2018 proved to be a banner year for the Filipino community and a momentous one for me - meeting new people, working on new projects. It was a year of recognition of Philippine art and culture, and the talent of Filipino artists.
The year started with my meeting the immensely talented and much acclaimed ice sculptors Baisas Brothers, i.e. Ross and Antonio, based in Montreal and Ottawa, respectively. They were in Edmonton for Ice on Whyte where they won the top awards, and continue to win in global competitions. I also had the pleasure of getting acquainted with pastry chef Ely Rowen Salar of Calgary, and photographer Sherwin Calaluan of Banff, both winning competitions in their respective fields. In February, the Edmonton Arts Council announced award recipients which included three Filipinos: yours truly, Ida Beltran-Lucila for the Edmonton Artist Trust Fund (the first and so far the only Filipino recipient), and Erica Cawagas and Jonathan Sherrer for Cultural Diversity in the Arts. Another first is the feature on Rommel Tingzon’s paintings at The Works Festival. Rommel is the first Filipino painter to be featured in this festival, and one based not even in Edmonton or Canada, but in Palawan.
It was also a landmark year of special events and collaborations on Philippine art: the concerts of Koro Filipino (Paraiso), Bamboo, Tunog Kalye, Heber Bartolome, Piolo and Iñigo Pascual, Jose Mari Chan; Emma the Musical; the 3rd Edmonton Filipino Fiesta, and MC College’s New Designers Fashion Show which featured three Filipino designers Fely Agader, Gian Salvador and Francis Tungul. Fely Agader would later hold her solo fashion show in November at Fort Saskatchewan. Philippine Arts Council held Learning Table sessions with Bamboo, who was remarkable with his generosity of time and experience, and with the Tunog Kalye artists. Philippine culture had more presence in the Alberta Culture Days, with Philippine Arts Council’s full day workshop at Lynnwood School and a stand alone folk dance workshop, and the UPAAE’s Historya: Walking through the Story of the Filipino People. The Philippine Arts Council continued grassroots education on Philippine dance throughout the year at Sister Annata Brockman School, Blessed Oscar Romero High School, Balwin School, and Lynnwood School. And of course, there is the regular radio show Himig Pinoy at 101.7 World FM, featuring original Filipino music.
However, the significant moment of the year was the declaration of June as Philippine Heritage Month by the cities of Edmonton, Calgary and Fort Saskatchewan, then by the Legislative Assembly for the province of Alberta, and later in the year, by the federal government. All these efforts stemmed from community initiatives, consultations, and negotiations. Coinciding with the provincial declaration was a release of the Philippine episode of Seconds Please TV documentary, whose launch was organized with the Philippine Arts Council and the MultiCultural Health Brokers Cooperative.
There were several other events in the community. Shows in local establishments like Panciteria de Manila, TFC Restaurant, Casa Laurel featured local groups like The Girls of Crazy Sexy Cool, Sooner Band, Switch Band, Skyfall Code Band, Simplicity Band, Enrico Ilaga, among others. Individual artists like actors Danielle Yu and Jimmy Buena, were respectively part of productions by Walterdale Theatre and Theatre Yes, Mila Bongco-Philipzig was part of writers’ reading AlbertaLitFest, and Kristina de Guzman was involved in an art installation exploring perceptions of immigrant communities.
There were probably more events and achievements which I unfortunately was not able to attend or were not in my radar. Nevertheless, these mentioned are proof of a revitalized regard of, and by, the Filipino community in bringing forth our cultural fabric. Everyone of us should continue to be guardians and good representations of our heritage. And here lies the challenge. For artists, stretch your boundaries, explore your creativity and create something authentic. For producers, respect your artists and your audience. And for the general public, support, promote and be proud of your culture. This way, we Filipinos significantly show up in this multi-cultural arena, creating a legacy that is truly deserving of the municipal, provincial and federal declarations of Philippine Heritage Month that have been bestowed on us.
* This article was published in the January 2019 issue of the Alberta Filipino Journal.