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AN OPEN LETTER : Celebrating Our Filipino Heritage and Culture in Canada : Concepts and Challenges



By Tony A. San Juan, OCT
Toronto-Ontario-Canada
February 2, 2018

 
 


Dear Kababayans and Community Leaders,

Collectively and in commonality , a very significant development in the civic community calls for now is the time to celebrate a milestone! After more than 6 decades of Filipino diaspora into our "second home", the government and people of Toronto aptly resolved to declare June Filipino Heritage Month and  "give back to Filipino Canadians by recognizing their contributions to our city ".

The Toronto city council on November 13, 2017 passed "for the first time in Canada by any level of government"  the motion of Councillor Nathan Shan , with solid community support, and thus has appropriately recognized and affirmed our many contributions to  this city and Canadian society in general .

The entire Filipino Canadian community, inspirely, is agog and awed receiving this highly awaited gesture calling for a great celebration of the many important and admirable  "contributions  to our city, and their many years of hard work that has greatly improved our quality of life here in Toronto, across the province and the country” in respect  of Filipino our heritage,  culture, traditions and values. 

Yes, dear compatriots. The City of Toronto has recently approved and proclaimed "June as Filipino Heritage Month" in Canada's premier city. The Ontario government too, it is believed, is currently working towards doing the same legislative action province- wide with Bill 189 introduced by MPP Mike Colle on December 12, 2017.  And,in the House of Commons through a Private Member's Bill- M155 being sponsored by MP Salma Zahid for coast-to-coast celebration.

But what and how do we celebrate this very significant and highly welcomed  decision? To celebrate is to reasonably honour and justifiably respect only those relevant  and distinctive  values and  untenable practices of our Philippine heritage from generation- to- generation.

Options and modes are open to showcase and promote our historical and cultural heritage. I believe  this is not an easy task, a gargantuan  and challenging tall order . Being a former Manila college teacher & administrator and a Toronto retired educator, as well,  here under are my considered thoughts and suggestions for those who will "get on board" , participate and deliver on this historical, community-focused project. Ergo, this Bukas na Liham:

A. This early, just before we plan and organize , there is the first, basic question: What do we celebrate? Is it the recognized- and- established achievements and accomplishments of our kababayans that are popularly-known, historically-based  and traditionally -practiced  in this part of the world  from the 1960's diaspora and onward?

1) To answer the first question: A big, inspiring  theme  should be determined and developed as the cornerstone of the month-long celebration. Such theme should at least capture the imagination and significance of what to pursue and present in terms of elements and components of the program and activities, vis a vis contents  and expectations. For example : " Celebrating Filipino Heritage and Culture in Canada's Multicultural Environment" .

2) Providing multi-faceted factual Information about FilCan contributions in : Arts ( dance, drama, music, visual art); Business; Cuisine & Food; Fashion; Literature ; Media ; Public Service; Science & Technology; Sports; TV, Films & Movies.

3) Themes, sub-themes or topical events to be identified, during the 30 -day period,  shall revolve around single or combination of areas as in # 2 above.

4) Promoting representative and distinctive regional Seasonal Festivals from the 3 major islands.

5) Respecting Role Models in the Community, for examples : academics, accountants, artists, businessmen, caregivers, doctors, dentists, engineers, entrepreneurs, nurses, social worker, teachers, skilled workers and other occupations.

B. Secondly, the next question to seriously consider is : How shall we plan ,organize and  deliver the Theme and the Program? To  successfully, productively act towards a "no tears", positive direction, the following points are in order:

1) Joint and consultative planning and organization is a major requisite. This means that an "Organizing Council or Committee" should be created and assigned to coordinate the gritty "nuts - and- bolts" of implementation. Calling such organizational structure, for instance : "Filipino Heritage Month Celebration Council -FHMCC ". Either, the mandate is self - propelling or some kind of cooperative relationship be resolved  with participating community stakeholders. These partners & participants may consist especially of highly interested individuals, professionals, civic & community organizations, banks, and relevant  government agencies.

2) To deliver the Filipino Heritage Month, at least a major , big celebration should be decided and  carried  within in a 2 -or- 3 day program, whenever feasible and practical with consideration to fund -sourced grants , budget and cost. This may include modalities and options for a series of interconnected fundraising activities with targeted schedules.

3) The celebration should be approached in ways of being democratic,  apolitical , inclusive, within the spirit of bayanihan and identified  regional diversity.

4) Recognizing the ability of community-based associations & organizations to participate jointly , or independently or separately of presenting their unique contributions to this endeavour. Alternatively, the FHM Council may identify, solicit and encourage  any organization to offer and handle cooperatively a component in the celebration .

