Filipino language curriculum being developed for Alberta schools


    By Quay Evano

    The Alberta government announced the development of a K-12 Filipino language and culture curriculum during a meeting with Premier Rachel Notley and Filipino community leaders on Feb. 1 in Calgary.

    “The Filipino community has brought essential skills to our workforce and added so much to our social fabric,” Notley says. “Creating a K-12 Filipino language and culture curriculum will ensure this vibrant community can continue to grow.”

    Education Minister David Eggen says adding languages to Alberta’s school curriculum can have positive spin-offs.

    “Providing learning opportunities for students in a variety of language programs helps youth maintain their heritage, strengthen their cultural identity and build language and literacy skills,” Eggen says. “Strengthening language programs based on local need and demand can be an effective tool in addressing racism. In fact, this is one of the ways we’re acting on the feedback we heard, and commitments we made, in our government’s anti-racism consultations and report.”

    Filipino community leaders lobbied for the inclusion of the Filipino language and culture in the Alberta school program.

    Last year, the Alberta government declared June Philippine Heritage Month after receiving a petition signed by Filipinos from all over the province.

    At present, there are around 170,000 people of Filipino heritage in Alberta and is considered the largest and fastest-growing community in the province.

    Filipino culture and language teacher, Dolly Castillo, says this move by the government is another historic gift by the Alberta leaders to the Filipino-Canadian community.

    “This strongly demonstrates the respect for a culture’s diversity and uniqueness through its language,” she says. “Programs like this in still pride in students and their heritage and results in active and engaged citizens.”

    The Philippine Consulate in Calgary welcomes the Alberta government’s announcement.

    “That the expansion of the teaching of the Filipino curriculum at Alberta schools would open many opportunities to generate a deeper involvement of the Filipino community and ensure that generations of young Filipinos will continue to learn and appreciate their rich culture and unique identity,” the consulate stated. “This move will be a source of pride to the Filipino community. It will inspire them to become more productive and responsible members of the Alberta community. The Philippine Consulate General in Calgary encourages the Filipino community across Alberta to actively engage the local authorities regarding the introduction next year of the K-12 Filipino curriculum within the school districts where there are large Filipino student populations.”

    Since 1996 the Philippine Cultural Center Foundation has been teaching Filipino language and culture in Calgary.

    Classes are held Sundays from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

    According to the group’s website, “The PCCF, together with Alberta Education, Calgary Catholic School Board, Edmonton Catholic School Board, and Filipino Canadian Saranay Association of Edmonton and have developed a three- year curriculum that allows students to learn Filipino language and culture.

    Accredited Filipino language and courses are being offered to high school students as optional subjects. Non-accredited students are grouped according to age and knowledge of the Filipino language. Instruction time depends on the age level. An additional adult class is also provided for interested mature students.



    Filipino-Canadian Accepts NDP Nomination for Calgary-East

    Cesar Cala

    By Adrian Dayrit

    A Filipino Calgarian will be running for the New Democratic Party (NDP) in the upcoming Alberta election.

    Cesar Cala, a long-time resident of Calgary has accepted the nomination from the NDP to run for Calgary-East.

    It is currently held by independent Robyn Luff who was removed from the NDP caucus in November 2018.

    Calgary-East includes the following neighbourhoods: Abbeydale, Applewood, Penbrooke Meadows, Erin Woods, Forest Heights, Forest Lawn, Southview, and East Dover.

    “I want to support Calgary-East become a greater place to live, learn, raise a family, make a living and be part of a community” says Cala about his campaign focus.

    Cesar Cala moved to Calgary from the Philippines with his wife in 1996 and will be the first Filipino-Canadian to be an official candidate for MLA in Calgary and Southern Alberta.

    This nomination comes following the announcement by the provincial government to enact plans to add Filipino language and culture curriculum in K-12 schools.

    According to the provincial government “there are more than 170,000 people of Filipino heritage in Alberta” and is the “fastest growing ethno-cultural community in the province.”

    Cala co-founded several community-serving organizations.

    This is the first time he will be running for political office.

    “This decision did not come lightly nor quickly, but it was a decision that I cannot ignore,” he says. “I feel strongly that the next provincial election will set the path for our province for years, if not generations, to come. Who will win and form the next government is important but equally important is what will be the tone and the discourse of the election.”

    Cala has received several awards for his dedication to his community including the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award and Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for Unsung Heroes.

    “I am passionate about building welcoming and safe neighbourhoods and communities, free from racism and discrimination,” he says. “I want to see Filipino-Canadians be proud of our heritage, contributing to the province’s future and represented in the province’s civic and political leadership.”

    The election date will be set between March 1 and May 31. This will be the first election held after the Alberta NDP defeated the Progressive Conservative government in 2015.


