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Red Deer Filipino community celebrates independence

Central Alberta to see two new Filipino festivals this summer

This will be a year of celebration and festivals for central Alberta's Filipino community.

It was kicked off with a special event in downtown Red Deer to celebrate the126th Independence Day for the Philippines and Filipino Heritage Month.

Later this summer, two new events will debut. A one-day Filipino food and music festival will happen on July 27 in Sylvan Lake and an even bigger event is set for Aug. 9-11 in Red Deer's Capstone.

The achievements of Canada's Filipino community, which includes more than 12,000 who have made Red Deer their home, was recognized at the Independence Day event that was moved to The Flex venue downtown from City Hall Park because of threatening weather.

Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston said Canada, Alberta and Red Deer are indebted to the Filipino families who have come to this country to start new lives.

"We are indebted as a city to you for coming and giving of your hearts and minds and ideas and wisdom in building this great city," he said.

"On this day, you should be so proud of your country. You should be so proud of your heritage," said Johnston, who finished his speech by wishing the 60 or so gathered a happy independence day in Tagalog.

Organizer of the festivals and Wednesday's event, Chris Rodriguez, said June is about celebrating independence but also recognizing the sacrifices made by earlier generations.

"As a people we continue to celebrate this independence as evidenced by our hard work and resilience," said Rodriguez, a founding director of the Filipino Canadian National Congress. "Many of our fellow Filipinos work two to three jobs so they can provide for their families, not only here in Canada but also in the Philippines."

Malou Esparagosa, a pageant director and founder of Multicultural Productions, said in the Philippines those who have moved to work in other countries and send money home are called heroes.

"I am so honoured to be here in front of you, to be one of the heroes," said Esparagosa.

"Our diversity is our strength and we remain committed to Filipino values and aspirations founded on our shared patriots' ideals. Let us take this time to thank all the heroes of today who continue to fight for our freedom."

During Wednesday's event, six Filipino-Canadian RCMP officers donned their red serge and were given certificates of appreciation thanking them for their service. The officers came from Fort McMurray, Bonnyville, Provost, Airdrie, Redwater and Blackfalds to attend.

Rodriguez said the inaugural Red Deer Filipino Music and Food Street Festival aims to bring the music and tastes of the Philippines to local ears and palates. 

He came to Canada from the Philippines in 2013 and made his home in Saskatoon, where he organized a similar music festival in 2021 and one in Humboldt in 2022 that is now in its third year. Edmonton, Banff and Kindersley, Sask. are also hosting festivals.

About a year ago, Rodriguez, his wife and their three boys moved to Red Deer. Seeing that there was not a local festival celebrating Filipino music and food he reached out to local Filipino groups to change that.

Rodriguez said the Filipino community has become a big part of Red Deer, with more than 12,000 making the city their home. The goal of Wednesday's ceremony and the summer festivals is to give Filipinos an opportunity to share their proud culture with other Canadians.

"We just want to bring together everybody through these festivals. Most of all what we want to do is share our culture with different communities and letting other communities know who the Filipino people are.

"We are working together with the Afro-Caribbean community and other communities for them to also be part of our festival."

The Philippines is home to more than 115 million people spread among 7,100 islands, 17 regions and 82 provinces. The country declared independence from Spain in 1898 when it was ceded to the U.S. following the Spanish-American War. In 1935, if became a self-governing commonwealth. 

Many Filipinos have chosen Canada as their new home and more than one million now live here.



Paul Cowley

About the Author: Paul Cowley

Paul grew up in Brampton, Ont. and began his journalism career in 1990 at the Alaska Highway News in Fort. St. John, B.C.
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