People, Uncategorized

Finding peace in South Canterburry

By Karen V. Bermejo

For Pastor Jonan Castillon, the journey to a better life is finding a place where he can use his full potential for God’s glory and live in peace and order.

Then he found South Canterburry, in the world’s most peaceful place to live in, New Zealand.

South Canterbury reminds him of Iloilo; a fusion of a quiet life in the rural and the progressive life in the urban.

“It’s like a rural town in the Philippines with first class amenities, low traffic volume, fewer people and relaxed atmosphere,” he said.

Even the old colonial buildings along Stafford Street would remind you of Iloilo City’s Calle Real, he added.

Apart from being home to scenic spots, the place is also perfect for those with temper for insects. Why? Jonan said that since August last year, he never saw any cockroach, rat and even ants crawling on sugar or sweets.


Jonan and his family enjoying the scenic view of South Canterbury.


“Migrating to New Zealand and moving to South Canterbury is one great journey for our family,” he shared.
As a pastor, he never forgets to share his faith through his blog “From Worry To Glory” (

His blog contains testimonies of faith, hope and love with the prayer that those who read it will be inspired to go on with life and move forward despite difficult circumstances.

Lucky that NZ is a democratic country, Jonan was also able to continue sharing the same faith with his fellow Filipinos and some Kiwi friends at Wilson Street Baptist Church.


Church of the Good Shepherd. KARL HIPOLITO PHOTO


Compared to other areas in the world, the number of Filipinos in South Canterburry remains minimal.

There are three types of Filipino there according to Jonan.

First, there are those who have married a Kiwi national and have lived and raised their children there for 35 to 40 years.

Known for its vast pasture, there are also lots of Filipinos manning the dairy farms. Others work as laborers in big factories for potato processing, leather tanning, fish and meat process and farm products packaging. In the last quarter of 2012, there were 22 Filipinos who arrived to layout fiber optics cables in Timaru.

There are also a few working in information technology jobs, administrative, health and social services.

And lastly, just like him, there are those who just found the place as a good option to live.

South Canterbury is also migrant-friendly.

The NZ government has instituted the Citizens Action Bureau to help its citizens including new migrants for common settlement issues. Organized in every suburb, they have free seminars and orientation for newcomers. All you need to do is visit their office, inquire and enlist in the programs they are offering for new migrants.

Those who wanted to visit or live in South Canterbury must apply through the Immigration New Zealand (


Jonan with the Filipino dairy farm workers.


Christmas party with South Canterbury Association of Filipinos.


Just like Filipinos, Jonan said that Kiwi people also greet each other on the streets.

“Besides meeting and getting-to-know us, they offered help if you need assistance. Because of that, we feel at home and it’s like we’ve been here for a long time already,” he said.

He also admired how the Kiwis respect their government system. While security in Philippine malls remains questionable, in New Zealand, there is no single security guard, even in banks and malls.

Aside from obedience of the law, Filipino values like ‘palabra de honor’ and honesty are also practiced by the Kiwis.*


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