    Fiesta Filipino meets Holiday Needs


    Over $23,000 was raised on December 12 by the organizers and volunteers of Fiesta Filipino’s Paskong Damayan telethon fundraiser event. Broadcasting live on the Fiesta Filipino Facebook, performers and local politicians dialed in for four hours of entertainment while volunteers made calls to reach a $25,000 goal.

    The funds raised during the weekend will be used to help those suffering internationally and locally during the holiday season.

    Internationally, a portion of the proceeds will be dedicated to relief efforts to support those affected by last November’s super typhoons.

    While lLocally, the funds raised will be used to help a number of Filipino newcomers who are struggling this holiday season.

    “We’ve worked with the Centre of Newcomers to identify more than 50 families who could use some support this pandemic holiday season,” says Michael Juarez, Fiesta Filipino Paskong Damayan host. “With this money, we can create some hampers with Filipino food and supplies for these families.”

    During Christmas week, volunteers from Fiesta Filipino will work within COVID restrictions to make sure these Filipino hampers reach those who could use some holiday cheer.

    Bibingka Avocado a la Mode with Salted Caramel Drizzle and Smoked Bacon Toppings

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year again! With the kids jingle belling, hearts will be glowing, marshmallow roasting, there’ll be parties hosting, it’s the happiest season of all…..hold up this sounds like a Christmas carol, ha ha.

    One of my favorite things to do during the holiday is to entertain family and friends. I love, watching them enjoy great food, wine and conversation. It’s what memories are made of. We all live a very busy, hectic lives and sometimes the thought of cooking could be daunting.

    Cooking for the holidays doesn’t have to be complicated or stressful. Just focus on the seasonal and the freshest ingredients. Be innovative this season, make clever use of what you have in your pantry (this is a good way of getting rid of stuff) to create a memorable meal.



    • 1 cup rice flour
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 3 tablespoons butter
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 cup coconut milk
    • 1/4 cup fresh milk
    • 1 piece salted duck egg, sliced
    • 1/2 cup cheese, grated
    • 3 pieces raw eggs
    • Pre-cut banana leaf


    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
    2. Combine rice flour, baking powder, and salt then mix well. Set aside.
    3. Cream butter then gradually put in sugar while whisking.
    4. Add the eggs then whisk until every ingredient is well incorporated.
    5. Gradually add the rice flour, salt, and baking powder mixture then continue mixing.
    6. Pour in coconut milk and fresh milk then whisk some more for 1 to 2 minutes.
    7. Arrange the pre-cut banana leaf on a cake pan or baking pan.
    8. Pour the mixture into the pan.
    9. Bake for 15 minutes.
    10. Remove from the oven then top with sliced salted egg and grated cheese (do not turn the oven off).
    11. Put back in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the color of the top turn medium brown.
    12. Remove from the oven and let cool.



    • 2 large avocados
    • 1 teaspoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
    • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
    • 2 cups heavy cream


    1. Heavy cream and condensed milk need to be very cold.
    2. Make sure to chill the bowl and the beaters in the freezer for about 20 to 30 minutes as well.
    3. Start beating the cream at low speed to build smaller bubbles for a stable foam. When the mixture begins to thicken, increase the speed to medium, and continue to beat until you reach stiff peaks.
    4. Add the blended avocados to the whipped cream in thirds and fold in gently with a flexible spatula to prevent the whipped cream from deflating.
    5. Put it on a plastic or metal ice cream container & freeze the ice cream for at least 6-8 hours.



    • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
    • 6 tablespoons (90g) salted butter, room temperature cut up into 6 pieces
    • 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream, at room temperature
    • 1 teaspoon salt


    1. Heat granulated sugar in a medium heavy-duty saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a high heat resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a thick brown, amber-colored liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn.

    2. Once sugar is completely melted, immediately stir in the butter until melted and combined. Be careful in this step because the caramel will bubble rapidly when the butter is added. If you notice the butter separating or if the sugar clumps up, remove the pan from heat and vigorously whisk to combine it again. (If you’re nervous about the splatter, wear kitchen gloves. Keep whisking until it comes back together, even if it takes 3-4 minutes. It will eventually stop– just keep whisking. Return to heat when it’s combined again.)

    3. After the butter has melted and combined with the caramelized sugar, cook for 2 minutes without stirring. Very slowly stir in a half cup of heavy cream. Since the heavy cream is colder than the hot caramel, the mixture will rapidly bubble when added. After all the heavy cream has been added, stop stirring and allow to boil for 1 minute. It will rise in the pan as it boils.

    4. Remove from heat and stir in the salt. Allow to slightly cool down before using. Caramel thickens as it cools.



    Chef Aries is currently mastering his craft at Pauls Pizza Steakhouse while also working on his music by recording and covering songs of different genres on the side.

