Gemma Dalayoan is honoured by the University of Manitoba for astounding community service. (Photo: University of Manitoba)

Winnipeg,Manitoba

Recipient for Community Service

By Ted Alcuitas

Retired educator and community advocate Gemma Dalayoan has been chosen one of five Distinguished Alumni Awards  for 2019 by the University of Manitoba.

The 77-year old finished her BEd/83, MEd/90 from Manitoba’s premier university and was recognized for her community service.

Here is the university’s citation:

“Since immigrating to Winnipeg more than 40 years ago, Gemma Dalayoan [BEd/83, MEd/90] has made community service her mission in life. As a founding member and three-time president of the Manitoba Association of Filipino Teachers Inc. (MAFTI), she played an instrumental part in the preservation, promotion and sharing of Filipino cultural heritage through a variety of programs and student scholarships. She also spent decades as a teacher and vice-principal whose guidance has helped shape students into future community leaders.”

Daloyoan immigrated to Winnipeg in 1976 armed with two degrees from Manila’s University of the East (B.S. Major in History) and Paniqui, Tarlac’s Central Institute of Technology (BA in English). With five children in tow (the eldest was only eight years old), she reunited with husband Tony who had been working in Brazil. A sixth child was born in Winnipeg.

Undeterred by her large family and adjusting to a new life as an immigrant, she was able to complete two more degrees from the University of Manitoba – a Bachelor in Education in 1983 and a Master’s in Education in 1990.

But first she has to worked in a garment factory while pursuing an education degree at the University of Manitoba.

She was vice-principal at Winnipeg’s Victoria Albert School, Sisler High and Shaughnessy Park School before retiring in 2004.

She was one of the founders of the Manitoba Association of Filipino Teachers Inc. (MAFTI) and was president for three terms. MAFT has several programs among them the promotion of cultural heritage and languages.

A prolific writer, she co-authored a book on Filipino history in Manitoba – The First Filipino Immigrants in Manitoba, 1959-1975 with the Filipino Writer’s Guild and recently published a collection of poems – ‘Gemma’.

A hidden secret

For 77 years Dalayoan kept a secret to herself and wrote a journal which she never showed to anybody until it was “discovered” by a son, Hernando. Encouraged by him to come out, she published her collection -‘gemma’. 

Writing for the book launch, she revealed that she was the illegitimate daughter of a priest. Growing up in the small town of Casiguan, Sorsogon, she was bullied and shunned by her town mates.

She carried this shame till her adult years telling lies that her father was a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant. She thought she was “unlovable and unworthy” and compensated by writing a journal. She also became a top student .

Today Gemma finally is in bloom.

She will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award on May 8, 2019. Tickets are available at Eventbrite.

“Gemma Dalayoan’s beautiful new poetry collection, gemma: The Bud, paints a picture of the affective moments along this lifelong journey from bud to flower, from Filipino migrant to Filipino Canadian, and from local historian to poet.”