June 2021 – With the ongoing vaccination against COVID-19, this coming summer may look a lot brighter than last year’s.

However, the fight against the novel coronavirus is far from over.

This means that community festivities in Canada, like Filipino Heritage Month in June, will remain muted compared to pre-pandemic times.

Filipino Heritage Month had its inaugural celebration in 2019.

Canadian Filipino Net recalls with enormous pride that this online publication was among those mentioned during deliberations at the House of Commons about the declaration of June as Filipino Heritage Month.

Specifically, Chandra Arya, Liberal MP for the Ontario riding of Nepean, rose on the floor of the House on October 25 2018, to support the declaration.

“There are a large number of organizations in Canada working hard to keep the Filipino culture alive,” Arya said.

“One is the Canadian Filipino Net, a group of Canadian Filipinos who are passionate about raising the profile of Filipinos in Canada by providing news and views of Canadian Filipino communities across the country,” Arya continued.

Five days later on October 30, 2018, the House unanimously approved Motion No. 155, which declared June of every year as Filipino Heritage Month in Canada.

Motion No. 155 was filed by Salma Zahid, Liberal MP for Scarborough Centre in Ontario.

As members of the community, we may all want to look back at Zahid’s sponsorship speech on October 1, 2018, which lauded the contributions by Canadian Filipinos to Canadian society.

Here are excerpts:

Filipino Canadians are making a difference in all walks of life, from singers like Canadian Idol finalist Elena Juatco to athletes like soccer star Jonathan de Guzman. Rey Pagtakhan was the first Filipino Canadian MP and cabinet minister as a Liberal. The late senator Tobias Enverga was a champion for his community in the Senate as a Conservative. Florfina Marcelino was the first woman of colour elected in the Manitoba legislature, today serving as a New Democrat with her brother-in-law Ted.

It was a Filipino Canadian, Ariana Mari Cuvin of Toronto, who designed the Canada 150 logo. Another Filipino Canadian, Martina Ortiz-Luis, sang the new gender-neutral version of O Canada at this year's Canada Day celebration on Parliament Hill.

Filipino Canadians are proud Canadians. In my community of Scarborough, Filipino restaurants and Filipino culture are not hard to find. Restaurants such as Chef George, run by George Rivera, and Laguna Bay Filipino restaurant, run by Ruby Urriza, bring the taste of the Philippines to Canada. Also my riding is home to the first Jollibee's in the GTA [Greater Toronto Area], where the spicy chicken joy is proving to be a hit with everyone, not just homesick Filipinos.

A staple of the cultural community in Scarborough is the Scarborough Ontario Seniors Association, commonly known as SOSA, whose dancing and exercises are a highlight at many community events, including my annual community barbecue. The Filipino Centre, a key community hub offering support for seniors and students who work to keep the Tagalog language strong, recently located to Scarborough after many years of serving the Filipino community in downtown Toronto.

However, this community is more than just dancing and delicious foods.

Community leader Tony San Juan is a teacher and professor. He worked as a welder to make ends meet when he first came to Canada before obtaining his credentials and returning to education, where he has won awards for his contributions.

Businessman Mel Galeon owned a bakery in Quezon when he came to Canada. He and his wife Flor Vendiola began making Filipino pastries, which they sold at many community events. They grew this business into FV Foods, a household name with several grocery stores in the GTA.

 Rolly Mangante used to work at the Philippine consulate general office in Toronto and later became an unofficial ambassador for Filipino culture. After retirement, he founded the Philippine Cultural Community Centre and was instrumental in creating Taste of Manila, the annual street extravaganza of Filipino culture and food that attracts people from across North America to Toronto.

Norma Carpio is a long-time advocate for Filipino Canadians. She spearheaded having the Philippines as a feature country at the CNE in 1998 and led the Philippine Independence Day Council, known as PIDC, which organizes an annual celebration of the Philippine national day. She has organized many events and is always a key fundraiser when natural disasters strike the Philippines, working to help those in need.

Monina Lim Serrano was president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce, Toronto, and has served the community on the Toronto Police Services Board and the College of Nurses Ontario. She was appointed Ontario business ambassador by former Ontario Premier Mike Harris and was part of former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's team Canada trade mission to the Philippines.

I could go on and on. The Filipino people have a rich and vibrant history and culture, and are making outstanding contributions to Canada. It is past due that we recognize the contributions of this community with its own heritage month, celebrating Filipino heritage month across Canada.

. . .

A Filipino Canadian councillor in Kitimat, British Columbia, Edwin Empinado, was an early supporter of Motion No. 155. He spearheaded a motion at Kitimat city council in February, declaring that the District of Kitimat supported Motion No. 155. I thank Edwin and Mayor Phil Germuth for their leadership on this.

In Montreal, city councillor Marvin Rotrand worked to pass a Filipino heritage month motion at Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough council in February. The local Filipino community came together for highly successful celebrations this past June.

Today, I would also like to recognize Narima Dela Cruz, who helped to gather hundreds of petition signatures in her community of Surrey, B.C. in support of Motion No. 155.

There is truly support for this motion and for this recognition for Filipino Canadian heritage from across Canada, from coast to coast to coast. Next year marks the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and the Philippines. What better way to recognize this milestone than to officially recognize June as Filipino heritage month across Canada.

The CFNet Editorial Board
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