    Family Expectations Matter for Filipinos

    Portrait of big Asian family with two children posing for photo at home, all smiling happily looking at camera

    Filipinos retain their Oriental and collectivist worldview, despite the 500 years of Western influence. They value close family ties, social acceptance, smooth interpersonal relationships, and deference for older persons. The Filipino indigenous values like utang na loob (inner debt), pagmamalasakit (sacrifice), pakikisama  (getting along with others), pamilya muna (family first), and filial piety have anthropological and philosophical beginnings. Filipinos use these traits to understand and describe persons and their behaviour.  Utang na loob  (inner-debt) is a Filipino cultural trait related to the Chinese filial piety and the Japanese Giri and Gimu (duty and obligation).   It is reciprocity, in essence, contrasting the Western notion of individualism.

    Filipino adults expect children to care for and support their parents, owing to utang na loob, value-based expectation.  Parents provide lifetime support to their children; in return, they provide respect and care for parents or seniors in the family. The normative trait of utang na loob blends well with filial piety or the dutiful act of care and respect for parents and the elderly. Filial piety is also a form of giving back, expressing gratitude, and an obligation to return kindness to parents who have gone through pagmamalasakit (sacrifice) for children's well-being. It is more than just giving material things as it denotes a lifetime obligation. It morally compels a person to pay back 'the favour received in many different ways’ – a cultural trait entrenched in Filipino families and communities.

    The obligation to care for parents is an essential concept of filial piety. Filipinos share this same value and tradition with the Chinese and the Japanese. Many Filipinos may not know the philosopher Confucius, yet adhere to the Confucian moral compass of caring for parents and the elderly. 

    From a Judeo-Christian perspective, Filipinos value caring for their parents because God commands it so. Honouring and caring for one's parents is a commandment inscribed in Exodus 20: 12 to ― honour the father and your mother so that you have a long life in the land that Yahweh your God has given to you (Jones, 1966, p.102). 

    At an early age, parents and grandparents teach their children respect for elders and those in authority. In return, children must obey and be polite to parents and grandparents, or bear the brunt of gaba or curse for life. Those who deprive their obligation or maltreat their parents raise the ire of their clan, neighbourhood, barrio (village), or friends. 

    Providing support to one's family is a social expectation. Apart from the parents, everyone must help. Traditionally, the eldest children bear the task of helping the family. They get educated first so they can help their parents in providing support for their siblings. If they fail to perform their tasks, their younger sisters or brothers assume the obligation of care. The hierarchy moves on to the youngest, should none among the elder siblings assumed the responsibility. 

    Without reference to family, filial piety is incomprehensible. Family is the seedbed of the values of honouring and caring for parents and the elderly in the family. It is the locus of faith where children learn to revere God and respect those in authority in the family, including older brothers and sisters. Giving precedence to the value of family centrism assures one of support, care, and protection. 

    Filipinos are agile in embracing the local culture and quickly adapting to new social milieu or norms overseas.  Yet, they maintain a Filipino friends network or engage in Filipino groups to re-live their traditions and values. In a typical first-generation Filipino home abroad, the family-based traditions and values like familia muna, utang na loob, pagmamalasakit, and filial piety thrive. They also maintain their sense of connection back home through Padala boxes  (gift boxes for kin), remittances, and frequent social media contacts.   One can think of it as a proverbial umbilical cord that connects overseas Filipino to their kin back home.

    Conversely, family centrism and filial piety are among the Filipino values challenged in a society where individualism persists. Many are facing ambivalence of identity and values.  When children insist on living independently, Filipino parents would wish them to stay.  Others are torn apart between letting go of their children and keeping them at home.  For some who now reside in seniors home, the seeming disbelief in their children who have kept them in institutionalized care remains baffled with the thought.

    Will family centrism and family expectations persist among second-generation Filipinos overseas? 

    A study in transnational struggles among children of Filipino immigrants in North America reaffirmed the issues of family centrism and expectations. While the family is key to their identity, it is also their main struggle as second-generation Filipinos. 

    Integration and acculturation resulted in a hybrid identity for second-generation children in the USA and Canada. First-generation immigrant parents brushed aside cultural hybridity and insisted on their children to live like Filipinos even if they were in America (Wolf, 1997). In Canada, studies have shown that second-generation youth face cultural conflicts negotiating the expectations of their ethnic heritage and broader Canadian norms (Lalonde & Ciguére, 2008). This conflict raised the issues around acceptance and respect from peers and community (Hébert & Alama, 2008).  Second-generation Filipinos live in two conflicting worlds:  the world of their parents and that of their peers. But whether second-generation Filipinos or the grandchildren of sponsored Filipino seniors will persist in adhering to the values of family centrism and filial piety is a question of interest. With the integration of the second-generation Filipinos with the mainstream culture, the unfolding of a hybrid identity and values is inevitable, which could challenge or transform the Filipino tenets of family centrism and filial piety.

