By Quay Evano
Exactly a year after Filipino community leaders petitioned to the Alberta government for a Philippine Heritage Month for the province, the provincial government have proclaimed June as Philippine Heritage Month. The proclamation was done in several events in Edmonton and Calgary during the first days of June which was attended by Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman and other local politicians. She also made the proclamation at a session at the Edmonton Federal Building on June 4.
A part of the declaration states that “the Province of Alberta recognizes the significant contribution of Filipino-Canadians in Alberta to the social, economic, cultural and historical richness of the Province of Alberta” and that “the proclamation of Philippine Heritage Month gives Albertans the opportunity to celebrate the contributions of Filipino-Canadians in Alberta, and to honour Philippine Independence as well as the historic struggles of Filipinos.”
Filipino community leaders from all over Alberta signed the first petition at last year’s Philippine Independence Day celebration in Wetaskiwin with then Consul General Julius Torres and Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman. Around 3,000 signatures were gathered and the final petition was then drafted and submitted to the Alberta Government this March.
Alberta Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman said that it was an honor to finally do this for the Filipino community. She noted, “We did a proclamation so that each and every year into the future, June will be Philippine Heritage Month in Alberta. And really it is a recognition of all the work that Filipino-Canadian Albertans have done over many years but also a signal to the youth to say ‘Hey, one day you are going to organize this month and help us celebrate, so an opportunity to stay connected and celebrate Filipino heritage and the contributions of so many Filipinos to the fabric of Alberta. We need to keep working with you to ensure your areas of focus are clearer and that we are able to give direction to the government on how to move forward around them.”
Newly-appointed Philippine Consul General for Alberta and Saskatchewan Gilberto Asuque, who attended the event, said, “Napaka-importanteng kaarawan ito dahil Hunyo pa at National Day natin iyan tuwing June 12, kaya ito ay isang pagkakataon na maipakita natin sa buong Alberta at Saskatchewan ang ating kultura bilang Pilipino at ano ang maibabahagi natin sa Canada, sa Alberta at Saskatchewan para sa ikakaunlad ng dalawang probinsiya. Ang trabaho ngayon sa bawat Pilipino dito sa Alberta ay ipaalam na mayroon na tayong isang buwan na para lamang sa Pilipino dito sa Alberta. Maganda itong nagawa ng mga pa pagpulong ng mga pinuno ng iba’t ibang asosasyon na magbigay ng kanilang kontribusyon at mga palaisipan kung papaano natin gagawan ng iba’t ibang programa ang Philippine Heritage Month ay maging isang selebrasyon dapat nating ipagmalaki bilang isang komunidad.”
For Vangie Caoile, Mabuhay Calgary publisher and Chairperson of the Philippine Festival Executive Council of Alberta, this proclamation is the realization of all the tireless efforts of dozens and dozens of Filipino community leaders who worked hard on this project. “It’s a long time dream that finally nakita mo iyong realization ng matagal mo nang pinangarap. Na ang dati kasi ang pakiramdam mo nandito ka, nakikita tayo sa lahat ng sulok ng province na ito pero parang hindi tayo nakikita, hindi tayo naririnig. And for the first time pinakita sa atin na we matter. I think that’s the big significance, the biggest impact sa lahat, that we finally found our niche in this province, that we matter and that we are recognized.”
The historic occassion was made more momentous as the announcement was made at the first-ever Filipino Leaders of Alberta Conference held at the Blackfoot Hotel, which was attended by close to 200 hundred Filipino leaders from all over the province. Lucernia Ortiz, a member of the Council of Edmonton Filipino Associations (CEFA) said, “Matagal nang nandidito ang mga Pilipino sa Alberta since the mid 1960s. Pero kalat kalat kami and we live in our own silos. Pero ngayon we had an opportunity to bring Filipino leaders in one gathering and to really celebrate the Philippine Heritage Month so ito na siguro iyong galvanizing force para maging united ang mga Filipinos.”
Prima Anderson, one of the heads of the organizing committee for the proclamation, believed from the start that the community can be united and make this dream come true. “Ito po ay dahil sa pagtulong ng bawat organisasyon o indibuwal dito po sa probinsiya ng Alberta and with regards to how do we celebrate this distinct month? Alam kong marami na pong nagpe-prepare and it will be something that will signify something what our culture really is,” she said.
The Filipino communities all over Alberta are now not only preparing for Philippine Independence Day festivities but are also preparing for months-long activities to start celebrating Philippine Heritage Month since celebrations will continue until September for the Fiesta Filipino event in Calgary.