By Moira Blazi
In 2007,Girlie, at 27-years old left her home country of the Philippines bound for Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada with no money; only a small suitcase half filled with family photos, immigration paperwork, a plane ticket paid for by Best Western hotels, and a heart filled to the brim with courage and hope for the future.
Little did she know that just over ten years later, she would be the guest of honor in a room packed with her friends, the movers and shakers of a small town in the mountains of western Montana.
Life rewards the bold and pure heart though, and, on March 22, a room full of Libby professionals and regular Cabinet Mountain Brewing Co. beer drinkers, presented Girlie Pement with checks totaling almost $900 to cover the cost of her United States citizenship application, plus a bit more for her travel expenses.
Sarah Sorenson, co-owner of Cabinet Mountain Brewery, told the Montanian, “It was Glen Gibson’s idea, he was instrumental in getting the ball rolling, but of course we couldn’t let Girlie know.” The regular crowd was “very generous” opening their wallets, because they all love Girlie, who has been with Cabinet Mountain since it opened on July 31, 2014.
“She’s had such an impact,” said Sorenson, “she’s made quite an impression.”
After meeting and marrying her husband Travis in Canada, Pement returned to the Philippines in December of 2010 to apply for entry into the U.S., where, at the U.S. embassy in Manila, they asked her “lots of personal questions” and “lots of questions about her marriage” and, they wanted pictures as well. Once she and Travis got the okay, they returned north in May of 2011, to Salem Oregon.
“When I was younger, coming from a very humble family, we had no computers or internet,” she told the Montanian, “but we did have comic books, and Archie comics were very popular.” Girlie, along with her three sisters and three brothers, loved them. Girlie noticed that they were printed in Canada and the United States.
“All these people are so cool.” Girlie said she always thought as a kid, “When I grow up, I want to go where I can buy Archie comics.” and, of course, all the stuff they had. A few years later, at an internet café in Manilla, she filled out an on-line application to be a housekeeper at the Best Western in Lethbridge, Alberta. She sent her resume. The hotel housekeeping manager called her, and offered her a job. They sent a plane ticket, and, after she paid for her visa and a medical exam, she was on her way. As Girlie says, “the rest is history.”
Leaving home was not easy, her family was sad, but supportive.
“My dad was my biggest supporter,” she said, “He told me; go ahead, flap your wings, make it happen.” After about a year in Salem, Girlie and Travis moved to Lewiston, Idaho for about two years, and then in June of 2014, they moved to Libby, just in time to apply for employment at Cabinet Mountain Brewing Company, which was almost ready to open.
Girlie started to prepare her U.S. citizenship documents last Nov.
It is a long and arduous process, “There is a 20-page application, they look very hard at everything through a microscope, and then there are the interviews and the tests,” said Girlie’s boss Sarah Sorenson.
Girlie attended classes at Flathead Valley Community College studying history, English, and math, and she learned about American history from a set of flash cards, which she said, taught her, among other things, “the American presidents and holidays.” It was not really that hard for her, “In Manilla, we were taught English from kindergarten,” she said, “it is everybody’s second language.” Now, she uses Skype and talks on the phone with her family and friends back in the Philippines, and although she has not seen them since 2010 and misses them dearly, she told the Montanian , “Its part of our culture that we look back and take care of our family, and where we came from.” So, she will be planning a trip back, but not until she has some money to spend there.
“ I want to spoil my mom a bit,” she added with a grin.
Girlie is very happy to have landed here in Libby, and she loves her job. “This place is like my second home, people spend a lot of their time at work, and it’s not about how much you make, it’s about how you enjoy your job. This place has great food and great beer, they take care of us.”
Drop in for a brew and to congratulate Girlie for her soon to be American citizenship.