(Part 3 of What’s in an Intergenerational Filipino-Canadian Household?)

Who are the second-generation Filipino-Canadians?  Generations 2.0 and 2.5, those born of Filipino parents in Canada or one Filipino parent, are called the second-generation Filipino-Canadians. 

While it may be difficult to generalize the general attitude of Filipino Canadians, their exposure and social proximity to the Filipino culture impacts their knowledge and appreciation of the Filipino way of life. Those who never got the chance to stay or visit the Philippines rely on stories and myths of their parents and kin, which do not always provide a balanced narrative about the Filipino race. 

The term “unknowing” has an equivalent phrase in Tagalog as “walang kaalaman” to imply a state of unfamiliarity, naivety, or being uninformed.  An online translation of “unknowing” uses the phrase “hindi pagkilala” or refusal to know. While the former description suggests the passivity of knowledge, the latter denotes the rejection of opportunities to know and understand. These descriptions seem to reflect the different contexts yet parallel processes resulting in a state of unknowing.

It could happen that some second-generation Filipino-Canadians did not have the opportunity to learn the Filipino way of life for a variety of reasons. Naivety can happen when one does not have the experience or have very little exposure or information about the Filipino culture.  Moreover, the lack of interest or refusal of Canadian-born Filipinos to know about their parents’ culture leads them to the unknowing experience.  When second-generation Filipino-Canadians are in the state of unknowing, to expect their appreciation of Filipino philosophy and culture may be unrealistic.  

As cited earlier, the depth of knowledge and exposure of second-generation Filipino-Canadians to the Filipino culture depends on the frequency and depth of exposure to the Filipino worldview and way of life.  Most second-generation or those considered as “Generations Y and Z” rely on input from parents, friends of the same ethnic background, and social media about the Philippines.  

The lack of tautness in teaching Filipino mores or values in the household can likewise contribute to the “unknowing” of second-generation about their Filipino identity.  In my work with Filipino families, some found it acceptable for their children not to adhere to Filipino values. They contend that their children are now Canadians. Slackness on Filipino values in the household, inadequate contextual information about the Philippines, and racialized or discriminatory comments about the Filipinos can evolve into negative attitudes of second-generation Filipino-Canadians toward their race.  Research indicates that young Filipino-Canadians experience a sense of shame or reluctance to share their identity as Filipinos (Kelly, 2015).

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 issues around acceptance and respect from family, peers, and community  (Hébert & Alama, 2008).  In conflicted worldviews and norms – between a limited knowledge and internalization of the Filipino values versus the daily expectation of non-Filipino Canadian peers owing to the demand for social acceptance and peer recognition – advancing a  sense of cultural connection and identity affiliation among young second-generation Filipino-Canadian can be arduous. It is, therefore, not surprising to find that studies on second-generation youths in Canada indicated a clash of ethnic heritage and values demands (Alama, 2009).   

There is a presumed identity crisis as one may find it challenging to decide which socio-cultural or ethnic group to identify with. The unknowing and identity crisis is overcome by knowledge and internalization of the culture, heritage, norms, and characteristics to identify with Filipino identity.  The question is: will the Filipino-Canadian generation embrace a transnational Filipino philosophy, culture, and tradition (transplanted culture and norms overseas) in a social milieu different from the Philippines? 

To break the state of unknowing with second-generation Filipino-Canadians can be a protracted process.  However, there are ways to introduce or re-introduce Filipino history and identity to young generations in schools and communities through teaching, theatre and arts, diversity forums, and community engagements.  A continued experience and access to objective information regarding the Philippines and the Filipino race will likely increase appreciation and love of their cultural backgrounds. 

The Filipino heritage in Canada will perish unless we break the sense of unknowing among the young generation of Filipino descent in Canada.  It is an inter-generational call to Filipino families to teach their children and kin and their community about the richness of Filipino history and culture – to make their young ones be forever proud of their being Filipinos and Canadians. (End)


Hébert, H. & Alama, E. (2008). Friendship as respect among second generation youth.  Canadian Diversity, 6(2), 94 – 98.

Lalonde, E., & Giguére, B. (2008). When might the two cultural worlds of second generation biculturals collide? In Jack Jebwab (Ed.), Canadian Diversity, 6(2), 94-98.

Kelly, P. F. (2015). Transnationalism, emotion and second-generation social mobility in the Filipino- Canadian diaspora. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 36(3), 280–299. https://doi.org/10.1111/sjtg.12115


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.