Immigrants who come to Canada at age 50 and up are often times beset with doubts and fears that they are too old to start a new career or simply find a job in this side of North America. More often than not, this age group are those who have had successful careers back from home country and are leaving for a myriad of logical reasons, some not necessarily serious but simply to chase old dreams or pursue new paths.
Bobby Maglalang of Edmonton, Alberta defied all myths and misconceptions about the near-impossibility of getting back on track and even leaping forward with new conquests as an immigrant who landed in Canada in his 50s in 2004.
Today, 12 years after, Bobby has two (2) restaurants, one (1) overseas and domestic employment agency, a trading business, a money remittance business and now, in the middle of studying the feasibility of putting up a geothermal company in Canada. That is not counting his successful re-integration into the Canadian HR management sector after a glorious career of more than 20 years in the Philippines as HR practitioner, the last years of which he spent with Philippine Steel. He has a Canadian HR professional certification or CHRP attached to his name but still proudly displays his Philippine’s FPM (Fellow on Personnel Management) designation in his business card.
Perhaps so unlike the dilemma of other migrants who are forced to leave the Philippines to try their luck or earn a living for their families in other countries, Bobby was in a privileged situation where whatever choice he made was going to be the right one, one way or the other. More so, with Philippine Steel top management willing to take whatever decision he had to make.
What was there to lose? What were there to gain?
These were questions that Bobby or certainly any prospective immigrant of his age and stature may have to ask themselves and find clear answers. Certainly, he knew that he was set to lose a very lucrative retirement package from the company that he was working for. But between that time and the retirement, he was only looking at being able to get one or two promotions and that was it. He cannot go higher than a head below the owner of the company.
Canada from the Eyes of a Dreamer
“In the Philippines, I felt I had already accomplished what I had to accomplish. I was a successful executive, a college instructor, a small business owner and thought, that was it,” Bobby shared. Looking forward, he saw the promises of Canada. He imagined what more he could do in a country that has a more diversified outlook. More importantly, he saw how his potential success in Canada can enable him to help more people, especially fellow Filipinos.
“I saw a lot of opportunities to help our hardworking kababayans who only needed their breaks to shine.”
Unfortunately, he had to wrestle with the common perception that – in Canada, the playing field is not fairly levelled unlike the United States. Bobby’s two (2) children challenged their respective professional exams in the US and were immediately embraced and presented opportunities in America. Frances is a lawyer at Homeland Security and lives in LA, while Paul is a chemical engineer, has a flourishing career in an oil company and with his MBA, managed to put up his own business in Houston. The third child is daughter Jordan, who is a doctor of medicine and lives with Bobby and wife Cherry in Edmonton. Youngest James is still in college. Bobby’s parents, Antolina Bermudez and Angel Maglalang , together with 5 siblings, came to Canada in 1981 to join sister Cora Yumang who migrated in 1977. His father worked with the government of Alberta until he was 72 years old, following his retirement from San Miguel Corporation in the Philippines at age 58.
It may not happen all the time but having come with some of your own money to spare while looking for job or figuring out what to do, and getting the big break by a clear stroke of luck could be the surest way to get started successfully as an immigrant. But how many of those who come have that money or as lucky as Bobby?
“I would admit that in my case what worked was the break when I was referenced by somebody who had already established his credibility in Canada,” Bobby confides. The reference given to him by a fellow Filipino city manager landed him his first job as HR Manager of Home Depot. Yes, he started as a manager. Again defying all myths that you have to clean yards or scrub floors to get started. But it was not the beginning of a pretty, easy life for Bobby. Soon, he had to be on the job market again and had his share of being rejected for some unthinkable hiring reasons.
As an HR practitioner, he believes that aside from the absence of a levelled playing field, he still finds a lot of Canadian labor laws and labor standards that need improvement. Sadly, the flaws in these laws have contributed to the little known trend that in Canada, the average worker or employee changes job 17 times in his lifetime. This, for the simple reason that they are not happy at how they are being treated in the workplace. Something that Bobby admitted he also experienced in past one or two employers.
Worst is, you are not even respected for the rich background and transferrable skills that you have acquired for yourself regardless of origin. To this, Bobby related that –
“With my extensive background in crafting a full-blown labor market development plan and a very significant role in developing the 4-year Philippine National Manpower Plan in 1978, I was ditched for somebody who had a mere knowledge of Canadian health and safety to assume the position of labor market development manager for Alberta.”
Rolling with the Punches
Nothing though can unfaze him. He was, he is forever on a roll.
