Philippine Independence Day in Vancouver

If there’s one thing Pinoys know how to do, it’s to throw a great party!

To celebrate the 113th year of Philippine Independence, Filipinos in Vancouver had not one, not two, but SIX Philippine Independence Day parties all over the Lower Mainland. SIX perfectly wonderful excuses to get together, sing and dance to traditional Filipino music, and of course, enjoy a picnic of all our favorite dishes from home.

I went to three of these parties (you’d have to be a certain politician to go to all six), and I particularly enjoyed the one in Slocan Park, Vancouver. The park was lined with community booths that shared food and treats to visitors, all for free! You can walk around the park and have a plate full of goodies at the end of one round. There was everything from lechon (roasted pig) to pansit (noodles) to puto (rice cakes) and pan de sal (bread rolls). It reminded me of our fiestas back home where people opened their doors and shared whatever they had with everyone.

We have a name for that too. It’s called Filipino hospitality. And I’m guessing that’s the secret behind all these great parties! 😉

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Cordillera Day in Vancouver

April 24th – Cordillera Day – is a celebration commemorating the brave struggles of indigenous peoples in the Philippines to protect their ancestral land and preserve their way of life. With music, dance and community chanting, people pay tribute to Cordillera martyrs who have fought for self determination in their own homeland.

Today, Cordillera Day is celebrated in different parts of the world including Hongkong, Belgium, Macau, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan and Canada. Organized by Cordillera migrants and attended by international solidarity partners and advocates, it is a reminder that the fight for social justice, genuine development and peace is far from over.

We need to be vigilant… and stay together.

Happy Cordi Day!

No More Grand Slam Breakfast

A few months ago, Mable (my partner) and I went for our usual breakfast at Denny’s. Comfort food. We wanted a big, hearty start to our day.

Recognizing fellow Filipinos, our server introduced himself to us. He was a temporary foreign worker and relatively new to Canada. Mable gave him her business card and extended an invitation for him to come to her constituency office should if he have any questions or concerns about his employment. Sure enough, he did.

Months later, Mable’s office assisted him in filling out forms with Employment Standards and supported him in a precedent-setting $10 million class action lawsuit against Denny’s. It’s the first time that temporary foreign workers have come together as a collective to challenge their employer – a decision that was not made lightly considering what’s at stake… their lives and livelihood.

The lawsuit alleges breach of contract where workers did not receive the hours of work, overtime pay, air travel and other conditions stipulated in the employment contract. It also alleges that workers were required to pay approximately $6000 each to a recruitment agency for placement in Denny’s Canada locations in B.C.

I cannot begin to describe the sacrifice Filipino migrant workers make to be able to come to Canada – from the financial stress of travel and recruitment fees to the emotional stress of family separation. The last thing they need is a lawsuit.

Filipinos are generally a hardworking, peace-loving, “head-bowed-down” kind of breed. It takes a lot to get a Filipino up in arms. Just check out our country’s long history of colonization, tyranny and abuse. Something must have gone terribly wrong at Denny’s because Filipino migrant workers have had it. They are speaking out and fighting back.

Mo more grand slam breakfasts for me.