In line with the launch pf Kultivation Festival last March, CBC Manitoba as one of its partners, held a live stream discussion with some Filipino community leaders, posing the question: What is your Filipino experience in Manitoba and how is it changing?
The panel was composed of theatre artist, producer and director Hazel Venzon, community organizer and Kultivation Festival’s education committee chair Johsa Manzanilla and Philippine Heritage Council of Manitoba president Perla Javate.
“Winnipeg was not the Winnipeg we have now,” said Javate, who came here in 1976.
“It wasn’t as multicultural a city as now. And when you’re new, you pretty much look for people from the same community you come from.”
Javate had a different story coming to Canada as she came with 92 girls from the Netherlands who eventually landed jobs in the garment industry. She originally wanted to settle in Toronto which was closer to relatives living in New Jersey. In 1984, after quitting a job to move away, the Winnipeg School Division was looking for a community liaison to serve the community. This is where she ended up working for more than 30 years.
Hazel who was born in Canada and Johsa who immigrated when she was 4 years old, had almost the same experience especially being enrolled in schools in the south end of the city.
“When I started going to school in the south end, I got to experience that newcomer life where I was one of the brown faces and one of the 3 Filipinos in my whole school and so that I can see in terms of the newcomer life in the 90’s that is still a reality now,” Manzanilla shares.
It was desolate. It was lonesome. I had to navigate through innate suppression of my own experiences at home, identifying who I am and who my family is,” said Venzon.
With the growing numbers of the Filipinos in Manitoba , finding each other to build a better and balanced community is important.
“How do we foster community in the way that we can talk about things that matter to us, we take up space that we belong here, where we can find each other and if we find each other we see that we are not alone and we have similar shared experiences. I think that what I’m seeing now is that there’s a lot more of us but it’s a matter of how do we find each other. How do we balance forming and strengthening and building capacity within our community but also integrate and be Canadian ,” Manzanilla added.
“There’s a current right now and it is there, either the climate that we live in today is asking for stories from other people that people have not heard from and there’s also this pulse and current that’s coming from our city that is demanding no other time but now to represent ourselves.” said Vernon.
Asked about how they see the future of the Filipino community in Manitoba, Venzon believes that Filipinos will be being in it as opposed to working towards it.
Having a Mabuhay District as one of the objectives of Kultivation Festival, Manzanilla shared what she envisions to happen, “ I hope that we will have a space to call our own but not just for ourselves but for the rest of the community to show that we contribute to this economy; that we’re citizens just like everybody else. We will be moving beyond the newcomer category but we are integrated Canadian society .”
Javate being the earlier generation is pleased with what she is seeing in the current generation.
“I am happy with our younger generation because I see what’s going on now and I’m very pleased. I think the community will be left in good hands. Especially with Kultivation, seeing the explosion going on. I think the community will thrive and will be an active contributor to the overall mosaic of Canada.”