Bobby secured a C$5,000 scholarship to study microbusiness and entrepreneurship for six months in 2005. As fate would have it, here, he discovered his own propensity for self-employment with some viable business ideas of his own. He was merely on his second month of study when he put up his first business, the Personnel and General Services, Inc. By the third and fourth months, his employment agency was rapidly attracting a lot of clients. This to him felt really good, not only because his business was picking up but more so because he knew he was helping a lot of people find jobs and improve their lives.
Bobby recalled an incident that triggered his determination to help Filipino newcomers to Canada, especially those who are on managerial levels. While working as Corporate Services Manager of Hi-Flyer Food and Olympus Food (owner of 120 KFC and Taco Bell restaurants in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec), Bobby heard that a Filipino cook of KFC in Edmonton was found dead in his apartment. He learned that the said cook was a former director of the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries who migrated to Canada with his wife, a doctor and Vice President of PhilHealth. The wife decided to return to the Philippines when she could not find a job in Vancouver while the husband moved to Edmonton. Such separation from family and frustration from finding a more suitable employment must have led to the husband’s severe depression and eventually death.
Bobby vowed to himself that he would do everything in his power to prevent such unfortunate stories to ever be repeated within his realm of influence. Bobby seeks to assist those who would want to improve on their careers or put up a business. Please contact him at 1-780-395-1141 or by email through firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we can see, much unlike the crab mentality that Pinoys are accused of, Bobby exhibits the opposite. He is happy to help and see his fellow Filipinos shine. In Edmonton, he said, he finds that there is a lot of room for him and fellow Filipinos to prove that they are a cut above the rest. He, in fact, tried local politics 3 times just to be able to introduce Filipinos into the game. He saw the gap and tried to fill it in this aspect.
Another project had him partnering with Ruben Manansala to secure the help of Edmonton Public Library to make available Filipino history books in local libraries, books like Barangay-16th Century Philippine Culture, the Propaganda Movement of 1980-1986, Pasyon and Revolution, the Women of Malolos, Jose Rizal-Revolutionary Spirit, the Cry of Balintawak and many others. Such is the manner of thinking that Bobby had consistently displayed as an immigrant Filipino – “To always try to contribute what you can when you can.”
Now Tinkering with Geothermal Energy
Recently, the new baby is his idea of establishing a geothermal company starting with Edmonton. He had proposed to the local and provincial governments to include geothermal energy exploration and development as part of the investment portfolio of oil producers in Canada. With Canada as having one of the largest energy reserves in the world, the proposed plan is for the government to put up a company to initiate the explorations and then eventually, turn over operations to big players to generate the power. His concept introduces a more viable solution in terms of pursuing a modular model whereby areas will be classified into small, medium or large and thus power generation pursued and implemented in similar 40 megawatts, 80 megawatts or 120 megawatts at a time until the whole town is successfully migrated to geothermal energy source or utilization. The proposal has earned the interest of an Edmonton councilor and an Alberta Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA).
He may not be in sales, but Bobby believes that it is important that one is able to market himself and his ideas properly and timely enough.
When you first land in Canada, he advised, it is best to start finding something in the career or skills that you have established yourself from home country. Give it 5-10 years, when you have gained foothold and made a lot of connections, start your own business. Additionally, do not hesitate to go back to school. Success is 70% education and 30% luck, he said.
From Bobby’s own life story, one can glean that the formula he just mentioned seems to hold some truth. Not only was his education in economics from UST and Ateneo de Manila a big factor to his success but also the opportunities to study HR and microbusiness from UK and Canada, respectively. Likewise, from his story, we realized that learning does not only begin and end in a school setting. His wife Cherry, whose family used to own several restaurants in Manila, took on cooking jobs in Edmonton but only to learn the ins and outs of running a restaurant business in the Canadian setting. True enough, 2 years after, she told Bobby they should be ready to put up their own food business. Thus, came the Liam’s Little Asia Noodle House and Dylan’s House of Minis – two (2) very successful Filipino-owned and run restaurants in Edmonton.
Bobby considers the smooth traffic situation in Canada as one of the best rewards of his migration. Such blessing he needs and reaps on a daily basis when he has to travel to and fro minding the routinary needs of his restaurants and his other businesses which are just 5-10 minute drives from each location. The success of his businesses must certainly be attributable to the kind of hands-on management he and his wife do for each of them. For sure, the success and the blessings come as a reward for his genuine concern and help to those who need him.
Bobby Maglalang’s Canadian sojourn may not be as melodramatic as the rest of us but in his heart, empathy never failed to take some roots. His desire and now the ability to help others find employment and pursue their dreams have become inevitable part of his continuing journey.
A journey that amazingly started when he was 50 and threatens to continue to forever.