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It's All History by Jon Malek

Recognition of MAFTI’s 45 years of community service

by Jon G. Malek

      MAFTI 1 MAFTI 2
Malaya Marcelino, MLA for Notre Dame (left) with MAFTI President, Genalyn Tan
(L-r): Jon Malek, Marilyn Gomez Malek, Michelle Feliciano, Clarita Manzano, Genalyn Tan, Gemma Dalayoan & Victoria Cabrera 

Malaya Marcelino, MLA for Notre Dame (left) presents MAFTI President, Genalyn Tan, a commemorative letter of the member’s statement.

(L-r): Jon Malek, Marilyn Gomez Malek, Michelle Feliciano, Clarita Manzano, Genalyn Tan, Gemma Dalayoan & Victoria Cabrera

Since 2019, it’s been my pleasure to serve as a board member for the Manitoba Association of Filipino Teachers, Inc. (MAFTI). MAFTI is a community organization founded in 1977 to support the development and integration of teachers of multiple ethnicities, and to connect with and enrich the wider community with Filipino cultural and language programming.

On 27 April 2022, members of MAFTI’s executive and board were invited to the Manitoba Legislature to bear witness to Malaya Marcelino, MLA for Notre Dame, read a member statement recognizing and celebrating MAFTI’s 45 years of contributions to the community. Cindy Lamoreaux, MLA for Burrows, also took an opportunity in her member statement to acknowledge the group’s contributions to the community. Afterward, Malaya Marcelino presented Genalyn Tan, president of MAFTI, with a plaque in honour of the event.

MAFTI runs a series of cultural programs including an after-school heritage program for Filipino and non-Filipino students to learn about the Philippines, its culture, and to learn the Filipino language. An adult Filipino language class also allows both Filipinos and non-Filipinos the opportunity to study the language. In addition to social events like MAFTI’s recent Spring Fling and annual Christmas party, professional development sessions are also held to help teachers who were educated outside of Canada acclimatize to the Canadian education system.

The origins of MAFTI followed the recommendations of the first provincial conference of the Philippine Association of Manitoba, held from 2 to 4 September 1977 at the Winnipeg Inn and the University of Manitoba on the theme of “The Role of Filipinos in the Manitoba Mosaic.”

Two hundred attendees were drawn to the conference to support its multi-pronged objectives. The first was “to further the acculturation and socialization of Filipinos into the Canadian society of many ethno-cultural groups.” The second objective was “to ascertain the social needs and other problems affecting Filipinos,” such as educating Filipinos on Canada’s immigration policies which, in 1977, were still in a period of significant change.

The third objective intended “to foster civic awareness among the members of the Philippine community in Manitoba,” such as understanding the need for credential equivalency in certain professions and knowledge of Canadian financial, credit, and banking systems. The fourth goal was to build interest amongst Filipinos to participate and become involved in community organizations. The final goal was “to come up with specific set of resolutions and recommendations” to several problems and areas of need that were identified in the conference.

To fulfill these goals, the conference hosted several papers that covered topics including “Multiculturalism and Bilingualism as a Policy,” Canada’s immigration policy, the “Assimilation of Filipinos into the Economic System in Canada,” and “the Role of the Philippine Community in the Canadian Federal, Provincial, and Local Affairs.” The conference’s aim was to help Filipinos adapt to life in Canada, while advocating for the preservation and promotion of Filipino culture, especially in Filipino youth.

The papers were followed by workshops on cultural and social values, education, national issues, and issues affecting local, provincial, and federal levels of Canada. The proceedings of the conference, published in 1978, also contain written messages from various political figures, such as the Prime Minister of Canada, Premier of Manitoba, Mayor of Winnipeg, the Embassy of the Philippines, and president of the Philippine Association of Manitoba.

The final objective of the conference, to come up with a list of recommendations, generated ten items. Concerns included helping Filipino Canadians achieve licensing, registration, and certification in their trained professions. While in the 1960s these barriers were not so bad, they became increasingly difficult and convoluted, creating a system that today continues to bar many skilled Filipino Canadian professionals from practicing their craft in Manitoba. Other recommendations included the founding of a program for Filipino seniors, the hiring of qualified Filipino daycare personnel to accommodate growing numbers of Filipino children, and that a Filipino information centre be established to connect with other ethnic groups in Manitoba.

The fourth item on the list of ten recommendations called for “classes in Pilipino as a third language be taught in Winnipeg schools.” In answer to this call, the Manitoba Filipino Teachers’ Association was organized. As the conference proceedings reported, “Since the date of the conference, the Manitoba Filipino Teachers’ Association has been organized and has affiliated with the Philippine Association of Manitoba.”

Cultural preservation was a major concern of the conference and was a common topic on the Filipino community newspaper of the day, the Silangan. Children and youth were particularly identified as being most at risk to lose their Filipino heritage while being the best hopes for its preservation. Filipino teachers were tapped as key players in this process. In addition to calling for more Filipino teachers in the Manitoba education system, they were also called upon to “take the initiative to set up classes for newly-arrived Filipino children” and to “identify and, if necessary, develop adequate teaching aids for Filipino culture and language classes.”

The call was answered by Lolita Oandasan, who arrived in Canada in 1965, with co-founders Julie Mandac, Socorro Juan, Jenny Hernaez, Adoracion Macapagal, Jean Guiang, and Gemma Dalayoan.

Those present for the member statement in the legislature were executive and board members Victoria Cabrera, Clarita Manzano, Gemma Dalayoan, Michelle Feliciano, Marilyn Gomez Malek, Jon Malek, and MAFTI member Joanne Vivieza.

This recognition is a proud moment for MAFTI, itself a testament to the longevity and effectiveness of Filipino cultural programming and preservation in Manitoba.

Jon Malek received his PhD from Western University and currently teaches history at the University of Manitoba. He is working on a book manuscript on the history of the Winnipeg Filipino community.