Key to Tai Chi is inhaling and exhaling


7Imagine a wellness program that almost anyone can engage in—something that encourages slow, gliding movements over fast and furious activity and cultivates inner energy. Check out Tai Chi.

Tai Chi is a 1,000-year-old Chinese art of breath meditation and gentle movements that stimulate both the mind and body. The art of Tai Chi thrived through the centuries and was embraced by martial artists around the world, widely adopted as a meditative program and is now extensively being used for wellness recovery programs.

Tai Chi is an excellent path to health especially for seniors, the disabled and persons with health issues who find difficulty doing strenuous exercise. Since it promotes flexibility and tranquility, Tai Chi also benefits the young and those active in other fitness programs.

Calgary is fortunate to have a Tai Chi drop-in program held every Tuesday between 9 a.m. to 10:45 am at the Marlborough Park Community Centre (located at 6021 Madigan Drive NE). Our Chinese- Calgarian friends facilitate the sessions. There are no reservations, no uniforms and no fees.

Wei Wen Rong, 83, and Anna Leung, 79, are two of the senior members who facilitate the Tai Chi practice. There are several other volunteer teachers who provide guidance to anyone who needs it. There is no skill ranking in Tai Chi, but respect of older practitioners is honoured. The senior teachers may have found the fountain of youth as both looked spry and vibrant and exude peace.

The basic Tai Chi requirement is simple enough—anyone who can inhale and exhale— can do Tai Chi. All one has to do is to inhale and exhale (that is, breathe in for four seconds and breathe out for another four seconds in a flowing manner), follow the gentle movements in tune with the soothing background music and you are doing Tai Chi.

Kelvin dela Peña: a proud Canadian-Filipino ball player

Kelvin dela Peña celebrates with Calgary Crush teammates. Photo by Jonard Tan.
Kelvin dela Peña celebrates with Calgary Crush teammates. Photo by Jonard Tan.

The chants and cheers are deafening, the boos are outstandingly loud, the people cheer, then the team that wins conquers the gym, hugs the court and the sweet smell of victory abounds.

Local basketball personality Kelvin dela Peña, a Filipino-Canadian born in the Philippines and raised in Calgary, began his name engraved in basketball at Mount Royal University under its home team Cougars but pursued a professional career in the Philippines at age 20. dela Peña captures the attention of many viewers with his skills that have developed over many years of playing basketball.

“Basketball is in my blood,” dela Peña says.

The youngest son of Susan Chicote-dela Peña and former Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) San Miguel Beermen athlete Ric dela Peña, dela Peña grew up in a household submerged in the basketball community. It was natural for dela Peña and his older brother, Richard, to follow in their father’s footsteps from a young age.

“Richard and I grew up playing either as a team or as opponents,” he says.

dela Peña’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) career began at Mapua Institute of Technology, where he achieved several awards such as the coveted Rookie of the Year in 2005 where he became the first Mapua Cardinal to again uphold the title since Mapuan Ruben dela Rosa claimed it in 1995. Then in 2007 he claimed the highly sought after Most Valuable Player award after averaging the seasons best of 15.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game. That same year he was named into the Season 83 Mythical Five. He was bestowed with such titles as “The Comeback Kid” and “King Cardinal” due to his ability to bring his team together and lead them to victories in the last clutch seconds of games and his never-give-up attitude. In his last season of playing, dela Peña began to feel back spasms but knew he needed to fight through the pain in order to help the Cardinals claim a final-four slot and enter the finals.

“Some days the pain kept me off the court and that was quite a hard thing to accept at first,” he says. “I needed to find ways to shorten the journey of being unfit to play—walking with a cane only did so much.”

He sought ways to minimize the aches and pain killers provided a temporary solution. Finding his road to recovery was the most important thing for him to achieve at that time.

His goal was to express his appreciation to the school that adopted him through his college life.

“I needed to play again and make Mapua proud— that was my goal,” he says.

In 2008 dela Peña was drafted 15th overall and despite his hindering injury, he began his stint in the professional arena via the PBA, where he played for the Alaska Aces until 2010.

Finally it came to light that the lower back pain he suffered were due to three herniated discs and a pinched sciatic nerve.

He was given limited playing time. After two-years with Alaska Aces, dela Peña took a year off to reflect, heal and train in order to get back to being the way he was before his injuries.

“I never doubted in my mind that I wouldn’t get better. I did what I’ve always done,” dela Peña says.