    Family expectations still matter, especially for first-generation Filipinos living overseas.  The centrality of family in Filipino life reinforces the obligation to provide care and support for the family member, especially the parents. Family-centrism is where identity and future life revolve around the family needs -- pamilya muna  (family first). Likewise, filial piety and the value of supporting one's family does not have a definite end. It lingers on for as long as parents and kin need help.

    Dr. Ernie Alama completed his Doctorate of Philosophy in the Graduate Division of Educational Research, University of Calgary. He is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Education at St. Mary’s University - Calgary.  Dr. Alama is an educator, a researcher, a businessman, a community development worker, and a Filipino immigrant who is passionate about engaging in mental health and development work for Filipinos and Filipino-Canadians.  

    The First Woman US Vice President: What Kamala Harris Means to Me

    Even with the political rhetoric amidst the US elections result still in a hodgepodge, I am celebrating the fact that a woman of color and daughter of 20th-century immigrants (her mother was from India and her father from Jamaica) will be sworn-in as the Vice President of the most powerful country in the world. A feeling of joy, hope, and pride. It has taken centuries of struggle, pain, and hardship for many to get to this level of accomplishment.

    Kamala Harris has spent her life breaking through glass ceilings and accumulating numerous “firsts” under her belt. She was the first female district attorney of San Francisco, the first female attorney general of California, the first Indian-American in the US Senate, the first Indian-American candidate of a major party to run for vice-president. Soon she will become the first black female vice-president. Harris has a Canadian connection, too. She lived in Montreal between the ages of 12 and 17 because her mother worked there. She attended a French-speaking primary school, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, and then went to Westmount High School in Westmount, Quebec, graduating in 1981.  

    One of the main issues of being “first” is that you cannot avoid being confined to the sort of boxes that society defines you to become.  An article in The Guardian (Nov. 8, 2020) quoted her saying to the Washington Post last year, “When I first ran for office that was one of the things that I struggled with, which is that you are forced through that process to define yourself in a way that you fit neatly into the compartment that other people have created. I am who I am … You might need to figure it out, but I’m fine with it.” 

    As an immigrant myself, these words resonate with me to the core. This is not about fitting into societal norms, per se. It is about the part of the story that every immigrant has struggled or continues to struggle to redefine themselves in a country or community where many expectations are fundamentally different from their own. Harris occupying the second-in-command position in a country as powerful as America should serve as an inspiration that regardless of your color, ethnicity, or gender,  you can become a voice towards redefining societal views and beliefs to create better economic, social, and political opportunities for immigrants and those of immigrant descent, and contribute towards stronger interracial solidarity. So for me, Harris’ biracial heritage represents a history of Asians in North America that is beginning to get noticed and talked about. While the dominant narrative around Asians in North America has to do with their “abilities to approximate whiteness in regards to their education levels and incomes,” Harris offers a different slant: that is how she could use her activist background to be “a powerful symbol and voice for progressive Asian Americans” and tackle issues of systemic racism. My hope is that she will be a forefront advocate who could pass genuine reforms toward the healing of a deeply divided nation.

    As she moves into one of the highest political offices, the question is not just one of being happy to see a woman of color in a leadership role. On a more practical note and as a Canadian, it is important for me to know what and how Harris will use her power to do, and to be willing to influence the US President on issues that are important to Canada - energy, climate change, trade relations (pipelines, steel, aluminum, agriculture, and forestry products), immigration policy, trade disputes with China, and most importantly how our countries work meaningfully together in the fight against Covid-19. While reality tells us that many Canadian interests do not necessarily align with America’s, a Biden-Harris administration holds the promise that Canada could be treated with more respect and care, even if some underlying disagreements remain. 
    The door that was opened for Harris is one she must be willing to keep open for others to see whether she could be the kind of empathetic leader we all hope for her to be. For me and many others, it is important that America lives up to its narrative about being the land of opportunity by reinforcing social safety nets so that in the aftermath of Covid-19, America will not only recover but also finally become the place it has always aspired to be for all communities. And that is, hopefully, for the entire world to know and learn from. 

    Jay-Ann is a Project/Program Manager by profession who finds joy in writing.  An amateur blogger, a Kdrama fanatic, and hiking buddy to my husband of 20+ years. I hope to influence people through my writing so they, too, can find their joy – a deep-rooted and inspired happiness. I also enjoy landscape photography. Find me and connect:
    Instagram: @unni_jaynna


    Learning continues

    Male and female students wear masks and stand in front of the university.

