By: Ted Alciutas in Vancouver, BC

Died in Columbia of Apparent Heart Attack

The first and only Filipino-Canadian senator died today (November 16, 2017) in Medellin, Columbia where he was attending a parliamentary meeting.

The Ontario senator was in the South American country for the ParlAmericas Annual Plenary Assembly, along with Liberal MPs Robert Nault and Randy Boissonnault, NDP MP Richard Cannings and Conservative MP Bev Shipley.

Tobias ‘Jun’ Enverga, Jr. was 61. His wife Rosemer Enverga was with him when he died according to his senate office.

“I offer my condolences to the family who is obviously in mourning and in grief right now,” says Dr. Rey Pagtakhan when reached from his home in Winnipeg.

“The community suffered a loss,” adds the retired parliamentarian, the first Filipino-Canadian elected to the House of Commons. The two never met each other.

Enverga was appointed to the senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2012 for the province of Ontario. He was first elected  as a school trustee for the Toronto Catholic School Board.

The former banker’s appointment was hailed by the Filipino community but he became a lightning rod for a vicious campaign by his criics.

Among the fiercest criticism came from Toronto’s Balita newspaper who constantly ridiculed the senator for his alleged incompentency for the job.

He was labelled the ‘karaoke senator’ by Balita’s Romeo P.Marquez for his first speech in the senate where he alluded to Filipinos as good karaoke singers.

Balita followed his every activity in Toronto and suburbs and hammered on his alleged failure to account for monies raised by the Philippine Canadian Charitable Foundation (PCCF) a charitable organization that he was involved with before being appointed to the senate.

Senator Enverga with Toronto Mayor Tory and Councillor Pasternak in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Eventually Enverga filed a libel suit against the paper, its publisher Tess Cuispag and Romeo P. Marquez for defaming him. Last year,  Enverga won a judgement against the defendants and as awarded $350,00 in damages, one of the largest award in Canada.

Cusipag went to prison

Cusipag was also sentenced to 31 days in jail for contempt of court for violating the injunction imposed in connection with the libel case. She served 13 days of her sentence and released.

It is not known if the award has already been already paid as of this writing. Queries to Enverga’s senate office and his lawyer were not answered.

Enverga emigrated to Canada in the early 1980s after earning a bachelor of arts degree in the Philippines. He was 28 years old.

He took an MA at York University and his tenure at the Bank of Montreal lasted for three decades.

Enverga, who hails from Lucena, Quezon province, is survived by his wife Rosemer and three daughters Rystle, Reeza and Rocel.

Published under arrangement with the Philippine Canadian News. 

Published in Top Stories

Commentary by: Rodel J Ramos in Mississauga

It seems our Filipino leaders have no vision and no ambition except to lead their small ethnic tribes and followers to socials, beauty contest, religious, sports and yearly traditions that lead to nowhere and no future for our people. While some are involved in politics, we do not seem to know how to play the game and benefit from it. Some of us are already proud to know well known politicians and kiss their ass.

We can’t blame anyone else but ourselves. When you do nothing and just watch your people being abused by the system and politicians, you are to blame. Most of us do not go out and vote and therefore are irrelevant to the system. Yet it is our taxes that make the government work and it is our efforts that make Canada grow. We need good leaders but we are good at doubting, maligning and shooting our leaders who rise above us specially when it comes to money. We do not know how to encourage and reward good leaders who have the our concern and have the expertise to lead and manage. We always doubt their intentions. And then we go to court, spend hundreds of thousands of our money just to prove that we are right.

While other ethnic groups get millions of grants from the Government, we are getting peanuts and our concerns are not being addressed. Our community gets ignored. They approach us only during election time to get our votes. Our community is only good at fiestas and small parties every weekend which only drains the pockets of our people. No wonder we all retire poor. After more than 40 years we can only see a few significant accomplishments and legacies. Yet we claim to be a great people.

We are more than 350,000 Filipino Canadians in Ontario and less than a million in the whole of Canada in a country with less than 35 million population. And we are acting as if we are powerless and being played around by politicians.

We are the most active community with more than 350 organizations in Metro Toronto alone. We have chapters in most of the Churches specially Couples for Christ and Bukas Loob sa Diyos. We even have an organization of Filipino priests. Our Filipino Freemasons, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Rizal, Jaycees, and Rotarians have wide influence in our society. Even our caregivers who work for the rich specially the political leaders have connection and influence. We rejuvenated the Catholic Churches and other religious churches. Our talents and taxes have contributed much to the progress of this country.
Most of us are well educated but our foreign education is not recognized.

It is time we show that we have the power to bring down a government that is not responsive to our needs and concerns and just flatter us during elections. It is also to show that we can make an unknown leader take over the government with our help. The Liberals in power have no room for Filipinos to rise because all their positions are filled. And they show no desire to even appoint our best in any position in the government. They talk about diversity but only appoint the whites.

The Progressive Conservatives under Patrick Brown have accepted Atty. Angely Pacis as their official candidate in Mississauga Centre. She is a lawyer, a journalist and a graduate of Harvard, the daughter of the late Doctor Lydia and Antonio Pacis. She is most qualified to be a Member of the Provincial Parliament and a pride for our people. I am sure with her qualifications, Patrick Brown will give her a portfolio as a Minister when they win.