After months of committing to hard work, training and recovery, he bounced back and silenced those that counted him out. In 2011, he was drafted to join the San Miguel Beermen of the ASEAN Basketball League where teams from Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, China and South Sumatra competed for a title. The Beermen were in the championship finals, but lost two games to one to the Indonesian Warriors.

After the ASEAN season wrapped up, he concluded that it was time to explore new horizons and left the Philippines to join his family here in Calgary.

“I knew I would miss playing in the Philippines, but I realized that it was time for me to move on,” dela Peña says. “I was missing out on so much back home, such as birthdays and anniversaries. I realized my parents were getting older and I wasn’t making memories with them.”

His journey did not end there because he has other plans here in Canada that he hopes to put into action. dela Peña knew he would pursue something closely related to his love of playing basketball.

“I want to keep doing what I love whether it means playing or coaching basketball,” he says.

Opportunities for the young athlete came rushing in his first year back home. A new passion for fitness and health motivated him to pursue a career in training others, who like him at one point, have been going through physical disabilities or setbacks and get them back to a healthy and positive state in their lives. Something most people do not get to see is the laid back and easygoing person he is in his personal life.

“I mind my own business and am an easygoing person outside the court,” dela Peña says.

Today, you can find dela Peña coaching at Cross- Fit Athlete Inside during the week and on weekends coaching kids in basketball skills and suiting up for his home team The Calgary Crush, the only Western Canadian team in the American Basketball Association (ABA). dela Peña is also an assistant coach for the girls basketball team at St. Mary’s University and the head coach for the boys junior team at Bishop Mc-Nally High School.

dela Peña relates to the quote, “The people who often criticize your life are usually the same people that do not know the price you paid to get to where you are today.”

He says success in basketball is not always measured by awards and distinctions— it is often by the hard work that one had put into the games he played, whether it was a win or a loss.

“Working hard and staying humble is still the final measure of being successful,” he says.

Recent TFW deaths cause strife for families


A number of high profile deaths of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in Alberta has brought attention to the strife that follows the sudden death of foreigners living in Canada.

A pair of similar deaths in late 2014 caught attention when seven TFWs were killed in two separate car crashes, one near Sylvan Lake and one near Leduc.

These most recent TFW deaths are not the first to hit the headlines.

In March 2012 Anthony Castillon, 35, Eden Biazon, 39, Joey Mangonon, 35, and Josefina Velarde, 52, were killed when they were struck by a drunk driver travelling in the wrong direction on Highway 1.

Josephine Tamondong survived the crash. Her friends were driving her from Edmonton, where they all lived and worked in a hotel, to Montana to complete her permanent residency requirements.

An outpouring of support followed these high profile deaths, however, there are many more cases of Filipinos living or visiting Canada who pass away unexpectedly.

Selena (Beng) Cruz is a member of Couple’s for Christ and is part of their new migrants ministry. Cruz is the one who gets the call when a Kababayan passes away in Calgary and does not have any insurance to cover sudden death.

She says she gets at least a couple of requests for help each year. When she is notified of someone who needs help she reaches out to people she knows and Filipino associations, who help spread the word.

Last year she says a close family friend tragically experienced the death of his mother, who had been visiting from the Philippines for two years. Initially they bought insurance for her, but when her visa was extended, they did not extend the insurance. She passed away the night before she was to return to the Philippines, leaving the family with the dilemma of how to deal with her funeral and transport of the body.

In that case Cruz says they were able to raise $9,500 to help the family.

She says it’s always difficult for people to seek out help and accept it when it is offered.

“They feel so embarrassed and there is pride,” Cruz says.

In 2014 Cruz also helped a woman whose husband died while working in the garage, leaving her and their oneyear- old child behind, with no way to pay for his funeral.

Cruz often refers people to Carlos Perez, the pre-planning director for Mountain View Funeral Home in Calgary for 10 years. Perez says he assists them while they work with the funeral director.

“I help them because they are my Kababayans,” he says, adding sometimes there is a language barrier or cultural differences.

People are often shocked by the cost of preparing the body for burial and particularly the cost of sending a body home. He says most Filipinos do not want to cremate the body, but to send a body to the Philippines is $15,000 to $20,000.

“Many people in the Philippines want to see the body,” he explains. “They don’t want cremation or to hand-carry the urn on the plane.”

