Life and its many victories: the story of Artist J.A. Tan

The Artist.

The Artist.

J.A. held his brush as if it were a talisman and an extension of himself.

He then let the colours cascade on canvass, while the camera panned alternately to his hand, his brush, his face. He was immersed in the moment, caught in the words he was trying to speak.

It was at once stark and beautiful.

The video, shown to me after the interview, was made by J.A.’s brother, Thomas, a screenwriter by profession, and it spoke of J.A.’s journey, of his autism, of his art. Of how everything was difficult but perfect for J.A., because he found a way to speak his truth.


Granville Island boasts of “fine waterfront restaurants, theatres, galleries, studios, unique shops, cafes and the most spectacular fresh food market you’ve ever seen.” It is infused with colour and energy and showcased Vancouver’s sea to sky magnificence.

It is also a hotbed for art.

For Jose Antonio “J.A.” Tan, however, it is a sanctuary. It is there—at the Saltwater Studios off of Duranleau Street in Granville—that he spends his days speaking his mind through expressions/explosions of wonder and beauty.

To him, it was the flowing water that surrounds Granville, which one could barely hear in the distance, that soothed him best (the False Creek Inlet was few steps, in fact, from his studio) and allows him to bring to life his inner world.

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Canada: a compassionate country

Prod and Eleanor Laquian

Prod and Eleanor Laquian

As editor-in-chief of a Canadian newspaper, I had the privilege of meeting some awe-inspiring people. I will be featuring them here and I hope you will let them touch you and enrich your lives as they have mine.

29. That is how many times the Laquians have moved their household.

Nairobi, Kenya, Santiago, Chile, Suva, Fiji in the South Pacific, Beijing, China and many cities in between—they have been there and have called it home. They made lovely memories in all of them, but had little or no roots. The restless (by choice and by circumstance) can grow weary of impermanence too.

Until Canada.

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Thoughts while on a bike

Love, on wheels

Love, on wheels

I was 12 and my dad just bought me one. It was not a BMX, the “in” bike at that time, but impressing others really did not matter in those days. The world was younger, life was simpler, and material pursuits were not a concern.

My cousins and I – we would roam our fiefdom in Imus, Cavite, nodding our heads to people we knew (like little ladies and lords). We stop at a sari-sari store to get our softdrinks in plastic bags. It had a straw peeking at the opening and was met by grateful, thirsty, puckering lips. Or we would buy our favorite bread boling (never figured out how it is spelled but they were ball-like small hard bread smothered with margarine and the name maybe is the colloquial equivalent of bowling and depicted, maybe, little bowling balls). It tastes of heaven.

We had the wind in our hair, steered free of jeepneys and trikes, we had speed, the sun, carefree laughter. We had no destination and no concept of time and we did not care. We went over bridges and humps, through cemeteries, rough roads. We stopped to repair our bikes some of the time, or walk a flat tire.

It was fun.

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Are Filipino families going to be reunited in their lifetimes?


4 seasons in 1 day

Immigration is a topic close to my heart. After all, I myself am an immigrant. Below is an article I wrote for PCI after I interviewed Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. To those parents or grandparents of Filipino-Canadians  who are waiting to immigrate to Canada, or to anyone interested in starting their lives in Canada, read on.

Canada, going the way of America—at least in immigration—is the fear of most Filipino-Canadians. In America, family reunification is a farce, or at least the 25 years or so of waiting makes the lives of separated families seem like one. Those who leave have to reckon with their guilt; those who are left behind are despondent and desolate. The tarmac bears witness to their goodbyes.

The long immigration lines have started to appear in Canada as the waiting period for family reunification stretched to almost a decade. It would soon be overwhelmed with the growing numbers if nothing was done, so Citizenship and Immigration Canada decided to freeze the lines in 2011. Very recently, however, they announced that the bars are to be lifted as solutions to the backlog have been found.

But at what cost?

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For new immigrants: How to maintain a good credit score in Canada or elsewhere

Stopping the rain from falling

My friend does not understand.

If she wants a good credit standing in Canada, she must not shop around for good deals. But if she does not shop around for good deals, how can she be sure she will get the best value for her dollars? And why do the good deals need to look into her credit – which lowers her credit score – before they say she is good for them too?

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Why stay?

You are meant to be here

A chance encounter.

I talked to someone today and was surprised to find out she is a lawyer in Germany. But like most professionals in Canada, who face the bar of credential recognition and what it stands for – further studies, time and expense – she thinks she will never get to practice her profession here.

She may be right.

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Strong Women, Strong Canada

Vision of Canada

“No gypsies, no Irish, no blacks.”

One could have dropped a pin and it would be heard, as there was silence as all eyes and ears were on International Women’s Day 2012 keynote speaker Angela Baines as she held a paper with those words.  All at once, and while Baines was recounting her immigrant story in Europe and Canada, everyone started thinking about their own stories, their entry into Canada and the similar challenges that they faced as women.

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Immigration is Hardest for Foreign-Trained Professionals

Life in Canada

Slice of Life

This is fact.

And it’s a fact disclosed to Filipino professionals – lawyers, doctors, accountants, architects, engineers, and many others — before they ever embark on a plane to Canada to claim First World lives.

But too often, these foreign-trained professionals refuse to believe it. They can’t believe all the hours they’ve spent in school, training, and work will ultimately mean nothing. They can’t believe their lives will change that dramatically, or that they won’t be given a chance, at the very least, to show what they can do.

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