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Elenor Diaz cries as she embraces her husband Nilo as her children look on after their early morning arrival at Pierre Trudeau Airport in Montreal on Dec. 29.  (Photo by Peter McCabe / The Gazette)

 

MONTREAL — A Filipino family whose Christmas was ruined when fraudsters made off with their hard-earned savings was reunited at Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport on Wednesday morning.

Elenor Diaz, her husband, Nilo, and their three children embraced and wept as they clung to one another for the first time in more than three years in the arrivals area of the airport — seemingly unable to believe they were finally together again.

“They’ve grown up so much,” Diaz exclaimed as she ran her hands over her children’s faces.

“This, to me, is Christmas.”

Diaz, 43, had worked at three jobs to save up enough money to bring her husband and children, age 19, 16 and eight, to Canada for the holidays, sending $4,000 to a travel agency in the Philippines to cover the cost of their round-trip flight.

The plane tickets never arrived, and the $4,000 vanished — along with the owners of the agency.

Distraught, one of Diaz’s employers, Lissa Matyas, sent a letter to The Gazette explaining the situation.

Within a day of an article appearing in the paper and online, people from as far away as Boston and the Caribbean were contacting Diaz to offer everything from airfare to a temporary job for her husband when the family arrived in Canada.

Within minutes of their arrival at the airport on Wednesday, the family was wired with microphones and bombarded by questions from reporters.

They donned the winter coats, mitts and hats Diaz brought with her, and seemed a bit baffled by the need for such heavy apparel.

It is their first time in Canada, Nilo said, gazing tentatively out the window at the mounds of snow outside.

“We are so grateful,” he said in a soft voice, clearly exhausted but elated after the long journey from Manila.

“We spoke to my wife almost every day, and she told us about how kind and generous people in Canada were...I think that is true.”