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From Manila to Manitoba

Manitoba Museum presents first-ever exhibit on Filipino immigrants

See the “Filipino-Canadian Oral History Exhibit – From Manila to Manitoba” at the Manitoba Museum from June 19 to Sept. 26. ANAK researchers and designers who worked on the project (left to right): Kezia Malabanan, Luis Enriques, Darlyne Bautista, Daisydee Bautista, Ricardo Reyes, Katrina Castillo, Johsa Manzanilla, Maureen Justiniano, Ma. Monica De Castro. Not in photo: Janellyn Marcial and Symmone Ochoa. (Photo by Symmone Ochoa)

WINNIPEG From Manila to Manitoba is a new exhibit at the Manitoba Museum this summer that offers a glimpse of the Filipino immigrant’s past and brings it to the present. A must-see for all of us here in Winnipeg, the exhibit takes visitors as far back as the early 1960s with never-before-seen portraits, documents and replicas of artefacts that will stir up fond memories of when the first Filipino immigrants settled here.

“As Filipino-Canadians we all have something in common, no matter where we were born or when we arrived here,” says Darlyne Bautista, acting curator for the project. “Through this project it is my hope that we will have a stronger sense of commonality. We need to understand each other better and have a sense of pride as Filipinos in Canada.”

Produced and organized by the Aksyon Ng Ating Kabataan (ANAK) Inc, in partnership with the Philippine Heritage Council of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg’s Oral History Centre and the Manitoba Museum, this compelling exhibit is an effort to preserve our culture and history in Winnipeg.

“Though the project officially started two years ago, the background research has taken much longer. Data on the Filipino-Canadian community from as far back as the 1950s have been difficult to find,” said Bautista.

When asked how she got involved, she said, “Actually, I always wanted to learn about who I am as a Filipino-Canadian probably because of my experiences as a child growing up here. I have always had an interest in our history. I’m happy to be working with an amazing group of students and professionals who share that same passion. This project truly took a community to create. It’s more ours than it is mine,” added Bautista, who is a second-generation Filipino-Canadian. She was born in Manitoba to Filipino parents.

The exhibit is part of the first major effort to officially document and chronicle a remarkable story spanning 50 years of Filipino immigration in Manitoba. Visitors will experience our rich past as 25 kababayans recount their personal stories of when they came to Canada – of hard work, dreams and challenges while struggling to maintain their Filipino values and culture in a new land.

Though not meant to be comprehensive, the exhibit represents a good mix of groups – from pioneers to newcomers, from seniors to youth. Some were born in the Philippines while some are second generation Filipino-Canadians. They came from various regions of the Philippines, specializing in different trades and professions.

Monica de Castro, an ANAK member who helped in the interviews and did research in the Manitoba Archives, was thrilled with her involvement in the project.

“I was quite surprised at the turn out of the interviews. The stories were very personal and went as far back as their childhood memories,” said de Castro who compared her experiences during the interviews like that of a wide-eyed child listening intently to the stories of grandparents.

“The interviews made me look back at my own immigration experience, which was mostly negative, since it was associated with homesickness and culture shock. Knowing their stories made me feel proud that I learned to adapt to a new country.” De Castro arrived in Winnipeg in 1997 when she was 8 years old. She recently graduated from the University of Winnipeg’s Department of Rhetoric, Writing, and Communications.

Ricardo Reyes, another interviewer for the project and member of ANAK, is a bagong dating (newcomer). He arrived in 2006 when he was 17. Speaking in fluent Tagalog he said, “It was cool to know that their stories were similar to my family’s experience. How I wish I heard some of their advice when I first arrived. For example, I learned that we need to seek out the services that this new country offers and not to rely solely on what our parents have been told. There is always something new. We can get more help if we do our own research.”

When asked how the community will benefit from this exhibit, Reyes said, “Sana po lalong tumibay ang Filipino community sa Winnipeg. Kung maintindihan lang nating lahat na ang pagiging Pilipino ay part ng pagiging Canadian.” [I hope it will further strengthen the Filipino community in Winnipeg. If we all just understand that our being Filipino is part of being Canadian.]

The From Manila to Manitoba Exhibit will officially open to the public at the Manitoba Museum, 190 Rupert Street. on June 19 and run until September 26, 2010. Check it out. It promises to be interesting not only to Filipino-Canadians but also to the rest of the community.

– by Amalia Pempengco for the Pilipino Express

Visit the From Manila to Manitoba blog to find out more about ANAK's ongoing oral history project and to read stories of the early Filipino immigrants to Winnipeg.

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