June is coming up and it’s always a busy month for the Filipino community in Canada, especially since its proclamation as Philippine Heritage Month.
The Philippine Arts Council is holding an online exhibit, The Filipino in Me - Insights into Living Heritage, from June-July. This is an exhibition of multimedia works on Philippine living heritage themes. It aims to explore the unique qualities and build an inventory of Philippine living heritage in Canada. These may be a song, dance, literary art, visual art, or cultural practices that a community engages in for celebrations, difficulties, or in fostering peace.
The Filipino in Me - Insights into Living Heritage exhibit will build broad-based awareness of Philippine living heritage and efforts to safeguard it. This awareness provides a sense of belonging, identity and continuity. It is community-based, and a link to one’s past, present and future.
Filipinos in Canada adapt to live a ‘hyphenated’ life - the act of being empowered by your past and of embracing the present and future. To uphold being a Filipino in a Canadian setting. A study by the University of British Columbia has shown that Filipinos who arrived young in Canada with their immigrant parents and grew up here worry about their racial identity, ignorance of Philippine culture and mother tongue, suffer difficulties with their sense of belonging and feelings of anxiety about their future in a place they cannot truly call their own. Some of them may suffer from insecurity, isolation and rootlessness due to loss of ethnic identity and culture.
The Filipino in Me - Insights into Living Heritage will show the dichotomy of how Filipinos, those who may or may not cling to indigenous Philippine cultural traits and may or may not find difficulty integrating into a new and different culture, are able to create an identity of their own based on their own particular experiences. For those who arrived in Canada very young, or are Canadian-born, it is about how they are creating an identity with a combination of Philippine culture they inherit from their parents, the Canadian culture they are growing up in, and the influence of peers they are growing up with. Their identity comes from their own personal skills, traits and values, rather than from the collective traits of Filipinos back home as a whole or the particularistic Filipino community abroad to which they may belong.
This event will furthermore encourage art creation, and an appreciation on how art can engage the community and exploration of heritage. Art provides a safe and personal space for self-expression. It provides a platform to reflect, to question and to inform - therefore is an effective channel for social change, and to promote inclusion. Despite the increasing number of Filipinos in Canada, the Filipino experience is still a bit underrepresented in the wider arts and media landscape.
Recent events have shown an increase of Asian hate/racism and prejudice. Perception is reality, and inevitably, one’s identity is attacked and challenged through someone else’s lens. In some cases, one’s Philippine heritage may become a barrier, rather than an advantage. It is all the more important to validate the Filipinos’ presence in Canada, increase opportunities in building our heritage and identity, and highlight the commonalities with other cultures, and how it has been acculturated in the daily lives of Canadians.
With the creation of works affirming the living heritage is the transmission of knowledge to others and to future generations - in the process building understanding for a more tolerant and inclusive society. It is also hoped that Philippine heritage can also inspire other creators who are non-Filipinos, thereby truly building a bridge from one culture to another. It will encourage participants to be creators, owners, interpreters and protectors of Philippine heritage.
Events on cultural heritage only increase a person’s cultural competence in this lifelong process of self-awareness, development of social skills and behaviours around diversity, and strengthening the ability to advocate for these, in a globalized society.
Don’t miss The Filipino in Me - Insights into Living Heritage, this June-July, at philippineartscouncil.com. Witness, reflect, and provide your thoughts. Let us learn and uphold each other.
The Filipino in Me - Insights into Living Heritage, is presented by Philippine Arts Council in partnership with the Edmonton Philippine International Centre (EPIC).
* This article was published in the May 2022 issue of the Alberta Filipino Journal.
** Do you know an artist/creative who is Filipino or of Filipino-descent, or an art and culture event that should be featured? Send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.