Filipinos are better known as caregivers in Canada more than anything else. There is nothing wrong with this, any job is honourable. But of course some of us are offended when Canadians ask them if they are caregivers. We have lots of Filipino professionals practicing here like doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants, engineers, architects, businessmen and even scientists.
We are grateful that we have Dr. Eileen de Villa appearing before the TV and in newspapers almost every day being in the forefront of the battle against the COVID-19 in Metro Toronto. This gives us the visibility we need. We also have Zuraidah Alman and Pauleen Chan on CTV almost every night.
One of the reasons why many of us work outside our profession is that our foreign education is not recognized in Canada. We are all considered Grade 13 even if you have doctorates and masters degrees. You have to go back to school here. They seem to be making it a money machine, a milking cow at our expense. We consider it a discrimination against our race. And most of our leaders close to politicians are not doing anything about it. Even lawyers have to go back to school and take a few years of courses. It seems our many years in school have been wasted. Kahlil Gibran once said that “Knowledge is something no one can take away from you.” Not recognizing our foreign degrees is denying us the use of that knowledge.
When you just arrive in Canada, have children, looking for work and adjusting to the weather, the culture and have only a few friends or support group, it is very difficult go work and go to school at the same time. And courses are so expensive now a days and so with rent that some of us have to have two to three jobs just to survive.
Some Canadians don’t even know where the Philippines is and they think we are Chinese, Malaysians or Indonesians. They identify us as part of the South East Asian community.
In 1998 during the Philippine Centennial Festival at the SkyDome (Rogers Centre) Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman ignored our invitation. When he found out that more than 35,000 Filipinos gathered there, he begged us to invite him next time. Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion honoured us with her presence.
It was always hard for us to get corporate sponsors for our events but when Bell and AT&T found out the attendance, they had a bidding war on who gets our sponsorship. We were the first ethnic community to use the Rogers Centre and the Chinese and the local Indian community used it after us. That was the largest gathering of Filipinos outside the Philippines with more than 35,000 attendees. Before this, Filipinos could only gather 2,000 to 3,000 during our community events.
Politicians know the voting power of Filipinos with our more than 1 million population. They even voted to make June the Filipino Heritage Month, initiated by Paulina Corpus and her political connections. But we have been celebrating our Philippine Independence Day every year separately without being noticed by the mainstream because the attendance is sometimes only a handful, there is no impact and no publicity in mainstream media. We seem to be celebrating our independence from each other or disunity like the small tribes that we were back home. We have one at Toronto City Hall with just a handful of people. The Provincial Parliament has one initiated by Monina Serrano and Filipino Liberals, PIDC has one with Norma Carpio as leader done in Earl Bales, the Filipino Centre Toronto does one in Toronto City Hall with free litchon and so with the Philippine Foundation of Rosemer Enverga which gathered thousands of people. Entertainers have to go to different places sometimes on the same day.
There was a time when there were two celebrations of Independence in the community. One was in Seaton Park sponsored by the Anti-Marcos group led by Ruben Cusipag, Fely Villasin and Ging Hernandez and the Pro-Marcos group led by Eddie Lee, Jun Cruz and their brothers in the Fraternity.
When Mann Nacario came, he changed the venue to Earl Bales Park and united the two groups having the TV Show Philippine Sundae. He also installed a Rizal Monument with the help of the Knights of Rizal and the Philippine Consulate during the time of Consul General Santos. He also became the President of PIDC and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce.
It is good that we have the Taste of Manila which is gathering thousands of people and giving us publicity even if it is experiencing some financial problems and was stopped because of the pandemic.
What we need to do now is use the mainstream media. Filipino businesses such as restaurants, doctors, nurses and associations should buy space in Toronto Star and Toronto Sun and promote their activities. Franchise businesses like the Jollibee and Seafood City should spend more in promoting their businesses to the Canadian mainstream of 38 million to increase their sales rather than just the Filipinos.
We need promotion to make our people feel proud about themselves and to educate mainstream Canadians about us. Let them know our history, our hundreds of tourist areas, our products and services. We should create a website of our businesses and advertise them as one. It is time we market our products and services to the Canadian mainstream like the Chinese, Koreans, Japanese and Indians. They are lucky that their high tech products such as cars, computers, cell phones, TV and other appliances reminds Canadians of their countries and technologies. It is expensive to do that individually. Let us do it together.
There was a time in the end of 1980’s when I single handily promoted the Filipinos. I was trying to create a myth that the Filipina is one of the best wives in the world. I was featured in Toronto Sun and Toronto Star in full page articles and was also featured on CBC TV Monitor for 30 minutes nationwide. But some Filipinos got jealous and started acting like crabs.
We were lucky that during the Philippine Centennial Festival at the SkyDome in 1998 we had Cleve Sandy as volunteer and helped us promote in the mainstream with Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, CBC and other media outlets.
We should be more active in Canadian politics and learn from the experience of other ethnic groups on how to unite and promote their candidates. We have more than a million population in a country of 38 million people and many of our people are worthy of becoming politicians in this country.
You would notice that the only time Canadian media publish something about the Philippines and Filipinos is when it is bad, when there is a disaster or something critical about our President and people. They just want to make themselves look good and us looking bad. . I sometimes suspect that mainstream media is racists against us coloured people and immigrants.
Nevertheless, we should spend for the promotion of the good deeds of our people, our businesses and for our political future and to improve our business prospects. If we don’t carry our own chairs, who will? Time to educate Canadians on the greatness of our people or at least on what we truly are.
By Rodel J. Ramos