It’s more fun in the Philippines, Part 2

By | February 16, 2012

It’s more fun in the Philippines; no doubt.
What’s more fun, still, is that such Pinoy ethos has spilt over to one part of Toronto — the undisputed Pinoy karaoke central.
Yes, you’re right. It’s where Wilson Avenue and Bathurst Street intersect and the areas surrounding it: to the east, west, north, and south.
By just passing through during the summer days or nights, and these times will soon be upon us, one could confirm the neighbourhood as a certified Filipino domain, in look, in spirit, and smell. Giving it a closer look would make one be truly convinced that indeed Pinoys have come and claimed this quarter their very own.
On a sunny summer weekend ambulant vendors abound with homemade stuff like daing, home-grown pepper and ampalaya leaves, okra, and balut. There are also those that have extended food service to the patios by barbecuing isaw, pork, chicken gizzard and liver skewered on bamboo sticks. Go to where the smoke is or follow where your nose leads you and voila!
This area is natural habitat for Filipinos as in this area too are where many live-in-care-givers started their employment where Canadians of Jewish origin are concentrated. Most live-in-caregivers have Jews as their employers and once they get their open permits they prefer to stay at the place which has become familiar to them. When sponsored members of their family arrive, they, too, arrive and like to live in this friendly enclave.
The Filipino-Jewish connection goes a long way back, not to mention the fact that the Philippines touted as the only Christian country in Asia believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ who himself by ethnicity is a Jew. And although Islam, Judaism, and Christianity which are all called religions of the Book (Qur’an for Islam, Torah for Judaism, Bible for Christians) all believe in Jesus although only the latter believe in his divinity.
Going back to the 16th century in the days of the Spanish Inquisition some of the Jews who converted to Christianity found themselves in the Philippines and opened businesses there. During the Common Wealth period the Philippines was one of few countries that welcomed Jewish refugees that fled Nazi Germany. And in 1949, at the controversial vote in the UN Assembly, the Philippine vote, the only Asian vote, was marked as one of the much needed approval to the Statehood of Israel. As one Jewish friend told me, “that the Jews will never forget.”
Rabbi Gunther Plaut has recently died in Toronto at the age of 99. It is relevant to mention here this event as the iconic man was a colossal advocate of human equality, not to mention the fact that as prolific author and reformer was the central figure in the Jewish Reform movement.
A Filipino live-in-care-giver couple who I know, and who now have a thriving business on Wilson and Bathurst, was once and for a long time cared for Gunther. Now, Pinoys find themselves living side-by-side with a people they share some connection.
And which Pinoy wouldn’t? This is where the turo-turo or semi-fast food establishments are where one goes for a quick fill of arroz caldo, goto, mami or lumi; unless, of course, the waitress declares “ ay wala po kami niyan”, despite them being on the menu card. But that’s another story.
On one corner of the intersection, almost all units in several inter-connected buildings are Filipino-Canadian owned businesses. There are two, by my count, training schools for PSWs and other skills that could be put to use once those in the LIC, or anyone, get their open work permits. Here, too, are several money remittances, health and novelty stores, travel agencies, door-to-door cargo services, and hair and beauty salons and cornucopia of things Pinoy.
Facing each other on two opposite sides of Wilson are two coffee houses where, yes, you are right again – at any given time of the day majority of the customers are Pinoys. Some of them may be overstaying with a cup of coffee that stays ever full held by a hand that never moves. Kapeng hindi nauubos.
There may be a few who use these coffee shops as an extension of their business offices. They transact business; they buy, they sell. What is it that they buy or sell? Is there an underground economic undergrowth sprouting? This, too, would be another story.
I have been thinking out loud for a long time now that if ever there is a Filipino festival to be celebrated the place to hold it should be in this neighbourhood. As a Business Improvement Area initiative it could really spur the businesses here.
Why not? It’s true, it’s more fun in the Philippines, but couldn’t we have fun here, too? And that’s hand-in-hand with other Canadians in the locale to boot.