On May 21st, Vancouver’s Creekside Community Recreation Centre was packed with photographers, journalists, and Eleanor Guerrero-Campbell’s family and friends. They were there to celebrate the launch of her book, Stumbling Through Paradise: A Feast of Mercy for Manuel del Mundo. The event began with a note of appreciation to everyone who made Campbell’s book become possible. Radio and TV host Irene Querubin then interviewed the author, after which theatre members performed dramatic readings from the book. Finally there was a lively Q&A forum with the author, which gave everyone a chance to present their questions.
The main theme of Campbell’s book was the frustration many highly-accomplished professionals felt when they were not able to find a job in their professional fields after moving to Canada, despite the fact that they had been admitted to their new country precisely because of their professions.
Leaving the Philippines in 1977 with a Masters Degree in Urban and Regional Planning, young Campbell was fortunate enough to get the first job that she applied for in her field, working as a planner for the City of Edmonton, Alberta. However, it was not the same for many other skilled immigrants with similar talents and backgrounds. Following her transition to retirement in 2012, Campbell dedicated the next four years of her life using her literary skills to write a story that resonates with all immigrants, and deserves to be read, thought about, and act upon. She continues to devote a big part of her life to helping newcomers integrate into their new country, and is currently the founding Executive Director of an immigrant service organization in Vancouver.
The book narrates the challenging journey of the fictional Filipino family, the del Mundos, who decide to leave everything behind — their home, family, and part of their national identity — in pursuit of a better life in Canada. The family’s journey is a spiritual one, full of hope despite hardship, determination despite failures, and an unbreakable familial bond and loyalty that keeps them all together on their path.
In addition to exploring the issue of underemployment in Canada, the book raises intriguing questions about the clash of cultures. Half way through the story, the del Mundos face a crisis that reshapes and integrates their behaviours, beliefs, traditions, and practices into a Canadian context. Through this fictitious family, Campbell finds a way to approach the issue of cultural diversity in a multiethnic society, officially stressing the significance of mutual respect and tolerance for cultural differences within Canadian borders. The del Mundos learn to value diversity and differences, and eventually integrate their Filipino background into the larger society without losing their national values. The family members’ sense of duality highly resonates with any reader who has decided to leave his or her comfort zone, ready to overcome barriers in exchange for a better future for themselves and future generations.
On a more subtle level, Campbell invites her readers to think about the constant nature of cultural changes and the urge to find meaningful answers to ethical and personal questions. Stumbling Through Paradise sees international migration as an external factor that accelerates a change of cultures in contemporary societies. The diffusion of cultures, often of distant cultures such as the British and Filipino ones outlined in this book, transforms Canada from an ethnically homogeneous country into a truly multiethnic and multicultural society.