the need of the Filipino community for a voice. Not to discount the fact that the Filipino population is the third largest ethnicity in the Ontario region.
“I studied the political landscape in this side of Canada and realized that Filipinos are not represented.”
True to what most devout Pinoys would do in the face of difficult decisions, Michele went to her mother for advice and prayed, really prayed about it. Answered prayer went in the direction of getting initiated into politics as Liberal Party nominee in the Scarborough Southwest Riding back in 2014. A nomination she had to back out from in the end in the interest of party unity. Current Prime Minister and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, on one occasion, spoke of her magnanimity to set aside her own plans and make the sacrifice to withdraw from the race, to which she can only reply, “ I can be a leader. But I can also be a good team player.” She looks back to what could have happened had she decided to run. “We had a strong chance and had I run, we could have had that representation right now.”
But as fate would have it, Michele is destined for even greater things. As of this writing, she has been nominated by 35 professional and community organizations to become a member of the Senate of Canada. Modelled after the House of Lords, the Senate of Canada is composed of 105 senators, all of whom are appointed by the Governor General upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister. As of this writing, there are still 15 vacancies in the Senate to which Michele is seeking one seat. The Senate seats are apportioned among the four major regions of Canada – Ontario, Quebec, the Maritime provinces and the Western provinces.
By giving politics a try, Michele wants Filipinos to understand that it is not bad to aspire to be at the center of the action.
“We do not have to be in the background all the time. Anybody can come forward and be recognized if he wants to serve. If I can help anyone get to that, I will.”
She confided that whenever she thinks about the possibility of getting that Senate seat, her only prayer is for the good Lord to make it happen if He believes that she will be a good senator and will make a great difference, just as she had always done for every endeavour that she pursued, for every company that she had worked for.
Chichi or Manay Chi, as she is more fondly called by friends and family, is a multi-licensed career professional. She is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA), Certified General Accountant (CGA), certified HR professional and a Regulated Certified Immigration Consultant. She served as Controller for the City of Toronto Economic Development Corporation for many years before shifting to corporate Canada as Chief Financial Officer/Controller/Corporate Secretary – Canada of Clear Channel, a world-wide media and advertising company until a few years ago when she decided to retire. But retirement is not a word she embraces for now as she is still running her own company called Blueprint Canada. Blueprint specializes in marketing, event management, marketing, financial planning and immigration advisory services. If she does not make it to the Senate, Chichi will continue her public service but she might just decide to go back again to school and pursue her first love after all, architecture.
As in the life of Michele Serrano, many things can happen in the ways that we never imagined but as she advises,
“Keep your eyes on the prize. Keep the faith. If it is meant to be, it will happen.”
When things get rough, Michele wants her kababayans to remember her immigrant story. With her success, she wants every Filipino immigrant to restore their faith in Canada as the land of opportunities.