The Liberals in spite of our years of loyalty to them has never done much for our people. They never appointed any of our people to high positions in government. The Conservatives under former Prime Minister Harper appointed Senator Tobias (Jun) Enverga, and Ontario Supreme Court Judge Steve Corroza and helped the caregivers with cancer who were about to be deported stay in Canada and brought their families here. He brought about the Juana Tejada Law.
The smaller communities have better strategies than us. They can elect their own people into high offices by mere show of strength and manipulations. Look at what happened to Atty. Antonio Villarin in a nomination in Scarborough where he was defeated by a Sri Lankan, a Tamil, a small ethnic community. Shame on us all. We can also have our own representative but we have to know the game, work harder and stand together, otherwise we are powerless and hopeless as a people. We have to cultivate and train potential politicians in our community. It takes years to learn the game. And it needs the whole community to raise a candidate. We have to contribute to the funds and promote them. We have to be there to vote during the nomination and election. We can’t just brag about our greatness but show nothing.

Patrick Brown is our chance to shine. He is close to the Filipino community. He choose to take not just one but three vacations in the Philippines instead of other places. Patrick loves halo halo and even had a Halo Halo Party at Queens Park. He was even inducted by Sir Joe Damasco as member of the Knights of Rizal. He recognizes the talents and strength of the Filipino community.

There is no room for us to grow in the Liberal Party. I understand the loyalty of the Filipinos to the Liberals. Some say because of Pierre Trudeau who opened up Canada to the Filipinos during his time. Did he open Canada to us because of his love for Filipinos or that Canada needed the talents and industry of the Filipinos? We worked hard and paid our taxes for many years. We are not free loaders. It was this contribution that enriched Canada. Even if we owe our gratitude, does it mean we have to serve all our lives with gratitude or servitude?

The Provincial Liberals under Kathleen Wynne wasted millions of dollars with their bad decisions of cancelling the two energy power plants in Mississauga in their incompetence. They sold the Hydro shares and made our electricity so expensive, yet we subsidize electricity in the U.S.

They are not doing anything to bring the cost of housing down. Let’s make this housing crises into job opportunities for Ontarians specially the poor. We are attracting a million immigrants every 3 years and 40% of that goes to Ontario. They should open up lands in farming communities close to Toronto for housing. We should built houses for these people at an affordable rate. Our children will not be able to afford the present real estate prices.

Republished under arrangement with The Philippine Reporter.

Published in Politics
Thursday, 06 October 2016 15:16

Duterte a Grossly Misunderstood Leader

Commentary by Yul Baritugo in Vancouver

On October 7, Digong -- as he is known in shantytowns and barrios in Mindanao Island -- marks his first 100 days in office.

 He is a grossly misunderstood Philippine leader. His critics label his penchant for Filipino cuss words as shock politics.  Still others are at a loss as to whether he is the country’s saviour or simply a madman.

 Court records annulling his marriage to Elizabeth Zimmerman, his first wife, cited Duterte’s mental incapacity based on a psychologist’s report saying that Duterte suffered from “Antisocial Narcissistic Personality Disorder”. The report claimed that Duterte has an “inability for loyalty and commitment, gross indifference to others’ needs and feelings, heightened by a lack of capacity for remorse and guilt.”

The report also described Duterte as “a highly impulsive individual who has difficulty controlling his urges and emotions. He is unable to reflect on the consequences of his actions.”  Duterte himself has said he is “bipolar”.

A Moro President

His rant against U.S. President Barrack Obama labelling him as a “son of a whore”, according to sources, resulted in the release of Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad by the Abu Sayyaf, a self-styled Philippine affiliate of ISIS. The same group beheaded two Canadians earlier after Canada under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to pay ransom money.

According to Southern Philippine sources, Muslims there now believe they have a Moro (Muslim peoples of the southern Philippines) president. The Norwegian release was a gift and no ransom was paid.

Close aides said he personally worked for the release of the hostage since Norway is host to the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Philippine Communist Party, National Democratic Front and New People’s Army to end a bloody 33-year insurgency that has cost over 100,000 lives.

Duterte’s worldview

Duterte is the epitome of a collective desire by a majority of people outside the Philippine capital -- described by outsiders as Imperial Manila -- to end a political dynasty dominated by 10 families that continue to run and dominate Philippine business and politics.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]His worldview is best described as rural, but clearly anchored in the aspirations of the poor and marginalized. His blood lineage with the Maranao tribe made him a leader in the strife-torn Southern Philippines dominated by Muslims, although he is a Catholic.[/quote]

Rodrigo "Rody" Roa Duterte is also a jurist and the first Mindanaoan to hold the office, and the fourth of Visayan descent. He was born in Maasin, Leyte but traces his roots to Danao, Cebu and his mom’s province Agusan.

The family later settled in Davao where his father became governor.  After a short political stint, his father worked with deposed strongman Ferdinand Marcos in the presidential palace Malacanang.

Duterte studied political science at the Lyceum of the Philippines University, graduating in 1968, before obtaining a law degree from San Beda College of Law in 1972. He then worked as a lawyer and was a prosecutor for Davao City, a highly urbanized city, before becoming mayor of Davao following the Philippine revolution in 1986 against the Marcos dictatorship.   

Duterte was among the longest-serving mayor in the Philippines: seven terms over 22 years.

Duterte the Punisher

Filipino Canadians generally support Duterte’s actions because our pet peeve is the endemic corruption in the country.

I covered Duterte’s Ateneo high school classmate, former Congressman Jesus “Jess” Dureza, now negotiating the peace process with rebels as a Congress reporter.   He observed that Duterte is a punisher. He then told the story about a bully who was terrorizing students outside their school. Duterte reportedly hunted down the bully and found him in a café.  He went straight up to the guy and punched him in the face.

I favour the way Duterte is handling the country’s problems.  His pivot to China and Russia has resulted in a halt to the planned Chinese fortified garrison in one of the man-made islands just 150 miles from Palawan.

The country cannot afford to blindly follow a tainted foreign policy influenced mostly by the United States which is currently waging a proxy war against many nations.

