Bernardo M. Villegas
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The Best Place for Children

          I am very happy for my latest grandniece, Sophia.  She is the daughter of my niece, Iona, daughter of my brother Eddie, long-time professor of political economy at the University of the Philippines in Manila.  She is a favor from God that we, her relatives, obtained by a lot of prayers since her mother was already 48 years old.  She was born without any complication and we had the great joy of seeing her recently in her parents’ home in Vancouver, Canada.  She is a really a beautiful bundle of joy.  Her father Kelly is a Canadian of Ukranian descent.  She is also very fortunate by being born in a country that has arguably the most child-friendly policies in the world.  Her mother is still enjoying an 18-month maternity leave with pay.  I was told that it is a practice in Canada for government workers to regularly visit families with new-born babies to ensure that the parents are taking good care of their children.  Sophia will enjoy some of the best educational and health benefits in the developed world as she grows up.  No wonder I know of even well-to-do Filipino families deciding to migrate to Canada.  They are thinking primarily of the welfare of their children.

         To coincide with a series of road shows I conducted in Vancouver and Toronto, my siblings and I decided to travel to Vancouver last October 8 to reunite with nephews and nieces who are residing in Vancouver and Toronto.  Our niece in Winnipeg could not join the reunion because she herself is about to give birth to a third child.  Our clan has contributed to the 800,000 overseas Filipinos who are now residing and working in Canada.  Last October 8 was the Thanksgiving Day celebrated by Canadians, a day when families get together, similar to the American Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of November.  It was indeed a day of thanksgiving for the gift of Sophia and the other children that have been born and will be born to my nephews and nieces living in Canada.

         I am reminded here of the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, “Love in the Family.”  He quotes from the song of the Psalmist: “In the home where husband and wife are seated at table, children appear at their side ‘like olive shoots’, that is, full of energy and vitality .  If the parents are in some sense the foundations of the home, the children are the ’living stones’ of the family.  Significantly, the word which appears most frequently in the Old Testament after the name of God (YHWH, ‘the Lord’) is ‘child’, which is itself related to the verb to build.  Hence, Psalm 128, in speaking of the gift of children, see imagery drawn from the building of a house and the social life of cities: ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain…Lo, sons are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth.  Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them!  He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.’  These images reflect the culture of an ancient society, yet the presence of children is a sign of the continuity of the family throughout salvation history, from generation to generation.”

         In return for the very generous social benefits that Canadian society provides for their citizens, immigrants from the Philippines are among those who can make a significant contribution to at least partially counteract the demographic suicide that most developed countries, both in the West and the East, have already committed because of the very low fertility rates that have resulted from a contraceptive mentality.    Like my nephews and nieces who are now Canadian citizens, Filipino immigrants to Canada are still blessed with the cultural preference for large families that have practically disappeared in developed nations.  I look forward to many more grand nephews and grand nieces in Canada who will be benefiting from the social policies of the country which is the best place in the world to have children. In fact, since God is all powerful and merciful, I do not hesitate to pray for another miracle:  that He send Sophia a brother or a sister of her own.   For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.