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It's All History by Jon Malek

My time at Ateneo de Manila

by Jon Malek

This past July, I had the pleasure of attending the Institute for Philippine Culture (IPC)’s 2015 International Summer School for Doctoral Researchers on the Philippines at Ateneo de Manila University. The event ran from July 26-29 and brought together PhD students from around the world. Participants came from a variety of institutions: The University of the Philippines, Freie Universität Berlin (Germany), Australian National University, the University of Michigan, Kobe University (Japan), Graduate University for Advanced Studies (Japan), Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain), Western University (Canada), and the University of Hong Kong.

From the Institute’s website (http://www.ipc-ateneo.org), the IPC is described as “a social science research organization of the School of Social Sciences of the Loyola Schools, Ateneo de Manila University. Founded in 1960, the IPC seeks a better understanding of culture and society in the Philippines and other Asian countries, an improved quality of life for disadvantaged groups, and a more peaceful, just, and equitable national and global society.”

The International Summer School brings together young scholars from across the world, united in their study on the Philippines. Participants came from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, including Sociology, Anthropology, History and Art History, Law, Media Studies, Politics, and Comparative Literature. This mix meant that while all presentations had something to do with the Philippines, we all approached the topic differently and brought our own unique questions. Not only did the format allow presenters the opportunity to share their research with a diverse group, but it also exposed us to the unique approaches (and writing styles!) of our colleagues. In addition to the presenters, workshop organizers and moderators including Dr. Caroline Hau (Kyoto University) and Dr. Mary Racelis (Ateneo de Manila) joined us – as well as others who observed the workshop.

The presentations were engaging, presenting some of the most recent research being conducted on issues relating to Philippine culture, and the discussion that followed each presentation was invigorating, encouraging, and challenging. Personally, attending this workshop allowed me to present my research on the Winnipeg Filipino community to a different audience than I normally engage. This paper drew upon research I am conducting on Winnipeg’s first Filipino newspaper, the Silangan, and how columnists negotiated their Filipino heritage in a new Canadian society. I was at first concerned that my work would not draw the interest of Philippine scholars based abroad, so I was rather pleased when my presentation was accepted (and my travel and lodging costs generously paid by the IPC). The feedback I received from my colleagues at the summer school was more than I had hoped for, encouraging me on the value of my work while challenging me to ask harder questions of my sources.

A major point I learned from this summer school was that, while my research on the Winnipeg Filipino community is in part local history, it also part of a much larger history of Filipino migration across the globe. While many Filipino immigrants to Canada arrive from Manila, it is not as if their journey is that simple. As the number of hometown associations in Winnipeg suggests, Filipinos in Canada come from many regions of the Philippines; furthermore, they do not always come directly to Canada. Many have settled or worked in other countries prior to immigrating to Canada (and may yet continue to move elsewhere). What this means is that the community in Winnipeg is a unique mix of Filipinos; each region represented within the city brings its unique culture, language, and networks.

Filipinos in Winnipeg are not only part of this civic community. They maintain ties with other Filipino communities across the world, and with their family and friends in the Philippines. Attending the IPC summer school emphasized the importance of understanding these larger networks and connections, and the relationship that the Winnipeg community has with global Filipinos. Whether these ties are maintained via mobile phones, social media, personal visits, or balikbayan boxes, and whether they are regular or irregular, many Filipinos in Winnipeg maintain lives that transcend the boundaries of our city, nation, or continent.

I was lucky for the opportunity to attend and present at the 2015 IPC summer school. The event was a great opportunity for the IPC to showcase the work it does, and I was struck by how well the workshop was organized, how smoothly the program went, and how delicious the food was! Many congratulations to those involved in organizing this year’s events. The connections that I made with friends, colleagues, and mentors at Ateneo will influence my work in the coming years, and remind me that although I focus on Winnipeg, my subject is much broader than our city.

Jon Malek is a PhD candidate in History at Western University, and is a member of the Migration and Ethnic Relations program.

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