He says they offer people a number of options and the least expensive is cremation and taking the urn as a carryon onto the plane, with the proper permits. He says that option can cost only a few hundred dollars. Some people are forced to make arrangements that they do not like, simply because of the cost, he says.

Perez sympathizes with their plight.

“It’s tragic,” he says. “They are just working here temporarily and the family is relying on them for support.”

Most of the temporary workers or visitors from the Philippines do not have life insurance, he says.

“We need to create awareness,” he says. “It’s a concern for me. We really need to educate these TFWs. There are some insurance with very low rates. If they have insurance it will protect their family and will have some money to cover their funeral costs.”

Renato Abanto of Alpha Immigration agrees that more needs to be done to make temporary visitors to Canada mindful about being prepared for unexpected death, which he says can be difficult.

“We always touch on life insurance,” he says. “I’m sorry to say they disregard it. In Filipino culture, talking about death is considered to be morbid.”

Dealing with the extremely high costs while grieving is a big burden for the family, he says.

“It’s a depressing, traumatic experience for them,” he says.

They have held seminars in the past, explaining the benefits of life insurance and says they hope to hold another one soon.

“This is for you, for your family,” he says. “So we are not putting the burden on the Filipino community. It should be the responsibility of the person coming to work from overseas.”

Family hears details of their son’s murder

Lawrence Hong was murdered last April with four others at a gathering in Brentwood and the preliminary inquiry into the case started March 2. File photo by Don Loyaga.
Lawrence Hong was murdered last April with four others at a gathering in Brentwood and the preliminary inquiry into the case started March 2. File photo by Don Loyaga.
Lawrence Hong was murdered last April with four others at a gathering in Brentwood and the preliminary inquiry into the case started March 2. File photo by Don Loyaga.

The courtroom was packed for a preliminary inquiry into the murder of five young people at a get-together last spring, who were celebrating the end of the university school year.

Lawrence Hong, Kaiti Perras, Jordan Segura, Joshua Hunter and Zachariah Rathwell were killed at a Brentwood home on April 14, 2014.

Matthew de Grood is charged with five counts of first-degree murder.

Members of the victim’s family and de Grood’s family filled the courtroom on the first day of the preliminary inquiry, which began March 2. Crown prosecutor, Neil Wiberg, says he expects to call 13 witnesses.

Details of the week-long court hearing cannot be published prior to a trial, but members of the murder victim’s family were present to hear testimony from witnesses in the case.

Emotions were high in the courtroom, with people crying in their seats, while de Grood sat in the dock listening intently and occasionally drinking from a glass of water.

Lawrence Hong’s parents, who immigrated to Canada from the Philippines in the 90s, were in the courtroom with their son, Miles, to hear the disturbing details.

The Hongs have not commented on the case. The victim’s families have been commenting jointly and most recently sent out a letter asking for privacy.

Hong was only weeks away from graduating university with a degree in urban studies when he was killed.

Crown prosecutor Neil Wiberg says the proceedings are hard on the family.

“They are very upset, obviously,” he says. “Five outstanding young people were murdered and I’m sure this brings back horrible memories.”

de Grood’s lawyer, Allan Faye, says his client is also anxious about the proceedings.

“There are lots of family members of friends for both the victims and my client and everybody is going to be reliving some very, very traumatic events,” Faye says.

de Grood underwent a 30-day psychological evaluation and has been receiving treatment since his arrest, Faye says.

“He is very anxious about this,” Faye says. “Reliving this event obviously is very, very difficult for him and he, like anyone in this situation, wants to move forward and try to bring this matter to a close.”

de Grood is not getting any preferential treatment because his father is a senior police officer, Faye adds.

“He’s being treated like another individual charged with these types of offences,” Faye says. “His father’s status has not affected that whatsoever. Having said that, obviously there are some people that have some concerns about that. There might be some concerns about him that while he is in custody that he is a police officer’s son. I have not heard about anything untoward happening. That is always a concern.”

Wiberg was brought in from Edmonton to handle the Crown’s case to prevent any conflict with local Crown prosecutors who may have worked with de Grood’s father.

At the end of the preliminary inquiry the judge will determine if de Grood will stand trial. A trial would not be set until a later date.

