A Woman of Courage: Marissa Velarde

By on April 15, 2016

Marissa Velarde

Marissa Velarde has dreamed more than the “impossible dream” and emerged triumphant. By facing the many challenges that came her way head on, she became more courageous and successful.

A native of Camarines Sur, Marissa was born and nourished by adventures and challenges. Right after graduating from university, she jumped from various companies and sought out to be challenged continually. A testament to this is her acceptance of assignments to media-deemed dangerous zones in Cagayan Valley.

She saw it as a personal challenge, and not just a job.

Migrating to Canada and leave a flourishing Accounting practice and a relatively very good life not knowing what lies ahead is also a challenge she faced head on.

To top it all, founding Canada based Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountant in the adopted country was a challenge she took by heart.

Marissa faced them all… And through courage and determination, she succeeded.

Her Immigrant Story

Marissa was a “hesitant immigrant” not because she was scared of an uncertain future but because she was too busy with her successful Accounting practice that she took her 10 years to finally decide to submit her one-page application to the Canadian Embassy.

When she finally decided to submit her application and successfully passed the interview and medical exams, she again had second thoughts. Her accounting practice was flourishing in the Philippines.  If she opted to go to Canada, that meant starting all over again.

But then her adventurous nature overcame her hesitation.

She finally left Philippines for Canada one month before her visa expired in June 1995. “I promised myself to give it a try that if after 6 months and I am unsuccessful to find a lucrative job, I will go back to the Philippines, my practice and my clients.”

Challenges in Canada

Her early weeks in Canada were frustrating.  Possible employers gave her the “you lack Canadian experience” excuse.

In one interview for a job she applied for and given the same no Canadian experience excuse, she challenged the employer: “Try me for a week without pay and give me Canadian Experience and see for yourself that I can deliver.”

Looking back, she found this very brave. But, she found herself as somebody who really knows her profession by heart.

The employer took the challenge. She was given the job.

Few months after arriving in Canada in 1995 Marissa was in search for a PICPA organization where she can get professional support, only to find out there was none.

She felt there was not much professional support in her field, especially for Filipinos who were recognized professionals in the Philippines.  “Something is needed.  Something must be done.”

She is a passionate PICPA advocate, being a Director of PICPA – Laguna Chapter, and the idea of establishing PICPA Vancouver to be a support organization to Filipino accountants consumed her.

When she went home to the Philippines in 1996, she inquired from PICPA headquarters how to go about establishing a PICPA Vancouver Chapter. The requirement was for her to sign up 20 active PICPA members in Vancouver.

It may seem easy to get that magic number but considering her considerably short stay in Canada and not knowing a lot of people, coupled with the movement of people from one province to another, the process became tedious, and the requirements seemed inconceivable.

Finally, it paid off when in 2002 – after about 7 long years, which to her seemed like eternity – she finally got the required number of active PICPA members.  And so the association was registered in 2003. Now, all PICPA active members are assesssed a Level 4 and pace level equivalency by the CGA BC and CGA Canada.  Likewise, all members who have been denied the equivalency in November 2002 were approved the Canadian level 4 equivalency provided the school or university is approved by the Commission of Higher Education in the Philippines.

Today, PICPA Vancouver has about 300 members.  Under her leadership, PICPA members are now being assessed by CGA BC and CGA Canada as 4th level and Pace Level CGA students.

As Founding President of PICPA Vancouver, Marissa is always on top of the welfare of the association and remains an active Adviser to all PICPA Presidents, over the years.

Marissa has this advice to Filipino accounting migrants, “Upgrade your skills and keep on upgrading to be competitive.”  She added,  “Even if you are equipped with the professional knowledge and skills  these mean nothing in Canadian equivalency.”

To practice what she preached, Marissa did not hesitate to pursue a CGA degree in Canada.  In 2005 she was conferred the CGA designation.

Marissa Velarde who considers life as a big challenge is happily married, has a successful career, a contented family life, and a meaningful existence as a professional in the Accounting field.  What more can a woman of her courage and determination can ask for?