On May 23rd, the TCDSB hosted Proudly Pinoy, an annual Asian Heritage Month event for the Filipino community. 250 people gathered at James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic High School to celebrate their Filipino heritage and to learn how to improve their lives in Canada.
In the “Tips from the Pros” workshop, a group of Pinoy role models spoke to students about the obstacles and opportunities they had encountered on the road to success.
Lawyer Vanessa Ibe emphasized that her involvement in the Filipino community was key to achieving her goals. She used her experience as president of the Filipino Students’ Association of Toronto to stand out on her law school applications.
“It helped me get into law school. It gave me an experience nobody else had; it gave me a perspective that nobody else had,” said Ibe. “For me, it was an opportunity, 100 percent.”
Entrepreneur Jodinand Aguillon spoke about how his success came after he decided to leave his family in Alberta and move to Toronto. Today, he owns A HOMERUN, a vintage clothing store in Kensington Market.
“Proving to your parents that you can make it out on your own, you can job-create, you can employ others— that’s something that you can be proud of,” Aguillon said.
TCDSB teacher Michael Reyes spoke about choosing between a career in computers or teaching.
“When I switched to teaching, I told my parents, ‘I don’t hear about it as often, but I’m going to give it a try,’” said Reyes. “Right now, I get to come to work every day and feel like I’m living out my dream.”
Reyes’ words hit close to home for Seneca College student Marc Viado, who attended Proudly Pinoy to find out about how to become a music teacher.
“I didn’t take the course that I wanted to in college, so I’m just trying to retrace my steps and find out what obstacles I would face,” Viado said. “Meeting a TCDSB teacher was important, especially for me.”
In the adult workshops, parents found valuable information, as well. During the presentation on professional accreditation, facilitator Flor Dandal of Kababayan Multicultural Centre spoke about resources for foreign-trained nurses, teachers, engineers, and more.
Loida Acol attended the workshop on behalf of her nephews whom she had previously sponsored as caregivers.
“They were licensed professionals back home. Now they need to know what steps to take, what community help is available. At least now we have the knowledge of which group can give them support,” Acol said.
On Proudly Pinoy’s main stage, guest speakers and performers inspired the crowd by emphasizing national pride.
Ohana, a dance crew from Northview Heights Secondary School, hoped that their performances would motivate other newcomer youth to stand out, especially since some of their members had been in Canada for less than a year.
“We want to encourage them, because they should not be afraid to show their nationality,” said Ohana member Marc Kerwin Fernando.
For newcomer student Joan Agyod, Michele Serrano’s motivational speech was the highlight of the day.
“She said even though we are in a different country, we should be true to where we came from and never forget that though we are Canadian now, we are Filipinos at heart. This is good training for us, because some people come here and forget what being Filipino is about,” Agyod said.
Jodelyn Huang of the TCDSB Community Relations department and a team of Filipino settlement workers booked speakers and performers who were excited to be role models in the community, and the positive effects of their choices certainly showed.
For Christine Balmes, settlement worker of James Cardinal McGuigan and North York Community House, Proudly Pinoy was an important event because of the partnerships that were made between many sectors of the Filipino-Canadian community.
“When you see high school students, young professionals, seniors, community workers and school board officials all celebrating our shared identity in our own ways, it’s a powerful thing!” said Balmes. “I hope that more Filipino individuals and organizations are inspired to take part in the future.”
This article was originally published in The Philippine Reporter on June 3, 2015.