A year of decolonizing and empowerment
ANAK member Karla Atanacio in Ottawa for Pinoys on Parliament
by Johsa Manzanilla
For the past 12 months, the member volunteers of ANAK, together with our community partners, spent much time and energy going deep and reconnecting to our Philippine roots. Through innovative and introspective programming that provided Filipino-Canadian children and youth with avenues to creatively explore their identities as well as themes that affect their everyday lives and interactions with others, we were witness to the transformative nature of decolonizing one’s mind. This process of decolonization enabled young people to become empowered, through knowing who they are in the context of history and current migration patterns, and to take up space in their communities as leaders and change makers.
After a refreshing getaway and Annual General Meeting in Nestor Falls, Ontario to reflect on and close off the previous year, ANAK began 2018-19 by planning our annual youth forum for Filipino-Canadians ages 14 to 19. Our forum this year was entitled Tuminungnung (meaning: “from the land”) and held at Prairie Theatre Exchange (PTE). Normally held in the spring, the event was moved to the fall so that we could bring to Winnipeg four talented artists from the Philippines (director/playwright/actor Dennis Gupa, actor/choreographer Francis Matheu, musician/sound designer Marie Angelica Dayao, and experimental filmmaker Jon Lazam III) to perform Gupa’s doctoral work. Murupuro: The Islands of Constellation is an experimental theatre piece unpacking the concept of Philippine indigeneity and the impact of climate change on Filipino communities, impoverished due to colonization and neo-colonial capitalism.
These issues extended to this year’s ANAK Liwayway Scholarship topic, which had graduating high school students ponder the question of how to minimize Canada’s environmental impact on the Philippines and how people of the Philippines are taking control of climate change. Reuben Albert G. Mistas III (Miles Macdonell Collegiate) and Angela Gail A. Ciceron (Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute) each received a $500 scholarship for their post-secondary studies, with an honourable mention being awarded to Jesse Nathania Medrano-Ramos (Murdoch MacKay Collegiate).
During the winter months, we attended local and national community events and organized an entertainment-educational panel. Shortly following our youth forum, ANAK and their families attended multiple shows at PTE of the theatre production Prairie Nurse, a story of two Filipina nurses who came to rural Saskatchewan to work in the 1960s. In late winter, one of our members represented ANAK as a delegate at the conference Pinoys on Parliament, a gathering of Filipino-Canadian youth keen on civic and political engagement.
In February, recognizing the strong emotional and visceral connection between culture and cuisine, we presented a screening of the film Ulam: Main Dish, a food documentary following North American chefs of Filipino descent, their restaurants, and the experiences that inspired and continue to inspire their passions to cook. The screening was followed by a panel of first and second-generation Filipino-Canadian chefs and entrepreneurs in Winnipeg.
ANAK presented at two conferences this year, notably at St. John’s High School’s Day of Knowledge, where ANAK highlighted the history of Filipino-Canadians in Manitoba, and Pinay Power II, which was held in Montreal and attended by almost 200 Filipinx feminists from all over the world, including the editor of Pinay Power, Dr. Melinda de Jesus. Leading up to Pinay Power II, where the womyn of ANAK spoke about the unique context of growing up Filipino in Winnipeg, the history of the organization, and our projects and initiatives, ANAK hosted Dr. de Jesus and Monica Batac of McGill University, who facilitated the coordination of the conference, and organized a peminist (‘Pinay feminist’) zine-making workshop at the University of Winnipeg. The compilation of the works produced at the workshop were made into a zine, which was featured in Montreal and is currently available for sale at ANAK Filipiniana and Books.
With the Canadian House of Commons declaring in fall of 2018 the whole month of June as Filipino Heritage Month, ANAK has been particularly active in the Filipino community this year: tabling, volunteering at, and participating in many cultural events. Some highlights include a recycling and composting workshop on Caring for the Environment, Seven Oaks Filipino Employees Association’s Philippine Heritage Celebration, the Manitoba Filipino Street Festival, Philippine Heritage Council of Manitoba’s Conversation Cafe, the Philippine Independence Ball, Musica: An Evening of Philippine Art Songs, Philippine Heritage Fashion Gala, and BIBAK Association of Manitoba’s Grand Cañao. ANAK was also recognized on June 1, 2019 with an award for their contributions to the Filipino community in Canada at the National Filipino-Canadian Heritage Event, which kicked off Filipino Heritage Month.
ANAK’s research and educational initiatives continue to be a priority for us, as they document our stories and mobilize knowledge to our peers and other young people eager to discuss historical and emerging issues within a supportive space. In late July, we hosted two lectures on Philippine Studies with Dr. Leonora Angeles, Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia – one on capitalism and transnational organizations linking Canada and the Philippines, the other on the Philippines’ industrialization and the occupational shift of workers from agriculture to services.
As Philippine society and the Filipino diaspora in Canada evolve, particularly the values and perceptions in our culture around what is accepted and what is not, ANAK continuously seeks to develop resources and organize events that are current and relevant to the real experiences of Filipinx youth. As young Filipinos who have grown up outside the Philippines, we have a unique take on the political, social and environmental issues impacting our world today. It is important that we endeavour to create alternative and safe spaces where young people can remember the land from whence they came, discourse about it, and be supported, so that they feel empowered to fearlessly embrace who they are. In so doing, we can collectively preserve and promote our heritage and that of our ancestors.
To learn more about ANAK and how to get involved, visit www.anak.ca or email firstname.lastname@example.org.