Filipino Canadian Writers and Journalists Network (FC-WJNet) launched

Community News & Features Apr 27, 2018 at 4:36 pm

FC-WJNet-Roll-up-BannerBy Rachel Evangeline Chiong
The Philippine Reporter

Last Friday, April 20, Filipino-Canadian writers and journalists celebrated the official launch of the “Filipino Canadian Writers and Journalists Network” (FC-WJNet). Gathered inside a New College (University of Toronto) meeting room, a long-awaited spring breeze blew in from the porch, signaling a fitting beginning to the fresh-faced collective. But while that night marked the first face-to-face meeting for some members, FC-WJNet had been gathering momentum since September last year.

Members and guests remaining after the event.

Members and guests remaining after the event. (20 Photos: HG)

Last fall, a group of writers and journalists from diverse backgrounds met during their first forum with NBC News Beijing Bureau Chief Eric Baculinao. An idea had started to take shape. According to the organizers, the project gained affirmation when members realized that “it was an idea whose time has come” to gather a community of writers and journalists into a Filipino-Canadian network.

Thus, at Friday’s event, Hermie Garcia, editor of The Philippine Reporter, read from FC-WJNet’s mission statement, reiterating that the network was a mobile space where writers could support each other through resources, inspiration, and solidarity. But when he shared his own testimony as a life-long journalist, the script eventually fell from his hands onto the podium, as his story touched the audience.

The evening progressed much like that. The members’ joys and struggles fell upon a community that embraced these vulnerabilities with compassion. We honored the late literary and activist hero Pertonila G. Cleto (most notably “Tita Pet”) in a touching tribute sung by Radyo Migrante host Rhea Gamana and accompanied on guitar by Ricky Esguerra. Patty Rivera, whose book, The Time Between, would be launching this coming May 6 at Gerrard Art Space, had us clinging to every word of her poetry.

Dr. Robert Diaz

Dr. Robert Diaz

Dr. Robert Diaz, Assistant Professor and Graduate Coordinator in the Women and Gender Studies Institute, University of Toronto, spoke about the need to encourage the Filipino community to take ownership for our own stories. “From where we stand, we cannot give this responsibility to those who can only see us from a distance. These are our histories. Now is the time for us to shape their telling,” he emphasized.

Some writers even took the opportunity to experiment. Ysh Cabana from the Akdaan Anthology, set aside poetry to narrate his recent flash fiction. Vice versa, Mila Garcia stepped out of her role as a journalist and read to us an intense love poem after a narration of her experiences as imprisoned journalist before and during martial law in the Philippines.

But even for someone who regales writing to a lifestyle of novels, the showcase proved that there was something for everyone. Mae Janelle Berte enraptured the audience with her voice, as she sang titles from her Penumbra. Lui Queaño spun classics like the Beatles’ “Please Please Me” into activist parodies that had us chuckling through the entire set. Leon Aureus, Artistic Producer of Carlos Bulosan Theatre, performed a reading from People Power with Joy Castro, their scene’s gripping tension slicing through the humid, crowded room. Even podcasts deserved the spotlight, as Nastasha Alli introduced her show, Exploring Filipino Kitchens, where she interviews field experts around the globe about Filipino food.

Patty Rivera

Patty Rivera

As we neared the end, pride in FC-WJNet took form. It was proud of being Filipino; journalist Marites Sison shared her piece from her book, A Guardian of Memory, Armando Malay. It was proud of being Canadian; Jennilee Austria, the host of that night, read an excerpt from her in-the-works Young Adult novel about a newcomer experiencing Toronto.

Now that FC-WJNet is officially here, they are brimming with workshops, activities, and events. Every third Monday of the month, they meet at New College where new, interested writers are always welcome. They are beginning to archive Filipino-Canadian works and hard-to-find Filipino literature in an accessible system that will hopefully include an anthology of pieces from FC-WJNet’s members into the collection.

But amongst the flurry of activity that night, Austria observed how despite our age differences, we all knew what it was like growing up as the “black sheep” to our family and friends. By the end of the launch that shared identity cultivated an unsaid mutual understanding between members and guests alike. FC-WJNet in all its intentions was a place to be writers and journalists, but inevitability, it had also become a place to be ourselves.

Hermie Garcia

Hermie Garcia

Mila Astorga-Garcia

Mila Astorga-Garcia

Jennilee Austria

Jennilee Austria

Marites Sison

Marites Sison

Leon Aureus and Joy Castro

Leon Aureus and Joy Castro

Mae Janelle Berte

Mae Janelle Berte

Lui Queaño

Lui Queaño

Rhea Gamana and Rick Esguerra

Rhea Gamana and Rick Esguerra

Ysh Cabana

Ysh Cabana

Nastasha Alli

Nastasha Alli

Eric Tigley (left)

Eric Tigley (left)

Fatima Kaalim

Fatima Kaalim

Sarah Salise

Sarah Salise

Socky Pitargue

Socky Pitargue

Joe Rivera

Joe Rivera

Priscilla Kalevar

Priscilla Kalevar

Leon Aureus, Isa Palanca  Aureus and Victor (Photo: P. Rivera)

Leon Aureus, Isa Palanca
Aureus and Victor (Photo: P. Rivera)

Leny Rose Simbre and son (Photo: P. Rivera)

Leny Rose Simbre and son
(Photo: P. Rivera)

Nastasha Alli and Irish Mae Silvestre (Photo: M. Sison)

Nastasha Alli and Irish Mae Silvestre (Photo: M. Sison)