(Yul Baritugo is a retired editor with years of experience first as a justice and court reporter, later becoming business reporter and editor.  He also edited a now defunct Filipino Canadian magazine and later a Filipino Canadian newspaper. Yul is spearheading an effort to form a Collective of Immigrant Journalists. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Published in Commentary

by Melissa Shaw in Vancouver 

A new novel reflects on the experiences of Filipino Canadians through the story of one family, and aims to inspire newcomers to achieve their dreams. 

Eleanor Guerrero-Campbell’s novel, Stumbling Through Paradise: A Feast of Mercy for Manuel del Mundo, is a work of fiction inspired by the author's experiences working with immigrants. 

“Home – one's identity – is not geographic-based, it's not culture-based, it's not age-based. It's who you love and who loves you and who you care about and who cares about you,” says Guerrero-Campbell, who co-founded the non-profit organization Multicultural Helping House Society to assist newcomers with settlement, education, housing and employment in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“This is our home and we will never be torn when we think of home this way.” 

The story follows Josie and Manuel del Mundo's journey from the Philippines to Vancouver with their children. 

Manuel is a proud engineer who has trouble adjusting to his new work environment in Canada. Josie has a teaching background, but finds work as a cook and eventually becomes the chief executive officer of a catering company. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Home – one's identity – is not geographic-based, it's not culture-based, it's not age-based.”[/quote]

Manuel later helps a caregiver in distress, which leads to an affair. His son Bobby discovers his father's secret, resulting in the family's separation. 

After a confrontation between father and son, Manuel has a heart attack. The next section of the novel focuses on the lives of the older del Mundo children: Sonia, who faces racial discrimination, and Bobby, who becomes involved in a Filipino gang.

The third section of the book focuses on the youngest child, Manolita, who becomes involved in politics. 

Familiar stories 

“When I was reading the book, I had to stop for a little bit and wipe my tears. It really resonated with me as a newcomer in Canada,” says Irene Querubin, who was born in the Philippines and now hosts the Vancouver radio program The Filipino Edition. 

Querubin was emcee at the book’s launch at the Creekside Community Centre in Vancouver. The event featured dramatic readings by members of Anyone Can Act Theatre, which sponsored the launch. 

Vancouver-Kensington New Democratic Party member of legislative assembly (MLA), Mable Elmore, B.C.’s first MLA of Filipino descent, read Manolita's political campaign speech from the book. Elmore says the novel captures the challenges and struggles immigrants face in Canada, including racial tensions and underemployment. 

She says although the Filipino community in B.C. is relatively young, she has noticed increasing participation of Filipino immigrants in their community through literary work, council presentations and musical performances. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“When I was reading the book, I had to stop for a little bit and wipe my tears.”[/quote]

Challenges for Filipino youth

Among those using the arts to promote inter-cultural dialogue are members of DALOY-PUSO, a mentorship and arts program for Filipino newcomers in high school. The group, whose name means “flowing from the heart” in Tagalog, benefitted from proceeds collected at the launch. 

“The mom and the dad are working three jobs and they don't have a lot of supervision at home,” Vancouver School Board youth settlement worker Adrian Bontuyan says of young newcomers. 

He explains that many mothers come to Canada from the Philippines through the Caregiver Program, through which they provide childcare in Canadian homes. After working for 24 months or 3,900 hours, they can apply to become permanent residents and bring their family members to Canada if their application is approved. 

Bontuyan says he will read Stumbling Through Paradise to learn about how he can further support immigrant youth and start discussions to help them understand their parents’ experiences. 

“The aspect of mentorship that [Guerrero-Campbell] mentioned is very important, because the youth need someone to look up to as an example of success and basically someone that the youth can be comfortable with sharing his or her struggles of being a newcomer,” he says. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“They came all the way to achieve something and I want them to know that they can achieve their dreams.”[/quote]

Guerrero-Campbell also explores the idea of home through her young characters. The del Mundos' daughter Sonia finds belonging through the satisfying relationships she builds with people in the Philippines and in Canada. 

Empowering other newcomers 

Guerrero-Campbell says she hopes people who have read her book will discuss it with others and start a dialogue about the challenges immigrants face. 

“The one message I really want to convey is empowerment – for our newcomers to feel empowered,” she says. “They came all the way to achieve something and I want them to know that they can achieve their dreams.” 

Guerrero-Campbell came to Canada in the late 1970s with a master's degree in urban planning and regional planning from the Philippines. She was a planner for the City of Edmonton, Alberta, and continued to work in planning in Surrey, B.C. and Richmond, B.C. 

She helped author Hiring and Retaining Skilled Immigrants: A Cultural Competence Toolkit for B.C. human resources managers. Guerrero-Campbell was the CEO of the Minerva Foundation for BC Women and a co-convenor for the Vancouver Immigrant Partnership’s Access to Services strategy group. Stumbling Through Paradise is her first novel. 

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Published in Books
Wednesday, 01 June 2016 00:06

Pinoys Launch First Miss Gay Montreal

by Krystle Alarcon in Montreal 

Joseph Dadua couldn’t muster up the courage to try on a bikini at a women’s lingerie store in Montreal. 

It took two of his fellow gay friends to encourage him to go to the dressing room of La Vie en Rose. 

“It was an unforgettable experience,” the 24-year-old recalls, “everyone was accepting and open.” 

Dadua says preparing for the Filipino community’s Miss Gay Montreal 2016 was a process that helped him embrace his effeminate side. 

Miss Gay Montreal, held May 28, was the first of its kind for the Filipino community in Montreal. 

It was a joint effort between Montreal’s largest Filipino group, FAMAS (Filipino Association of Montreal and Suburbs) and Pinoy LGBT. 

