Perla Javate, President, Philippine Heritage Council of Manitoba

Perla Javate, President, Philippine Heritage Council of Manitoba

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.


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Renata Meconse with daughter Ava, age 10

Renata Meconse with daughter Ava, age 10

During the initial vaccine rollout in early 2021, Ava asked, “When will kids be able to get their vaccine?”

We cautiously went through 2021 waiting for Ava to be eligible for her vaccination. That day came later in November 2021. Before getting her shot, Ava and I read the fact sheet about children and vaccines. We talked about it and planned what we would do that day. She normally feels apprehensive about needles, so we talked about that, too. We talked about how she had gotten needles before for blood tests and other vaccines. We also talked about why this vaccine is important and her choice in getting it.

The day of her vaccination, we made sure Ava wore a short-sleeved shirt. As expected, she was still a little nervous about the needle itself. I held her hand and she felt better with me being beside her. Before we knew it, the doctor had given her the vaccine and she was done! Afterwards, we went for ice cream. She stayed home for the rest of the day and we monitored her. She felt a slight soreness in her arm that evening but by the next day she was fine.

For Ava, she didn’t only want to protect herself, she said she wanted “To protect Grannie.” We live in a multigenerational household and my mom, who turns 81 this year, was getting out of the hospital in late December. It was great that we could get our entire household vaccinated before she got home.

I’m so glad we did get vaccinated as COVID did hit our household. My family members who tested positive with rapid tests isolated while they awaited their PCR tests and we all did our best to minimize interactions with each other. They were isolated in their rooms. I brought food and other things they needed to minimize in-person contact. We sanitized the washroom after each use, washed hands frequently, wore masks and did everything to keep a distance from each other. I am thankful to share that the members of my household who tested positive (and were fully vaccinated) got through COVID without serious symptoms or hospitalization. Also, I am very thankful that Ava and I did not get the virus. Knowing that Omicron spreads very easily and quickly, we are glad to have had the vaccines to help protect us.

As we move into 2022, with the Omicron variant spreading, I feel safer knowing that our family is vaccinated. Ava will soon be getting her second shot and other children her age will also be getting theirs. We look forward to doing more things with other people as the weather gets warmer. And once it’s safer, we’d like to travel and go to gatherings. Ava loves to dance at powwows and I love to watch her. Last summer, Ava was able to dance, but a lot of powwows were cancelled or limited in size. We look forward to that time when our communities can gather, see each other in person, hug, laugh, and kids can play together and dance. 

When Ava was vaccinated, it was an opportunity for her peers to talk about what it felt like. I encourage young people to talk to their friends and peers about getting vaccinated. As we go through this pandemic, we need to talk to each other, encourage and support one another. 

We were so glad when Ava’s question was finally answered—now is the time for kids to have their turn at getting vaccinated.

Even though COVID-19 hit our household, we were able to fight it and everyone was able to overcome it. Thinking about all of our generations and how we need to protect one another, I encourage youth and young adults to get vaccinated. There are vaccine clinics you can go to get your vaccine done quickly and in friendly environments. You can also go to pharmacies or your doctor’s office. 

If you have questions before deciding, read from credible sources and ask at the vaccine clinic. Get immunized to protect your siblings, cousins and little ones who are too young to be vaccinated. 

Be a role model for your friends in following health measures that can protect our grandparents, parents, aunties and uncles. If someone in your family hasn’t been vaccinated, support and encourage them to get theirs, go together. We all have a role to play in protecting our family, our community and each other.

Be kind and take care of each other ♥  

During the initial vaccine rollout in early 2021, Ava asked, “When will kids be able to get their vaccine?” We cautiously went through 2021 waiting for Ava to be eligible for her vaccination. That day came later in November 2021. Before getting her shot, Ava and I read the fact sheet about children and vaccines. […]

Scott & Abigail Larson with daughter Nala, age 6

Scott & Abigail Larson with daughter Nala, age 6

We chose to vaccinate our daughter Nala, who is 6 years old, to keep her safe but also because we have new babies, elderly and at-risk people in our extended families. While we weren’t too anxious about the risk of Nala herself ending up in the ICU, the bigger issue was reducing transmission to those who might get severely ill. We read the report from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization and we clearly understood that there are very low risks associated with giving the COVID vaccine to kids.

