Understanding the Filipino Canadian identity
By Rachelle Cruz
Youth Leadership Summit: Gathering the Young and Old
There was former street-kid Vincent Villanis, the “Bamboo Guy”, co-founder and CEO of Ontario Bamboo (Wonder, what does Bamboo beer taste like?). The multi-awarded Rafael “Raffy” Fabregas, a young Bay Street lawyer, strong advocate for women’s rights, his work instrumental in the “Juana Tejada Law”, seeking to become the Liberal party’s official bet for Member of Parliament in his riding, Scarborough Centre in the next elections.
What about Thomas Ancheta? Hails straight from Edmonton, this “thick-skinned” marketing guy isn’t afraid to “rock the boat”. He’s the president of the Edmonton Filipino Youth Association (EFYA). He started this organization to prove a point. EFYA (Is this a homonym? Homophone?) was born out in response to CEFA (Council of Edmonton Filipino Associations), the umbrella organization who “weren’t listening to us.” Now, EFYA’s raking their success, forming alliances that make their core activities successful, and even profitable. Point well made.
Let’s not forget the female warriors. Veraida-Lyn Bermejo, advisor of PAMANA ng LuzViMinda, who gave us her straight talk on youth leadership, and taking risks to rise above detractors. Last but not least, Mithi Esguerra, the co-founder and community organizer of Anakbayan Toronto, a youth and student organization working to educate and mobilize the Filipino community to matters that well – matters to us.
But what do they all have in common? They’ve all stepped up to the plate to pursue their passion put into practice, collaborated with supporters, and gave back to their community.
Transformational leadership at work.
The Young Filipino-Canadian Leaders Summit was held on March 8 at St. Michael’s College Centre for the Arts in Toronto. The 2014 theme was anchored in Understanding The Filipino-Canadian Identity – the Key to Transformational Leadership. This is a project of iKubo Media and TPF Canada, an initiative supported by the Philippine Embassy in Ottawa, the Philippine Consulate General in Toronto and Eskwela Incorporated, attended by Senator Tobias Enverga Jr., Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog of Iloilo City, Ambassador Leslie H. Gatan, Dr. Anton Juan, Prof. Roland Coloma, and Consul General Junever Mahilum-West.
“It’s an inspiring event, that it’s even taking place since it’s first in its nature, to try and gather young leaders as well as older leaders to come together under one roof and really share their stories and have younger generations to step up and make a difference in the Filipino-Canadian community,” Bermejo said.
It’s not every day that a confluence of leaders, both young and old, find a common space. Francis June Sebastian and Carlo Soriano, are business partners about to launch their start-up advertising company called Jetcreations attended the summit, and didn’t miss a beat,
“What we learned from today is that we have a new perspective in the reality of the market, and how Filipino community responds. We’d like to capture that, and leverage the knowledge to help the community and help us move forward,” Soriano said.
And who do these young leaders look up to? The twice-knighted by the French government, and theatre director at the University of Notre Dame du Lac raised the bar as the first speaker to address the crowd. Prof. Anton Juan gave us a brief on Filipino Leadership. This international award-winning playwright/director received the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts at Lettres in 1992 and the Chevalier de l’Ordre National de Merit in 2002.
Prof. Roland Coloma, the Associate Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Humanities, Social Sciences and Social Justice Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) of the University of Toronto, and Editor of Filipinos in Canada: Disturbing Invisibility, was the second speaker. He expressed his frustration over the lack of literature on the experiences of Filipino-Canadians when he first started teaching,
“If there’s a claim that Filipinos make up the 4th largest visible minority in Canada, there’s a disconnect between what is available (data) on their experiences and literature/studies,” he said.
But this former-ESL student-turned-trail-blazing-professor has something important to say,
“I begin with following your passion, following your interest. Work locally and see how that goes. For many young people who are here, they’ve already invested time, commitment, many of them are already doing wonderful work in their own right. I am very excited and honoured to be part of this gathering because in some ways for me, I get to learn from them. In so many ways, many young Filipino Canadians are already leading the way. Part of our work is to harness that, so that that work is sustainable,” he shared.
No doubt their efforts are being recognized, but didn’t come without a sweat. Or maybe even tears. Villanis, who once was sleeping on a park bench because he had nowhere to go gave his shoutout, “It’s our time to make a difference. This is why we are here. So how are we doing it?” he posed.
“We are doing it by collaborating with very passionate people. If you know you are right, do it first. And fight for it,” he said.