These high profile community entities, to cite some are : AFCM, BCCA, FCPACE, FCT, FWN, Intercede, KCC, Kababayan MS, MFFC, OFW,  PAG, PCCC, PCCF, PIDC, PPCO, PPCT, Silayan CC, SOSA, publicly- supported school boards, and other associations : alumni-centred, professional & religious -focused, and province-based groups.

5) Time tabling of the schedule of activities are important looking at the 30- day window of celebration from June 1 to 30, 2018. Given that June is a busy month attendant for picnics, weddings, school tests & examination, school year closing and vacation preparation and getaways, extra attention is required.

6) Public and media relations, with informative literature and tools,  is needed to inform the public about what's in store for the month of the June celebration.

7) An official launching  and / or a social event may be proposed and undertaken to kick off and mark the historical day , and a closing program, as well.

C. Thirdly, financing and funding fairly and generously the huge undertaking is the most concern if not the highly challenging part . Some main points to consider :

1) There is no denying that Sponsors, Donors and Partners are needed greatly to  join, deliver and realize  the goals and objectives of the June program.

2) With a well-thought out program budget, the required funds and grants are to be identified and sourced out from all sectors, namely : banks, philanthropists, government ministries & agencies, private business and generous individuals, donors and organizations.

3) A cadre of volunteers, students, parents, professionals and community leaders,  are likewise expected to be recruited and mobilized in order to donate free time and expertise in the process.

D. Ideally or realistically, here's my wishlist for Filipino Canadian - based contents and activities in celebrating our Filipino Heritage Month: Formal launching of Filipino Heritage Month Celebration, June 2nd- Saturday; Courtesy calls to the offices of the Mayor, Premier or Prime Minister ; Celebration of  Dr. Jose Rizal's 157th birth anniversary ; homage to Rizal's monument in Earl Bales Park on June 19th-Tuesday; Commemoration of the Philippines' 120th "araw ng kalayaan"; Flag-raising rites at Toronto City Hall and Queen's Park on June 12th-Tuesday; Historical connection, in collage or diorama, between Philippines and Canada; Public & Catholic schools in - house events ( food samplings / arts contests / school dance; Show- and - tell of Filipino- Canadian authored books, poems or essays in Filipino, English or major vernaculars; Display of the evolution of national attires and dresses; Exhibition of arts and paintings of FilCan artists, including photos of Filipino diaspora ; Tableau or pageant depicting Philippine history eras; Literary contests : essay- writing in Filipino , English , or major vernacular (eg. "What it means to be a Filipino in Canada?") ; Expressive art form presentation : balagtasan , tulaan, zarsuela; Singing contests: kundiman, harana ,  nationalistic songs; Traditional games competition: bahay-bahayan, luksong tinik, palo sebo, patintero, sipa, taguan, tumbang preso ; 30- day playing of Filipino songs & music in FilCan-operated radio stations;  Visit to Philippine Consulate art collection / photo gallery and other relevant exercises.

E. A  panel of consultants shall be appointed, on volunteer basis, to assist  in providing advice and guidance to the Organizing Council in respect of  determining historical & cultural authenticity, relevancy, and educational- appropriateness of the presentation of facts, information, tools, materials and other media  to the general public . Points to consider are :

1) The Panel should recommend for selection and use the most appropriate and cultural - relevant sources of Philippine documents .

2) The Participants should be encouraged to "consult" the Panel, in order to present an accurate , valid, and meritorious form and substance  about "things Philippines".

3) There is no lack of acknowledged expertise and theme specialists within the Filipino Canadian community. What comes to mind, for examples, are : soprano Lilac Cana ( songs); Romi Mananquil ( paintings); Folklorico ( dance), atbp.

Of course the foregoing are not exhaustive enough, but I am inclined to hope and believe  that with the certain framework and guidelines  I am proposing herein, the stakeholders might adopt some or all to achieve a reasonable chance and modicum of success in carrying out this cooperative endeavour to the appreciation and admiration of everyone. It is good to remember that this is the first, in pioneering fashion perhaps, in celebrating purposefully and meaningfully our proud heritage and culture in Toronto, in the province, and in this part of the world.  Seize the moment! Be counted !

Makipagkaisa at samasama po tayong ipagbunyi at ipagdiwang  ang ating pagiging Filipino. Isang lahi, isang diwa!  Always be proud  to be a Filipino !

Maraming salamat po.   Most sincerely,

Tony A. San Juan, OCT
( tonysanjuan1963@gmail.com)


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