Scott & Abigail Larson with daughter Nala, age 6

When Nala got her first vaccine dose she was thinking about PJ Masks because it was a prize at the immunization clinic. About the experience with the needle, she said, “It didn’t hurt. I thought the needle would be big and sharp. It wasn’t really sharp, but it had to be a little sharp to get into my skin.” Nala didn’t have side effects and went to her regular gymnastics and swimming classes two days later.

Nala looked forward to showing off that she got the shot because she was the first in her class to get vaccinated. We filmed Nala getting her shot and shared the video with family so the other cousins her age would see that it wasn’t such a bad experience. After all, if little Nala can do it, so can they! 

We have four children in school. Our 16-year-old is at-risk of COVID symptoms due to her asthma. She feels safer now that Nala and her 11-year-old brother have had their first vaccine dose. Our kids have been good, ensuring everyone in the family is following the public health rules. This year we’ve gotten fewer letters home from school about COVID exposures, fewer direct contacts with COVID cases, and haven’t had to get tested as often. We believe it makes a difference that teachers are vaccinated and that parents are keeping their kids home if they’re sick. 

Abigail works as a midwife in a hospital and has seen nurses from her department being moved to the ICU. We know there is a huge burden on the health system, and there needs to be space left in the hospital for those who are immuno-compromised and experience severe COVID symptoms. Now that kids age 5 to 11 are eligible to be vaccinated we think they should be. We completely understand why people might be anxious or stressed about it, but we would encourage parents to think about the greater good. 

Scott & Abigail Larson with daughter Nala, age 6

We chose to vaccinate our daughter Nala, who is 6 years old, to keep her safe but also because we have new babies, elderly and at-risk people in our extended families. While we weren’t too anxious about the risk of Nala herself ending up in the ICU, the bigger issue was reducing transmission to those […]

Carlo and Heidi Cecilio with daughter Zooey, age 8

Carlo and Heidi Cecilio with daughter Zooey, age 8

We’re from the Philippines and we arrived in Winnipeg in February 2021. When we came to Canada, Zooey, our 8-year old daughter, had to go through a swab test for COVID-19 and catch up on other immunization shots. Because of all of that she was a little more experienced with what to expect when getting her COVID-19 vaccine. Before that, she would cry or do evasive moves to avoid the needle. 

When we took Zooey for her first COVID-19 vaccine dose, we were so proud of her bravery. She said, “It hurts a little, but it’s okay.” It was nice to be able to distract her with cookies which took her mind off the needle.

One of the main reasons we wanted Zooey to get vaccinated is because we’ve lost family and friends to COVID-19, including Zooey’s uncle and godfather. We don’t want Zooey or anyone else in our family to go through a loss like that. It’s been a tough year. 

Initially, when the COVID-19 vaccines first came out we worried about its safety and if it would work. After reading more information about the vaccines, we felt we could trust the science and Health Canada, and didn’t worry about it anymore. 

Zooey didn’t have any side effects from her first COVID vaccine dose. We monitored her the first night and kept putting a hand on her forehead to check her temperature, but she was just acting like a normal kid—busy playing! There was no redness or soreness on her arm either.

I know COVID has had a big impact in Canada, but I think it’s worse in the Philippines. We don’t post photos on social media of Zooey on playgrounds or playing in the snow—not because we don’t want to, but because we know our friends in Manila have to keep their kids home a lot because of COVID. Their kids don’t go out as much there as they do here.

The first time Zooey was invited to a playdate in Winnipeg, we said no. We were wondering, are the parents vaccinated? Have they been exposed to COVID-19? After her first shot, we’ll feel more confident if she goes on a playdate, and we’ll feel even better when she gets her second shot. We plan to go to movie theatres and eat in a mall food court. Zooey is looking forward to being able to remove her mask more often, because it can get in the way when she’s playing.

We’re both photographers and we love to travel. Zooey is starting to make her own journal, take videos and photos. We look forward to getting to know Winnipeg and Manitoba. The COVID vaccine will give us more confidence to explore more of Canada.

We’re from the Philippines and we arrived in Winnipeg in February 2021. When we came to Canada, Zooey, our 8-year old daughter, had to go through a swab test for COVID-19 and catch up on other immunization shots. Because of all of that she was a little more experienced with what to expect when getting […]

Additional Resources

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine from official sources.