Dadua and his three rival candidates all identify as “gay cross-dressers” he says.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Dadua and his three rival candidates all identify as “gay cross-dressers” . . .[/quote]

For the competition, they chose a pretend country of origin and an existing female model’s name for the night – a tradition borrowed from gay beauty pageants in the Philippines. For example, Dadua (pictured below) wanted to be addressed as Leila Lopes and Miss Angola. 

All the craze 

Beauty pageants are a cultural frenzy in the Philippines. Last year, the country won two titles in international competitions for Miss Universe and Miss Earth, and two crowns in 2013 as well. 

Blogger Raul Dancel aptly describes this obsession pointing out that the Philippines has a local beauty queen for each of its 40,000 small towns. 

“There are a bevy of titles that will befuddle future anthropologists, including: That’s My Boy, Little Miss Philippines, Mr. Handsome, Little Miss Handsome, Miss Gay Philippines, Miss Supranational, Manhunt International, Mr. Marketplace and Super Mermaid,” he writes. 

This is why when FAMAS approached the members of Pinoy LGBT to put together the event, the organization got on board immediately. 

Adiva Estinozo, one of the main organizers of the pageant, identifies as a transgender and transsexual woman. She says she hid her gender identity and sexual orientation from her parents. 

“I was scared of being isolated. That’s why I moved to the [gay] Village [in Montreal] on my own. I didn’t want to wait for the isolation to happen.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It helps parents to understand. It shows parents that their kids are having fun on stage.”[/quote]

She understands firsthand how a contest can help build self-esteem. She won the Pista Sa Nayon singing contest in Montreal in 2002. 

The grand prize was a trip to the Philippines and an appearance on a comedy TV show there, Home Along Da Riles. Upon returning to Montreal, Estinozo came out. 

She says Miss Gay Montreal has also helped some of the candidates be their true selves. 

“It helps parents to understand. It shows parents that their kids are having fun on stage,” Estinozo says. 

Being seen and being seen equal 

The LGBT community is quite visible in the Philippines, with celebrities like femme gay comedian, Vice Ganda, achieving top box office sales for his satirical films. 

But for Mark Simbulan, co-founder of Pinoy LGBT and Estinozo’s co-host for the event, visibility does not translate to equality. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The Philippines should be allowing gay marriage — not in terms of a religious basis, but on a human level."[/quote]

“The Philippines should be allowing gay marriage — not in terms of a religious basis, but on a human level. They should have human rights to love and be able to marry who they want to marry,” he says. 

Simbulan says Pinoy LGBT is working on ways to promote gay marriage in the Philippines. 

Asked what’s the main difference between a women’s pageant and a gay men’s one, Simbulan says, “not much, but ours is more fun.” 

Indeed, the audience squealed with laughter at certain moments during the show. But candidates rode a fine line between mockery and entertainment. 

Axl Hernandez, also known as Tyra Banks and Miss Venezuela for the night, used comedy to slam opponents. 

“Not all horses belong in the stable,” Hernandez says in Tagalog upon grabbing the microphone. “Because you just saw one (the previous candidate) and there are two more.” 

Another candidate who blurred the lines between ridicule and spectacle was Jerrieval Mark Garcia, a.k.a. Adriana Lima or Miss Brazil. During the talent portion, Garcia dressed in a black sequin cocktail dress performing a cabaret dance — then midway, he turned around, put on a baseball cap and tight boxers and fluttered his pelvis like a male stripper. 

In the end, Dadua took home the crown. 

To critics who think beauty pageants are objectifying and do not promote equality, he says, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I’m not going to say anything against them. We need to focus on our own lives. If it makes us happy then why not. For me, they’re dedma.” 

Dedma is a Taglish slang term mixing the English word ‘dead’ and Tagalog word ‘malisyoso’. In other words, he’s feigning their malice.

Editor's Note: This copy has been updated to correct a mistake in the spelling of Adiva Estinozo's name and the explanation of the word 'dedma'. NCM regrets these errors.

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Published in Arts & Culture

by Ted Alcuitas in Vancouver

The man who put Filipinos on the political map of this country has died in Winnipeg, his home for more than five decades.

Conrad Santos, the first Filipino-Canadian to be elected to a provincial legislative assembly died at Winnipeg’s Victoria General Hospital on Feb. 29. He was 81. The cause of death was not known.

In a statement, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger offered his condolences to Santos’ family on behalf of Manitobans.

“It was with deep sadness that we learned of the passing of Dr. Santos,” Selinger said.

“Dr. Santos served his adopted province and his constituency with dedication and self-sacrifice. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Dr. Santos served his adopted province and his constituency with dedication and self-sacrifice."[/quote]

A distinguished career

Conrad Santos was first elected to the Manitoba Legislative Assembly under the New Democratic Party (NDP) in 1981, serving for five terms (1981-1988 and 1990-2007) before stepping down in 2007.

Born in the Philippines and a native Bulakeno, he was educated at Harvard University and the University of Michigan, where he earned a PhD in Political Science.

He moved to Winnipeg in 1965 after obtaining a teaching position at the University of Manitoba. He remained a tenured professor at the U of M until his election to the legislature. Santos also worked as a consultant for the Instituto Centro-Americano de Administracion Publica in Costa Rica, and was a board member of the Citizenship Council of Manitoba from 1977 to 1980.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The soft-spoken and eccentric Santos led a colourful and sometimes controversial political life.[/quote]

Santos was active in the Winnipeg Filipino community for many years serving as an adviser to many organizations notably the Philippine Association of Manitoba (PAM). He was a member of the Knights of Rizal, the organization that first broke the story of his death.

