A pair of kababayans in rural Manitoba are blazing a trail in pursuit of improved leadership skills and public speaking. Filipino immigrants Cecilia Cajurao and Armielyn Angeles are both residents of Steinbach, the third largest city in Manitoba and home to roughly 2,000 kababayans. They are the first two Filipino members of the city’s Carillon Toastmasters which is affiliated with the US-based ToastMasters International whose purpose is to promote communication and public speaking skills.
The participation of Cajurao and Angeles in Carillon Toastmasters serves as an encouraging sign for the Filipino immigrant population’s integration with the local community. In an article from the website of Pathways to Prosperity: Canada, studies show that joining local neighborhood networks and various community groups like a ToastMasters club are part of the factors that attracts, integrates and retains immigrants to a certain locale.
Cajurao admits that her long-standing interest in being a ToastMaster was influenced in part by having a brother-in-law who was an active member of a club back in the Philippines. She signed up with the Carillon ToastMasters in 2017 after learning that their membership dues aligned with her budget. She says that the club’s public speaking exercises boosted her confidence in communicating with co-workers who are native English speakers.
As for Angeles, she applied for membership the following year after seeing a social media post about the club’s open house event. She says she is glad about her decision to join. “Aside from improving our confidence and communication skills, the activities are designed so that we have fun as well.” This was evident at the club’s recent celebration of its 40th Anniversary where the lively atmosphere was sustained by humorous anecdotes from members past and present, and a trivia game that encouraged answers requiring impromptu, off-the-wall explanations.
Both Cajurao and Angeles agree with the sentiments from club president Les Lilley and founding member Al Hamm that the Carillon ToastMasters has come a long way from its modest beginnings four decades ago. As the club looks forward to growing with new members, guests are encouraged to drop in and join the fun at their meetings every Thursday at 7 PM at the Jake Epp Library.
Kris Ontong is the past president of the Southeast Manitoba Filipino Association (SEMFA), and is an awardee at the 2019 National Filipino-Canadian Heritage Event for his active role in the Filipino community.