Taste of Manila 2015: Bigger, expanded street fest expected next year

Community News & Features Sep 26, 2014 at 4:09 pm
PHOTO: ARIEL RAMOS

PHOTO: ARIEL RAMOS

The huge crowd of about 50,000 surprised everyone, though organizer Magante and vendor Cadiz say they didn’t make money

By Veronica C. Silva

A bigger and expanded Taste of Manila is awaiting visitors next year as organizers are still basking in what is said to be one of the most successful Filipino festivals in the city.

Taste of Manila was held towards the end of summer this year after so many years of planning by a new Filipino group – the Philippine Cultural Community Center (PCCC).

After many years, the Filipino community in Toronto, one of the biggest and fastest growing communities anywhere in the country, has finally experienced its first dedicated street festival that’s comparable to other ethno-cultural street fests, like the Taste of Danforth (in Toronto’s Greek town), the Taste of Asia (in Markham City), and Taste of Little Italy, to name a few.

It was the first venture of PCCC, which is headed by president Rolly Mangante, a Filipino-Canadian who has been doing business in the Bathurst St. – Wilson Ave. area – the venue of the street festival – since the 1990s.

If headcount is one measure of success, the 50,000-strong crowd — as estimated by City officials, according to Mangante — rival similar street fests in the city. Mangante said they expected only 2,000 to 5,000 visitors for the two-day event.

Mangante said the street festival was not actually a financial success, given that some members of the board of directors had to make out-of-pocket expenses for the two-day festival. Still, this is not stopping the group from planning for a bigger festival next year, as they have been receiving requests for booth reservations as early as now.

Mangante said his group is coordinating with City Hall officials to expand the festival next year to include maybe both lanes of Wilson Ave. and a portion of Bathurst St. This year’s festival occupied only the southbound lane of Bathurst St. from the corner of Wilson Ave. to a stretch of only 475 meters going north.

Asked if the event earned profits, Mangante’s outright reply is “No, because walang (we didn’t have) funding.” But on whether it was worth all the effort, he said it was worth it and that the objective for the first venture wasn’t really to earn. What’s the objective? (It’s) just a “try out,” he said.

He said the organizers were able to pay off expenses with the help of sponsors … and his personal credit card.

Kung sa akin lang, if walang sponsor, di namin itutuloy (without the sponsors, I was already thinking that we would not proceed with the event),” said Mangante.

Some of the festival’s sponsors included Western Union, The Filipino Channel, iRemit, LBC Cargo, Megaworld, ICS Company, and TD Bank. The festival was also supported by the Philippine Consulate General of Toronto, though Mangante said the event didn’t get any funding from the Consulate. “Not even one cent,” he said.

As to earlier reports saying that PCCC had to pay for an “overcrowding fee,” Mangante said they did not pay such a fee to the city, though, they initially thought they would be made to pay such fee.

“The event was very successful,” said Mangante, “But one thing we need to correct was the (management of the) garbage.” He said his team even had to help in the waste management disposal to comply with city regulations.

But while that large crowd posed some problems to the organizers and some booth holders, it was welcome news to others.

Raffy Cadiz, one of the food booth holders, said his team had to pack up early for the two days because supply simply cannot keep up with demand.

Cadiz owns La Isla restaurant on Bathurst St., south of Highway 401. His restaurant’s specialty is Ilocos empanada, which easily sold out during the festival.

“We were able to recover the expenses, but we were not able to earn money, that’s the honest truth,” said Cadiz. “But at least we were exposed … it helped in a sense, though prior to the event, when we opened this one (restaurant), we’re already getting orders; our clients would come from Whitby.”

Cadiz said the booth fee of $600 per day was expensive compared to other food fairs he had participated. Asked if they made a return on investment on the two-day event, he said: “I would say it was a fair situation. We actually covered the cost of the rental, which was pricey.”

But Cadiz said it was worth it.

“Of all the festivals we have participated, this is the most successful one,” he said. “Of all the Filipino festivals I have been in, it’s one of the most successful.”

He said his empanadas were gone in under five minutes from the time they started selling the products. So, they had to cook again and again for the two days. And to his surprise, many of the visitors were familiar with Ilocos empanada.

Councillor James Pasternak, Ward 10, where the street festival was held, said Wilson Ave. will be the venue of the street festival next year.

“I thought Taste of Manila was remarkable success,” said Pasternak. “I was there on Sunday; Bathurst and Wilson looked great. The street festival on a gorgeous day celebrating the Filipino community, it was really a remarkable, a proud moment. I look forward to next year. The only thing that threw people a little bit was the turnout; the turn out was remarkable. It was a little higher than predicted. That was a good thing. We wanted to do it along Wilson Ave. but because of the construction, it had to go north of Bathurst. Next year we will use Wilson Avenue.”

Mangante said conceptualizing the Taste of Manila street festival was an offshoot of earlier plans to establish a business improvement area (BIA) in the Bathurst-Wilson area, where there is a large concentration of Filipino residents and entrepreneurs. But after several meetings and the BIA hasn’t seen fruition, he thought of proceeding with planning a street festival even without a BIA being established.