Controversy in his political life

The soft-spoken and eccentric Santos led a colourful and sometimes controversial political life. Long before riding a bike became popular, he was already riding one to the legislature from his home in Fort Garry with his iconic Che Guevarra hat and a sling leather bag at his side.

Santos was first elected to the Manitoba legislature in the 1981 provincial election as a New Democrat in the northwest Winnipeg riding of Burrows, defeating NDP-turned-Progressive Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Ben Hanuschak. He was re-elected in the 1986 election.

In June 1984, there were unconfirmed rumours that he was considering a move to the Progressive Conservative Party.

In 1987, he was accused of trying to use his political position to prevent Winnipeg School Division No. 1 from expropriating a house he owned. 

Santos lost the Burrows NDP nomination to Doug Martindale in 1988, and subsequently entered the party’s leadership election. He was not regarded as a serious candidate, and received only five votes on the first ballot. Santos ran for mayor of Winnipeg in 1989, but was again not considered a serious candidate and finished a distant fourth.

In 1990, Santos won the NDP nomination for Broadway, another northwest riding, by a single vote over favoured candidate Marianne Cerilli. He subsequently defeated Liberal incumbent Avis Gray in the 1990 general election, and was re-elected in the 1995 election.

In 1995, he endorsed Lorne Nystrom’s bid to lead the federal NDP. 

When the Broadway riding was eliminated by redistribution in 1999, Santos won the NDP nomination in Wellington (also in Winnipeg’s northwest), and was returned by a wide margin in the 1999 provincial election.

He was again re-elected in the 2003 election. 

Santos was named Deputy Speaker after the elections of 1986 and 1999, but has never been appointed to a cabinet position.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]There is no doubt that Conrad Santos paved the way for the current crop of Filipino politicians in Manitoba.[/quote]

Santos left the New Democratic Party caucus shortly before the 2007 provincial election after being accused of improperly selling party membership cards (he denied the charge). He campaigned as an independent, and finished last in a field of five candidates. His successor, Flor Marcelino, was a last minute replacement candidate for the NDP.

The Winnipeg Sun reported in 2013 that on Mar. 16, 2005 “Santos was scolded for bringing a paring knife into chamber. …The speaker confiscated the three-inch blade from Santos, who apologized for bringing it into the house.”

Paving the way for Filipino politicians

There is no doubt that Conrad Santos paved the way for the current crop of Filipino politicians in Manitoba including Dr. Rey Pagtakhan who followed him as the first Filipino to be elected member of Parliament in 1988.

Pagtakhan’s nephew Mike, is a long-serving member of the Winnipeg city council and there are currently two sitting members of the Manitoba legislature – Flor Marcelino and Ted Marcelino, both of the NDP.

Other Filipino politicians served in various positions in school boards putting Manitoba firmly in the leading position in the country as having the most number of Filipino politicians in office.

Santos is survived by one daughter, two sons and two daughters-in-law, Evelyn Santos, Conrad and Leslie Santos, Rob and Kim Santos, and their families; four grandchildren, Kristen and Matt, Ginny and Josie.

Affectionately known as ka Rading to his family, he is also survived by his three siblings and three sisters-in-law, Leticia Santos, Rebecca Santos, Ruel and Dina Santos, Narcisa Santos, Luz Santos, and all their families (including his nephew, Paul Santos).

Santos was predeceased by his parents, Federico and Marcelina Santos of Malolos, Bulacan, Philippines; his sister Melita Santos Beltran, his brothers Virgilio Santos and Benjamin Santos, and his wife Emerita Santos, and is survived by their families.

This article first appeared on Republished with permission.

Published in Politics

Family reunification is at the core of the Liberal government’s immigration policy. After our two-part in-depth piece on the pros and cons of the family class immigration stream, this new series takes a closer look at the process from the perspectives of major immigrant groups in Canada. What are the opinions and experiences of individuals and families who took this route or are in the process of doing so? We find out what works and what needs improvement. The following report is the second in our series and looks at the frustrations caused by painfully long wait times. Read part one here.

by Marieton Pacheco in Vancouver 

Elmira Padlan-Bautista is no stranger to Canada’s family reunification program. She and her husband have been going through the process of sponsoring both their parents since 2005. But after 10 years, Elmira’s parents are now with them in Canada, while her husband Jerold’s parents are still waiting in the Philippines. 

It’s a heartbreaking situation considering they tried to sponsor Jerold’s parents first. 

The couple’s application to sponsor the Bautistas in 2005 was initially refused due to lack of income, but after submitting additional documents in 2006, they were given approval to complete the requirements for both sets of parents in 2008. 

This included separate instructions to do medical tests in Manila and that’s where the problems started. 

“There was always something in their medical tests,” says Elmira. “There was a spot in [Jerold’s] dad’s lungs the first time; he was asked to undergo medication and come back after three months. When he was cleared, they found another issue with his mom this time.” 

Jerold’s mom has gone back for medical tests about 10 times already due to heart problems and complications from diabetes. It doesn’t help that she’s 73 years old. And with each exam costing around Php 3,000-5,000 (about $100-$150), it’s been quite an expensive and frustrating exercise. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It’s been too long that I think they’ve lost interest in coming here."[/quote]

“It’s been too long that I think they’ve lost interest in coming here, napagod na sa pabalik-balik kaya nawalan ng gana (it’s tiring to keep on going back [for medical reasons] and frustrating),” shares Elmira. 

Despite this, they received a letter from Canada's immigration department in 2013 asking them to pay for the parents’ Right of Landing Fee. They did, and Jerold's parents were asked to submit their passports to the Canadian embassy in Manila. 

But without medical clearance, their visas remain pending. It’s been so long that the parents’ have asked the embassy to just return their passports, which have been held for about a year. 

