June is Filipino Heritage Month here in Canada. And mind you, it’s not just self-proclaimed by this country’s Filipino community.
On October 30, 2018, June was officially designated by Canada’s federal government as Filipino Heritage Month with the passing of Motion 155, or M-155.
City governments like Toronto and Montreal have also made similar declarations, as well as the provinces of Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia.
As members of the Filipino community, what does this mean for us? Because to be honest, I’m glad about the fact that we’ve been given an opportunity by the government to be recognized. But at the same time, I’m also sad.
In this post, I’m sharing my reasons for why I’m both sad and happy about Filipino Heritage Month. But I’m also going to share ways to celebrate it in the remaining days of this month and beyond.
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What’s Filipino Heritage Month?
“Today marks the beginning of Filipino Heritage Month, an opportunity to highlight the invaluable contributions that Canadians of Filipino descent have made to the social, economic, and cultural fabric of Canada.”
This was Minister Chagger’s statement last June 1, 2021, published on the Government of Canada’s website. Honorable Bardish Chagger is the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth in Canada.
In the same statement, she invites everyone to learn more about the culture and traditions of the Filipino community in Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in his video greetings sent to the Filipino Canadian National Congress, also recognizes how our community enriches this country every single day.
“For all of us, the month of June is an opportunity to learn about your rich history and to embrace your vibrant culture,” he also said in his greetings.
This is one of the reasons why I feel happy about Filipino Heritage Month.
But let me talk about why I’m also a little sad (but we’ll talk more about celebrating again, so this post won’t feel too melancholy).
Filipino Community in Canada: A Sad Reason for its Existence
The first Filipino immigrants here in Canada were said to arrive in the 1930s. Today, the Philippines makes up one of the largest source countries of newcomers here. In 2016, there were more than 800,000 Filipinos according to the Canadian Census. Fast forward to 2021, we can probably assume that Canada is now home to over a million Filipinos.
While the Canadian government is celebrating the contributions of Filipinos to its country, there’s also a sad reason why over a million of us are here, choosing to leave behind our families in exchange for what we believe is a “greener pasture”.
I can’t speak for the rest of my fellow Filipinos, but it’s just a heartbreaking reality that it’s just too challenging to live in the Philippines. In our country, the gap between the rich and the poor is obvious.
Growing up, I was affected by this reality when my mother needed to work abroad just so my brother and I could go to school. This gave us quite a few privileges, like being able to own a Nintendo. But we were the kids who couldn’t take our quarterly exams at school because we couldn’t pay our tuition fees on time.
I also remember when I used to own a Nokia 3310. But it went in and out of the pawnshop.
But mind you, we used to enjoy candle-lit dinners back then. And that’s because Meralco often cuts off our electricity due to unpaid bills.
As they say, you both can love and hate someone at the same time. And right now, that’s how I feel about our country.
So, as much as we want to stay and be with our friends and families instead, we just can’t. Or else, we won’t be able to provide a better future for our children unless we belong to the rare species of wealthy citizens (which, unfortunately, we don’t).
This is the main reason why we chose to immigrate here, and perhaps, this is the reason for the other Filipino immigrants, too. Which answers the question as to why the Philippines provide so many newcomers to Canada.
Okay, enough of the sad talk. Let’s now move on to the celebration of Filipino Heritage Month, and how we can take part in showcasing our community’s rich history and vibrant culture from this month and beyond.
Time to Celebrate, But First… Why Should We?
Filipino Heritage Month is a time to highlight the invaluable social, economic, and cultural contributions of Filipinos to Canada according to Minister Chagger. For Ontario, it’s to provide an “opportunity to remember, celebrate and educate all Ontarians, including this generation and future generations, about Filipino Canadians and their continuing role in helping to foster growth, prosperity, and innovation throughout Ontario.”
It’s a pleasure to be recognized as a valuable community by this country’s government for a month. But I feel that there’s still a lot of room for improvement on both the government and the Filipino community in general.
For instance, compared to other heritage months, Filipino Heritage Month doesn’t get mainstream attention yet. If you go to Instagram, there are only about 4,000 posts with the hashtag #filipinoheritagemonth. Compare that to over 4 million posts on #blackhistorymonth and 5 million posts on #pridemonth. The topic isn’t even trending on Twitter yet.
While there are many organizations doing initiatives, there still seems to be a lack of unity across the Filipino community in this country. Perhaps, it’s too challenging to unite the one million Filipinos here? Or, maybe, there’s just a lack of awareness campaigns?
Or maybe, my observations are wrong. Perhaps it doesn’t need to get mainstream attention at all. Although for me, it would help in uplifting the spirit of celebrating one’s heritage.
Because of this observation, I’ve come up with simple yet meaningful ways for us as individuals to take part in this celebration not just this month, but as often as we can.
“But for what?”, you might ask.
