Three years ago, I retired from the Winnipeg School Division, where I was a community liaison officer for 35 years. But I like to keep myself busy. I volunteer as co-chair of the Ethnocultural Council of Manitoba, president of the Coalition of Filipino Canadians for Stronger Families Inc, and president of the Philippine Heritage Council of Manitoba. I have no family in Winnipeg, so my community is my family.
When I called to make an appointment for my vaccination, I used the callback option, so I didn’t have to stay on the phone for too long. I had my first shot of the vaccine at the RBC Convention Centre on April 2. By then, they had the process well established. It took me about 40 minutes total in the building. Every step of the way they had staff directing which way to go in the building. For the vaccine, the immunizer comes to inject you while you’re sitting down. I didn’t even feel the needle, it was so light. I had my eyes closed, I was biting my nails, I was ready for a painful prick, but it was painless and over in a second.
After having the first dose of vaccine, you feel a little safer. But you still have to be cautious, not acting like everything is normal. Now I’m waiting for the second shot.
As long as the vaccination consent form is already filled out ahead of time, you shouldn’t have much of a language barrier if english or french isn’t your first language. They have many workers to point you in the right direction. When the immunizer comes to give you the vaccination, they tell you to wait for 15 minutes before you leave, then they tell you that you’ll get a call in 3 to 4 months for the second shot.
In the Filipino community, there have been postings on Facebook to ask friends and family to assist seniors who might not know how to navigate the system, from phoning to booking a vaccination appointment to go to the Super-Site. Seniors may know how to take the bus but may not feel safe taking it at this time. It’s helpful to give them rides to the vaccination centres.There was a survey of how ethnocultural communities were impacted by COVID, and it found that 12% of the Filipino community in Manitoba have been infected by COVID. Most infections happened in workplaces, and many Filipinos are working in essential jobs requiring them to be physically at work. Many of them also come from multigenerational families.
There’s been all kinds of myths on social media about vaccines, unfortunately. I tell people these myths aren’t based on science. The vaccines are approved by Health Canada and scientists who did their work to make sure it is safe for everyone. It is important for us to get vaccinated if we want to get out of the pandemic. We are all in this together.
Luckily, I’m set up for solitude and I enjoy that. But still, during COVID, I miss going out. I miss getting together for all kinds of celebrations. I am usually kept busy organizing cultural events with my group. Now, we have to be creative, organizing online events. During lockdowns, we weren’t able to go to church. Live streaming is different from being able to go to church, be with your church community, and celebrate the Holy Mass.
Also with COVID, I feel grounded from being able to travel. Normally, I travel at least twice per year to meet up with family who are spread out in North America and Asia. And I love travelling to Europe—I lived in the Netherlands for three years.
I’m lucky that in the beginning of the pandemic, I had just moved to a new apartment on the 11th floor with large glass windows and a great view of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. It gives you a sense of being part of a big, wide world, which I hope and pray will be free from COVID-19 soon.