Lessons learned 

Elmira says she remembered all these lessons when she applied for her own parents’ sponsorship in 2008. After receiving approval to sponsor them in early 2011, she asked Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), which is now Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), to send all correspondence through her.

Both her parents were also visiting Canada when the letter for their medical examination arrived. She checked with CIC and was able to have both her parents’ medical exam done here. With no hitches in their documents and medical tests, her parents were approved for permanent residency in December 2012. 

It was still a four-year wait, but Elmira is grateful, especially when compared with her in-laws’ case and those of some of her other friends in the community. 

“I don’t mind going through all the requirements and application ’cause it’s really worth it that they’re here,” she says. “They’ve been very helpful in babysitting the three kids. I didn’t have a bad experience with my parents’ sponsorship like we did with my husband’s parents. They’re frustrated, and we’re still frustrated...” 

More efficient, fair processing needed 

At the beginning of this month the IRCC began accepting parent and grandparent sponsorship applications for 2016. Many immigrants are again trying their luck to bring their families here. 

Current wait times to sponsor parents and grandparents (PGP) under the Family Class vary from four to six years depending on where your visa office is located. The IRCC’s website says its offices are currently working on PGP sponsorship applications received before November 2011. 

Immigration consultant Arlene Tungohan says the key is really to improve processing times for these applications. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It’s not a first-in, first-out system anymore. What’s happening is last-in, first out."[/quote]

Doubling quotas as promised by the new Liberal government from 5,000 to 10,000 may be a good thing, she explains, but it doesn’t really mean anything unless they speed up processing times for those who’ve been waiting for years. 

Tungohan adds she still has live-in caregivers’ applications for family sponsorship from five to six years ago. 

Their family members in the Philippines have undergone medical exams two to three times already, but their applications remain in processing. Then there are those who submitted applications in 2015 and have been given their PR already. 

“We don’t know why the process is that way,” Tungohan says. “It’s not a first-in, first-out system anymore. What’s happening is last-in, first out ... I guess they want to show it’s faster now with the changes, but it’s a little bit unfair. Many caregivers are suffering because of it.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“You hardly hear of parents going on welfare especially in the Filipino community.”[/quote]

Tungohan says family reunification has always been a priority under Canada’s immigration system, so whether it’s sponsoring parents or grandparents, or caregivers trying to bring the rest of their family members to Canada, wait times should be reasonable. 

Welfare not a ‘Filipino thing’ 

The immigration consultant also discredits criticisms on parents and grandparents being a burden to Canada’s health-care system. 

Many, if not all, of those approved to live here still want to work and contribute to the Canadian economy, she says, adding that collecting welfare is hardly a Filipino thing to do. 

“You hardly hear of parents going on welfare especially in the Filipino community,” she explains. “We take pride in being able to support our parents, in showing them that ‘hey, we are successful.’” 

But as long as processing times are not improved, families like the Bautistas will have to wait some more for a chance to support their parents here in Canada, or else they will continue hearing about the realities of their parents’ aging from thousands of miles away. 

Journalist Ranjit Bhaskar mentored the writer of this article through the NCM Mentoring Program.

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Published in Policy
Thursday, 12 November 2015 21:59

Pinoy Workers Win Fight in Tim Hortons Battle

The Canadian multinational fast food chain, known for its coffee, doughnuts and annual Roll up the Rim to Win contest, attempt to duck responsibility for discriminatory treatment of its temporary foreign workers by hiding behind a franchise store was rejected by B.C. Human Rights Tribunal (BCHRT) last week.

Tim Hortons filed an application to dismiss a complaint brought forward by the United Steelworkers (USW) on behalf of a group of workers from the Philippines working at the company's Fernie, B.C. location by arguing it could not be held responsible for the conduct of its franchisee. 

The BCHRT has dismissed that application and the complaint is now proceeding to a hearing.

Allegations 'disgraceful'

The USW filed the human rights complaint after learning that these workers were being denied overtime premiums, given less desirable shifts, threatened with being returned to the Philippines and forced to rent accommodation from the restaurant owners.

"Tim Hortons wants their name to be synonymous with Canada, but there is nothing Canadian about the disgraceful treatment suffered by this group of workers," said Stephen Hunt, Director of the United Steelworkers for Western Canada.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"If this complaint is successful, Tim Hortons will be forced to take responsibility for the treatment of their workforce."[/quote]

Hunt alleged that this case is another example of the abuse that is commonplace in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

"If this complaint is successful, Tim Hortons will be forced to take responsibility for the treatment of their workforce. No longer will they be able to turn a blind eye to the discriminatory treatment of workers by hiding behind franchisees. It's time for Tim Hortons to demonstrate the Canadian values that it wishes to project by improving the treatment of their workers across Canada," Hunt said.

The six Tim Hortons workers who originally raised concerns over their working conditions are all Filipino and all were hired to work at the Fernie franchise.

They first spoke out in December of last year, with claims of alleged theft, threatening behaviour and manipulation on the part of their boss, Pierre Pelletier. Workers alleged Pelletier made sure the overtime pay they received came back to him — in cash — and that he even drove employees to the bank and waited while they cashed their pay cheques.

Response to allegations

Last year, after the allegations surfaced, Tim Hortons said it had expanded oversight of the use of temporary foreign workers at its franchises and taken over two locations in Fernie, B.C., and Blairmore, Alta.

The popular doughnut chain made the announcement hours before former Employment Minister Jason Kenny announced an immediate moratorium on the fast-food industry's access to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, CBC said.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"We will not tolerate abuse of employment standards for Canadian or temporary foreign workers."[/quote]

Tim Hortons also announced it was expanding its auditing system to include mandatory independent audits for every franchisee who accesses the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

"We encourage the government to make independent audits mandatory for every company that uses this crucial program to reassure Canadians of the integrity of the program," said a company statement.

