Yuletide celebrations are in full swing for kababayans living in rural Manitoba. In the province’s third largest city of Steinbach where close to 2,000 Filipino newcomers reside, the South Eastman Filipino Association (SEMFA) held their Christmas shindig at the Pat Porter Active Living Centre on November 30.
The perennial venue’s 270-seating capacity was pushed to the limit as kababayans turned out in droves, not just to attend the party but also to witness the awarding ceremony of the recently concluded Basketball league. Joining the celebration were Mayor Earl Funk, Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen, and Provencher MP Ted Falk.
Although it was the new SEMFA Council’s first crack at organizing the Christmas party, they were able to grow the list of food and prize sponsors from the previous year. There was such an abundance of food that guests were able to come back for a third helping. Moved by the success of the event, SEMFA President Rommel Clamor remarked, “It was nothing but amazing! The audience couldn’t hide the happiness in their eyes and their innocent, wonderful smiles.”
Another Christmas tradition in this city is the annual concert of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Over 700 people filled the Steinbach Mennonite Church on the evening of December 11 for the much-anticipated event organized by the Steinbach Arts Council. In addition to the symphony, local visual artist Arlene Enns wowed the audience as she painted live throughout the event, while the orchestral music inspired her. The crowd also enjoyed a rousing performance from the Steinbach Youth Chorus whose lineup included the youngest daughter of SEMFA President Clamor and spouse Karen.
Further south, the kababayan communities residing in the Pembina Valley held their thirteenth annual Christmas celebration at the Winkler Centennial Arena on December 7. The region includes the towns of Altona and Carman, and the cities of Morden and Winkler. The holiday event was first launched by Pete and Dolores Thiessen with the goal of uniting all Filipino families from different communities across the Pembina Valley. Typical of a Filipino community gathering, various games and raffles enlivened the proceedings. Joining in on the merriment were Winkler Mayor Martin Harder and wife Valerie who were invited as the event’s special guests of honour.
On that same date but to the northwest, kababayans belonging to the Parkland Filipino Association in Dauphin held their holiday celebration at the 11th Avenue Hall. Hundreds of kababayans were in attendance as they enjoyed an assortment of parlour games, dance numbers and prize raffles. Parkland is the region located in the western part of the province, between Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipegosis on the east and the Manitoba – Saskatchewan border on the west.
Kris Ontong is an awardee at the 2019 National Filipino-Canadian Heritage Event. As presenter of Barangay Manitoba on Facebook, he visits kababayan communities in rural MB to document how they are thriving and integrating in their respective locales.