University of the Philippines Alumni in MB Celebrate Their Tenth Year

The University of the Philippines Alumni and Associates in Manitoba (UPAA-MB) celebrated its 10th anniversary on Saturday, September 17, in a virtual ceremony hosted through Google Meet.

Along with the occasion, the group also held their Annual General Meeting and their election of officers. Returning for a second term as chairperson is Oscar Pantaleon, Jr., accompanied by Arlene Dayco and Emmanuel Dimatulac who were elected to head the Fundraising and Social Responsibility committees, respectively.

In his annual speech as chairperson, Pantaleon shared his aspirations with his virtual audience of fellow UP alumni. “My long-term vision is for UPAA-MB to become a leading Filipino-Canadian organization. As such, we will be active and recognized not only in the municipal and provincial levels but in the national and international spheres as well.” He also said that the organization will run programs that would serve the Filipino community in Canada and the Philippines. “We will be a catalyst in effecting changes within our community and promoting advocacies within our confines and beyond.”

“I ask of you to continue investing in the University of the Philippines Alumni and Associates in Manitoba as we continue to pursue our objectives, fulfill our mission, and advance toward our noble vision of a just, harmonious, and prosperous society. All these would only be possible with all of us standing shoulder to shoulder,” the chairperson said in closing.

The proceedings culminated with a speech from this writer as this year’s keynote speaker. Having the Hon. Dr. Reynaldo Pagtakhan as last year’s speaker made for a daunting act to follow. Nonetheless, the condensed version of this year’s keynote speech is shown here.


Chair Oca Pantaleon, past chairs Lourdes Still, Jun Sales and Norman Garcia; current and former board members of the UPAA-MB; my fellow alumni and esteemed associates – greetings and salutations to all of you on this wonderful Saturday afternoon! Allow me to express my utmost appreciation for being invited as the keynote speaker of this year’s Annual General Meeting. Of course, to speak in front of one’s esteemed peers is a distinct honor and privilege.

“May you live in interesting times,” as the apocryphal saying goes. It would be more fitting to say that we live in terrifyingly interesting times. In this year of the novel coronavirus pandemic, there have been 40 million cases worldwide and over a million lives have perished to date. To the bereaved families of those who succumbed to this dreaded pathogen, and to those who continue their courageous battle against it, we send our thoughts and prayers.

I understand that my being keynote speaker this year is in recognition of my media advocacy through Barangay Canada. For those unfamiliar with Barangay Canada, it is a media project that gathers the insights and experiences of community leaders, influencers and policymakers through video interviews that are shared with the larger community through its website,, and its Facebook page at Having wrapped up a well-received inaugural season of 25 episodes back in early September, notable guests include provincial legislators, veteran media personalities, local government officials, and even The Hon. Dr. Reynaldo Pagtakhan, former federal cabinet minister and our most illustrious fellow alumni. It has gone on to have a spin-off program dubbed Community Update, which is a platform to highlight upcoming events, projects and other community activities.

Although Barangay Canada was established in 2014, it was not as fully-formed then as it is today. Back then, I and two kababayan writer-friends had an idea to set up a Filipino version of the Huffington Post, a popular news aggregator and blog at the time. We went with Barangay Canada as the name, in hopes that reading our articles will somehow strengthen the communal bond within the country’s Filipino diaspora. As history showed however, the borrowed concept was not enough to propel it forward, and collective interest on the project waned.

In 2017, I took on the role of President of the Southeast Manitoba Filipino Association (SEMFA) representing roughly 2,000 kababayan immigrants residing in Steinbach and surrounding townships. Working with six council officers, we pursued SEMFA’s mission of supporting newly-arrived kababayan immigrants in the region by forging partnerships with local agencies and businesses, linking up with influential kababayan organizations in Winnipeg, and partnering with notable publications like the Diversity Times and the Filipino Journal. All these collaborations made it possible for SEMFA to have more free workshops and seminars aimed at helping newcomers acclimatize to their new community, as well as gain better financial literacy. These partnerships also resulted in substantial savings for the association, such that there was an eye-popping 151.7% net increase in our cash in bank at the end of our term in 2019.

Then in 2018, I successfully linked up with UPAA-MB at the annual flapjack fundraiser at Applebee’s. Impressed by the sizable turnout for the event, I attended other functions and eventually came to know and admire its programs such as the Bursary Fund, the volunteer work for Winnipeg Harvest, its camaraderie-building activities such as the PalarOlympics, and more recently the Isko Talk lecture series.

Overall, my experience with SEMFA and UPAA-MB taught me the power of collaboration, gave me a deeper appreciation for community-building programs, and sparked the curiosity to seek out other community advocates throughout Canada. When Barangay Canada was eventually revived in 2020, these ideas have already been ingrained in its DNA. Surely enough, Barangay Canada has entered into various strategic partnerships with notable community organizations since its re-emergence. Among them are the Manitoba Filipino Journal, the Philippine Heritage Council of Manitoba, Filipino Music and Arts Association of Canada, Inc., the Eastern Manitoba Broad Alliance for Cultural Enrichment, the Philippine Heritage Month Coalition, the Eastman Region Immigration Partnerships – Immigrant Advisory Table, and most recently, the Filipino-Canadian Virtual Town Hall Media Pool.

All these partnerships were established in less than a year, an emphatic testament to how much can be accomplished by working together. Truly, collaboration is the key!

In closing, let me take this opportunity to congratulate the newly-elected board members, and commend the outgoing board led by Chair Oca Pantaleon for skillfully guiding our association through this very difficult period in history. As Barangay Canada continues to look up to the UPAA-MB as a key influence in fostering a better community, I eagerly look forward to opportunities for collaboration in the very near future.

Thank you and Mabuhay to UPAA-MB!

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 and vodcast host of Barangay Canada.