On July 30th, at the 918 Bathurst Centre for Culture, Arts, Media & Education, community advocates Isa Palanca and Leon Aureus gathered Filipino-Canadian leaders in food, culture, business, and politics to share their successes with the community.
The Next Day Better movement began in 2013 in New York City as a response to the absence of Filipinos at speaker events such as TED Talks.
“The lack of diversity on these stages sends the wrong message that world-changing ideas do not come from communities like mine,” said CEO Ryan Letada. “We were adamant about changing this.”
While this was only Toronto’s second Next Day Better, bringing Filipino leaders into the spotlight has already impacted the community in a positive way.
After attending last year’s event, artist and entrepreneur Jodinand Aguillon was inspired to create HATAW, a Filipino folk-fusion dance troupe.
Aguillon candidly spoke about his journey from rural Alberta, where he dreamt of Electric Circus and listened to Pinikpikan, to starting a Toronto-based troupe that modernized Filipino folk dance.
“I realized that we don’t have to scour the internet for inspiration anymore, since there are so many talented people in this community,” Aguillon said. “The art of remixing is in our blood.”
The previous Next Day Better inspired Gelaine Santiago and her partner Jérôme Gagnon-Voyer to connect with her Filipino heritage.
“Last year, I was here in your spot, in the audience, and I was completely floored by how amazing and inspiring the speakers were,” said Santiago. “I never really thought about that or recognized that in myself before.”
Today, Santiago and Gagnon-Voyer operate ChooseSocial.ph, a website which promotes social enterprises, or businesses that seek to improve the Philippines in terms of education, rural development, and more.
For Jennifer Maramba of the Center for Babaylan Studies, seeing Filipino-Canadians “spiralling inward” inspired her to share her passion for Philippine indigenous culture.
“Plants, spirits, geographical landscapes— they can guide us. And that's part of what we've lost, because we're not in our ancestral land,” Maramba said.
New Yorker Yana Gilbuena spoke about her recent “Salo Series” tour, where she hosted Filipino dinners in all fifty American states.
After Typhoon Haiyan impacted Iloilo, her home province in the Philippines, the self-taught chef used food as a way to collect donations for Advancement for Rural Kids (ARK). Part of her dinner proceeds go to a “farming and feeding” school on Panay Island.
“It’s not just about sharing food, but giving back to the community,” said Gilbuena, who plans to continue cooking Filipino dinners in Canada and internationally. “For now, home is where my suitcase rests.”
After performances by DATU, Han Han, and HATAW, Len Cervantes hosted a speakers panel. He asked leaders in politics, technology, law, and business to describe how they would like to see the Filipino community “level up.”
Louroz Mercader, Founder and Executive Director of the Mississauga Youth Games, mentioned Dr. Philip Kelly’s “Filipino Youth Transitions in Canada” study, emphasizing that the Filipino community’s high rates of teen pregnancy, drop-outs, and unemployment were partly caused by a lack of mentorship.
Kelly’s study had also inspired Next Day Better “City Curator” Leon Aureus, who urged young people to take advantage of the networking opportunity as a way to “level up.”
“We might seem like we’re double your age, but we all grew up in Canada,” said Aureus. “This is your starting foundation. It's about building a support network in different fields. Say you want to go into the music industry, the tech industry. Now, there’s someone to tell you what you need in the field— and he or she is Filipino.”
In two short years, the Next Day Better movement has spread to Vancouver, England, Manila, and across the United States, and shows no sign of slowing down.
Their only limitation is the ability of their speakers to explain how their identities as Filipinos in the diaspora helped them to achieve success. To truly capture the imaginations of their audiences, this is key to inspiring Filipino audiences worldwide to “level up.”
This article was originally published in The Philippine Reporter on August 20, 2015.