Flashback to the Palawan refugee camp, 1979-80

Now just to note: my parents were there and I was not!

As life would have it, I was fortunate enough to visit Palawan in the Philippines and saw the remmants of the “Viet Village” where an old refugee camp used to be. This was in 2008 and so I called my dad after the trip and was like, “um so dad, where exactly did you stay in the Philippines again?”

And lo and behold, I was in the same place, some 30 years later! Pretty funky if I do say so myself!

As my career has developed, I find myself drawn back to refugees and migrants and I just have to say: thank you CANADA for this awesome experience of life where learning about other cultures is normal and good and where we don’t have protests against accepting refugees like what is currently going on in Germany 🙁

So as I have some holiday face time with my dad, I asked him to describe his camp experience to me. I really don’t know much about this time and it was pretty exciting to hear. NOTE: my parents aren’t exactly forthcoming about information concerning their lives during the war and even in the early years after they fled. I think they have this mindset of just moving on and don’t really reflect on it much. And so, let me reflect for them:

Small facts:

Dad doesn’t wear a wedding ring. Once I asked why and he nonchalantly said, “um sold it in the camp for shelter…duh”….UMMMM how was I supposed to know that? 😛

—Mama said food was abundant in their camp setting: papayas everyday. When I think of today’s refugee camps in other parts of the world, I know there is a lack of supplies and food and just think, man so much has changed… for the worse for refugees 🙁 Reources over-stretched and not enough budgets to cover the needs 🙁

—Dad said Palawan was much nicer 30 years ago: darn u straight-talking Asians! Way to shut.it.DOWN 😛

daddy and me on windy day on the way down from 65m of stairs!

OK so the questioning goes like this:

me: Dad can you tell me a few things about the camp in Palawan?
Dad: what do you want to know?
me: did you have a tent or a house?
Dad: tarp tent.
me: How many people were in it? You, bro, mom, aunties, cuz etc.?
Dad: no, no, me mom bro. Auntie n cuz had their own. Other uncle n auntie had their own too. Everyone had their own.
me: What did you eat?
Dad: oh man there was A LOT of food, more than we could eat really….Each person has like 3 cups of rice, several fish, lots of fruits per day.
me: bro had a fish? he was a baby…
Dad: oh well, they just give u food per head. They don’t care about your age.
me: Who were they?
Dad: You know these guys, the United Nations, UNHCR people….
me: did you cook the rice? Did you have a kitchen?
Dad: um burned burned banana leaves over open fire. They don’t cook for you, cmon!
me: Can you tell me again how you chose Canada for resettlement?
Dad: well we didn’t choose Canada, ultimately, we had no choice.
me: didn’t you say that you picked Canada on the sheet ahead of Austalia?…
Dad: like I said, everyone wanted to go to the USA (b/c it was all we knew) but their officials said no b/c we didn’t have any family there already so they cut a deal with Canada to take us.


This version would take forever b/c my dad is not a storyteller. Yes/no. He’ll answer questions but getting the details take some wheedling and teeth pulling ie patience that not everyone has time for 😛

I’m already tired so that means this tale is TBC. Ciao!

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