The Bad Girls Club YYC hosts Out of the Closet: XXXPOSÉ Ball

A contestant walks in the Bizarre category during The Bad Girls Club YYC’s third annual Vogue Ball held on January 24 at Dicken’s Pub.
A contestant walks in the Bizarre category during The Bad Girls Club YYC’s third annual Vogue Ball held on January 24 at Dicken’s Pub.
A contestant walks in the Bizarre category during The Bad Girls Club YYC’s third annual Vogue Ball held on January 24 at Dicken’s Pub.

Voguing enthusiasts were encouraged to ‘strike a pose’ once again for the third annual vogue ball presented by The Bad Girls Club YYC.

Dickens Pub hosted this year’s ball for the voguing aficionados within the dance, fashion and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) communities and beyond.

Ball culture describes an underground LGBTQ subculture in which people “walk” (compete) for trophies and prizes at events known as balls.

Balls are held across North America and often host groups from “houses” where vogue culture is nurtured.

Houses are LGBTQ groups which band together under a “house mother” (sometimes a drag queen or transgender person) or “house father.” The houses compete against each other in balls.

This year’s categories were Icons on the Runway, Bizarre, Sex Sirens and Performance.

Special guest judge Danielle Polanco was flown in from New York City to determine the winners. Polanco, 29, an American dancer and choreographer, who has appeared in the Step Up movies and has choreographed for Beyoncé Knowles, Janet Jackson and Jennifer Lopez, and is a voguer under the House of Ninja.

Polanco is most known for being cast as the leading lady in Omarion’s music video Touch and for starring in Step Up and Step Up 2: The Streets as Missy Serrano.

Polanco also offered workshops on ball performance the next day at Pulse Studios.

“There were higher expectations to meet not only from our supporter and competitors coming but also from her [Polanco],” said Vernon Rubiano, a Bad Girl and the MC for the evening. “She made sure to tell Calgary’s vogue scene how to do it right going forward, which is exactly what we needed.”

The categories incorporate aspects of vogue culture that allow contestants to model, move and express themselves in an open environment.

Contestants dress as their favourite celebrity for Icons of the Runway, make their own costume from things around the house to create something inexplicable for Bizarre, present sex appeal with clothing optional for Sex Siren and dance and vogue for Performance.

Vogue culture is described as a subculture within the LGBTQ community. The ball of this particular measure is like combining the runways of fashion week and a beauty pageant and then adding a lot of ferocity and open expression.

“My hope for these events that we as the Bad Girls throw is that more and more people will continue to rebel and counteract what the general population thinks about gay culture,” said Rubiano. “There needs to be safer spaces for people like us to just exist without having to subscribe to what Hollywood now thinks is an acceptable gay.”

The vision of the eccentric collective known as the The Bad Girls Club YYC is “To encourage community engagement with arts and culture by developing education and appreciation initiatives that respond to community needs. [They] want to offer innovative ways for people to interact with art and culture and to foster learning and an appreciation of art and culture in our daily lives.”

The collective also strives to support other groups such as HOT MESS, a (straight-friendly) gay dance party that happens about once a month at a variety of local venues, and Velvet Cinema, a monthly pop-up movie night aimed at creating authentic experiences, through film, for the LGBTQ community, who are “making their big gay footprint in Calgary,” Rubiano says.

Kape Barako boasts strongest coffee

Kape Barako is located inside Deerfoot Mall. Here you can find hot beverages and goodies such as gulaman, taho, fishballs and kwek kwek (fried batter quail egg).
Kape Barako is located inside Deerfoot Mall. Here you can find hot beverages and goodies such as gulaman, taho, fishballs and kwek kwek (fried batter quail egg).
Kape Barako is located inside Deerfoot Mall. Here you can find hot beverages and goodies such as gulaman, taho, fishballs and kwek kwek (fried batter quail egg).

Opening shop in time to help Calgarians battle the winter cold, Kape Barako’s imported coffee promises customers it will deliver a caffeine kick that keeps your blood alive.

Grown in the volcanic soil of Batangas, the rich, pungent aroma of the coffee alone is enough to jolt awake the senses. The founder of Kape Barako, Carina Gallo describes the taste as a contrast of heaven and hell.

“It’s dark as the devil and sweet as an angel,” says Gallo. “The coffee is really strong, so you don’t need to drink a lot—just a small cup would be enough to give you energy for the day.”

‘Kape’ is the Tagalog word for ‘coffee’ and ‘barako’ gives the image of a young stud or tough guy. Put the two words together and you’ve got ‘strong coffee.’

