Lourdes Lugue is a professional engineer and works as a Senior Process Engineer at Waste & Recycling Services for the city of Calgary. She is also a Part time Instructor at the University of Calgary on Continuing Education Programs. Lourdes appreciates Canada’s management of waste and emphasizes how “we [Canada] have new garbage collection vehicles where weekly garbage is being collected in a safely manner. The environment is clean, drinking water is treated to the highest standard quality much like the sewage, rivers are kept clean and there seems to be not much air pollution.”
Her current job gives her “the satisfaction of applying all the acquired education to practice [her] profession. It gives the avenue to teach young engineers and mold them into being good professional engineers.”
Life in Philippines
Born in Lingayen, and Pangasinan as a toddler , Lourdes was under the care of her grandmother. She moved to Pampanga when she was five years old where she attended elementary and high school. She then moved to Quezon City to begin studying Civil Engineering at The University of Santo Tomas. Her father was an engineer while her mother was a “stay at home” wife and mother, but a clever businesswoman nonetheless. With eight children, they all managed to finish University. Lourdes became an engineer, while her siblings became accountants, dietitian/nutritionist, a dentist, a doctor, a food technologist, her only brother an electrical engineer, and the youngest finished foreign studies.
Life in the Philippines was very comfortable being a graduate of The University of Santo Tomas followed by a Master’s Degree at University of Gent in Belgium. Lourdes had “the most fulfilling career and good paying work as a Process Engineer”. From the time she graduated from UST, from being a Faculty member/teacher at the University of Santo Tomas , Civil Engineering Department, then as practicing engineer at Atlantic Gulf and Pacific, National Housing Authority and the DPWH and then as Process Engineer at Enviroasia Corp and as a Consultant at Woodward Clyde and later URS Corporation.
Life in Canada
Coming back from studies in Belgium, Lourdes got a very good job as a Process Engineer with a company called Enviroasia. After three years with the company, she moved to an environmental consulting firm where again she had great experiences of travelling and managing very good projects. Back then, “government seemed to be in a good system under President Ramos, but when President Estrada assumed office, [she] had to leave the country as there were more corruptions and dealing with government projects making it difficult to practice [her] profession.”
Leaving the country in July of 2000 was a risk Lourdes was willing to take. Although she had two young children, she knew she still had a number of years to fulfill her life’s goals.
Being an immigrant, Lourdes believes Canada has given her the best of living standards.
“Here in Canada, there is a good healthcare system so you don’t have to worry much when you get sick. Yes, you pay big taxes but you can see where your money goes, i.e., nice roads, infrastructures, schools, etc. Here you can afford to buy food that you would think only the rich can afford…and what [she] likes the best is people here are not too concern with what you wear i.e. designer clothes, bag , etc. unlike in Philippines. The worst thing in Canada is the winter season.”
Challenges in Canada
When Lourdes landed in Toronto, she started looking for jobs in line with her profession. “First month, second month and half a year of job search, nothing was happening. No matter how [she] presented a resume , no responses, not even acknowledgement of receipt of the resume.” Although many attempts were made, she could see her hard earned savings slowly draining on various expenses. Lourdes recalls that “Before I came to Canada, I had Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. Plan A was to make it in Toronto, but Toronto was cruel to me I guess. All the challenges I met being an immigrant in Canada, happened in Toronto. Since I could not find an engineering job, I accepted any job just to earn a living. I worked as a Unit Clerk at Bloorview Children’s Hospital, a Customer service staff at Future Shop, a Food Server and later as a Diet Clerk at Toronto General Hospital, and as a Private Tutor to young students. I had multiple jobs to earn a decent living so to speak. Of course , I was crying and unhappy with all those challenges. I thought I had studied for so long just to end up like this. Obviously, ‘Plan A’ did not work, so I packed my things, and moved to Alberta in 2007.”
With Alberta’s booming economy, she knew action had to be taken. While working on getting her designation as a professional engineer, she worked as a Diet Clerk at Alberta Children’s Hospital. Three months had gone by when an opening for a Water Treatment Plant Operator had presented itself. Lourdes worked in the position for three years, and then was hired at Waste & Recycling Services of the City. Today she is a Senior Process Engineer and the Project Manager of a Leachate Treatment Pilot Plant project dealing with treatment of leachate or “garbage juice”.
Her Greatest Achievement
As a proud single mother, Lourdes’ greatest achievement in life to date is being able to support her son’s dream to become a commercial pilot. Her daughter is also in University studying to be a Civil Engineer like Lourdes as well. Keeping true to her heritage, Lourdes has always taught her children to be respectful, conservative, family oriented, and has kept strong faith as a Catholic, which has given her strength to overcome challenges through life.
Advice to New Immigrants
Lourdes has gone through both struggles and triumphs since coming to Canada. For new Immigrant Professionals coming to Canada, her advice is
“to take on any opportunity for them to build their new life here, whether it is taking jobs which is way off from their career back home, upgrade their education, work hard , persevere and don’t give up and seek God’s help through prayers.”