    Education is one sector of human endeavors hit hard by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Methods of learning for primary school and higher-level students have been redefined. Even those who finished formal education years ago have been impacted due to job losses and remodeling of business practices.

    The emergence of vaccines holds hope for a return to normalcy. Pundits and social scientists however are nearly unanimous in predicting that a new normal will emerge after the pandemic.

    This means that learned skills and educational degrees suited to the pre-pandemic occupations need to be upgraded and made more relevant to the new work environment.

    Comes Canada Advantage (CA🍁) a company whose vision is to create a community of empowered individuals through education by building bridges between local and international students, designated learning institutions, and potential employers for lifelong learning and professional growth. Established in 2019, this Calgary-based venture originally targeting International students aiming to study in Canada had to adapt to the curtailment of air travel and the mandates of social distancing in order to survive.

    Survive it did, even posting more than modest growth after one year of operations by focusing on Canada-based learners in a work from home and Business retrenchment milieu.

    Starting with less than 10 Independent Education Advisors (IEA) and 3 Partner Academic Institutions (PAI) mostly in Alberta. CA🍁 now has 80 IEAs and 12 designated PAIs across Canada. To date, CA🍁 has processed over 500 student applications, and enrolled over 300 students.

    Even better news is that it has set-up operations in British Columbia with partners in Vancouver. Thus, despite restrictions on Christmas festivities and gatherings CA🍁 its students and partners have reasons to celebrate. Happy holidays and happy learning everyone.

    About the Author

    Ambassador Julius Torres retired as a Philippine diplomat in 2019 after 39 years of distinguished service and now leads the international operations of Canada Advantage. 

    Everyday Activities that can Endanger Your Personal Information Online

    Hispanic woman using a digital tablet

    Public and private organizations collect and publish data containing information about individuals. These data are analyzed to project market trends, implement efficient business operations, and create informed decisions in the allocation of resources in both governmental and non-governmental projects. On March 27, 2016, the website of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) of the Philippines was defaced and hacked. The breach also included the voter registration database. The whole database was made available by hackers online. The information that were leaked included: full names of the voters, addresses, passport identification numbers, and biometrics information such as fingerprints. Personal data breaches have not only been a concern for the Philippine government but also for private organizations and individual accounts as well. On September 22, 2016, Yahoo released a press statement validating the rumours regarding a data breach in Yahoo Mail in 2014. The data stolen may have included complete names, email addresses, telephone numbers, banking information, and credit card data. 

    In Alberta, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) is in place to ensure the protection of personal information by setting rules for data collection and release by public organizations. On the other hand, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) governs private organizations. Being aware of the laws and policies in places protecting your personal information is a start. But being careful of your day to day activities is the most effective way of keeping your personal information from people who would want to exploit it. Here are some of the things you should be careful of: 


    Being Careless of Your Personal Contact Information

    According to Norton, an internet security service provider, a hacker can contact a service provider for a transfer of service. Hackers try to acquire other personal data such as a photo of an ID and at least the last four digits of a social number. They also use personal information that can be easily searched online, such as the victim's birth date, home address, or hobbies. They use this information to convince service providers of their identity. With access to your phone number, hackers can easily reset the passwords of your online accounts linked to it. To avoid this, keep your mobile numbers private and be aware of how your service provider protects access to your account. Another good practice is to avoid answering calls from unknown numbers. 


    Buying from Unknown Online Sellers

    Online scammers would sell items online cheaply to get your banking information. The first transaction would go smoothly. You would receive the product as advertised, encouraging you to purchase more from the seller or think that they are a legitimate business. Unknowing customers who do not check their credit card transactions regularly are the most vulnerable in this situation. These scammers would then start by using your bank information to purchase other items online with negligible amounts. A few dollars might seem to be harmless to an individual. But hackers do these with multiple accounts at the same time, accumulating thousands of dollars from unknowing people. When doing online transactions, make sure that you are buying from reputable retailers. Check online reviews and if the seller is legally registered. When using social media marketplaces, do not disclose sensitive banking information. 


    Clicking Links Carelessly

    You may have received emails with links directing you to fill out your user name and password. Then there are instances where the webpage seems to be genuine enough to believe. But there is a chance that these are just fake webpages that intend to get your login information. This type of exploit is known as phishing. So before clicking links, make sure that they are from a credible source. It is also a good idea to check if the web address of the webpage you are viewing has an (https) on it. A webpage with HTTPS or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure means that the webpage is encrypted. Other than phishing, clicking links recklessly can also leave you vulnerable to malware and adware that can expose you to security risks. 

