By Abel Pagaling
(This article was originally posted at www.thefilipinochampionsofcanada.com)
In the Filipino community, we have many talented singers, entertainers, and my favorite, boxers. These individuals have worked hard and excelled in their craft. I’ve observed that they fill the social media space. The “stars” of the entertainment scene dominate the spotlight and fans follow them with great interest. Just look at the “Likes” and “Comments” on Facebook or Instagram whenever a new photo or a story about an artist is posted.
But outside the entertainment scene, there are Filipinos – engineers, accountants, doctors, nurses, public servants – who are making significant impact in our communities. They are the quiet representatives of the Filipino community. They overcame significant challenges so they too, like the stars in the entertainment industry, can shine in their chosen discipline. But their motivation is not to capture the spotlight but to pursue excellence in their field of work. In my view, these are the individuals that truly show the best of what we Filipinos have to offer. They are the people that inspire me.
One such inspirational person is Lourdes Lugue. I call her Tita Lourdes. Tita Lourdes is one of the leading engineers of the City of Calgary. She’s also one of those City employees who ensures that the City of Calgary’s water environment is safe and clean. But before I talk about her role in the City of Calgary, I’d like to talk about her inspiring journey in pursuit of excellence in the field of engineering.But outside the entertainment scene, there are Filipinos – engineers, accountants, doctors, nurses, public servants – who are making significant impact in our communities. They are the quiet representatives of the Filipino community. They overcame significant challenges so they too, like the stars in the entertainment industry, can shine in their chosen discipline. But their motivation is not to capture the spotlight but to pursue excellence in their field of work. In my view, these are the individuals that truly show the best of what we Filipinos have to offer. They are the people that inspire me.
Tita Lourdes was born in Pangasinan but grew up in Pampanga. Her family is a family of academics which is very impressive. She has 7 siblings:
-One graduated with a degree in Economics and has CGA designation
-One graduated as a Nutritionist
-One an electrical engineer
-One very successful business lady with an MBA
-One with a degree in Foreign Studies
But of all the siblings, I think Tita Lourdes is the most studious. She has two bachelor’s degree in engineering – Civil and Environmental, and a Masters in Environmental Engineering. She also completed a certificate in Continuing Education at the University of Calgary where she now teaches a Waste Management Course to post-graduate students.
While her credentials look impressive, the story of how she got there is what really inspired me. “There were only 10 ladies in the engineering class, and the majority were men,” said Tita Lourdes about her university years. “We didn’t have internet back then, so I was always studying and doing research through available books in the University library. While many students partied, my friends and I focused on our studies until we finished. Now all or my barkadas are very successful in the Philippines and here in Canada.”
But Tita Lourdes did not stop there. She went to Belgium to pursue her masters in engineering. And it wasn’t easy. At the second year of her study, she became pregnant with her first baby. While most students would pause or slow down given such circumstance, Tita Lourdes pressed on, determined to complete her studies. “I was due to give birth, so I requested to write my exams ahead of time. My program coordinator was so impressed. Even with my baby, I graduated second place in the entire class.”
This determination to pursue excellence was demonstrated again when Tita Lourdes and her family moved to Canada. In July, 2000, they moved to Toronto. Since she couldn’t find a job in her profession, she worked in the Toronto East General Hospital as food aid delivery, bringing food to patients and later as a Diet Assistant determining correct diet for hospital patients. “I also worked part-time at the Future Shop as a Customer Service representative,”said Tita Lourdes. “But I wasn’t happy about my job. I studied hard to earn a career and I did not come to Canada just to waste this career.”
True to her word, she moved to Calgary in August 2007 where she pursued a career in Engineering. “I pursued until I got it. I didn’t give up!”
Now, Tita Lourdes is a Senior Process Engineer for the City of Calgary where she plays a key role in keeping Calgary’s water system free of toxic pollutants. “I process the ‘leachate’, yung ‘katas ng basura’, or the garbage juice as a result of the decomposition sa landfill natin,” says Tita Lourdes. “Inumpisahan ko yung treatment project for the City of Calgary. From the conceptual design, to managing the construction of the actual pilot plant, to commissioning, start up and full operation of the plant. Now, I have fully trained young engineers on how to run the treatment plant. I just manage the overall project and the staff.”
Tita Lourdes’ previous work as an operator on the water treatment facilities of The City of Calgary and her current role in Waste & Recycling Services is one of the many contributions of City employees like her that makes Calgary ranks at the very top in the clean water category amongst major developed cities.
In 2015, Calgary has been ranked # 1 on the MBC Group’s 12 “Cleanest Cities in the World”, #1 on ABC News Points “Top Ten List of Most Cleanest Cities in the World”, and # 1 on Top Ten Central’s “Top 10 Cleanest Cities in the World 2015”. These are achievements that everyone in Calgary can be proud of, especially Calgary’s Filipino community.
It’s hard not be inspired by someone like Tita Lourdes. She’s a great role model and has a lot of insights to teach us. So I asked her for some life lessons she can give to Filipinos.
Here’s what she shared:
For Filipinos who recently moved to Canada but are finding it difficult to get a job in their profession: “Keep pursuing, persevere, work hard and don’t give up. Don’t say, “Matanda na kami. Ayaw na naming mag-aral. Ganito nalang kami. Pinaghirapan mo yung profession mo, so don’t waste it.”
For the younger generation: “Study hard and study well. Just because you get a job after completing high-school doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue higher education. There’s a fierce global competition out there. If you don’t have a strong card to play, how can you compete? You have to pursue higher education. That’s the ‘Ace’ in your pocket wherever you go.”
For parents: “Support your children until they finish their degree or their chosen career path. If a child wants to study but has to support himself or herself, it’s going to be difficult to focus and study properly. As a parent, if my kids fail, it’s my failure as well. There’s so many kids who can’t finish because they are on their own. It’s ideal for parents to support their kids until they are done with their studies. And once they’ve developed their wings and can fly on their own, then that’s when your job is done.”
Excellence comes in many form. Tita Lourdes has put excellence, and to a great extent the entire concept of success into perspective for me. It’s not about pursuing fame, or being popular, or being rich that makes us successful, but it’s the perseverance and determination to pursue excellence in our chosen field that makes us a success. Because like Tita Lourdes, when we pursue excellence, we achieve not only what we want in life, but we also become great ambassadors for our community. And most importantly, we provide a powerful example to our kids and for generations of Filipinos to come.
Abel Pagaling is a co-founder of FCM.
He is a manager, an entrepreneur, a writer, a community servant, and a motivational speaker. His passion is personal development and leadership.
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