Nanny is reunited with her family for Christmas

Elenor Diaz (to the right of the tree) was devastated when bogus tickets stranded husband Nilo (left) in the Philippines last Christmas. The family will celebrate their first Christmas in 13 years with their kids: Niel Princess, 17, Niel John, 20, and Niel Joshua, 9.

Photograph by: MARIE-FRANCE COALLIER THE GAZETTE, The Gazette

There’s barely room in Elenor Diaz’s cramped two-bedroom apartment for her three children and husband, let alone a humungous Christmas tree.
But this holiday season is particularly special – the first in 13 years that the Diaz family can celebrate together.
And celebrate they will. “We’re very excited,” exclaimed Diaz, a Filipina nanny whose heartbreaking Christmas last year made headlines. “We’re cooking lots of food, going to church Christmas Eve, then friends are coming over and we’ll open presents.
“And on Christmas Day, we’ll go to church again; then we have two parties to go to.”
After receiving her permanent residence status in Canada in 2010, Diaz continued to work several jobs to squirrel away enough money to bring her family to Montreal from the Philippines in time for Christmas last year.
But a crooked travel agent in the Philippines pocketed the $4,000, leaving her four family members stranded in Manila with bogus plane tickets in their hands.
After The Gazette wrote about her plight, readers from Chilliwack, B.C., to Brewster, N.Y., responded with offers to help. In the end, Larry Modafferi paid $5,800 in airfare to get the family here for Dec. 29.
The family members have been getting to know each other again ever since – Diaz had last seen them during a quick trip home in 2007 for her father’s funeral.
The adjustment has been surprisingly easy except for the weather, said Diaz, 44, who came to Canada as a sponsored nanny in 2006. Before that, she worked in Israel.
Her children, who have been raised for the past 13 years by their father and grandmother in the Philippines, don’t “whine or complain,” mainly because she established the ground rules as soon as they arrived, she said.
“I explained to them that I work 17 hours a day, showed them the bills I have to pay and explained that we have no helping hands like people do in the Philippines to wash clothes or clean the house, so we have to do all that ourselves,” said a beaming Diaz, who starts work at 5 a.m. at the restaurant of the Marriott Hotel in Dorval, then goes to her nanny job at 3 p.m.
“Now, when I come home from work, everything is prepared and on the table and the apartment is clean.”
For now, Diaz and her family have no plans to return to the Philippines.
“Maybe when we all have permanent residence we’ll visit my homeland, but right now I’m just thinking about a good future for my children.”
Her son, Niel John, 20, is an independent student at Concordia University, collecting prerequisites to study math, statistics and computer science full time, and works part time at the Rogers call centre.
“In the Philippines, I was studying in Manila so I could only go home on weekends. But here I can go home any time,” he said. “It’s a gift that we’re all together.”
Daughter Niel Princess, 17, just finished high school through adult education and is taking French full time before starting CEGEP in the fall.
The youngest child, Niel Joshua, 9, attends elementary school.
“They all adapted very well and are learning French, and the only adjustment that was difficult was the weather,” Diaz said. “They are so afraid to go outside in the cold.”
Her husband, Nilo Diaz, has been working part time with Modafferi, the Good Samaritan who paid their way to Canada and president of Ria Canada, a company that wires remittances to countries including the Philippines. Nilo has a second job at a local warehouse.
The family’s Dollard des Ormeaux living quarters are tight. The couple shares one bedroom, the children are in the other, and Diaz’s mother, who has raised the children for most of their lives, arrives in January for a visit.
“My son will likely sleep on the couch then,” Diaz said. “The most important thing is not the place we’re in, but that we are all together.”
smontgomery@ montrealgazette.com