    The ease of access to information can be as effective and efficient as it is vulnerable and susceptible to a data breach. Risks and security threats should not scare people. They should serve as a reminder that for every convenience technology offers, there would always be people who would take advantage of it. 




    Ronald is a marketing communication specialist and a TEFL certified online educator. He enjoys reading novels and writing as a freelancer. He has an undergraduate degree in Organizational Communication and a master’s degree in Marketing Communication. He has also worked in the academe as a lecturer and consultant in the fields of Marketing and Communication Studies.

    Mano Po: Why would it matter?

    Mano Po combines the Spanish word "mano" (hand) and the Tagalog word "po" ( to mean respect).  Joining both words means "your hand, please." It is a Filipino social decorum associated with good manners and founded in the ethical norm.  Filipinos use Mano Po to greet someone with respect, especially when talking or meeting an older person, someone in authority, or somebody occupying a respectable position in society.  When visiting a Filipino family for the first time, a simple Mano Po can make a difference.  It changes the household's perception of a guest. It signals a gesture of politeness and bridges filial affinity with the family.

    The Mano Po tradition predates the colonial era. The neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia use the term salam or salim to greet or show respect to someone.  Japan expresses salutation and respect through Ojigi or bowing one's head.  In the Philippines, Mano Po is a simple rite that combines the bowing of one's head, the utterance of mano po, and taking the elder's hand and placing it gently on the forehead.  It is not just to mean greeting and respect, but also to seek a blessing from a respected figure in the family, household, or community.   Mano Po is a rite of passage toward social acceptance, cloaked in admiration toward a young or younger person as being polite and respectful.

    Back in the days, I grew up in a place where Mano Po was part of life's rhythm and a religious ritual.  The clanging of the church bells at six o'clock in the evening signalled everyone to pause, bow their heads, or come together, to recite the Angelus prayer or oracion.  After the oracion, children were to take the hands of their parents, uncles and aunts, grandparents, or elders in the family, who will then say their blessings "kaawa-an ka ng Dios" (God bless you). It is also a tradition for children and grandchildren to give presents or seek blessings from grandparents or elders in the household at Christmas time.  Parents urge their little ones to take the hands of grandparents or godparents and say, Mano Po

    Does Mano Po remain a widely practiced tradition?  It almost begs to ask the question, knowing that it is a Filipino tradition. Nonetheless, I conducted a quick survey with my Filipino network in the Philippines and Canada using social media to benefit any doubt.  The survey had only two questions.  First, it asked if Mano Po remains widely practiced in households.  Of the 110 responses, 94% claimed that it remains a tradition. Only 6% suggested otherwise. Second, the survey asked participants regarding the frequency of practice of Mano Po in the homes. Responses varied significantly. About 38% claimed that families observed it daily, while 22% do it sometimes.   Forty percent of participants suggested that they still observed Mano Po in the homes but would instead do it as needed.  The data suggests that the tradition is needed in some situations but are not necessarily observed widely in households.

    Of the 110 responses, 52 came from Filipino residents of Canada.  While most agreed that Filipino-Canadians still practice the tradition, about 87% claimed that it has evolved into similar gestures that still demonstrate love and respect for parents or the elderly in the family.  Some examples cited were kissing the forehead, beso-beso (cheek-to-cheek kiss), hugging, or simple greetings like magandang gabi po (good evening). About 15% were more cautious about continuing the tradition amidst the COVID-19 pandemic that demands social distancing.

    The small survey sample does not represent all Filipino residents in Canada or Canadians of Filipino descent.  However, whether Filipino-Canadians widely practice the Mano Po is a study of interest to understand how it sustains the Filipino version of filial piety. Moreover, the findings open up possible research interests around the living up of Filipino traditions overseas.

    Why would Mano Po matter?   Mano Po is grounded in the Philosophy of Filial Piety. Filipinos have tremendous respect for their elders, anchored in love for parents.  The term filial piety or honouring the elders in the family has its roots in the familial philosophy that dates back to the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius.  It melded well with the Filipino value of close family ties.  Later, however, it came to be "institutionalized." It became part of the Christian moral teaching, "honouring your mother and father" upon the introduction of Christianity in the Philippines. 

    A study on The Experience of Sponsored Filipino Seniors in Providing Support to Immigrant Families in Canada cited that Filipino parents tend to provide lifetime support to their children (Alama, 2009). In return, the children are to exercise filial piety, especially when their parents grow older. It is both a moral expectation of Filipino parents and a moral obligation of children or family members to respect, care for, and provide unconditional support to the elders in the family.

    Filial piety is so entrenched in the Filipino identity.  It extends to others outside the home. Unsurprisingly, Filipinos working overseas as caregivers or frontline health workers have been admired for their compassion and quality of service for the vulnerable, particularly seniors in care. Caring for the elderly is in the psyche of and endowed to Filipinos.

