Every year, a national celebration of arts and culture is commemorated as Culture Days on the last weekend of September (Friday-Sunday). Thousands of events across the country are offered free of charge, highlighting the importance of arts and culture in our communities. The mandate of Culture Days is “to eliminate barriers to access and participation, and stimulate understanding, appreciation and exploration of arts and culture—so that every person in the country has a deeper connection with themselves, their communities, and Canada”.
This year, two events focusing on Philippine culture have been selected as Official Celebration Sites by the Ministry of Culture and Multiculturalism, and Status of Women - Philippine Arts Council’s Kalinangan and Pinoy Roots Rondalla’s Ugnayang Kultura.
Kalinangan, in its many variance of use, is the Tagalog word for culture, way of life, or cultivation of learning. This is Philippine Arts Council’s third offering of Kalinangan and has been selected twice as a featured Celebration Site. This year’s Kalinangan was a two-day event, with the first day held at Lynnwood School and the second at Mill Woods Seniors and Multicultural Centre.
On its second year at Lynnwood School, the students participated in workshops on Philippine dance and martial arts provided by The Lucila Project and Philippine Warrior Arts Society. By dismissal, parents and siblings came to the school and participated or observed the workshops. Former students visited from their junior high schools to dance folk dances they have learned before. It was a fiesta atmosphere with students decorating the school with self-made Philippine flags and posters, and baking cassava cake to serve to guests. Some parents made pancit (noodles), and Loriz Bakery and Golden Bucks Bakeshop provided generous food donations, which were thoroughly enjoyed by the school community. It was heartwarming to see the children enthusiastically embrace Philippine culture. It also empowered and instilled pride in the Filipino students and parents to witness the support and enthusiasm by the school community. Young students were asking us so many questions about the Philippines, the food, and especially the language. It was amusing and at the same time touching to watch them engage in Tagalog conversations with their Filipino classmates. With their parents’ arrival, students have asked for music to be played so they can be videoed dancing what they have learned. Teachers shared their Filipino experiences too - whether through Filipino friends, food, or information they have read or seen.
At the Mill Woods Seniors and Multicultural Centre, Kalinangan featured workshops on: Parol (Christmas lanterns) Making by the University of the Philippines Alumni Association Edmonton (UPAAE); Learning the Language through Song and Dance, by Koro Filipino; Filipino Martial Arts by Philippine Warrior Arts Society; and Philippine Folk Dance, by Jojo Lucila. Other activities included: colouring of Philippine-themed illustrations by Katrina Cereno, and indigenous designs and patterns of Mindanao from Lumad, a colouring book project by Salupongan Internaitonal; Historya exhibit by the UPAAE; Kwento’t Litrato exhibit by Migrante Alberta; and tables of Philippine products and businesses by Akia Crafts, Love Thy Planet, and Human Nature Canada. Members of the Legislative Assembly and Parliament also came to give messages of support and fellowship: MLA Christina Gray (Edmonton-Millwoods), MLA Sarah Hoffman (Edmonton-Glenora), MLA Jasvir Deol (Edmonton-Meadows) and MP Amarjeet Sohi (Edmonton-Mill Woods, and federal Minister of Natural Resources).
On the third day of Culture Days, Pinoy Roots Rondalla held Ugnayang Kultura at the West Edmonton Mall with rondalla performances, Philippine folk and Polynesian dances by Pacific Island Dance Troupe, crafts and displays of Filipino instruments and clothing, Zumba by Manny Arban, and dances by the Edmonton Indonesian Community Association. MLA Sarah Hoffman was again there to provide messages, along with MLA Lorne Dach (Edmonton-McClung) and MLA Jon Carson (Edmonton-West Henday).
In summation, it was a good Culture Days year with offerings on Philippine culture provided in every single day of the Culture Days weekend - a result of Philippine Arts Council and Pinoy Roots Rondalla coordinating to avoid any schedule conflict. Because I have found out through the years, that there is a good percentage of people who take advantage of this Culture Days weekend, research on calendar activities and map out an itinerary of events to go to. It is a testament to our society for embracing diversity, an earnest desire to learn more about art and culture, and its importance in our daily lives. It is for this very reason that we are steadfast in featuring Philippine art and culture, and establishing our stamp in this multicultural community.
* This article was published in the October 2019 issue of the Alberta Filipino Journal.