Day 131 - Nowel

Day 131 - Nowel (1st person I approached)
May 11, 2014 - Nowel was born a few days before Christmas in the Tondo district of Manila, in the Philippines.

“My name came from my grandfather,” he said.

“When I was born there was some Christmas music playing and he suggested that it would be nice to give me a name related to the music. I’ve never asked why there is a ‘w’ in the middle.” Nowel is the oldest of three children, with two younger sisters.


“My father worried about the future for his children. Life in Tondo is very difficult. He came to Canada a year before we did. He didn’t have a job, or know many people. A friend of his was working in Dauphin, Manitoba.  He wrote to my father suggesting that he move there, and he would do what he could to help my father find a job. I was seven when we joined my father in Dauphin,” said Nowel. In the Philippines Nowel had learned some English at school. Being shy and speaking little English, school in Manitoba took some time to adjust to.

“I was bullied at school. I think mostly because I didn’t speak much English. I was a quiet child and rather shy. There were two girls in particular that were very mean. One day, I got into a fight with another boy that they had been speaking to. I stood my ground and didn’t run away. I hurt him, and after that, the bullying stopped,” said Nowel. 


Five years of living in Dauphin was enough for Nowel’s family.

“My father didn’t like how extreme the winters are, so we moved to Vancouver. We settled in Coquitlam, where I’ve lived since I was a teenager,” he said. When he was younger, Nowel used to spend time watching his father working in an automotive shop.

“My father is an automotive body repair man. I became interested in cars, and really liked the paint shop. I went to Vancouver Community College (VCC) after graduating high school, and took a six month automotive mechanics course. I worked in a shop for about a year after that, mostly doing tune-ups on cars. My interest was still more in painting, so I went back to VCC and learned automotive painting. That course was only three months. The best learning was working in different shops afterwards, which allowed me to learn from others and find other ways to do things,” Nowel said. He has worked in automotive painting ever since.


Every year, Nowel returns to the Philippines to visit family. About eight years ago, on one of those trips, he was introduced to a woman through one of his friends.

“We met in a Starbucks. We became friends and each time I returned to Manila I would see her. We didn’t really date until a few years ago. I thought maybe I should talk to her about meeting her parents, but she invited me to go meet them before I could ask. When I came home to Canada, we were talking on Skype one night and I popped the question,” he said. 


They started making plans almost immediately, and for the next six months, they planned their wedding.

“We wanted to get married in the Philippines and with me being in Canada, it was difficult. Things were booked and we couldn’t find a venue. I was doing what I could to support things from here in Canada,” said Nowel.

“I went back to the Philippines ahead of time to help with the final arrangements. That was definitely no vacation. It was a lot of work. But it all came together and we had about 100 people at our wedding. We have been married now for two years.” Nowel’s wife was able to join him in Coquitlam once the immigration paperwork got finalized. She is currently in school training to become a beautician. I asked Nowel if they have any children. He smiled and replied,

“No. Not yet.” #notastranger