Delayed Heritage Month celebrated
Delayed Heritage Month celebrated
Pinoy community in Regent Park
August 23, 2021
By Veronica Silva Cusi
The Philippine Reporter
Huli man daw at magaling, naihahabol din. In English, this roughly translates to better late than never.
And so, after months of lockdown, the Filipino community in Toronto Centre finally got to gather outdoors in-person at Regent Park on July 24 to celebrate Filipino Heritage Month albeit almost a month delayed.
Filipino Heritage Month is celebrated every June in Canada.
Though late, organizers led by S.E.A.S. and partners, said it was important to celebrate Philippine heritage as the event marked one of the first outdoor in-person events allowed in step 3 of the province’s COVID reopening plan.
The afternoon event featured traditional Filipino songs, dances, storytelling, games, and other activities for the entire community.
S.E.A.S. Centre (Support Enhance Access Service Centre) is a non-profit in the GTA that focus on Chinese, Vietnamese and Filipino communities. Aside from Regent Park, the community service agency also has locations in Scarborough, North York and Markham.
Mary Anne Janice Kalalang, a member of a group of multicultural community organizers called Friends of Regent Park, said the event on July 24 was the second Philippine heritage celebration in the community. The first was a celebration in 2019 around Philippine Independence Day, which is on June 12. The 2020 celebration was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Rosetta Lucente, S.E.A.S. Filipino program worker, said the mandate of the program is to build engagement and leadership in the community. This is aside from case work or helping individuals with their community problems or issues, such as housing or jobs search.
“The community can band together to solve problems — na magkaroon sila (Filipinos in Regent Park) ng sariling (that they may organize their own) organization or coalition,” said Lucente on why heritage celebrations are included in the mandate of S.E.A.S.
On hand to support the Filipino community and the Regent Park residents were officials from all levels and colours of government, and community leaders who have been helping the neighbourhood. The event was held in July at a time when talks of a federal election had been in the air for months.
“We’re proud to have the Filipino community here [in Toronto Centre] in such strong numbers. They are hardworking individuals and very family-oriented, very social and always willing to come out and participate, and that’s what makes the community so vibrant and strong,” said Kristy Wong-Tam, city councillor for Toronto Centre ward where Regent Park belongs, in an interview with TPR.
On what the City has been doing for racialized communities in this pandemic, Wong-Tam acknowledged the role of Filipino frontline health workers and cited some government supports, such as help with rental. Aside from putting the brakes on eviction, Wong-Tam said the city is working on manageable debt repayment.
“It’s good that we have started to reopen and the community can come together,” said Suze Morrison, Ontario NDP Member of Provincial Parliament for Toronto Centre.
Morrison told TPR that she is proud to have supported fellow NDP MPP Doly Begum of Scarborough Southwest, who sponsored a bill that was passed in Queen’s Park declaring June as Filipino Heritage Month in the province.
Morrison said the NDP has programs in their platform to support specific needs of low-income racialized and cultural communities, including Filipinos in Toronto Centre. These include supports for affordable housing, seniors in long-term care, and education.
“Specifically, as we come out of COVID-19, seniors’ care is going to be a really important conversation,” Morrison said. “We saw the absolute disaster in long-term care over the past year and a half, and the number of seniors that we lost to COVID-19 in under-funded and under-resourced care homes. Part of that conversation is also recognizing the importance of culturally safe and culturally relevant seniors’ care.”
She added that part of the proposal of the NDP when they form government is caregiver rebates for those taking care of seniors at home, knowing that some cultural communities are in extended families where they take care of their seniors in multigenerational homes.
Ontario provincial elections is in 2022.
Annamie Paul, Green Party of Canada Leader and federal candidate for Toronto Centre, said her family has close ties to the riding and the Bathurst St. -Wilson Ave. neighbourhood in the west — known for Philippine restaurants and shops – where some of her relatives reside.
She also mentioned that the Green Party has a Filipino federal candidate in Toronto – Phil de Luna, a clean technology innovator, who is running in the Toronto-St. Paul’s riding.
“The [Filipino] community is growing. It is becoming more engaged in politics. I want Phil to run, but then I’m hoping that there will be a hundred more Phil’s running for all of the parties,” said Paul. “The community has contributed so much, and it’s time to have your voice everywhere that it matters, including in politics. I hope you will consider that.”
Marci Ien, Liberal Member of Parliament for Toronto Centre, thanked the Filipino frontline workers for their help during the pandemic.
“This is a community that is full of empathy, this is a community that is full of service, and this is a community that shows Canada what it means to stand together,” she told TPR. “We’ve looked to frontline workers, emergency personnel, many from the Filipino community. Thank you for being selfless. Thank you for being there for Canada.”
She said the Liberals are already helping the community on issues that affect them and have included in the budget funding for affordable and rapid housing.
On what she wants to get done for the community, she said that when it comes to issues such as homeless and mental health, heart is on the youth.
“We need to start with our young people because they need to know that they can succeed,” she said.