Tignish Filipino community finds passion, support, friendship through volleyball
'If you want to do something that you love, just keep doing it'
Twice a week, players lace up their sneakers before getting on the court to play volleyball at Tignish Elementary School.
The Tignish team, as it's called, is made up of players who live in P.E.I. but are from an entirely different island — the Philippines.
All 12 players, including the coaches, work at Royal Star Foods, a local seafood processing plant, and came here as temporary foreign workers or on student visas.
Reygana Benilioa, or Rey as he's called on the court, is one of the coaches and moved to P.E.I. from the Philippines in 2016.
The team recently won a tournament, its second year in a row, where it beat out four other Filipino teams on the Island.
"We are back-to-back champions. So I am proud of my team," said Benilioa.
'We're just enjoying what we're doing'
Jeleah Cornelio is the team's captain and has played volleyball since she was in Grade 4.
She said she loves playing with her colleagues.
"We're just enjoying what we're doing," she said.
At practice on every Wednesday and Friday, it's common for players to bring their children, siblings and extended family members.
"It's a good feeling with all the supports that we're getting from our friends, families. It's really fun," said Cornelio.
Team continues to grow
At the tournament earlier this November, Danna Tagalog won most valuable player.
Tagalog moved here in 2016, following her sister. Since moving to P.E.I., she met her partner and had a baby boy named Dash.
"I wasn't expecting to be able to play again because I had a baby last year, and then I thought that I'd be gaining weight and then I won't be able to play again," she said.
She said getting back on the court gave her something to look forward to.
"If you want to do something that you love, just keep doing it and be passionate about it and just play and be happy," she said.
75 permanent residents
Benilioa said when he first organized the team three years ago, he only had a handful of players join.
Now, he said, the team has a full roster of 12 players and part of that is due to Royal Star Foods.
Manager Francis Morrissey said the company has around 100 Filipino employees, and 75 are now permanent residents.
"The local people think the world of them," he said. "They know without these hundred people, we can't start this processing plant up because we don't have enough people to run it."
Hopes for a second team
Morrissey said many of the employees, like Rey, are becoming permanent residents who can then bring their spouse or children to P.E.I.
Benilioa's wife moved to the Island one year ago and he said he's now waiting to hear when his permanent residency will come through in order to bring his five-year-old daughter.
"It's not easy, long-distance relationship with my daughter. So I keep trying to bring my daughter," he said.
Got to watch the Tignish volleyball team practice last night and they are GOOD. All of the players are from the Philippines and work at Royal Star Foods. <a href="https://t.co/zRPdMjlst9">pic.twitter.com/zRPdMjlst9</a>—@izavarise