When two people are brought together, and they easily fit into each other like peas in a pod, with the same hopes, ideals and drive to serve others, that’s finding one’s soulmate. That describes Pat and Bert Parungao.
Bert who is from Tarlac and Pat who was born in Vancouver met each other in 1974 during the time of martial law in the Philippines and the Miss Universe Pageant in Manila when Pat visited the Philippines. After seven years of writing letters to and fro in the 1970s, Bert came to Canada in 1981, and they got married, and raised two sons, Robert and Paul, as Bert worked as an accounting assistant in various firms and Pat taught and was a librarian in the school board. Their culturally diverse home, Bert being of Filipino descent and Pat being of Chinese heritage, brought many advantages for their boys, who now share a love for knowing their history in their service to others, as Robert works in Ottawa in National Defense, while Paul works as a teacher in the school board, just like Mom.
“It’s important for immigrant children to have identity and self-esteem,” shares Pat. “Research shows that the fluency in one’s heritage language is positively related to self-esteem. Minority children tend to display higher self-esteem when they feel positively about their own ethnic identities. Heritage includes tangible (e.g., artifacts, architecture, festivals, recipes) and intangible (knowledge, craftsmanship, language, stories) which contribute to identity and self-esteem.”
Bert adds that while we cannot ensure that the next generation of our children will appreciate the journey, we can educate the next generation, so they understand the reasons for the sacrifices of their ancestors and pass on the positive values that ancestors acted on to come to this new land, at home through family and friends, church, associations, and community activities.
“Introduce the food, music, customs, etc. to the next generation and perhaps visit the homeland (Philippines and China) so that children can better understand their parents and ancestors,” Bert adds.
Bert and Pat extend their appreciation for the blessings they have received by serving others. Bert is involved in many associations, including Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants Vancouver (PICPA Vancouver) which offers mentorship and guidance to Filipino CPAs who come to Canada. He is also a member of the United Filipino Canadian Associations in BC (UFCA BC), and Rotary Club of Vancouver Mountainview. While he isn’t busy with those things, he is also a director of the New Westminster Philippine Festival Society that plans and organizes the annual Multicultural Festival in New Westminster held on Canada Day, a participant of Historama (the history of the Philippines presented creatively through multimedia: video, short plays, songs and dances) and a member of the Pacific Canada Heritage Centre Museum of Migration (PCHC-MoM) in which Pat is a Director for Volunteers and Membership, and Vice-President (Internal). She is a Co-Lead for the PCHC-MoM Virtual Storytelling Project, a Lead for the Virtual Stories Project Programming Subcommittee and Lead for the Transit Shelter Advertisement Program. She also co-presented at the 2nd National Asian Heritage Month Symposium. Pat is also a member of BC Retired Teachers’ Association (2015), whose mission is to “promote excellence in public education;” a charter member of the Asian Literature Reading Circle (1994); an alumna of the BC Association for Learning and Preserving the History of WWII in Asia (2006) and an alumna of Students on Ice (2019) whose “mission is to foster globally minded leaders by immersing youth in transformative experiential learning environments and collaborative cross-cultural journeys.”
Bert and Pat say all of this as giving back to the community that has always been good to them. Bert shares that Canadians need heightened awareness of the importance of volunteerism by helping others in the community and inspiring people and businesses to give for a cause to alleviate social issues. Pat believes that to promote harmonious multiculturalism, including understanding the past and current relationship between immigrants and host / First Nations communities, is also necessary.
Bert and Pat’s current goal is called Dream for Twenty. This is to help 20 worthy (gifted and motivated) scholars who lack the financial means to continue their education. The focus is to develop ethical leaders for the next generation in the Philippines, especially through the Ateneo School of Government. Currently Dream for Twenty has 10 students, and one of its recent scholars who graduated from the University of the Philippines in Business with Magna cum Laude honours, was immediately hired by the Ateneo University’s School of Government.
“The aim is to create leaders in the public sectors who are committed to the principles of servant leadership and can propel government institutions toward good governance,” Bert shares.
When asked what inspires them to extend their support for other associations and scholars, they both agree it’s the African philosophy of Ubuntu based on the concept of common humanity, oneness: living harmoniously with others which can be expressed in the phrase ‘I am because of who we all are.’
“People need to find a worthy passion and participate in that area in their community. To find or develop a group that will provide encouragement and articulate a strong united voice that will support their cause and to educate others to this belief,” Bert adds.
For Bert and Pat, this takes energy and passion, and at least an interest.
“Involvement includes time to understand issues, take part in discussions, projects, and to act,” Pat adds.
With this strong belief in people and community, the next generation is certainly on a great journey thanks to community volunteers and hard workers like the Parungaos.