    Culture and values define our identity.  Mano Po is one of the identity characterizations of our race.  It remains a uniquely Filipino identity over several generations that elevates elders' roles in the family.  It is a pedagogy that teaches children to honour and value parents and elders in the community. It anchors in love and respect for the elders – one among the positive values of our lahi (race).  While its form may evolve as it constantly dialogues with the host culture or the complementing values in the new home, its essence will always remain in the hearts of Filipinos living overseas. 

    The continued observance of the Mano Po in the household offers the opportunity to teach children compassion and respect for parents and elders beyond the "borders" of Filipino households and communities.


    Alama, E. Z. (2009). The Experience of Sponsored Filipino Seniors in Providing Support to Immigrant Families in Canada: A Grounded Theory Inquiry. University of Calgary, Calgary, AB. doi:10.11575/PRISM/22140

    Dr. Ernie Alama completed his Doctorate of Philosophy in the Graduate Division of Educational Research, University of Calgary. He is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Education at St. Mary’s University - Calgary.  Dr. Alama is an educator, a researcher, a businessman, a community development worker, and a Filipino immigrant who is passionate about engaging in mental health and development work for Filipinos and Filipino-Canadians.  

    Hundreds Join Stem Cell Registry in Effort to Save Baby Boston


    Photo from Canadian Blood Services


    Over a thousand Canadians have joined the Canadian Blood Services Stem Cell Registry after nationwide calls were made to find a stem cell donor for a baby in Winnipeg.


    That baby, Boston George De Castro, is still in desperate need of a stem cell donor.


    After a bone marrow biopsy in October, the three-month-old was diagnosed with a rare, life-threatening disease called hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH). Boston has been undergoing chemotherapy and steroid treatment, but the only cure for his HLH is a stem cell transplant.


    Boston is half-caucasian and half-Filipino, and the best match for him is likely someone who shares his mixed ethnic background.


    Of the 800+ Canadians currently searching for a stem cell donor, 15 of them are of Filipino ancestry. Like Boston, these individuals are more likely to find a match with someone else from their ancestral group.


    Finding a match for people of color, especially those of mixed descent, can be difficult in Canada. According to Sarah Jasmins of Canadian Blood Services, minorities are vastly underrepresented in the stem cell donor database. Currently, the registry is 66 per cent caucasian and 34 per cent are of diverse ancestry. Just 3.5 per cent of the stem cell registry are of mixed race, while only 1.1 per cent are Filipino.


    Donors in Canada have the potential to match with any patient in the world. Conversely, 85 per cent of the time, patients in Canada find matches on international registries. Currently, the coronavirus is making international donations more difficult. Transporting stem cells across borders has become much more challenging due to travel bans, restrictions, and flight limitations.


    “It’s all the more reason why we need those donors in Canada,” Jasmins of Canadian Blood Services says.


    To join the registry, donors must be between 17-35 in order to offer better patient outcomes.


    Joining the database is easy, completely free, and all the potential donors’ information remains confidential. Donors register online, receive a cheek swab in the mail, and send it back.


    Jasmins encourages Filipinos to join the lifesaving registry and if they’re not eligible, to spread the word to encourage people to register.


    “All the Titas can line up their nieces and nephews to educate them and spread the word to bring awareness amongst the community,” Jasmins says.


    30-year-old, Venessa Manaloto registered to be a donor back in September 2014. She recalls that she was donating blood and a staff member suggested she register to become a stem cell donor. 


    Manaloto says she was easily convinced to donate because she is half-Filipino and half-Italian.


    “They told me it was super simple and they just need your saliva,” Manaloto recalls. “Plus they said it’s more difficult to find stem cell matches for people with multiple ethnicities.”


    “I thought it was such a small thing I could do that could potentially save someone’s life, and if I was in that situation I hope someone would be a donor for me.”


    To join Boston’s campaign and register to become a potential lifesaving donor head to


    Alberta Education Continues to Prioritize Safety of Students


    Three months since students returned to school, concerns on how our educational system has been able to keep students, teachers and their families safe have remained at the forefront. 


    According to Adriana La Grange, Alberta’s Minister of Education, the stats and numbers are promising in how school divisions have been able to manage safety across the province. 


    Since the pandemic began, the Government of Alberta has provided funding in a variety of areas including $10 million for personal protective equipment and sanitization support, $120 million in operational funding, and $250 million in enhanced infrastructure maintenance and renewal funding. 


    The Alberta government has also authorized access for school divisions to access $363 million dollars in their reserve funds and has helped secure federal funding support of up to $263 million.


