Spreading Hope, Developing Leadership in the Month of Love

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”
~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

Love was not the only spirit that filled the air this Valentine’s Day. Inspired by faith and community spirit, Answering the Cry of the Poor (ANCOP) Canada also filled February 14 with hope, by putting together ‘Faith, Hope & Love – A Million Dreams Concert for a Cause,’ to fund projects for poverty-stricken regions in the Philippines, the rest of Southeast Asia, and Africa.

The musical event was headlined by singer and actress Dr. Tricia Magsino Barnabé who conceptualized the benefit concert back in 2018. Away from the spotlight, Barnabé practices dentistry in Winnipeg at Integral Dental, which co-presented the concert along with the Vickar Automotive Group.

As with most events in the pandemic era, the concert was held online. Ticket holders and this columnist were emailed a link to watch the pre-recorded concert video on YouTube. Long-time ANCOP supporter Larry Vickar welcomed viewers with a message explaining how proceeds from the concert will “support beneficiaries by providing homes, scholarships for further education, and creating livelihood programs that will result in a sustainable living income for those involved.” The Winnipeg-based philanthropist continued, “Over the years, we have been involved in many multicultural efforts, but we are especially overjoyed as active contributors supporting the poorest of the poor of the Philippines.”

Barnabé pulled double duty by also co-hosting the event through a seamless split screen with her cousin Dr. Franco Enverga who is based in Chino Hills, California. Kicking off the performances was a humorous rendition of Billy Joel’s ‘The Longest Time,’ whose lyrics were updated to depict life during the COVID-19 pandemic. To segue to the other featured artists who were based in different parts of the world, airport departure boards were creatively used as transition screens to the performers’ next location. Among the highlights for this viewer include Barnabé’s duet of ‘The Prayer’ with Dr. Gordon Buduhan, the Manila Chamber Singers’ rendition of ‘Bless the Broken Road,’ and the inspirational performances from Original Pilipino Music luminaries Ogie Alcasid who sang ‘Di Ka Pababayaan’ and Dingdong Avanzado who sang ‘Home’.

As of press time, ANCOP Canada has yet to disclose the amount raised by this year’s Million Dreams Concert for a Cause, but expectations are high that it will match or exceed the net proceeds of $40,000 raised by the inaugural concert in 2019.

Pinoys on Parliament
The week following the ANCOP concert, Pinoys on Parliament (POP) was slated to run from February 19th through the 21st. The annual event is a leadership conference that is free and open to all Filipino-Canadian youths aged 17 to 29. True to its name, the event is typically held in Parliament. This year however, it also moved to the virtual realm. Registered delegates can participate in the activities by logging in to the POP website at pinoysonparliament.com.

A delegate to last year’s event, Aira Villanueva stopped by the February 10 episode of the Barangay Canada Community Update in her new role as a member of this year’s Outreach Committee. “POP provides young Filipino-Canadians with an environment where they can exchange perspectives on what it is like to grow up as a Filipino-Canadian, and the obstacles that come with pursuing their individualistic careers,” Villanueva shared. More details about this year’s panels, workshops and featured speakers can be found on the website.

Asked how participating in POP made an impact on her, Villanueva attested that when she returned to school after the event, she was motivated to set up the University of Winnipeg Filipino Students’ Association. Villanueva currently serves as the co-president of the 60-member association and is enthusiastic about its goals. ” We serve as a platform to promote and celebrate the Filipino identity, culture and heritage through cultural events for Filipino-Canadians. We will also create various workshops, masterclasses and volunteer activities.”

As the pandemic continues to cast its long shadow across the world, more people are driven to poverty and economic recovery remains uncertain, but with events like the Faith Hope and Love concert and Pinoys on Parliament, the present generation is striving earnestly to provide the next generation with the resources and skills to lead the way to a better and brighter future.

Kris Ontong is an award-winning community advocate and a finalist in the 12th RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards. He is the co-founder of Barangay Canada, and hosts its weekly video podcast.