Becoming Canadian

How a Filipino immigrant landed the ultimate Canadian job: driving a Zamboni

"In the Philippines we only have ice skating rinks inside the mall." Not so in Estevan, Sask.

“I am a family oriented person, all I want for my family is a good life.”

This story is part of Becoming Canadian, a year-long project sharing stories of struggle and triumph from new Canadian citizens.

When new Canadian citizen Gene De la Cruz first arrived in Estevan, Sask. after moving from Philippines, he set to work finding himself a new job.

"I came to Canada for greener pastures because I believe Canada is the land of opportunities and people who come to this country have a better life ahead of them. Like other immigrants, I want to have a better life in order to support my family, especially my mother," De la Cruz says. "I am a family oriented person, all I want for my family is a good life."

At one point, De la Cruz was working four jobs to earn money to send back home to Philippines.

"When I came to Canada, I started working at Boston Pizza as a cook for three years and as soon as I got my permanent residency, I decided to look for a second job. I wasn't content working two jobs, so I end up working four jobs, but having four jobs is not easy and that's the time when I decided to apply to the City of Estevan," De la Cruz says.

It was through his application to work for the city of Estevan that De la Cruz landed himself the quintessential Canadian job — driving a Zamboni.

Before I took the position I didn't have any formal training to drive a  Zamboni , because in the Philippines we only have ice skating rinks inside the mall.

"I didn't expect to be hired in the city as custodial staff, but after a year, I was able to get the arena technician position," De la Cruz says. "Before I took the position I didn't have any formal training to drive a Zamboni, because in the Philippines we only have ice skating rinks inside the mall, but due to my proper training I learned to drive and apply the best techniques to drive a Zamboni without doing any damage to the ice."

New Canadian Gene De la Cruz pilots a Zamboni in Estevan, Sask.

In addition to the coveted job of driving the Zamboni, De la Cruz's duties include maintaining the ice and locker rooms and keeping the temperature of the arena at the sweet spot for perfect skating conditions.

Maintaining the arena in Estevan is a seasonal job, and as a city employee working in maintenance, De la Cruz was offered work of a different kind altogether to carry him through the warmer months.

"Every summer we're assigned to work outside because there is not too much work inside the ice rink, since there are no more hockey games in the summer," De la Cruz says. "I'm working as a parks labourer and my job is about the maintenance and beautification of the public recreation and play parks, and aside from that I also assist in public burials as a gravedigger."

"On my first day in the cemetery I'm scared because I'm all by myself to maintain that public cemetery area," says De la Cruz. "Step by step I learned and now I'm enjoying doing my job in the cemetery. Some of my friends call me a professional gravedigger."

​To find more stories about the struggles and triumphs of new Canadian citizens, follow Canada 2017 on Facebook and @BecomingCDN on Instagram and Twitter.

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