Community·First Person

Meet the next generation of Filipinos in Kapitbahay, a series of profiles of Filipino Calgarians

June is Filipino Heritage Month and to celebrate, CBC Calgary is highlighting the rich heritage and contributions of Filipino Calgarians through a series of profiles. To continue the "Kapitbahay: Meet your Filipino neighbours campaign," we introduce you to the next generation — Anne Azucena, Rosman Valencia and Roxanne Singlot.

This week the spotlight is on Anne Azucena, Rosman Valencia and Roxanne Singlot

The artwork Crossing the Pacific was created by Harvey Nichol for CBC Calgary’s Filipino Heritage Month. The artwork will be used throughout the campaign to complement the photography and stories. (Harvey Nichol)

June is Filipino Heritage Month and to celebrate, CBC Calgary is highlighting the rich heritage and contributions of Filipino Calgarians through a series of profiles. To continue the Kapitbahay: Meet your Filipino neighbours campaign, we introduce you to the next generation — Anne Azucena, Rosman Valencia and Roxanne Singlot.

The interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Anne Azucena is passionate about equity work, in particular addressing decolonization, healing and belonging amongst the Filipino community. She has been working on carrying on the tradition of storytelling through weaving and shaping things with textile. (Lionel Migrino)

Anne Azucena, community builder and artist

I was born in Calgary and have lived here my whole life thus far.

I am the eldest daughter of parents, both from the Bisayan region in the Philippines. Having lived in this city my whole life, I have familiarized myself with the local issues and communities in the city and have built a strong network that varies in issues related to transformative justice work.

I am overall passionate about being intentional in acting as a bridge in cultivating community healing for Filipino/a/x/s in the diaspora and the land.

CBC: What would you say defines you as a Calgary Filipinx?

Azucena: The first image that pops into my head is my feeling of connection to this land. My curiosity with the land around me taught me important lessons about how I will use my gifts and meet my responsibilities. This intersects with my identity because as a queer person of colour, I've always been curious about reclaiming and remembering ancestral ways of healing as a Filipinx. But I understand that this cannot happen until we address our understanding of our relation to this land, which would not be possible without the community of Filipino collectives in the city who are also focused on addressing healing and belonging in the Filipino community.

CBC: What's the best little known fact about the Filipino Calgary community that most people don't realize?

Azucena: There are so many! But I think overall I would like the greater community to know that Filipinos have always been here and have played a huge role in shaping this city. For example, my mother worked as a domestic worker. She came to Canada through the Live-In Caregiver Program. Usually a domestic worker is commonly viewed as low-skilled and oftentimes devalued in our society. