Prof. Roland Sintos Coloma on disrupting invisibility of Filipino-Canadians
By Dyan Ruiz
Professor Roland Sintos Coloma is disrupting the invisibility of Filipino-Canadians with a launch of a landmark book and course as he passes the professional milestone of achieving tenure.
Coloma is the head editor of the book, Filipinos in Canada: Disturbing Invisibility, the first wide-ranging edited collection on Filipinos in Canada. The book will be launched on Oct. 19 at OISE, University of Toronto (U of T) where Coloma has recently achieved tenure. Tenure secures his position at Canada’s most prestigious university. This year also marks his creation of a course on Asian-Canadian history, the first of its kind at U of T.
Coloma said part of why he pursued a career in education was “not only to share knowledge, but document knowledge” including untold stories and cultures, a theme clearly explored in the book.
Despite being the largest group of migrants in Canada through permanent and temporary streams of immigration, “we’re invisible in terms of policy, cultural and educational programming,” he said.
“Ultimately we want to disturb that, we want to interrogate it, we want to challenge it, and we want to expand it and want to provide various facets of our lives that have not been highlighted.”
The word, “Disturbing” in the title can be seen two ways. Disturbing describes the uneasiness felt by Filipino-Canadians about not being visible in Canada’s larger society, but the contributors also uproot or disturb this idea through their works.
Contributors include scholars, poets and artists from the GTA, Montreal and Vancouver who cover a wide range of issues on the Filipino diaspora in Canada, such as deprofessionalization, youth activism, racism and the live-in caregiver program.
“The book is very much a labour of love,” Coloma said. The process began over three years ago with a handful of Filipino doctoral students from across the country who thought of creating an edited book that highlights the up and coming work on Filipino-Canadian studies.
They had a national symposium in 2009 and spent the following three years editing the presentations and working with the contributors. Coloma co-edited the book with fellow U of T professor Bonnie McElhinny and PhD candidates Ethel Tungohan, John Paul C. Catungal, and Lisa M. Davidson.
Coloma is achieving what he sought out to do when entering into a career in education. “I wanted to make sure that students like me, immigrants, English as a first language learners and racialized minorities can see ourselves in the curriculum and also as teachers,” he said in an interview.
He immigrated to the US from the Philippines when he was 13 years old and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Coloma’s recent successes are all the more significant given that there are only a few Filipino-Canadian professors in these fields.
“As far as I know there are only seven professors of Filipino descent teaching Humanities and Social Sciences throughout the entire country,” Coloma said.
“His tenure means that he can continue the important work of building Asian-Canadian Studies and even more importantly, Filipino-Canadian studies,” said the chair of the Humanities, Social Sciences and Social Justice Education department at OISE, Rinaldo Walcott. “Roland is a leader in his fields of research.”
The response by students to his new course on Asian-Canadian history has been overwhelmingly positive. “For some students I think seeing someone of Filipino descent or of Asian descent teaching a course like that, they are both amazed and relieved because in a lot of ways they see a professor who gets them, who knows what they’re going through,” Coloma said.
“It’s been such a wonderful experience for me to be both immersed and welcomed by the Filipino community in Toronto. As someone who is not from here, I’ve been really honoured to be welcomed by the Filipinos in Toronto.”
Filipinos in Canada: Disturbing Invisibility
Friday, October 19, 2012, from 5 to 7 pm, at the OISE/UT
Nexus Lounge (12th floor)
252 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Interested parties are invited.