Since 1967, Filipinos in Ottawa have been assembling en masse every year to mark Philippine Independence Day. Within Canada’s multicultural society, the declaration of Philippine Heritage Week by the Mayor of the Canadian capital city of Ottawa institutionalized community events that promote Filipino cultural heritage in a week-long celebration organized by the Philippine Independence Committee in the Ottawa Valley (PICOV).
Independence Day Mass launches week-long festivities
This year, Holy Mass at the Our Lady of Assumption Church and a program featuring a balagtasan on June 6 kick-started the community’s festivities. The following day, His Worship, Mayor Jim Watson, proclaimed Philippine Heritage Week from 6 to 14 June 2015 at a community picnic which saw thousands of Filipino community members converge at the Vincent Massey Park on June 7.
Largest Filipino fiesta
At the picnic, Filipino organizations and the Philippine Embassy participated in the parade of colors signalling the start of the biggest Pinoy fiesta in Ottawa. Along with Ambassador Petronila P. Garcia and Mayor Watson, the Honourable Pierre Poilievre, Minister of Employment and Social Development and Member of the Parliament of Canada, greeted the merrymakers celebrating Kalayaan 2015. On the part of the Philippine Government, Ambassador Garcia conveyed the good news of the country’s political and economic gains and closed her remarks with the independence day message of President Benigno S. Aquino III.
This year’s Parada ng Lechon swelled with nine (9) entries competing for prizes. Likewise, entertainment numbers became more diverse with many talented Filipino youth performing on stage.
Official receptions featuring Baldemor’s Images of the Homeland
Ambassador Petronila P. Garcia hosted official receptions spotlighting Philippine cultural heritage by way of painting exhibits titled “Images of the Homeland” by famed Fillipino artist Manuel Baldemor. At the National Gallery of Canada on June 9, the Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, as well as members of the Canada-Philippines Parliamentary Friendship Group attended the Embassy’s traditional national day reception as guests of honor. According to some members of the diplomatic corps, the Philippine national day event was among Ottawa’s “most successful” receptions.
On June 11 at the Centre de Ressources Communautaire de Côte-des-Neiges, Ambassador Garcia co-hosted a finissage under the auspices of the Maison de la culture Côte-des-Neiges, through the good offices of Mayor Russell Copeman and Councillor Marvin Rotrand, to celebrate Philippine independence day with the Filipino community in Montreal.
Parliament of Canada joins Philippine Independence Day celebrations
For the third year running, the Parliament of Canada honored Canadians of Filipino heritage with a flag raising ceremony and reception on June 11. On this occasion, Senator Tobias Enverga, Jr., together with Ambassador Garcia, led the unfurling of a giant Philippine flag on the grounds of Parliament Hill.
The occasion also presented an opportunity for the Senate of Canada to greet and welcome Ambassador Garcia and Embassy officers as visitors to an on-going sitting and for Senator Enverga to rise and deliver a statement on Philippine independence day.
Flag Raising at Ottawa City Hall
Through arrangements made by PICOV, Ambassador Garcia and Mayor Watson presided over the annual flag raising ceremony at the Ottawa City Hall on June 12. Always a high point of Philippine Heritage Week, the solemn rites affirm the important place of Filipinos in Canadian society while sustaining their connection to Philippine roots.
A breakfast reception hosted by PICOV followed at the Philippine Embassy to strengthen the fellowship among members of the Filipino community in Ottawa.
Independence Day Gala
Also on June 12, the annual PICOV Ball took place at the St. Elias Centre in Ottawa with record attendance. The dinner-dance also showcased Filipiniana fashion and some of the Filipino community’s finest singers.
Fluvial Parade in Gatineau
Philippine Heritage Week culminated in a fluvial parade organized by Philippine Centre Canada at Le parc du Lac-Leamy in Gatineau, Quebec where members of the Filipino community took turns sailing the Ottawa River in a paraw jointly built by Filipino and Canadian hands.
In her remarks throughout Philippine Heritage Week activities, Ambassador Garcia enjoined Filipinos in Canada to help sustain the Philippines’ economic gains by registering as overseas voters for the 2016 national elections and by helping the Embassy’s trade, investments and tourism promotion.
“For Filipinos around the world, it is a fact of overseas life that June 12 is a day of deep meaning, an occasion we look forward to every year to celebrate not just the liberties we enjoy but also our identity as a free and sovereign nation. I heartily congratulate the Filipino organizations comprising the Philippine Independence Committee in the Ottawa Valley (PICOV) for the immensely successful events marking this year’s Philippine Heritage Week and Kalayaan 2015. PICOV Chair Nora Arriola deserves special mention for her efficient leadership…
“I thank Filipinos across Canada for sharing with their adoptive country their very best Filipino qualities every single day. Friendly, courteous, diligent, honest and caring caring – that is the gold standard which Filipino-Canadians have set for themselves. The Philippines is proud of you and Canada equally so,” Ambassador Garcia stated.
Photo credits: Allan Fernandez, Ben David and Danny Arriola