    “In total right now, there’s over a billion dollars that school divisions have, above their typical allocations, to ensure that the schools are safe,” says La Grange. “We continue to work with all our education partners on a day-to-day basis, helping them through various issues that arise.”


    With the funding available to school divisions, La Grange says it’s important to maintain clear lines of communication between teachers to reach out to their employers and work together to continue to manage the situation during the pandemic.


    Teachers have been working through increasing workloads complicated by necessary public health leaves for staff and students who may have been COVID exposed. This ultimately results in teachers requiring assistants or substitutes to help manage the workload and deliver education for students in school and at home. 



    “Ultimately the school divisions are the employers of the teachers and they need to be dealing with the situations for their local environments,” explains La Grange. “It varies right across the province - There are areas where there are more hotspots than other areas.”


    La Grange says that school divisions can access the billion dollars available in funding, but need to be responsible for looking at day-to-day situations and implement what is required to support teachers. 


    “I know it is a stressful time and we appreciate the wonderful work that our teachers are doing and that our administrators are doing,” says La Grange. “They have had to deal with situations that have never happened before in education.”


    As the pandemic progresses, calls for further lockdowns across the province could impact how schools operate, but right now La Grange says they will take a targeted approach when making those decisions for schools.


    From over 2,400 schools, La Grange states nine schools have had to go into a short-term operational change due to the availability of substitute teachers and managing logistics, but those schools are mostly back to in-class learning.  


    As of November, La Grange says about 1,000 students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 and of those individuals the government has seen a very low transmission rate within schools. Out of 800,000 students and staff, this results in a 0.1% rate of infection.


    “That means 99.9% do not have COVID within our schools,” says La Grange. “So we’re really proud of the fact that our schools are following the guidelines and ensuring that we can provide in-class learning to those attending in a very safe manner.”


    For those concerned with how schools are managing safety, La Grange encourages reaching out and having conversations with teachers and school administrators to review health protocols in place.


    “We as an education system working together, partnering with our parents, teachers, administrators and the broader community - we can ensure that our children continue to remain in safe schools,” says La Grange. 


    “That is our number one priority and it will always be our number one priority.”

    Alberta’s TFW Program will Focus on Jobs Needed in the Province


    Cover Photo from Alberta Government / Flickr

    For Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) worried about their status during the pandemic, Alberta’s Minister of Labour and Immigration, Jason Copping wants to assure everyone that immigration remains a key part of the province’s recovery plan.

    On November 1, changes were announced affecting the TFW program as part of Alberta’s “Prioritizing jobs for Albertans” plan. Dozens of occupational categories were added to the “refusal to process” list which removed a number of occupations eligible for application through the TFW program.

    The changes will impact 475 occupations in sectors such as accommodation and food services, retail trade, transportation, construction and professional, scientific and technical services. However, there are some exemptions.

    “It’s not an all out stop [on TFWs],” says Copping. “We recognize that there are a number of occupations whereby there is ongoing demand and we can’t meet the demand.”

    These exemptions include 27 occupations in sectors like health care, agriculture, technology and emergency response.

    According to Copping, the reduction of eligible jobs for TFWs have been implemented to benefit newcomers and TFWs who are already in the province as well as Albertans as a whole.

    The pandemic closing businesses, on top of a worldwide recession and a significant drop in energy prices have had significant impacts on the province’s economy. The Alberta government is managing unemployment rates and focusing on helping those laid off during the downturn.

    “We’re doing this to slow down the inflow and match it with the demand for newcomers,” says Copping. “And it’s also for all Albertans in terms of their ability to find work and get back to work as quickly as possible.”

    For TFWs and newcomers who are already in the province, these changes should help those who have recently lost their jobs by giving them a chance to work in sectors that need employees.

    “I recognize some who are hoping to come longer or come earlier to Alberta - This may slow down the process,” says Copping. “These are temporary measures and they’re designed to make sure we can match supply with demand and getting many people here now working as soon as possible.”

    TFWs who are already in the province and have applied for or are in the process of permanent residency can seek exemptions. The programs are intended to move them into the occupations in demand.

    These changes to the TFW program are viewed as a short-term measure. Copping says it will depend on the economy and how quickly the province can recover. In the meantime the government will review the list on a quarterly basis to ensure supply matches demand.

    Copping understands there is trepidation around changes to the TFW program, but states that the government is not going to eliminate the TFW program even in the depth of the recession.

    Instead the government is focused on solutions to build the province’s economy and some of the recent announcements also include support for international entrepreneurs and foreign graduates who will play an important role in creating and filling more jobs.

    “We see newcomers and immigration as a key way to foster growth within the Alberta economy,” says Copping. “Immigration is a cornerstone of our economic recovery plan.”

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