Burnaby celebrates Filipino-Canadians

Plus: BC Premier David Eby announced plans for new Filipino cultural centre in the Lower Mainland

Filipino-Canadians’ diversity in the Metro Vancouver area was evident at Swangard Stadium on Saturday, June 22, when the second annual Pinoy Festival in Burnaby kicked off with a community parade. In 2023, the festival took place at Civic Square, but due to its popularity, it was moved to Swangard this year to accommodate more people. The event was funded in part by an $8,000 grant from Festivals Burnaby.

The parade, which went around the stadium’s track, aimed to provide a snapshot of the Filipino community in the Lower Mainland. Groups represented doctors, engineers, construction workers, migrant advocates, LGBTQ+ groups, seniors, youth, and different ethnic groups from throughout the Philippines. 

There was a wide variety of elaborate costumes, from the traditional dresses of various regions of the Philippines to dancing costumes. 

Dancers in costume during the community parade at the Pinoy Festival in Swangard Stadium, Burnaby, June 22, 2024. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

Dancer in the community parade at the Pinoy Festival in Swangard Stadium, Burnaby. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

Members of Burnaby City Council, the provincial government, and the Philippines Consulate in BC also joined the parade.  

The festival was the culmination of months of work by dozens of volunteers from the 150,000-strong Filipino-Canadian community in Metro Vancouver. Indeed, volunteers did most of the work involved in organizing such a large-scale event, devoting their free time and skills to the event. 

Burnaby councillor Maita Santiago volunteered some of her free time to help organize and promote the event. 

“The festival is a day where Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike can experience the sights and sounds of the Philippines all in one place, right here in Burnaby,” Santiago told the Beacon. “I think it’s also important because it’s a way for the Filipino-Canadian community to be seen.” 

For Santiago, the first Filipino-Canadian to be elected to Burnaby City Council, the Pinoy festival provided an important connection to Filipino culture and allowed her children to learn more about it. 

“As a Burnaby city councillor and a Filipino person with two kids born here who have never been to the Philippines, I see it as a fantastic opportunity for them to not only learn more and experience more about Filipino culture and food but to be in the community with thousands of other Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike,” she said.   

Burnaby councillors and mayor on the main stage at the Pinoy Festival in Burnaby, June 22, 2024. From left: Richard Lee, Maita Santiago, Mike Hurley, Pietro Calendino, Joe Keithley, James Wang. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

Burnaby’s mayor, Mike Hurley, attended the festival along with several councillors, including councillors James Wang, Richard Lee, Pietro Calendino, and Joe Keithley. BC Premier David Eby was present and gave a speech that included an announcement for the Filipino-Canadian community.    

“We think that the Filipino Canadians who live in British Columbia deserve a cultural centre. We think you deserve a cultural home to get together and celebrate, to eat, to dance, to have fun, to play, and it’s long overdue,” Eby said. “Here’s the thing: we don’t want to tell you what should be in your cultural centre; we want you to tell us what should be in your cultural centre.” 

Eby added that the provincial government is working closely with the Mabuhay House Society, a Filipino-Canadian non-profit organization, to gather information from community members about the planned cultural centre. Eby invited Filipino-Canadians to fill out a survey on the BC government’s website, engage.gov.bc.ca

“We’re going to keep working with Mabuhay House to make sure that your voice is heard. Visit that website because we want this to be the best Filipino cultural centre in the whole darn country,” Eby said. 

BC Premier David Eby addressing attendees at the Pinoy Festival in Burnaby, June 22, 2024. Eby announced that the province is planning a new Filipino cultural centre in the Lower Mainland. Photo: Henrik Loecke

Mikelle Sasakamoose, Burnaby’s first Indigenous school district trustee and member of the Ahatahkakoop Cree Nation and Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and Syilx, also spoke at the event.  

“While I encourage you to educate yourselves about the history, culture, languages, and current issues facing Indigenous peoples in Canada today, I’d also like you to think about what we have in common as Indigenous peoples and our shared experiences of colonization, our common familial and community values, as well as our shared love for country music,” Sasakamoose said.  “Let us empathize with each other and offer each other support and friendship, and let us celebrate culture and resilience together…I am very grateful, honoured, and humbled to be here today to celebrate your culture with you, my friends.”

Mayor Hurley also gave a short speech, welcoming attendees and introducing the council members who were present.  

“The Filipino community has made such a great difference throughout BC and here in Burnaby in all different facets of life, and we are very appreciative of all their contributions,” Hurley said. 

The festivities continued well into the evening and included dance and music performances, Filipino food and barbecue, and even a Zumba class that kicked off the event in the morning.

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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