It takes a village to raise a child. And Bryan Jeresano was in that village one night in January this year when he spotted an 18-year-old University of Guelph student with fear in her eyes.
A man alighted from a car and started stalkingthe young woman.
Jeresano, a bus driver with Metrolinx, an Ontario provincial transportation agency covering the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, happened to be driving nearby. Jeresano recognized her as she was a familiar face at the city bus stop. He stopped the bus close to where she was and got her to get on his bus. This prompted the man to hastily retreat.
Both driver and victim noted the car’s license plate number to file a police report. During the bus ride, Jeresano chatted to calm her. “It was starting to sink in that she may have just dodged a bullet,” he said in a Metrolinx blog in January. “She thanked me over and over again. This is when it hit me that she was genuinely terrified.”
It was a village that also raised Jeresano whose dad died when he was only a baby. His older sister had cerebral palsy and so their mom had to focus on taking care of her and, at the same time, working full-time to support the family. Extra help was needed and so his fraternal aunt stepped in. His aunt Marilou, who lived in Canada, helped send Jeresano to school.
The year 1998 brought both sadness and joy to Jeresano: his sister passed away but in the same year, his mom gave birth to a baby girl.
“My little sister would be my inspiration in getting into Canada and giving back what my aunt did for me – financial support for (her) education,” Jeresano shares with Canadian Filipino Net (CFNet).
The path to Canada was one that was long and complicated. “I had just turned 19 when I came to Canada in 2004,” Jeresano recalls. The process was long, tedious and involved a lot of paperwork. “But eventually my aunt succeeded in legally adopting me so I can immigrate here as her adopted son.”
As a new immigrant, he wasted no time in completing his Ontario Secondary School Diploma and worked various jobs including as a mascot and bus boy for a fastfood chain. He had already started sending money home to the Philippines to support his younger sister’s education.
A friend encouraged Jeresano to go online to find work at GO Transit, which is under Metrolinx. He started as a contract bus cleaner, working the graveyard shifts. In three months, he landed a permanent part-time position as a station attendant and then, shortly after, a full-time job as a plant serviceperson.
But driving was what he’d always wanted to do.
“My uncle back home taught me how to drive his taxi, I learned very quickly and I’ve enjoyed driving ever since,” Jeresano tells CFNet. He had looked into truck driving in Canada but realized that meeting the requirements to drive a truck would be expensive. “I just wasn’t making enough at the time to afford both truck driving lessons and my sister’s schooling at the same time.”
The job as plant serviceperson at GO Transit brought him closer to realizing his dream job. A little over a year with GO Transit, he got a full-time job as a bus driver. “I was right – I really enjoy it and have been happy ever since,” Jeresano relates. The now seven-year bus driver also credits GO Transit for excellent safety training.
A new father of baby girl, Noelle, whom he shares with wife Janet, Jeresano did not suspect how that fateful night in January would be life changing.
Jeresano tells CFNet, “It honestly did not hit me that it could have happened to my own daughter until I got home; I was just happy I was there at that moment.” He already put the incident behind him until the victim’s mom thanked him on social media.
Of the reluctant hero, Vice President of Bus Services with GO TransitEve Wiggins had this to say, “Our GO bus drivers work with hundreds of passengers each day and develop a keen, intuitive understanding of the needs of our customers – especially when they are in distress. I’m delighted that Bryan used his keen eye and commitment to great public service to help this young woman. I’m extremely proud to work with someone like Bryan and call him my colleague.” For Jeresano’sproactive reaction, he will be given a Metrolinx Safety Award for his dedication and commitment to public safety.
Jeresano advises new Filipino immigrants to be patient, yet resilient in reaching one’s goals.
“Don’t be afraid to fail because I failed so many times, I can’t even remember how many times I got back up,” he shares with CFNet readers. “But don’t forget to have fun. Life is not all about proving to anybody your worth, cut yourself some slack.”