Scott Bonikowsy, vice-president of corporate affairs at Tim Hortons, said the program is necessary in some communities where there are not enough Canadians to fill positions in the company's restaurants.

"Tim Hortons has a strong track record in responsibly using this program. In a few isolated incidents where that has not been the case, we have acted to remove those franchisees from our system," said the statement. "We will not tolerate abuse of employment standards for Canadian or temporary foreign workers, and we will continue to work hard to create a positive, fair work environment for all of our team members."

According to Tim Hortons, the company employs around 4,500 temporary foreign workers, about five per cent of its workforce.

Re-published in partnership with The Filipino Post.

Published in Top Stories

by Noel Tarrazona in Manila

When Filipino immigrant Edwin Nodora first landed in Vancouver, his future seemed promising. The value of Canadian currency was high as compared to the Philippine Peso (PhP). After getting employed at a mall, Nodora was excited about the prospect of saving enough money to support his family back home.

But this dream may no longer be a reality now that the Canadian currency has fallen to its lowest levels in 11 years.

Over the last 10 years, more than 400,000 Filipinos migrated to Canada to seek greener pastures and to provide better economic security for their children and their children’s children. But this future is threatened, now that the Canadian dollar has dropped from CAD 1.00: PhP 43.00 in 2011 to CAD 1.00: PhP 35.00 today.

The effect on Filipino immigrants

For most immigrants to Canada, life will need to face financial adjustments. For Nodora, an engineer who is celebrating his fourth year in Vancouver, the Canadian dollar devaluation adversely affected the Filipino immigrants’ remittances to the Philippines.

He said that for most Filipinos, they felt upset because the value of the Canadian-dollar remittances sent to their relatives in the Philippines has decreased. As a result, the fruits of their labour will be comparatively little help to their families back home.

“It is part of our culture to help our less fortunate relatives in the Philippines, so sending money to them is always part of the Filipino spirit,” Nodora said. “[Now] the money we send them will have less impact on improving their quality of life.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Devaluation did not stop immigrants from coming to Canada."[/quote]

The Vancouver Sun reported that Canada is one of the world’s greatest source of remittances and that the country remains a major source of remittances for the Philippines, totalling around $2 billion CAD a year.

The same sentiment was also shared by Filipino immigrant Joy Uy who has worked as a nurse in Saskatchewan after arriving in the province in 2011.

Uy explained that she was upset with the recent devaluation of the Canadian dollar, but remained hopeful that the currency will bounce back sometime next year. Despite the Canadian dollar devaluation, she said she is still witnessing increasing number of Filipino immigrants landing in Saskatchewan almost every week.

“This only shows that the devaluation did not stop immigrants from coming to Canada,” Joy added.

Canadian statistics show that Canada received 40,035 landed Filipino immigrants in 2014, increasing by around 30 per cent from 2013 when 29,545 Filipino immigrants arrived. Filipinos remain one of the the largest foreign-born groups in Canada since 2011, despite the struggling Canadian currency.

Hotel executive and Filipino immigrant Evelyn Yadao has been a resident of Vancouver for more than 20 years. She resigned from her Vancouver work in 2013 to volunteer in the Southern Philippines in her hometown of Zamboanga to help in the post-war rehabilitation.

During the war, 400 separatist rebels had stormed the city, causing the displacement of more than 100,000 locals including children.

After two months of humanitarian work in the Philippines, she flew back to Canada and immediately found a higher paying hotel executive job in Victoria, BC. She claimed that this kind of opportunity was what made Canada different from her hometown.

Even though she was in her early 50s, she was able to start a brand new career — an opportunity she doubts she would have been able to find back home.  

Yadao claims that despite the Canadian dollar devaluation, the other benefits of coming to the country will still outweigh any monetary challenges. She is confident that more prospective Filipino immigrants will land in Canada and is preparing to launch her immigration consultancy business in BC as well as a sister branch office in the Philippines that will cater to Filipino students and professionals who wish to land in Canada.

The other side of the coin

On the contrary, for some Filipinos planning to migrate to Canada, the maple leaf state is no longer a viable destination. Instead, potential immigrants are choosing to work in countries where their dollar goes farther.

Abdul Naing, who works as a hotel staff in Brunei, said he had planned to apply as immigrant to Canada as a skilled worker after his working contract expired in early September this year. However, after learning of the devaluation of the Canadian dollar, he dropped his application, choosing instead to renew his contract with his Brunei employment for another two years. 

A Brunei dollar currency is equivalent to PhP 35.00 when converted. In addition to his salary, Naing gets free food and accommodation from his company. As such, his earnings can all be set aside for savings, since almost everything is provided for in Brunei. According to Naing, these are advantages he could not avail of if he migrated to Canada.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]For some Filipinos planning to migrate to Canada, the maple leaf state is no longer a viable destination.[/quote]

Australia has also become an alternative destination for Filipino immigrants. Newly-landed Filipino immigrant Rafael Oclarit told New Canadian Media that upon hearing of the Canadian currency devaluation, many Filipinos like himself are choosing to take a chance in Australia instead.

“The minimum wage here is AUS 17.00 per hour and winter is not that bad,” Oclarit added. There are now more than 225,000 Filipinos who have chosen Australia as their new home and the number continues to rise.

Not only does Australia have a fairly stable economy but the distance to the Philippines is only 8 hours compared to the 15-hour flight time from Vancouver to Manila.

While for some, the Canadian currency devaluation may pose too great of a challenge for many Filipino immigrants and their relatives back home, many determined Filipino immigrants believe their bright future still lies in Canada.

