New Canadian 'living the dream' and adopting Winnipeg's rallying cry after citizenship ceremony

Romulo Galinato was one of 60 people from 12 countries welcomed into the fold as Canadian citizens on Tuesday morning at a ceremony at Manitoba Theatre for Young People in Winnipeg.

'Go Jets go!' says Romulo Galinato following Tuesday ceremony at Manitoba Theatre for Young People

Gerilyn Galinato, left, and her husband, Romulo Galinato, originally from the Philippines, became Canadian citizens on Tuesday at a citizenship ceremony. (Warren Kay/CBC)

Romulo Galinato is going to fit right in with his new country — and, specifically, his adopted city.

"Being a Canadian citizen is living the dream, actually," Galinato said, grinning and adding "Go Jets go!" after a pause.

The Filipino father was one of 60 people from 12 countries welcomed as Canadian citizens on Tuesday morning at a ceremony at Manitoba Theatre for Young People in Winnipeg.

After the event, during which the new Canadians took their oaths of citizenship, Galinato and his wife, Gerilyn, clutched the document confirming their new national identity with both hands.

"Glorious and free," Romulo said, reciting a phrase from Canada's national anthem.

Bolanle and Johnson Aina, originally from Nigeria, both became Canadian citizens on Tuesday. They came to the country as students but stayed after receiving their degrees. (Warren Kay/CBC)

The Philippines will always be the couple's homeland, Gerilyn said, but they're proud of the place they and their daughter call home today.

"You have special rights that's given to people and we're very privileged to be one of them now."

Just last week, Bolanle Aina, a pharmacist, was on a different stage receiving her doctorateOn Tuesday, she was at the theatre at The Forks with her husband, Johnson, as they became Canadian citizens together. 

"When I was leaving Nigeria eight years ago, I didn't know anything about Canada. I didn't know anything about being a permanent resident," she said.

"I just came here to get more education and after spending some time I found that I felt perfectly comfortable, and I fell in love with it, with Canada."

Pablo Felices-Luna, artistic director at Manitoba Theatre for Young People, hosted a Canadian citizenship ceremony at his theatre on Tuesday morning. (Ian Froese/CBC)

MTYP artistic director Pablo Felices-Luna, who hosted the citizenship ceremony, remembers his own arrival in Canada — and specifically, trying to avoid the fashion faux pas his brother committed years earlier.

"I didn't make the mistake that he made, getting out of an airplane in Victoria, B.C., wearing corduroy pants, an undershirt, a flannel shirt, an alpaca sweater, an army-grade jacket, thinking it was Canada — but of course it was the middle of August," he said.

To make matters worse, Felices-Luna joked, his brother also donned a big sombrero and carried a violin case. 

More than a quarter-century later, an appropriately-dressed Felices-Luna welcomed the new Canadians at Tuesday's ceremony at the theatre he now heads.

Approximately 1,700 such ceremonies are held across Canada each year, but this was the first time the theatre has hosted one.

Theatre opens its doors

"It's really powerful to have an opportunity to open our doors to say, 'Here's this theatre in Winnipeg that wants to be part of this community, of this great enterprise that we call Canada," Felices-Luna told CBC Manitoba's Information Radio before the ceremony.

A native of Peru, he arrived in British Columbia in the early 1990s to attend an international school. Along the way, he experienced the country's diversity on a grand scale. He had a South African roommate when Nelson Mandela was released from prison and one of his classmates was a student from the Soviet Union around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Following a short time back in Peru, Felices-Luna returned to Canada to train as a director. He became a Canadian citizen a decade ago, and took the reins at Manitoba Theatre for Young People in 2014.

"I knew about Canada's role in the world and that's something that was very important to me as a young man, and the role that it has played in the world scene and it continues to play," Felices-Luna said.

"I had a lot of curiosity about what makes this country tick and I've had the opportunity to learn and re-learn what that means over the past few decades."

It wasn't always easy. He felt isolated, and recalls scrounging up $8.25 to talk to his parents on a pay phone for three minutes.

He was reflecting on how their communication has evolved, he said, on Monday — his daughter's birthday.

"Over breakfast, I flipped my tablet, I hooked up on Skype and my parents got to sing happy birthday to her."

He tries to take his wife and three daughters to Peru as frequently as he can.

"It's lovely to be able to say I love Peru, I love Canada, and I'm a citizen of both."

He encourages new Canadians to engage with the politics, culture and the social work happening here.

"It's not going to take anything away from what you brought to this country, it's actually going to enrich it and allow you to contribute to what we believe in," he said. "We're all making Canada together."

Manitoba has 60 new citizens, after a special Canadian citizenship ceremony at Manitoba Theatre for Young People. 1:17

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is a reporter at CBC Manitoba. He previously wrote about rural Manitoba for the Brandon Sun and the Carillon in Steinbach. Story idea? Email ian.froese@cbc.ca.

With files from Information Radio

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