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  • Ida Beltran-Lucila

Filipino Features for May Asian Heritage Month

As the month of May rolls around, we embrace the opportunity to celebrate Asian Heritage Month, a time to honour and recognize the rich cultural contributions of Asian communities worldwide. Canada's Filipino community is vibrant and growing but tends to focus more on June Philippine Heritage Month. This year, however, has brought about truly significant Filipino-themed offerings in May.

Pro Coro Canada, widely recognized as one of Canada’s finest, presented a Filipino-themed concert, Missae IX, with MISA by Ryan Cayabyab, and a world premiere of Missa Brevis, a composition written and arranged by Filipino-Canadian Pro Coro Singer Oliver Munar. They also brought in Jonathan Velasco as guest conductor. He is one of the sought-after conductors and adjudicators in the Philippines who also conducted the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, San Miguel Philharmonic Orchestra, among other prestigious choral groups.

Members of the Filipino community had the opportunity to attend an Open Rehearsal and observe the process and nuances of choral conducting and singing. Maestro Velasco also had the chance to meet with Edmonton-based choral group Koro Filipino and do an impromptu mini workshop.

Another exciting offering is Citadel Theatre’s presentation of Prison Dancer, by Romeo Candido and Carmen De Jesus. Prison Dancer is inspired by the video of 1500 inmates in the Philippines dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, one of the internet’s first viral videos. The musical has gone through many iterations, from a simple workshop, a run at the New York Musical Festival, and an interactive web series. And now it is making its world premiere in Edmonton.

Prison Dancer explores the stories of each individual, not justifying their actions, but portraying them with empathy. That one is not defined by the mistakes but by the way you recover from them. It also shows how music and dance can be saving factors in the most dire situations. Romeo describes it as a Filipino-focused musical centred on themes of forgiveness, redemption, and the power of community.

The significance of this production with an all Filipino creative team, and a Filipino story and context cannot be understated. And the Edmonton Filipino community should rally behind this production and be proud that the journey of this musical to Broadway has started here. Don’t miss this production which runs until May 28!

On May 25 & 26, Philippine Arts Council will be participating in On the Move, an online presentation by the CanAsian Arts Network showcasing artists from Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal. Now in its third edition, this pan-Canadian and bilingual celebration provides national visibility for a number of Asian Canadian artists.

Philippine Arts Council will be presenting Refuge of Love, a dance piece set to the Filipino lullaby “Ugoy ng Duyan” (In the Rocking of the Cradle) by Philippine National Artist Lucio San Pedro, conveying the warmth and security of a mother’s embrace. The piece evokes the soothing comfort of maternal love, inviting one to bask in the nostalgia of one’s own memories. It is a celebration of the power of love and the enduring connection between mother and child, offering a moment of respite from the chaos of the world and a reminder of the solace that can be found in the refuge of love. The creative team for this project consists of Ida Beltran Lucila (director), Jojo Lucila (choreographer), Keoni Tan (dancer), Beaulah Mae Uy (singer), Gerald Penaco (editor) and Jordan Tate (camera work). Artworks by Jayson Palolan, Ma. Elizabeth Arroyo, April Angeles and Jasmine Atay are also featured. Watch the programming free at

Let’s celebrate these two months of Asian Heritage Month in May and Philippine Heritage Month in June!


* This article is published in the May 2023 issue of the Alberta Filipino Journal.

** Do you know of a Filipino, or of Filipino-descent, artist/creative, or an art and culture event that should be featured? Send a message to


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