Pinoyspotting: You Speak Tagalog in the Canadian Rockies

Pinoyspotting

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My husband and I recently made a trip to the province of Alberta in western Canada. I wanted him to see the Canadian Rockies and the Columbian Icefields. I had been there many, many years ago, but it was my husband’s first time in Alberta. We landed at the capital city, Edmonton, and decided that we would drive to Jasper, Lake Louise and Banff, and return via Calgary.

After getting our rental car from the Edmonton airport, we proceeded to the nearest convenience store to buy some drinks and snacks for the ride. After all, Jasper was a good four-hour trip, and we wanted to get there before nightfall. Three Asian women ran the store, and when I said, “Salamat,” as one of them handed me the key to the washroom, she looked at me and said, “Ay, Pinoy.” Unfortunately, I had left my camera in the car, so I was unable to take their picture.

Since Jasper, the town, is located inside the Jasper National Park, one can only buy property if you live and work in Jasper. (I'm not even sure if you can own the property or lease it from the park.) There are only 5,000 residents in Jasper, but during the busy months, that swells up to 25,000 because of the temporary workers.

We attended Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic church where I expected to see more Filipinos. I wasn't disappointed. The altar servers, choir, musicians, lectors were all Filipinos. The Mass was even in honor of the church’s janitor, Roy, and his wife, Jacinta, for their 28th wedding anniversary. On my way out, I asked a man if he was Filipino, and he responded affirmatively. He said there were about 500 Filipinos in the town of Jasper now. That is 10 percent of the population. He also said that most of them work in the hotels.

Lake Louise is in the Banff National Park. It is a protected mountain destination and is known for its sparkling blue waters. During summer, people paddle canoes in the lake, but in winter the lake serves as a skating rink. Here is where I met Oscar and Mark, who run the only gasoline station in Lake Louise. Oscar said there were about 100 Filipinos in the small town of Lake Louise, also working in the hotels.

 Oscar San Pedro (right) and Mark Harder run the gasoline station at Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Mona Lisa Yuchengco)

Oscar San Pedro (right) and Mark Harder run the gasoline station at Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Mona Lisa Yuchengco)

Banff is another mountain resort town, but ten times bigger than Jasper. It was warmer there, and I was craving for ice cream but didn’t want to fall in line for a taste of the Canadian version, so I went to McDonald’s, and almost all the employees there were Filipinos.

 This McDonald's store in Banff, a resort town in Alberta, Canada, is run mostly by Filipinos. (Photo by Mona Lisa Yuchengco)

This McDonald's store in Banff, a resort town in Alberta, Canada, is run mostly by Filipinos. (Photo by Mona Lisa Yuchengco)

Here are two more friendly Filipinos I met in Banff.

  Mildred Malizon  (Photo by Mona Lisa Yuchengco)

Mildred Malizon (Photo by Mona Lisa Yuchengco)

Mildred Malizon is the cashier at Rexall Drugstore in Banff, Alberta, Canada. She arrived only six months ago to join her husband. She is from Cavite.

  Lalanie Clarke (Photo by Mona Lisa Yuchengco)

Lalanie Clarke (Photo by Mona Lisa Yuchengco)

Lalanie Clarke just arrived in April this year. She is the sales associate at Ardene, a clothing store in Banff. Her mother is Filipino and her father is Canadian. She holds dual citizenship.

One Filipino cashier in the grocery told me that there were about 200 Filipinos in Banff. Her father told her there used to be many more, but many of the Filipinos had moved to Fort McMurray, better known as Fort Mac, also in Alberta, where there are many job openings in the oil sands industry.

At the Calgary airport, a number of Filipinos worked at the security screening area, but I didn't dare take their photos. They didn't even react to “Salamat.”