Carlito and Liezl Oriño had the same chemical engineering education back in Cebu in the Philippines, and the couple, both now 46 with three children, are in the middle of an education repeat by taking the same civil engineering degree together at Saskatchewan Polytechnic. 

Sask Polytech representatives said it’s probably the first time a married couple have taken the same program at the same time. 

“So, the specialty we are taking right now is water resources, which is not quite far from what we have studied back in our home country,” Carlito explained.  

“This is going to be like a ticket to going back to our profession,” Liezl added. 

The Oriños seized the chance to move to Canada in September 2020 because they wanted a lifestyle where they could be closer as a family — up to that point, Carlito’s career took him to Dubai and Saudi Arabia. He made excellent money, but the long stretches of separation were difficult, and living in big cities with frantic traffic was stressful. 

Moving to Canada was not easy at first. COVID quarantine procedures were a strain, then there was the four months of loneliness before they could bring their children to live with them. 

Then, there was the work they initially found. Liezl was hired as a baker, but one income wasn’t enough, so Carlito found work as a manual labourer. 

“I work in pork plant as a meatpacker, which is quite a difficult job because it’s doing heavy lifting of meat, and then it’s really difficult for me because my job in Dubai was as a production supervisor,” Carlito explained. “So, just like material control. And then the salary I received here is not that much compared to what I received in Dubai. 

“It was emotional, it was like, ‘why did I come here?’ But when the children arrived, it was like, oh, yeah, there’s already a benefit ... it motivates us to move forward.” 

An open house at Sask Polytech led to their current path. The Oriños wondered at first how they could attend school on one income, but with help from financial advisors they decided to use loans and scholarships to support themselves while they study.  

Liezl’s mother came from the Philippines to help look after the kids, and they began the challenge of re-starting their education. They worried at first that they wouldn’t keep up with younger classmates, or that the course material would be too hard. 

But school and local supports have been fantastic, they said. 

“Moose Jaw has really given us a lot of opportunities,” Liezl noted. “It’s a refresher, because it’s been, like, 23, 24 years from us being in school. ... It’s kind of hard, but enjoyable, too, because after classes we get to discuss everything that happened in school.” 

“We have a common subject at home, now,” Carlito laughed. 

The community has helped immensely, with many friendly locals pitching in to find furnishings and supplies for their home. The Oriños have integrated with the existing Filipino community, found friends — and are enjoying the weather. 

“I like Moose Jaw ... It’s not too hot,” Carlito said. “Because I’ve been in extreme temperatures, like in Dubai, it goes up to 40°C positive. Here, it can go down to that in negative, but still I like the cold, because if you are cold, you just have to wear a jacket, but you cannot go naked (for the heat)!” 

Through Sask Polytech, the Oriños have found mentors, completed helpful work terms in the industries they hope to work in, made contacts with prospective employers, and begun building new networks in their new country. 

They plan on making a home in Moose Jaw long-term.