Happy Filipino Heritage Month to all our kababayan readers! As June ushers in this significant cultural event for the Filipino community in Canada, there is a mad scramble to have a celebration but still comply with physical distancing. Typical events such as the flag raising at the Philippine-Canadian Centre of Manitoba, the Philippine Independence Ball, the Manitoba Filipino Street Festival, and the month-end Picnic at Assiniboine Park have all posted cancellation notices. However, with the recent easing of restrictions for outdoor gatherings to allow 50 people, some organizations that initially announced that their events would be cancelled are now looking into pushing through, but with limited attendance.
Another notable event inspired by Filipino Heritage Month is the National Filipino-Canadian Heritage Event organized by Winnipeg North MP Kevin Lamoureux and Tyndall Park MLA Cindy Lamoureux. In its first staging last year, the celebration drew hundreds to the Maples Collegiate as event-goers enjoyed a festive show filled with Filipino traditional songs and dances, and a recognition program for kababayans who have contributed their time and talent to better their community. Because of this year’s restrictions on large gatherings however, the event had to be overhauled. Joining the June 1st episode of the Barangay Canada vodcast, the father-daughter political tandem explained that the event shifted its format to become a video contest to show off one’s Philippine-Canadian Heritage. The Lamoureuxs also gave ideas for what the video entries could be about. A special Jollibee dinner package for four awaits the two winning entries that will be selected. Interested participants were invited to check out other contest rules at http://mpkevin.ca/Filipino.html.
Filipino Heritage Month was celebrated for the first time in June of last year. In the province of Manitoba, that coincided with the 60th anniversary of the arrival of the first Filipino migrants in the province. As the Filipino community grew, it has made tremendous contributions to Manitoba’s growth, prosperity and development. This inspired MLA Jon Reyes to author Resolution No. 14 designating June as Filipino Heritage Month in the province. A select delegation of representatives from the Filipino community was invited by MLA Reyes to witness the unanimous passage of the historic resolution at the provincial legislature. A few weeks after, those representatives (which included this writer) were honoured to receive a glass-framed official copy of the resolution at the 2019 Philippine Independence Ball.
On June 2nd, Blackout Tuesday took place. This collective action was to protest racism and police brutality in the United States that led to the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. Over in Canada, there was a similar anti-discrimination initiative organized to counter the rising racial harassment of Asian-Canadians brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the spirit of solidarity, this writer turned over his copy of Resolution No.14 to the City Council of his home city of Steinbach. With that important piece of Manitoba’s history placed in City Hall for all to see, it is hoped that it will bring Steinbach’s Filipino residents and the local community even closer – so that they may stand in solidarity while drawing strength from their cultural diversity. In these times of great unrest because of the pandemic, economic uncertainty, and racial tensions, the world could surely use more compassion, cooperation, and justice.
Kris Ontong is the co-founder of the Barangay Canada media project. He is the founding Vice President of the Eastern Manitoba Broad Alliance for Cultural Enrichment (EMBrACE) and is an awardee at the 2019 National Filipino-Canadian Heritage Event.