By: Tony A. San Juan, OCT.
In a few months from now, to be specific that is in June 2019, members of the Filipino Canadian communities across Canada, especially in Ontario, will come together to celebrate Filipino Heritage Month.
It will be a milestone period of historic honour, recognition, connection, engaging and sharing of history, culture and significant contributions of Filipino Canadians in Canada.
It is expected that participants will include socially, politically, educationally, and economically – engaged kababayans from all spectrum of life such as academics, activists, advocates, artists, businessmen, caregivers, civic workers, doctors, educators, engineers, entrepreneurs, health care workers, historians, media workers, nurses, politicians, seniors, social workers, students, teachers, technologists, and labour unionists.
Many of those who would be celebrating too are those who led and worked tremendously to plan, organize, and implement the many Filipino Heritage Month events and activities beginning June and every month thereafter.
The Filipino Heritage Month, as officially declared by Canadian House of Commons on October 30, 2018, will mark the more than 6 decades of Filipino diaspora in this adopted homeland. The June commemoration is taking place in many ways federally, provincially and municipally including various cultural, social, professional, and community-based organizations. As we hope and envision the path towards recognition, unity and development, we have a long way to go from here. Currently counting at close to 900,000 people, the Filipino population in Canada doubled between 1986 and 2016. It is important to recognize that each of these Filipino communities across the country is ethnocentrically unique and diverse. Filipino Canadian leaders and the ordinary Juans or Juanas must share stories, experiences and promising practices for challenging systemic barriers in the workplace, advocating toward the inclusion of Filipino history and culture in school curricula across the country, and ensuring Filipino arts and heritage initiatives including the teaching and learning of Filipino, being the national language, are sincerely supported beyond the month of June.
What does success look like? For each of the Filipino diaspora group and pioneers, depending on when they came to the country and where they are in Canada, the answer is different. For some, it is having a strong, unified voice, and increased representation at all levels of government. For others, it is ensuring Filipino immigrants, seniors, youth and vulnerable communities can gain equitable access to taxpayer-supported services, programs and benefits.
Over the next few months, there will be a federal election. During this time, again, we will campaign and vote at helping Canadians set and carry out their political intentions for the upcoming federal election on community-focused issues from immigration to reunification, professional accreditation to inclusion, diversity to equity and other Filipino hinaings and challenges. We will listen, learn, discern, and decide wisely and make multifaceted choices.
In June 2019 while we will celebrate the gain and beauty of being recognized culturally and ethnically, let us be sure we draw the attention and the hopes to continuing to close the chasms and to bridge the spans toward a better and truly multicultural Canada. (Tony A. San Juan, OCT.)
***Note : This is first of a planned 4- part Essay on Filipino Heritage Celebration ( March to June, 2019 )