“My father’s favourite type of coffee was kape barako,” Gallo recalls fondly. “Captain Decena was a simple guy, a sailor in the Visayas region back in the day. I started my business in memory of him.”

Eyeing expansion in the near future, Gallo plans on opening a restaurant that can offer a wider selection of Filipino cuisine.

“Because we’re located at the mall food court, we’re limited on what we can serve because of business licensing constraints,” Gallo explains. “But we still have a variety of Filipino favourites here like babinka, puto, sago at gulaman, taho, kwek kwek and steamed shomai in roasted seaweed.”

Whether you are looking for a bold caffeine boost or to satisfy your craving for tasty Filipino baked goods and snacks, stop by Kape Barako in Deerfoot Mall.

Kape Barako is also open for franchising opportunities. If any entrepreneurs are interested in investing in the company, you can contact Gallo at (403)474-0807.

Dean of Awesome Calgary challenges Filipinos to step outside of comfort zones

    Reg Tiangha at the Awesome Calgary “Meat-Filled” Zebra Piñata Party initiative inspired by a grant awarded by The Awesome Foundation - Boston.
    Reg Tiangha at the Awesome Calgary “Meat-Filled” Zebra Piñata Party initiative inspired by a grant awarded by The Awesome Foundation - Boston.
    Reg Tiangha at the Awesome Calgary “Meat-Filled” Zebra Piñata Party initiative inspired by a grant awarded by The Awesome Foundation – Boston.

    Born-and-raised Calgarian and self-proclaimed volunteer-aholic, Reg Tiangha’s love for Calgary shines through his involvement in countless local volunteer organizations. A passionate advocate for volunteerism, he urges Filipinos to step out of their comfort zone.

    “My mother couldn’t wrap her head around why anyone would want to work for free,” Tiangha jokes. “But the fact of the matter is that volunteering can open so many doors for people.”

    Stuck in a dead-end job, he found himself questioning if there was more to life post-grad than his work as a computer scientist.

    “My prime motivator was that I needed some kind of change in my life,” Tiangha says. “Through various volunteer opportunities, I now have great experience in social media, public relations and communications and event coordination.”

    His foray into the world of volunteering began in 2006 as a weekly blogger for the Calgary Herald to promote the Stampede and events and activities that happened at Stampede Park year-round.

    A few years later he joined the Stampede’s promotion committee during the rise of social media platforms. As a brand ambassador for the organization he attracted heavy-hitters in Calgary’s social media scene and helped kick-start social media programs for various Stampede volunteer committees.

    “I still volunteer with the Stampede today,” he says, continuing his work as a social media liaison for volunteer committees like the concessions and exhibits which is responsible for designing the program that awards “best of” food awards to varying categories for midway vendors.

    Outside of his Stampede volunteer commitments, Tiangha has kept busy as a blogger for Downtown Calgary, a brainstormer for grassroots public engagement activities for 3 Things for Calgary and an organizer for the Calgary Mini Maker Faire. He’s also the Dean of the local chapter of The Awesome Foundation.

    “How it works is that a $1,000 no-strings-attached micro grant is awarded to an idea every month, funded by trustees who put in $100 of their own money each month,” Tiangha explains.

    “I figured that it’d be cool if I could help enable someone else to bring their awesome idea to fruition.”

    Tiangha took over as Dean of Awesome Calgary when founder Lori Stewart stepped down.

    “I was able to organize some pretty cool events in our own right,” says Tiangha. “From a Valentine’s Day pink balloon bomb downtown, a Cardboard Fort Day and even a ‘Meat-Filled’ Zebra Pinata Party.”

    Besides making a positive impact on the community, volunteering promotes self-growth and development. It helps people diversify their skill set at no cost except for a few hours of time and gives an edge to job candidates.

    “It shows that they’re active in the community and that they’re mature enough to juggle other responsibilities, Tiangha points out. “Plus, relevant volunteer experience can help make up for any shortfalls that may appear in the work experience section of the resume.”

    Tiangha praises Filipinos in particular for their hardworking and positive work ethic which he believes would be an invaluable contribution to Calgary’s volunteer corps and help spread ethnic diversity.

    “Anyone I talk to that has dealt with a Filipino in a business capacity has had nothing but kind things to say,” he says. “To bring those qualities to the forefront, it’s important for more Filipinos to volunteer to show the city the value that we can bring to the community as a community of people ourselves.

