Filipinos come to Canada for various reasons. Whatever those motivations are, Filipinos mostly share a common goal. They want a new beginning, a fresh start.
Their journeys inevitably take them to different directions. Like any other ethnic group, the Canadian Filipino community is a diverse one, and its stories unsurprisingly represent a mix of experiences.
Even though many new Canadians of Filipino heritage find success in their adopted country, their stories are typically unheard beyond a small circle of family and friends.
What usually emerges, particularly in mainstream media, is a sketch that reinforces stereotypes about a Filipino. It’s the image of a struggling migrant. It’s the archetypical caregiver. It’s the low-wage worker wielding a broom or standing behind the counter of a fast food joint.
This is not to say that the predictable depiction of a Filipino is totally untrue. Many work in entry-level jobs, but not on their entire choosing. They are usually well-educated and highly-trained professionals in their home country, but now face challenges in getting their credentials recognized. They have to survive, and in a number of cases, are unable to do much else.
However, it must be said as well that the work de-professionalized Filipinos do should never be denigrated. There is dignity in their honest labour, and goodness in their humble station. They too contribute in the overall enterprise of moving Canadian society forward.
But there is a grave danger in perpetuating this incomplete representation of the Canadian Filipino. It establishes a low bar for the coming generations, who have to define for themselves in their time the meaning of being Canadian Filipino.
With too few role models out there to look up to, young Canadian Filipinos may be consigned to the same circumstances that their parents found themselves following arrival. Even though a number of them may be motivated to aim higher, their aspirations may not be great enough because of the modest starting points they know.
The reality is that Canadian Filipinos continue to be largely unrepresented in fields like business, arts, sciences, government, and politics, where their presence can help shape a truly inclusive notion of who is a Canadian Filipino.
This is why the telling of stories of success is such an urgent and compelling task.
In defining what it means to be a Filipino in Canada, we should not ignore the difficult experiences that can crush the spirit of even the most audacious. But we should also take the time and effort to celebrate those stories that make us all proud to be here.
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