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Perla Javate     50th year of Filipinos in Manitoba: a reflection

You and I are privileged to be part of the building of a community. 2009 was an eventful year for the Philippine community as it marked its 50th Anniversary of Filipino Immigration in Manitoba. Let us pause, look back and reflect on what it means to us, as an individual, as a member of specific groups(s) and as a member of the Philippine community. We have so much to be thankful for and each one of us deserve a pat on the shoulder because, cumulatively, we did great!

In 1959, four nurses arrived in Winnipeg, MB to work at the Misericordia Hospital. They did not know then that they were breaking new grounds. They found out when they arrived that they were the first Filipinos to set foot in Winnipeg. Of the four nurses, one of them, Mrs. Fe Ryder, is still with us and is still working part time at the same hospital. Shortly after, other medical professionals exited from the United States after their contracts were over to Winnipeg, MB. Teachers also started arriving from the Philippines to fill in the need for teachers at that time. In the 1960s, recruitment of garment workers from the Philippines was initiated by then Manpower Canada, again to meet the market needs of the manufacturing companies in Winnipeg. It also gave opportunity for other groups coming from Europe who worked as garment workers to come to Winnipeg.

Significant government programs opened opportunities for more Filipinos to come. In the 1980s, the Family Reunification Program allowed immigrants and citizens to sponsor family members. A large number came to Canada through this Program. There were sponsorships also at this time that went through the International Adoption Program which allowed relatives to sponsor children and youth. There were also a number of immigrants who came to Canada through the Business Class. There were changes made in the Program which stalled the coming of new immigrants. In 2000, the Provincial Nominee Program was introduced by the Manitoba Provincial Government which now accounts for the continued arrival of newcomers from the Philippines. The Federal Program for Live-In Caregivers also opened another channel for those wishing to come to Canada on contract for 2 years with the opportunity to apply as permanent residents after the contract.

Fifty years after, there are now approximately 60,000 Filipinos in Winnipeg. We can proudly claim that we are very much entrenched in our Manitoba multicultural society. We have touched all aspects of life in Manitoba: in education; in politics; in finance and economics; in the arts and entertainment; in sports; in religion; etc. Many of our children have achieved success in their chosen careers. Their achievements make it worthwhile for parents who sacrificed their professions and careers in the Philippines to come to Canada to ensure a good future for their children. We have truly made Winnipeg our home away from home.

The Philippine Heritage Council of MB, Inc. (PHCM) took on the challenge of taking the lead in the celebration of this important part of our history. The celebration of the Philippine Heritage Month in June 2009 was earmarked to put the celebration of our 50th Anniversary in the forefront. In October 25, a free concert, four-hour musical extravaganza was held at the Pantages Theatre to pay tribute to our community. What a fitting tribute where 100 of our finest local artists: singers, dancers, declaimer… contemporary and cultural; young and old; professional and amateurs led by our leading local directors and stage hands all joined hands together to celebrate who we are – Filipino-Canadians with 50 years of history to be proud of. We ended our celebration with another cultural event, the Lantern Festival, which showcased a centrepiece in our celebration of Christmas in the Philippines. All these events had been well participated and attended by Filipino-Canadians – new arrivals and fellow Canadian friends. To the Philippine community, the PHCM Inc. expresses it s appreciation and gratitude.

Some of us came in the 50s, some in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, up to the present. Regardless of whether you came a long time ago or just yesterday, you and I… all of us together make up who we are as a community. As Filipino-Canadians, let us look forward to our next 50 years with much enthusiasm and hope that we will continuously enhance and make our community bigger and better able to meet the needs of our members: our seniors, our youth and children and our newcomers. We will continue to enrich our Canadian culture, contribute the best we can and share with its vision of peace, equality & harmony. Together, as Filipino-Canadians, let us make our world a better place for our children and our children’s children. Mabuhay tayong lahat!

Perla Javate is the President of the Philippine Heritage Council of Manitoba (PHCM).

PHCM 2009
The Philippine Heritage Council of MB, Inc. (PHCM) took on the challenge of taking the lead in the celebration of 50th year of Filipinos in Manitoba. To the Philippine community, the PHCM Inc. expresses it s appreciation and gratitude. Photo by Symmone Ochoa

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