‘Costs too much’ — Mangante; ‘We tried to help’ — Pasternak

Community News & Features Jul 27, 2018 at 5:53 pm

ToM-cancelledBy Irish Mae Silvestre

During a summer filled with street festivals, one well-known calendar event will be notably absent in 2018. The Philippine Cultural Community Centre (PCCC) announced that this year’s Taste of Manila, set to take place on Saturday, August 18th and Sunday, August 19th has been cancelled.

“With a heavy heart, the organizers of the Taste of Manila [have] made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s edition of the popular street festival after much consideration following numerous dialogues with the City of Toronto and festival stakeholders,” read a statement.

It goes on to explain that the event is supported solely by fees from sponsors, food vendors and exhibitors who pay the organization to rent space within festival grounds, which is located on a 1.7 km stretch in the Bathurst-Wilson area.

Rolly Mangante, Organizer

Rolly Mangante, Organizer

Taste of Manila (ToM) founder, Rolly Mangante, cited operating costs as the main reason for the organization’s decision. “In 2017 we paid $32,000 for [police], $54,000 for barricades, $5,000 to TTC and $8,000 to EMS,” explained Mangante during a phone interview. “Our stage [costs] $34,000. [The event costs] more or less $200,000. [There’s also the] insurance for the event and lots of overhead.”

He added that while other festivals use venues like City Hall, ToM requires traffic to be rerouted since the event uses four lanes of Bathurst Street, which contributes to the costs. Other issues have also arisen in the past. Vendors have complained that non-participating stores nearby benefit from the event without paying to rent a stall.

In a September 2017 interview with The Philippine Reporter, Mangante stated that ToM incurred $20,000 in losses that year. The event also drew 63 vendors, down 20 compared to 2016.

While the Bathurst-Wilson area is still in the cards as a possible venue for 2019, there are talks about moving the event to another location in the Downsview area.
“The decision of the board is to postpone the event this year and, next year, we have to sit down and see what happens,” said Mangante. “There is no funding [from the] Philippine or Canadian government.”

“I’m very stressed,” added Mangante. “As a founder of ToM in 2014, I’m very sad. What can I do?”

Councillor James Pasternak of Ward 10-York Centre said that his office worked with event organizers and describes the festival as a transformative event for the City of Toronto.

“We had met with them several times and it looked as if we were going to get funding from the City to help them out this year and then secure annual funding in the years ahead,” he said. “At the same time, we also introduced them to a corporate sponsor who was prepared to back some of their losses.
“Honestly, we were surprised and disappointed it shut down.”

He added that they’re aware of the festival’s operating costs and that they’ve “always managed to get those costs down” for services such as police services, waste management, transportation, EMS and TTC.

Councillor James Pasternak

Councillor James Pasternak

Pasternak said that they had shown organizers another potential site in the Bathurst and Wilson area – a vacant lot that would have allowed for “a smaller festival at a fraction of the cost.” However, he said that it was the organizers’ decision not to take that option.

“We tried to convince them to continue on,” he said. “But maybe they needed a break to regroup.”

Rebecca Dava, owner of Da Best Filipino Bakery on Wilson Ave. stated that she found out about the announcement on the organization’s website. “Of course, we’re not happy about that,” she said. Although they haven’t participated, Dava said that they are part of the community and stated that the festival is something they’re “considering” joining in the future.

Allan Pace, however, is a former vendor who recalls taking part in the event. He said his company lost almost $29,000 in food waste. “It was an opportunity [for us] to really earn because it was the Taste of Manila and they promised that 250,000 people were attending,” he said. “It was less than 50,000 to 70,000 who came.” He said that due to “unfair” positioning of booths at the festival, they had fewer customers and ended up throwing out 30 large garbage bags of food and giving away 150 cases of drinks.

The event website states that “in 2016, a whopping estimate of 350,000 visitors came to the festival.” As per the 2016 census profile published by Statistics Canada, a total of 337,760 Filipinos live in Ontario.

Pace added that in order for organizers to get support from the city, there needs to be transparency within the organization regarding previous events.

“The City should endeavor to support the multicultural events of different communities in the city,” said Pace. “But I can’t say that the City’s unfair and that they have to support [us] because we have to look into [whether] this is the right organization to truly drive this event to success.”