Well, because there are other Filipinos out there who might benefit from knowing that they are part of a supportive community. By showcasing our history and culture to foreign communities, we are boosting each other’s confidence.
We don’t need to feel ashamed anymore if we don’t speak fluent English because Filipino is our first language anyway.
We don’t need to feel embarrassed of our skin color because that’s part of our cultural identity.
When we start to feel proud of our roots, we can be more confident in our skills and talents. We can shine brighter and discover our true potential. We’d have the courage that we need to build our dream businesses here or pursue creative arts.
When we see fellow Filipinos succeed in various fields regardless if they can’t speak perfect English with a matching twang, we inspire others with the same dreams that, yes, they have the power to succeed, too.
But how would this happen if we don’t take part in proudly showcasing our culture and highlighting the achievements of our fellow Pinoys?
And if we do decide to take part, what are the things we can do?
For me, it doesn’t have to be monumental. After all, small steps can still come a long way, right? If we each do our part, I’m sure that in time, there will be more Filipinos celebrating with us, too.
And Now… How Can We Take Part in Filipino Heritage Month?
Here are some of my suggested ways to celebrate our heritage in the remaining days of this month and beyond.
- If you’re also a v/blogger or an influencer, create content that showcases our history and culture. For instance, I just started a series of social media posts that would introduce our traditional values like respect for others especially to our elders. While my blog is focused on sharing my family’s immigration and newcomer journey here in Canada, I believe that by celebrating our positive traits, we’ll appreciate more being Filipino. (On a side note, I often see content that highlights toxic Pinoy culture. Well, to each our own. I just prefer to celebrate the good).
- You can also take part in celebrating our heritage by supporting Filipino organizations that promote our culture. Follow their social media pages, share their posts, or join their events. These are some of the organizations I found:
- Or, you can support Filipino-owned businesses. Here at St. Catharines, one of our favorite stores is Fiesta Empanada owned by Kuya Nelson and Ate Jenny (both are Filipino immigrants, too, whom we met last spring when we first visited their store). Here are also some of the businesses owned by Filipinos I know, although there’s a lot more Pinoy-owned businesses here in Canada. (But don’t feel guilty if you prefer buying from non-Filipino-owned stores or service providers; it doesn’t make you less of a Pinoy just because you have specific tastes and preferences that are not offered by Filipinos).
- FlyNorth Immigration Consulting Services (Ontario, Canada) – owned by my Tita Anna Nones who is a Licensed Immigration Consultant.
- Artiq Productions (Ontario, Canada) – offers photo and video services owned by a distant cousin, Roby Tiquia.
- Aesthetica Maria (Alberta, Canada) – aesthetic clinic owned by a previous client introduced to me by my cousin Aia (who also runs her aesthetic clinic in Cavite, Philippines – Aivielissima Aesthetics).
- Lastly, you can also support Filipino artists and content creators by subscribing to their channels, following them on social media, and/or sharing their works. As an aspiring author and blogger myself, I become more inspired to create content when I hear people say that my blog posts are helpful for them. Sharing my posts means they can reach and help more people. Passion is what drives me, but what motivates me to keep going forward is when I know that I can help others through my blog. Walang halong chika yan (I’m not lying). As a beginner blogger, I’m still yet to expand my network of content creators, but here are some of my friends and acquaintances you can also support:
- Kristine Kasselis of The Maple Diaries
- Jacob Laneria, author of the ezine Mga Migranteng Sandali, a collection of short stories about his experience as an immigrant in Canada.
I wish to end this post on a positive note. So, I thank the Government of Canada for giving the Filipinos the opportunity to make our lives better by welcoming many of us here. PM Trudeau said that we enrich this country every single day, but in the same way, this country also enriches our lives in different ways.
(You can read here our family’s top reasons why we never regret immigrating here in Canada.)
But while government isn’t perfect and there’s still a lot to improve, I’m still grateful and I appreciate everything they’ve been doing so far. And of course, I thank our Lord God because living here is an answered prayer from Him.
If you’re also a Filipino who aspires to come here to Canada, I hope that you’ll find the contents of this blog helpful. If you’ve been following my blog, I want to thank you for your support.
Running this blog is one of the many simple ways I can help my fellow Pinoys who dream of a better life for their family. By sharing our family’s immigration and newcomer story, I hope that we’ll both serve as an inspiration and a friendly guide.
But as part of being able to give back to our home country, I promise to do my best to always remember our heritage. And that begins today.
About the author:
JK Legaspi is a permanent resident of Canada since 2018. She and her family lives in the beautiful Niagara Region. As the founder of Detour To Canada, she aims to help aspiring and future immigrants reach their Canadian dreams by sharing her family’s own immigration and newcomer story.
Do you have some questions about immigrating to Canada? Join our Facebook group, “Explore Your Ways to Canada” to ask your questions and meet other immigrants.
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