    He rationalizes that the increased visibility of Filipinos volunteering in Calgary would ultimately help Filipinos who want to immigrate here or find work in the future. They would benefit from the reputation that the local Filipino community would have helped built and make Filipinos a desired commodity for any organization looking to recruit new people. “Plus, volunteering is fun and is a great way to meet new people, which is especially important if you’re new to the city and don’t know anyone who lives here yet,” Tiangha says.

    He sympathizes with the frustration newcomers feel when they first immigrate, looking to gain citizenship and sacrificing their happiness by taking on unfulfilling jobs to support themselves.

    “Volunteering in those circumstances could help improve their quality of life,” he says. “Especially if they can find an organization or mission that they could buy into where their work would be seen as valued and relevant.”

    If you are interested in getting your career in volunteering started, consider joining Awesome Foundation – Calgary for their re-launch as a volunteer or trustee at

    Filipinos bringing fiesta to Calgary

    Fiesta Filipino will be held September 5 at Canada Olympic Plaza.
    Fiesta Filipino will be held September 5 at Canada Olympic Plaza.
    Fiesta Filipino will be held September 5 at Canada Olympic Plaza.

    This fall, a new festival will be launched in Calgary to celebrate Filipino culture. The festival, called ‘Fiesta Filipino,’ will bring vendors, musicians and dancers together to feature the culture of the Filipino community in Calgary.

    Fiesta Filipino will be held at Canada Olympic Plaza on September 5 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The festival program will feature traditional Filipino dances and music from various regions in the Philippines. Local Filipinos will also perform dance and music from other genres.

    Filipino food and drink prepared by local businesses and individual vendors will be served at the event alongside the entertainment program. Visitors will be able to sample local specialties across the Philippines.

    Filipino crafts and merchandise will be sold from Filipino-owned local business owners.

    The Philippines comprises a large amount of cultural subsets and regional identities while also having a large and globalized diaspora. Fiesta Filipino organizers hope to bring together these elements of Filipino culture and bring awareness to the fact that Filipino culture is very diverse and multi-faceted.

    “I believe this festival will be a good way to bring Filipino people together without focusing on one region or religion of the Philippines,” says Robert Sison, the head of the Fiesta Filipino vendor committee.

    “We want to encompass the whole community and help people share and appreciate their Filipino heritage.”

    Filipinos constitute a large percentage of the visible minorities in Calgary, but there is yet to be a large-scale festival specifically featuring Filipino culture within the city. Fiesta Filipino hopes to fill this gap, especially among other cultural celebrations such as the Chinatown Street Festival or Expo Latino. Filipino culture has been displayed as parts of other local celebrations, such as GlobalFest. Fiesta Filipino hopes to spread awareness and appreciation of the contributions of the Filipino community in creating Canada’s multicultural identity.

    “Depending on the success of this year’s Fiesta Filipino, the hope is that it becomes an annual two-day event which draws not only Filipinos, but all Calgarians,” says Sison.

    As the Filipino community grows in Canada, other major Canadian cities such as Winnipeg, Vancouver and Toronto have also held Filipino cultural festivals in the past decade.

    Fiesta Filipino is currently still in its planning stages as vendors, artists and sponsors are contacted.


    Biggest Simbang Gabi in Calgary

    Kababayans from all quadrants of Calgary sing together as they celebrate the biggest Simbang Gabi in the city.
    Kababayans from all quadrants of Calgary sing together as they celebrate the biggest Simbang Gabi in the city.

    The most revered and favourite Christmas tradition of Catholic Filipinos is alive and well here in Calgary as proven by the enormous turnout at several of the special mass celebrations held across the city.

    In Calgary the first of the nine days of the simbang gabi was held at St. Albert the Great Parish on November 30 and turned out to be the biggest simbang gabi ever held in the city.

    Kababayans from all quadrants of the city braved the cold weather to celebrate and experience an amazing early simbang gabi for 2014. Many Filipinos came with their families and loved ones to feel the Christmas spirit and give thanks to God. Many also came with the hopes of fulfilling a tradition and completing all the simbang gabi masses.

    Gemma Bulan-Santos came to the mass with her whole family and was in awe of the Christmas carols sang by the choir and the festive atmosphere in the church.

    “Ang masasabi ko sa simbang gabi na ito ay sana nga mabuo ko dahil noong last na nag-simbang gabi sa Pilipinas ay nabuo naming mag-anak so kasama ko na ang husband ko sana mabuo naming,” she says. “Gusto naming maging maganda ang pamumuhay, maganda ang pangangatawan at sa aking mga anak laging malusog.”

