September 1, 2021 - Canadian Filipinos are four of the 75 finalists of the 13th annual Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards. Also known as a People’s Choice Award, voting is an essential part of this popularity contest to be named as one of Canada’s top immigrants.

The award is given annually to 25 immigrants, who have made – and continue to make – valuable contributions to the Canadian economy and society, whether they are a community advocate, a successful entrepreneur, a cultural icon or a volunteer.

Voting is underway until September 17 through the Canadian Immigrant website: https://canadianimmigrant.ca/canadas-top-25-immigrants. Every voter is entitled to three votes and winners will be announced on November 8.

Here are the four Canadian Filipino finalists:

Edmonton-based arts administrator Ida Beltran-Lucila established a career in dance as a principal dancer with Ballet Philippines and continued in the field of dance as director for various dance companies before coming to Canada in 2005. In Edmonton, she was artistic director for Chameleon Dance Edmonton and Edmonton Festival Ballet, also collaborating with the Ukrainian Shumka Dance as guest ballet teacher. She has also delivered workshops on classical and modern ballet, and Philippine dance, in ballet schools, elementary and high schools, and with senior groups in an effort to promote dance as a recreational, therapeutic and educational tool.

As an advocate for the promotion and development of Philippine art and culture in Canada, Beltran-Lucila spearheaded collaborative projects like the Philippine Arts Festival, Edmonton Filipino Fiesta, Kalinangan and the Learning Table. She is the director and writer of the documentary Paglalayag: the Philippines to Canada Journey, which chronicles the stories of migration of Filipinos in Edmonton. She regularly write for the Alberta Filipino Journal and contributes to other publications in Alberta previously, focusing on arts and culture.

Beltran-Lucila has been a recipient of several awards: the Hiyas (Gem) Award by the Karilagan Dance Society (2017); the Edmonton Artist Trust Fund in 2017; the Golden Balangay Gluckstein Award for Excellence in Art and Culture in 2019; and the City of Edmonton’s Citation Award for Culture and the Arts in 2019.

Ovvian Castrillo-Hill likewise left an established career in the Philippines as an artist and writer when she came to Canada in 2009. In Manila, she created multiple public art monuments, most notable of which is the signature sculpture of the Philippine Stock Exchange and adjusted to life in Fort St. John in British Columbia by volunteering as cultural director and officer with the North Peace Filipino Canadian Association.

In 2019, Castrillo-Hill established and curated the first EX-SITU FilipinoCanadian Art Exhibit held at the North Peace Cultural Centre — a first for any immigrant community in the region. She expanded EX SITU 2020 to include a province-wide online art exhibit. With its success, EX SITU was featured in various media as a positive example of cultural celebration and opportunity for Filipino immigrants. Because of this, Castrillo-Hill was invited as one of the speakers at the second National Asian Symposium in Montreal, where she spoke about EX SITU and how this model can be replicated by immigrant communities everywhere in Canada.

Castrillo-Hill became a finalist for the City of Fort St. John’s 2019 Community Awards in the art and culture. In 2020, her design was selected in the Festival Plaza Art Competition held by the City of Fort St. John and her bas-relief won at the 2020 Incheon (Korea) Metropolitan City International Art Exhibit as the sole Canadian entry. This year, her painting was among those awarded at the Peace Liard Regional Arts Council Juried Art Competition.

Erie Maestro is a strong advocate for early literacy and storytelling in Pilipino. As a children’s librarian at the Vancouver Public Library, Maestro pioneered the first Pilipino Parent-Child Mother Goose Program/Programang Nanay Gansa, an oral early literacy program for Filipino parents and small children. She also introduced the Pilipino Baby Welcoming Program, which hosted babies to the library and organized Pilipino language storytelling times inside and outside the library.

Maestro is a founding member and active volunteer of two grassroots organizations: Migrante BC, which protects and promotes the rights and welfare of Filipino migrants and immigrants and the Canada Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights. In 2012, she joined other Filipino community artists to create the grassroots PANCIT art collective and, in 2019, joined the National Pilipino Canadian Cultural Centre (NPC3) as its founding member and board secretary.

In 1991, Maestro arrived in Nova Scotia with her young daughter and balanced her single mother roles and graduate student tasks. There, she also found the time to help found the Immigrant Women’s Support Association in Halifax with other immigrant women friends. She has a master’s in library and information studies from Dalhousie University and a master’s in archival studies from the University of British Columbia.

Edsel Mutia moved to Toronto, Ontario with his wife in 2007 after learning the demand for nurses and health care workers in Canada. He hoped to continue his career as a registered nurse (RN) but even with over 10 years’ experience, he found himself unable to find work as a nurse. He was told that he needed another four-year degree just to be eligible to take his registration exam.

In 2008 when Mutia applied for registration, the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) received nearly 1,700 applications from internationally educated RNs. He then discovered CARE (Creating Access to Regulated Employment) Centre and accessed financial support, advanced English classes geared toward nursing, and the promise of help once it came time to prepare for the Canadian Registered Nurse Examination (CRNE). He passed his CRNE and was hired as full-time ICU charge nurse at Toronto’s North York General Hospital, a role that he holds to this day. Over the last 13 years, he gained his colleagues’ respect as a passionate professional, mentor and patient advocate.

In 2013, he received the Joan Lesmond Internationally Educated Nurse (IEN) of the Year Award from the CARE (Creating Access to Regulated Employment) Centre, an organization that supports IENs to practice in Ontario. He also contributes to his community by providing mentorship to other immigrant nurses through the Integrated Filipino Canadian Nurses Association (IFCNA) and CARE.


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