Upon the initiative of the Philippine Embassy in Ottawa, young leaders and mentors from Filipino communities across Canada gathered at the St. Michael’s College School in Toronto on 8 March 2014 for the first Young Filipino-Canadian Leaders’ Summit.
Convenor iKubo Media partnered with, TPF Canada and Eskwela Inc. in putting together the day-long event for nearly 100 youth delegates aged 18 to 35 from Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Windsor, Hamilton, and Edmonton. The carefully-planned program covered lively conversations around the theme “Understanding the Filipino-Canadian Identity – the Key to Transformational Leadership.”
In his welcome address, Philippine Ambassador Leslie B. Gatan stated that the Summit was the fulfillment of a two-year old dream of the Embassy to launch a continuing process of nurturing the Filipino community’s young to be productive and to excel in their respective fields as their success redounds to the benefit of both Canada and the Philippines. He counselled the participants on the immense brain power of the youth to resolve complex problems while exhorting them to abide by the laws of God and man. He cited the exceptional speakers chosen by the forum organizers to guide the participants in their quest for excellence in leadership.
Dr. Anton Juan, who taught at the University of the Philippines for over 30 years and is currently a tenured professor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, traced Philippine cultural history from the pre-Spanish to the post-colonial period as it relates to transformational leadership. He pointed to culture as comprising the aspirations of a people and the portal from which leadership originates. Professor Juan cited language as the determinant of the physicality of a nation withoutwhich the will of a people cannot be expressed. He summarized his lecture in three constructs: memory, will and action which refer to culture, a point of view and a “becoming”.
Professor Roland Coloma of the University of Toronto began his presentation with a personal narrative spanning his experiences as a Philippine-born, U.S.-educated Canadian academic. He posited that the “invisibility” of Filipinos as an ethnic minority in Canada could be addressed by a paradigm shift with Canada, instead of the Philippines, as the main frame of reference. He saw three major issues confronting Filipinos in Canada, to wit: a) the economic or the deprofessionalization and deskilling of Filipinos workers as well as their lack of economic clout; b) the political which refers to the absence of a strong voice in mainstream society; and c) the social which pertains to Filipinos being part of racialized groups with parallel and shared experiences. Professor Coloma saw the need to harness “leaders already in the trenches” and to build strong coalitions as the initial steps to change the status quo.
From Filipino cultural history and contributing factors to the invisibility of the Filipino-Canadian, the forum transitioned seamlessly to the presentation by Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog of Iloilo City where he gave participants the key to their next portal, namely, transformation leadership. His philosophy and experiences as mayor of Iloilo inspired the participants to consider an effective template for good governance which entailed stakeholders taking ownership of goal-oriented actions to fulfill the community’s aspirations. During the open mic, Mayor Mabilog led the panel of youth leaders who shared their experiences and challenges in their chosen fields and respective communities, namely, Atty Rafael Fabregas (Liberal Party MP canadidate), Vincent Villanis (CEO of Ontario Bamboo beer in Hamilton), Mithi Esguerra (community organizer, educator, activist in Toronto), Thomas Ancheta (President, Edmonton Filipino Youth Association) and Veraida-Lyn Bermejo (President, Pamana ng Luzviminda Philippine Folkloric Dance Company).
The Honorable Tobias Enverga, Jr., the first and only Filipino-Canadian appointed to the Senate of Canada, closed the forum with an inspirational speech.
“I trust that the seeds of change we sowed at this forum will yield a dynamic nationwide youth movement leading Filipino-Canadians to contribute more significantly, and perhaps more visibly, to their communities,” Ambassador Gatan declared.