A Community Celebration for Social Change
By Jennilee Austria
Every year, the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) celebrates Asian Heritage Month with “Proudly Pinoy”– a day dedicated to the Filipino community of Toronto. This year, the community event took place at Marshall McLuhan Catholic Secondary School, which has one of the highest numbers of Filipino students in the TCDSB. When the music teacher was asked if it was difficult for the school band to learn the Philippine National Anthem for the event, he said, “Not at all—this song is in their blood.”
On its surface, Proudly Pinoy looked like a typical Filipino party: pandesal, pancit, an emcee, a talent show. But one aspect set this event apart: the workshops.
With an organizing committee consisting of Filipino TCDSB staff, Settlement Workers in School, and community leaders, the workshops reflected the needs that the frontline staff sees every day.
With many of their parents working as caregivers or cleaners, students often say that they are uninspired to achieve more in school and the workplace. “Why bother?” is an attitude that staff often face. This is why every year our most popular workshop is the role models panel. An entrepreneur, a nurse, a teacher, a lawyer, a graphic designer, and an engineer spoke to youth about their inspirations and challenges. “They’re all Filipino,and some of them even grew up in the Philippines!” one of the newcomer students exclaimed afterwards.
For the parents, the workshops addressed the under-representation of Filipino youth in post-secondary education, the process of moving out of under-employment, and mental health issues. Parents were grateful for a space to ask questions like, “Why is OSAP a positive debt?” and “After reuniting with my child, how do I start rebuilding our relationship?”
The event was organized by Jodelyn Huang and Michael Consul of the TCDSB Community Relations and Student Leadership Offices, Settlement Workers in School Jennilee Austria, Christine Balmes, and Ariel Lopez of North York Community House, Maria Guiao of Culturelink, and Charmaine Cansino of CICS; community settlement staff Ben Bongolan of the 519, and Flor Dandal and Amy Basingan of Kababayan Multicultural Centre; Patricia Grupe, Jacqueline Capule, Pablo Padilla, and Gilbert Francisco representing Filipino high school teachers, and the over 70 student and parent volunteers.
This event united 250 Filipino parents and youth from across Toronto, showcasing their talents of song and dance, their volunteer spirit, their faith, and, of course, their pride in being Pinoy.