Filipino Immigrants in Rural Areas

Community News & Features Oct 26, 2018 at 3:44 pm
 Members of the Town of Minto’s Filipino Canadian Community

Members of the Town of Minto’s Filipino Canadian Community

Tagahanap Ng Landas:

By Tom Lusis

When most people think of immigrating to Canada, the first places that come to mind are “gateway” cities like Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal. These cities have established ethnic neighborhoods, businesses and organizations to help newcomers integrate into Canada. Yet are they the only option?

Some immigrants have followed a different path. Many find rural living more appealing than the traffic, high cost of living and congestion of larger cities. Others have found better employment in smaller communities. Still others feel rural communities have more chances to experience Canadian culture and socially integrate into their new homeland.

This article is about a growing Filipino community that has made the rural township of Minto in the County Of Wellington their home.

Minto is located in Western Ontario, approximately a 1.5-hour drive northwest of the Greater Toronto Area. Picturesque farms and sprawling green spaces characterize this municipality. Minto has two main towns, Palmerston (population 2,624) and Harriston (population 1,797). The Filipino community here is relatively small. According to the 2016 Canadian Census, approximately 70 Minto residents are from the Philippines with most settling to the area in the last 20 years.

Participating in the Town of Minto’s “Culture Days”

Participating in the Town of Minto’s “Culture Days”

Employment opportunities have been driving this growth. Filipinos in Minto have found work in the healthcare sector in facilities such as Royal Terrace and Caressant Care. Others are working in manufacturing and local companies, such as TG Minto and MSW Plastics, have started internal initiatives to make their workplaces more accessible to immigrants. Growing numbers of immigrants also work on local farms after being recruited from the Philippines for their agricultural work experience and educational qualifications.

The story of Judy and Bart Llamido highlights many of the advantages of settling in a rural location. The couple learned about Minto while in the Philippines, as Judy had a classmate who was working at Royal Terrace at the time. This friend sent photos of the area, and told them about the jobs available, the affordable cost of living, and how the community was very welcoming and peaceful.

Encouraged by these positive reviews, Judy and Bart migrated to the town of Palmerston in December 2010. It didn’t take long for them to fall in love with the area. According to Judy, “It is better to live and work in rural area, specifically Palmerston. There are so many jobs, and it is a very good place to live especially if you have kids. People here are very friendly and Filipinos will have a lot of help settling in the community. The Filipino association in Minto will help them, and can pick them up from the airport if they are coming from other provinces or from the Philippines, or give them rides to process their requirements for work. The Filipino community in Minto is definitely growing. Many were originally from Toronto but moved here because they could not find a permanent job in Toronto and they could not save money because of the expensive cost of living. There’s a lot of good things in Minto, Mayor Bridge and his team has been very supportive of the Filipino community.”

Downtown Palmerston

Downtown Palmerston

Judy mentions a unique feature of Minto; a supportive municipal government that welcomes newcomers. In June 2017, a collaborative project was launched involving the Filipino community, the municipal government and the County Of Wellington’s Economic Development division. The initiative kicked off with a community consultation. Over 30 individuals attended this event including Filipino immigrants, local employers, Mayor George Bridge and municipal representatives. The topics covered included: the formation of a cultural association, how to overcome the lack of availability of Filipino foods, how to help immigrants integrate into the social life of the community, and how to promote Minto to other Filipino immigrants.

A year later a new Town of Minto website has launched which includes a page dedicated to the Filipino community: https://town.minto.on.ca/residents/come-home-to-minto/filipino-community. A meeting was organized with the owner of the local Foodland grocery about stocking more cultural foods. Perhaps most importantly, a cultural association formed that has become the focal point for increased representation of Filipino immigrants in community activities. Thus, the association joined in Minto’s 2018 “culture days” with a Pinoy barbeque.

In closing, rural areas can offer a distinct quality of life to immigrants. Rural towns may lack the cultural infrastructure in Toronto but their safe communities, lower cost of living and varied employment opportunities make them attractive to immigrants not tied to gateway cities. From this perspective, rural areas offer many opportunities for immigrants brave enough to be pathfinders and try something new. In the case of Minto, there is a growing Filipino community there eager to welcome new residents warmly.

For more information on how to connect with this group please visit their Facebook page “Town of Minto Filipino Canadian Community.”