Native Filipino rejoices his new citizenship

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 2, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

The American dream eludes most of us.

But at 71, Teodoro &uot;T.D.&uot; Canoy is finally living out his version.


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&uot;I’m so happy I got my citizenship,&uot; said Canoy. A native of the Philippines, he and his wife, Josefina, and most of their 13 children immigrated to the United States in the mid-1990s.

After nine years in this country, he became a naturalized United States citizen last month. Although his broken English can be a little hard to understand, Canoy’s pride in his newly adopted homeland is evident as he proudly carries a star-spangled American flag.

Getting his citizenship wasn’t an easy process.

Canoy had his required one-on-one interview with Immigration and Naturalization Service officials March 3.

&uot;I was nervous during the INS interview,&uot; Canoy said. &uot;My leg was shaking.&uot;

Canoy studied for much of the year leading up to his citizenship test. A mechanic at Blair Brothers, Canoy frequently pulled out his study materials over lunch.

Oftentimes, during breaks, fellow mechanics Joey Briggs, Mark Morris and Don Hoskins would pepper Canoy with sample questions from the citizenship exam.

&uot;Recite the Preamble of the Constitution.&uot;

&uot;What do the stripes on the flag mean?&uot;

&uot;What is the Constitution?&uot;

&uot;How can the Constitution be changed?&uot;

&uot;What country did the United States fight during the Revolutionary War?&uot;

&uot;They asked me questions (that I had on the test),&uot; Canoy said. &uot;They helped me. I learned a lot from my coworkers.

&uot;I love my company.&uot;

The occasional lunchtime study groups originated after Canoy, while studying, would quiz his colleagues on their knowledge.

&uot;At first, we started kidding around asking questions,&uot; said Briggs, Canoy’s supervisor. &uot;It kind of evolved from that. I’m kind of glad we were able to contribute a small part to his citizenship by asking him the test questions.&uot;

William Blair, president of Blair Brothers, hired Canoy shortly after he arrived in this country. Although he spoke little English, he came with Filipino paperwork indicating his training and experience as a mechanic.

But it was his attitude – and those of his children – that sold Blair on Canoy.

&uot;Everything about the man was impressive,&uot; Blair said. &uot;You could tell he works hard at everything he does. It impressed me that he was eager to go to work for a living…(Hiring him) turned out to be an exceptionally good decision.&uot;

Initially, the language barrier made communication within their small department a bit challenging, Briggs said.

&uot;When he first came here, it was tough,&uot; he said. &uot;Still is, sometimes. But now we have got our own little lingo. He knows more English and he has taught us some of his language.&uot;

Over the years, Briggs said, Canoy has become a friend to his coworkers.

&uot;He’s a good friend to all of us in here,&uot; Briggs said. &uot;He invited us over for his birthday party, it was pretty neat to get an opportunity to learn about their culture.&uot;

Canoy’s pride in passing his citizenship was obvious, Blair said.

&uot;Everybody was tickled for him,&uot; he said. &uot;Everyone was thrilled for him. It’s easy to see how much he loves America. He’s so gung-ho, you have got to be impressed by him.&uot;

The family occasionally returns to the Philippines to visit relatives.

&uot;We all always love going back,&uot; said son Emmanuel Canoy. &uot;But after we have been there for a few days, we get homesick.

&uot;Our home is here now.&uot;