    For Filipino-Canadian youths, celebrating simbang gabi is a way for them to keep in touch with their culture and their roots.

    James Nefulda, one of the youth volunteers during the mass, finds the simbang gabi brings the whole Filipino community together and other nationalities as well.

    “I think it’s cool,” he says. “People lose touch with their culture and it’s really great to see a lot of people kind of keep in touch with that and especially introducing it to their friends who aren’t Filipinos. I think that’s the one thing for me; the most exciting thing for me—to see people just to be enthusiastic and not forget where they came from.”

    Simbang gabi organizer Mar Aquino said that the large turnout would not have happened without the Lord’s guidance and the passionate and hard work of so many volunteers.

    “Hindi namin ine-expect ito na ganito ang mangyayari,” Aquino says. “Ineexpect lang talaga namin mga 600 ganoon. Pero thank you kay Lord siya ang nagdala lahat dito at napuno, punong-puno ang simbahan, for the first time ever na nangyari dito sa St. Albert the Great Parish. Kaya
    nagpapasalamat ako sa mga committee sa simbang gabi dito sa St. Albert the Great. Salamat kay Rey, na siyang aming main chairman at kay Bernard, aming vice chairman at si Adele ang aming secretary at sa bumubuo ng simbang gabi dito sa St. Albert the Great.”

    Father Badiola and Father Benedicto, who officiated the mass congratulated everybody for the successful turnout of people.

    “Mabuti ng pumunta kasi mas malaki ang grupo ng Pilipino na ipatunay nato na tayo pala ay may paniniwala sa Diyos,” says Badiola. “Hindi lang tayo kailangang pabayaan kasi kung tayo ay pababayaan lalo na ng simbahan, mawawala ang simbahan dito dahil kahit pumunta ka kahit saan mayroon mga Pilipino na nagsisilbi sa simbahan.”

    Filipina victim in Northeast sex assault

    Suspects of sex assault, Correy and Cody Manyshots will be back in court December 10.
    Suspects of sex assault, Correy and Cody Manyshots will be back in court December 10.

    Family, friends and members of the community are rallying around a 17-year-old Filipina who was the victim of a brutal sexual assault last month.

    On November 14 waiting at a Taradale bus stop, a teenage girl was attacked and dragged to a nearby alley where she was sexually assaulted.

    The teen was then dragged to a Martindale home, where she was repeatedly sexually assaulted.

    The girl was able to escape the next morning at around 8 a.m. and get to family members, who took her to the police.

    Calgary Police Services Sergeant Melanie Oncescu says the victim was treated in hospital and released and is in the care of her family.

    “She’s being cared for,” Oncescu said.

    Police are also offering their support to the girl, Onsescu says.

    “Obviously, in a circumstance like this, this is a very traumatic incident,” she says. “We will make sure she has supports in place to deal with this.”

    Oncescu says this is a particularly troubling case.

    “This case is very disturbing in the sense a young girl has been attacked and these people were unknown to her,” she says. “Anytime a situation like this occurs, it is very traumatic.”

    The victim was able to lead police to the house where she was assaulted and the next day they executed a warrant on the home and took three men into custody for questioning.

    Police arrested brothers Corey George Manyshots, 25, and Cody George Manyshots, 21, and charged them with sexual assault causing bodily
    harm, assault causing bodily harm, kidnapping, uttering threats and robbery.

    Corey and Cody Manyshots have not had a bail hearing and remain in custody.
    They will be back in court December 10.

    On November 21 hundreds of people met at the Taradale bus stop where the girl was snatched to hold a vigil and show their support for the girl and her family.

    “I was in shock because I grew up in this community — so obviously we felt like we were safe in that,” says university student Alberose Landingin.
    “We were always so secured, but hearing that also she is from the community and the people that hurt her was in the community, I was really shocked and felt that as if we weren’t safe anymore. I was ultimately shocked and really sad for her and her family and that the reason why we came here is to support her.”

    Vigil organizer and Taradale community association president Khalil Karbani
    says it is amazing this young girl was able to escape.

    “For one thing, I admire very much is the courage of the victim,” says Karbani. “Had she not escaped, situations could have been different. Now she is a survivor and also the perpetrators are in custody. And that’s due to her
    courage and her braveness.”

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