Day 221 - Leogin (4th person I approached)
August 09, 2014 - The first person I approached said she didn’t have time today, but hopes to see me again. Then she climbed into a converted post office truck - I definitely want to hear her story. A young man told me
“I don’t mean to seem impolite, but I’m going to say no. There. Now you can write about the guy who said ‘no.’" He seemed disappointed he wasn’t the first to say no. Then one man dismissed me without actually hearing what I had to say. I’ve been there, too.
And there was Leogin. When I was telling her about my project, I could see a smile form across her face. Her eyes widened and she was intrigued.
“Yeah, sure sit down. This sounds very interesting,” she said. She seemed less excited about me taking her picture, but agreed nonetheless. Leogin was sitting eating a meal outside a new Japanese restaurant.
“I asked them to give me something they thought I haven't tried before,” she said, when I asked what the clear jello-looking cubes in a bowl were. They were each dotted with a red substance, and while I didn’t have a clue what it was, I thought it deserved full marks for presentation.
“My name is a combination of my mother and father's names. My mother made it for me. My father is Leo and my mother is Gina. Leogin,” she said with a huge smile that lit up her face.
“I was born in Aklan, in the Philippines. I’m an only child. My mother had seven siblings, so a large family. My father comes from a medium sized family. My family is small sized,” she said, with a slight giggle.
Leogin was more interested in activities than classes in school.
“I liked the after-school groups. My mother was always involved with my school, and groups, activities, parent meetings. She knew my class schedule and when I had a test coming up. My mother tutored me as well. I was very involved with being a majorette. You know, twirling the baton and throwing it up in the air and catching it,” she said. We both automatically did the same imaginary ‘throwing of the baton’ motion, then laughed. I might have added a few more twirls.
“I would say I was an average student,” she said.
Tragedy struck when her mother died in a car accident. Leogin was eleven years old.
“We were out at a family event. There were three vehicles filled with family members. My mother was in the front on a (motorized) tricycle with two others. I was in a large truck that was originally meant for carrying sand and gravel, and it was full of family members. My mother’s twin sister’s husband was driving the truck. At some point my mother decided to get off the tricycle and into the truck where I was. The driver didn’t see her and she fell trying to get into the truck and it ran over her. I was the last one to see her,” said Leogin. She then went on to tell me that she still feels guilty that she didn’t do something to prevent it.
“I could have banged on the side of the truck to tell my uncle to stop. They tried to tell me that she died from the fall and that she didn’t get run over, but I know what I saw.” Leogin has learned to compartmentalize her pain.
School became like a second home to her after her mother’s death. Her father was working in Saudi Arabia, and would travel back and forth between work and home, when he could. It was decided that Leogin would be best to go live with her grandparents. They had a home in San Jose, about one hour south of San Francisco, in California (USA).
“I lived there with my grandparents for six years. It was difficult at first to settle in. But once I did, it was a really good stable environment. I went to school and made friends and had a routine. I was on the honour roll. My grandparents were very protective of me,” she said. At eighteen, Leogin decided that she wanted to go back to the Philippines to be with her father.
“I made all the plans and arrangements and then told my grandparents I was leaving. I think that was a mistake. I wish I had included them in the decision process. I think I hurt them by not telling them I wanted to go back. I wanted to have my own independence. And I also want to keep my family happy,” she said.
Back in the Philippines, Leogin’s father was living in Manila.
“He had a new family. I have a step sister now. His wife was very nice to me. They welcomed me as a family member and treated me kindly. I only stayed there for a few months. Then I decided to come to Vancouver. I have family here in North Vancouver and I moved in with my aunt, on my father’s side. She and my mother were like sisters. People say we look alike and we get asked if we are mother and daughter, which is nice. I call her mommy,” she said. Leogin still needed a couple of credits to graduate from high school.
“As an international student, even to get just a couple of credits is very expensive. So my Aunt home-schooled me. I’ve graduated now. Then I went to school to study to be a nurse’s aid. Now I’m getting prepared with all my documents to add my name to the waiting list to go to school to become a practical nurse. Or possibly to specialize in some form of nursing. I’m not sure yet. I’m taking my time and just enjoying Vancouver while I figure out what I want to do,” she said with her big, warm smile.
Leogin smiled and laughed throughout our chat. She was extremely polite, gracious and has impeccable manners as well. She is twenty three years old.
“Every time I say my name, I think of my mother. My grandparents thought I might want to change my name after she died. To add more of her name to mine. But she gave me my name. It’s a combination of both my parents. I tell some people that they can call me Leo, or struggle with the harder full name. I have a joke that I sometimes use. 'Think of a lion that likes to drink gin!' I like my name, so I’ve kept it. My mother made it for me.” #notastranger