For those who've waited so long to migrate to Canada, the current dip in the dollar is just a hurdle to be overcome on their way to creating a new life for themselves and their families. 

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Published in Economy

by Marieton Pacheco (@marietonpacheco) in Vancouver, British Columbia

Ever since Dr. Rey Pagtakhan served as Member of Parliament from 1988 to 2004, first from Winnipeg North and then Winnipeg North - St. Paul, no one of Filipino descent has been elected to the House of Commons.

But the drought may be about to end as at least five candidates from the community are running in October’s federal election.

“They’re in for a tough battle,” says Aprodicio Laquian, former University of British Columbia (UBC) professor and author of Seeking a Better Life Abroad: A Study of Filipinos in Canada.

“Filipinos in general don’t vote for other Filipinos just because of shared heritage. They’re a lot more critical, their network allows them to easily identify who’s running … and if they’re running for their own selfish interest, they don’t vote.”

Laquian says that despite an estimated 700,000 Canadian residents tracing their ancestry back to the Philippines, there is also no real “Filipino town” or single riding in Canada where they make up a big chunk of the population. 

Winnipeg North, the riding that first sent Pagtakhan to Parliament, is the exception as an estimated 40 per cent of the population is of Filipino descent. 

Levy Abad, a human rights activist and singer/songwriter of Filipino heritage, is contesting there under the New Democrat banner and sees the demographic advantage only as a leg-up.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[A] Filipino running for office should not only depend on the support of one group but should engage all communities.”[/quote]

“Although it helps to have the support of the Filipino community, I think a Filipino running for office should not only depend on the support of one group but should engage all communities,” says Abad. 

Pagtakhan says ethnicity is only one of many factors. “While a particular community will likely support a candidate and party if they champion policies dear to their hearts, their combined credibility and qualities will also be considered.” 

Abad believes that his job as a multicultural outreach officer in Manitoba’s Ministry of Multiculturalism and Literacy has prepared him for the run. He says he knows the issues affecting all groups in his riding and would be their collective voice in Parliament. 

Facing negativity

In Vancouver Kingsway, a riding with half its population made up of visible minority groups, Conservative party candidate Francisco “Jojo” Quimpo does not have any advantage because of his ethnicity.

Quimpo will compete for votes of Chinese-Canadians who are the dominant group at 43 per cent of the population followed by fellow Filipino-Canadians at 11 per cent.

“I am running not just because I’m a Filipino. I’m an immigrant; my story is many other people’s story,” says Quimpo. “I can relate with many, I know the issues and challenges.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“This is about the future of Canada, not only Filipinos, but also all Canadians.”[/quote]

A community leader, he is best known for organizing the annual Pinoy Fiesta that celebrates Philippine culture.

But ever since announcing his intention to run, he’s had his share of critics from within the community; some have even flipped on an earlier promise to support him by putting up lawn signs of his NDP rival, incumbent MP Don Davies.

Quimpo believes Filipinos as a group are turned off by politics due to their negative experience of the process back home. He wants the community to participate more in politics and to realize its positive impact here in Canada.

“To be comfortable with this kind of electoral process … you have to be passionate and committed with the values you represent to the people so they can understand. This is about the future of Canada, not only Filipinos, but also all Canadians,” says Quimpo.

Old-style Philippine politics

Nevertheless, Quimpo says the community members’ historical dislike for politics does not prevent them from resorting to old-style Philippine politics by seeking favours in return for votes. 

Since starting his campaign, he’s received requests for assistance ranging from helping a sick relative back home to expediting immigration applications. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I received so many questions on why they need to pay when I’m the one asking for their support!”[/quote]

“I was running for the party nomination and was asking for kababayans [fellow Filipinos] to pay and become a member of the party so they could vote for me … I received so many questions on why they need to pay when I’m the one asking for their support!”

In Winnipeg Abad says he’s heard of similar stories during his campaign, but has no experience of people asking for favours outright. 

“The residents of Winnipeg North have a lot of concerns like poverty, crime, housing that should be properly addressed and offering paltry solutions will not help.”

Fielding Filipino candidates

In Mt. Royal, Quebec, basketball coach Mario Rimbao is hoping residents will see him beyond sports.

The challenge of finding available daycare prompted him to enter politics under the NDP banner. He wants to do more for immigrants with a focus on family reunification.

“We need to be heard; this is the time. We’re trying to make history together,” says Rimbao, who has no demographic advantage in a riding where over 60 per cent of the population is Jewish and white.

Rimbao’s only consolation from an ethnic vote perspective is that at over nine per cent, Filipinos lead the rest of the minority groups in a riding seen as a Liberal bastion.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][P]arties are still trying to figure out how to tap into [the Filipino] voter group.[/quote]

Also bereft of any ethnic affinity advantage is Julius Tiangson who hopes his experience serving different communities will make him the Conservative MP for the Mississauga Centre riding with a large immigrant population.

An active community leader, Tiangson is co-founder of the Gateway Centre for New Canadians, which focuses on the economic integration of newcomers. 

The only independent candidate in the running is Jesus “Jayjay” Cosico from Nepean, Ottawa. A former politician in the Philippines, he seeks to be the voice for “pro-life” issues in Parliament.

With a community far from mature in understanding Canada’s political process, Laquian says parties are still trying to figure out how to tap into this voter group. Fielding Filipino candidates is just one of the arrows in their quivers.

Pagtakhan believes Filipino Canadians are actually far more interested and involved in Canadian politics than the overall population.

“We can persuade even more to participate when we succeed in lending credibility to the nobility of politics as a means to make salutary differences in the life of fellow Canadians,” he says, adding, “Yes, it is a tall order.”

Published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post


Published in Politics
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