~ A Philippine lawmaker who visited Toronto last month for the Taste of Manila (ToM) street festival has found inspiration and a platform to advocate for strengthening mechanisms to unify and protect overseas Filipino workers, particularly those in Canada. Taking note of the recognition of ToM by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Congressman Anthony M. Bravo urged in a privilege speech in Manila “to encourage the Congress and the government to support development and integration programs for OFWs in Canada and across the globe”.
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TORONTO – The Taste of Manila (ToM) street festival has received some recognition in the Philippines when Congressman Anthony M. Bravo, a recent guest in Toronto, spoke about it in the halls of the House of Representatives on Monday, Sept. 18.
ToM “is an annual cultural festival that aims to strengthen the Filipino Canadian community as they relentlessly seek better opportunities for Filipinos and their host country,” said Bravo who, together with Congressman Aniceto “John” Bertiz III, were among the high-ranking Philippine government officials who joined the festival on its first day on Saturday, Aug. 19 in Toronto’s Little Manila.
The congressmen’s visit afforded them to interact with Filipino community leaders and to get some insights into the status and conditions of Filipino workers and migrants in Canada. The 662,605 Filipinos in Canada comprised 1.8% of the Canadian population. (Video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjBtESoRpO0).
Congressman Bravo was particularly impressed with the ToM festival and its ability to bring together many Filipinos from all over North America, including the United States. Last month, it is estimated that about 500,000 attended the two-day street fest, an increase from last year’s 350,000 people. (Video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHamEsgMYmI).
“The festival is now recognized by the Canadian government with no less than the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledging and attending this initiative of the Filipino community,” Congressman Bravo said in his Sept. 18 privilege speech. (Video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8EHGFKIKsw).
“During the festival,” he continued, “this representation together with Congressman Aniceto John Bertiz met with and had a dialogue with OFW organizations in Canada who are looking for mechanisms on how to strengthen and unify the OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) and immigrant workers in Canada”.
Congressman Bravo cited ToM to push his proposal “to encourage the Congress and the government to support development and integration programs for OFWs in Canada and across the globe”. (Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTwAUgQQoBE).
“There are 300 Filipino organizations in Toronto alone but these organizations exist merely for socialization, regional groupings, festivals and other types of acquaintance groups,” he explained.
“The idea is to consolidate these organizations under one umbrella organization and there is already initial initiative undertaken. If there’s a support system from the Filipino community, Filipinos could get their fair share of the opportunities in Canada. And this holds true for other countries as well,” according to Congressman Bravo.
He stressed the need for OFWs, particularly those in Canada, for developmental support from the Philippine government, noting that in 2016, OFWs remitted a total of 26.9 billion pesos, which is higher than the 21.65 billion pesos registered in 2015.
“It is only fitting that we look on the welfare of Filipino workers who are sacrificing a lot in order to give a better life for their loved ones,” he stated. (Video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iHfd9JMZzU).
According to Congressman Bravo, OFWs in Canada encounter “integration crisis” stemming from two main factors, namely: the absence of an organized support mechanism in the Filipino community; and the absence of onsite government programs to uplift the condition of OFWs.
“The integration crisis of Filipinos arriving in Canada either as an independent applicant, a family class, or through a caregiver program, begins as soon as they touched the Canadian soil,” he said.
“They are confronted with the financial challenges of adapting to a new environment and the high cost of food, house rent, and transportation,” he added.
“The presence of an organized Filipino community and the presence of the Philippine government are very much needed,” Congressman Bravo emphasized. “If there’s a support system from the Filipino community, Filipinos could get their fair share of the opportunities in Canada. And this holds true for other countries as well”.
The ToM festival started in August 2014 with about 75,000 attendees. The number increased to 200,000 in 2015, and 350,000 in 2016. The estimated 500,000 people that turned out this year (Aug. 19-20, 2017) easily made ToM the largest Filipino festival in North America.