Thanksgiving Day: Two stories of gratitude

Eldrizah & Mark Empuerto and their ‘miracle baby’ Mira Cleo. They believed it was a ‘miracle’  from St. Jude that their daughter who is now in Grade 12  survived. (Photo submitted) 

Updated: October 15, 2019, 10:00 AM


By Ted Alcuitas

As Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving today, we feature two stories of gratefulness – one for a couple who was given a ‘miracle’ daughter after having lost two and a worker who lost his job and went through obstacles that benefited him.

“Whenever I talk to people, I say: ‘try to find a little light in the darkness you have, because God is there. It’s like the world is on top of you. It’s too dark. But then at the end of the day, you see.” – Eldrizah Alo Empuerto.

Eldrizah and Mark Empuerto were only a few months in Canada when she found out that she was pregnant.

In the fall of 2001,  they arrived in Vancouver to join Eldrizah’s uncle. She was  a registered nurse in the Philippines and Mark was an Electrical engineer. But like many Filipino immigrants they could not immediately find jobs in their profession.

So she was understandably scared to know she was pregnant again. She had lost two pregnancies back in the Philippines due to premature birth.

In May of 2002, she was admitted to B.C. Women’s Hospital to give birth. Doctors said her unborn child was 24 weeks old, weighed only 500 grams, and would likely not make it.

“I was so confused, I was scared. It was just six months being in Canada,” Eldrizah told The B.C. Catholic in an  interview.

And so she turn to pray to St. Jude, patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes. Her uncle and aunt are devotees of the saint.

“On my day of delivery, the chaplain there asked: ‘what do you want?’ I said: ‘I just want my baby to be baptized. I don’t know what will happen after, but I want my baby to be baptized before it dies.’”

After about a week in hospital, Empuerto gave birth to a tiny baby girl. She named her Mira Cleo, a play on the word “miracle.”

“From then on, it was a miracle for us every day” that the little girl lived, said Empuerto.

Mira today. (Provided)

When Empuerto was discharged from hospital, her newborn fighting for life in a neonatal intensive care unit, her husband learned he was being laid off.

“I would walk every day to St. Jude’s church.” The church is celebrating its 75th anniversary on October 28, the saints’ feast day.

“I pray, I pray, I pray,” said Empuerto. Then, she would catch a ride with her husband to the hospital to visit their baby girl. On their way home, she would go back to their church and pray some more.

Eight days after she was born, Mira was still alive. Doctors admitted to Empuerto they didn’t think she would live that long.

Her daughter underwent a total of 11 surgeries and is now in Grade 12 at St. Patrick’s Regional Secondary. She dances, plays the violin, and is an active member of St. Jude’s.

Eldrizah is now working as a nurse and husband Mark is employed as an estimator at an electrical engineering contractor.

Virgil Hilario looks back…

Photo: Ashley Ross Studios , FB

It was October 2015.

Virgil Hilario lost his job and was on severance pay  for two years including eight months of Employment Insurance benefits.

Receiving no call backs from prospective employers, he survived doing odd jobs as a general labourer on construction sites for minimum pay. 

Borrowing from Charles Dickens famous lines in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, Hilario wrote this piece on his Facebook page:

It’s not the best of times, it may be the worst of times. And yet there’s plenty to be thankful for. Never in any time of my life have I had an opportunity to cross paths with so many lives, mostly it seems for the briefest of moments, and perhaps never to cross again. Maybe it is an age for wisdom. I don’t know. What’s certain is that at the heart of these encounters, I found mostly kindness, generosity, sympathy, patience and understanding. And for all this, including the support of friends and family, I am extremely grateful. Thank you, Lord. Happy Thanksgiving.

A senior underwriting assistant at an insurance company Hilario is a Communications Arts graduate from the University of Santo Tomas. He is active with Pinoy Pride and is an aspiring actor.

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