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Ika-150 Kaarawan Canada

As the country celebrates its sesquicentennial anniversary, Filipino-Canadians look at its contribution to Canada’s multicultural society

Are you 148? 149? 150? To which Canada yells, from coast-to-coast, “Stop, eh!”

Canada will celebrate its 150th year of confederation come July 1st, but the party has begun since the fireworks lit up the night sky during the New Year celebrations. And it will run all year through.

To review your Canadian citizenship exam, the British colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick came together into one Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867. The province of Canada was then divided into Ontario and Quebec during confederation. The self-governing entity named Canada therefore was first comprised of these four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The new dominion expanded since then and is now made up of 10 provinces and three territories.

But we can never celebrate Canada, without celebrating the Filipino Canadians that help shape it to be its multicultural, diverse, tolerant society that it is now.

Take the Canada 150 logo alone that is designed by a young Filipino Canadian student Ariana Mari Cuvin. Or the many Tagalog speaking people filling churches
on Sundays, actively volunteering in the choir or as ushers. And how about the many Filipinos working as personal support worker in nursing homes or those working nurses and doctors in hospitals.

Let’s review the history of Filipinos’ migration to Canada:

1950: According to Wikipedia, 10 Filipinos were recorded in Manitoba. They were mostly health care workers from the U.S. who exited to get their visa renewed.
Some stayed in Canada but most returned south of the border.

1960: Canada recruited more professionals, opening its doors not only to nurses but also to doctors, technicians and administration professionals both straight from the Philippines and from the United States. They still landed in the province of Manitoba. At the end of the decade, more Filipinos moved to the prairie province due to demand in jobs in the garment industry.

1970: The family reunification program opened the door to more Filipinos. A few also found haven here from the dictatorial Marcos regime especially when Martial Law was declared. Also, from the heart of the country, Filipinos started to move to Ontario where more job opportunities exist.

1980: The Live-In Caregiver Program became a gateway of many Filipinos, with most of them coming from countries such as Italy, Hong Kong, etc.

1990: There were more Filipinos reuniting with their families and more independents apply as professionals or contract workers.

2000 and onward: The continued success of the Caregiver Program made Canada a top choice (Hong Kong and the U.K. were in contention, too) for most Filipinos. There were also students coming here, Filipino contract workers from the Middle East who were lured by gaining citizenship status and those who just wanted to bring their young families here for a better access to education, health care and overall, better standard of living.

Filipino-Canadian Trailblazers


TOBIAS ENVERGA JR.: The first Filipino-Canadian Senator.

Tobias was the first FilipinoCanadian to be appointed in the senate. He was co-chair of the Asian Heritage Month Celebration for the GTA, founder of the Philippine Independence Day Council and is active in the Filipino community, through the Filipino chaplaincy at the Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Toronto. Tobias was a school trustee before he was tapped to sit on the senate as a Conservative by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2012.


FLOR MARCELINO: The first woman of colour to be elected MLA

The former editor of The Philippine Times had a brain tumour in 2002, which affected her speech. But it didn’t stop her in pursuing a career in politics. Flor became the first woman of colour to be elected in Manitoba’s Legislative Assembly in 2007. She is currently the interim leader of the opposition in the province after serving as a minister under former premier Greg Selinger’s NDP government. Flor was picked NDP’s interim leader because she was someone everyone can work with, according to SecretaryTreasurer Keith Bellamy. Born in Manila, she moved to Canada in 1982.


REY PAGTAKHAN: The first Filipino-Canadian cabinet minister

The physician/professor turned politician served in the federal government for 16 years, becoming the first Filipino-Canadian cabinet minister in the governments of former Liberal Prime Ministers Jean Chretién and Paul Martin.

Born in Cavite, Rey was a school trustee first before being elected in federal politics. Among his posts were Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific), Parliamentary
Secretary to the Prime Minister, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of Western Economic Diversification. After his defeat in 2004, he became the founding
director of the Global College at the University of Winnipeg, where he is currently co-chair of the Global Advisors.


CONRAD SANTOS: The first Filipino-Canadian elected in Canada

Conrad paved the way for Filipino-Canadians in politics: becoming the first Canadian born in the Philippines to be elected in Canada as Member of the Legislative Assembly in Manitoba in 1981. He ran unsuccessfully in 1973 for the nomination in Fort Garry as an NDP and in city council after that. In 1981, he finally won in Burrows and got reelected in 1986. He lost the nomination in 1988 but made a comeback in 1990, this time in Broadway. He held that seat until 2003 when the riding became a part of the new Wellington riding. His career came to an end with a crushing defeat in 2007 when he run as an independent. Conrad attended Harvard University and got his PhD in University of Michigan before moving to Canada to teach at University of Manitoba. He was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 for his years of community service. He passed away last year at the age of 81.


ART VIOLA: The first Filipino-Canadian mayor

Arturo “Art” Tapiador Viola had to drop out of pre-med studies due to poverty.

He instead graduated from medical technology, which he practiced at Niagara-on-theLake Hospital in 1994. It was after his retirement there that he turned to politics. He was elected Councilor and earned the title of deputy Lord Mayor by collecting the most votes. He became Lord Mayor in 1997 but lost in 2000. He sat one full term out before running again as a Councilor in 2003 and retiring seven years after. Often referred to as the “quiet man”, he has also been a tireless volunteer. He is the recipient of an Ontario Government Volunteer Service Award in 1992, the Golden Jubilee Medal in 2003 and the Philippines Presidential Award in 2004.



RON JOSOL: Stand-up comic, actor and writer

Born in Toronto, Josol has been making people laugh for two decades now. He’s brought his comedy around the world, performing across the country, the U.S., Central America, the Caribbean and Asia. Early on in his career, he won the coveted Craven A’s funniest Homegrown Competition at the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival. He also turned into acting and writing on the show Video on Trial.


FRANCIS MANAPUL: Comic book artist and writer

Francis’ family moved from the Philippines to Canada when he was little and for him to learn the new language, his parents gave him comic books. These became
his inspiration in becoming an artist and writer. He has provided covers for G.I. Joe early on his career. After signing on DC Comics, he provided interior and cover work for the Legion of Superheroes, Tomb Raider and Batman.

He also worked on The Flash, writing and providing art with his colourist/collaborator Brian Buccellato. Last year, Francis became the artist and writer for the DC Rebirth comic book series Trinity. He also launched his first creator-owned book Broken Hallow a year ago. In 2011, he won the Joe Shuster Award for Outstanding Artist and Inkwell Awards’ All-in-One Award.



MIKEY BUSTOS: YouTube sensation

Mikey’s first foray in the entertainment industry was during a stint in the Canadian Idol in 2003 where he finished 7th overall. He pursued his singing career becoming the opening act for the Pussycat Dolls and Christina Aguilera concerts in the Philippines. A decade after his reality show debut, he turned into  producing YouTube videos where he did song covers. But what got the most views were his Filipino culture tutorials on eating balut, courting and parodies using
popular pop songs.



ALEX PAGULAYAN: The “Lion” in the pool

The “Lion” started his career in professional pool (pocket billiards) but has also dabbled in poker and snooker. He moved to Canada in his early teens but has a dual citizenship. Pagulayan grew up in Toronto but originally hails from Isabela. He returned to the Philippines in 2004, the same year he captured the  prestigious World Pool Championship. The win made him Canada’s only world champion in the sport.

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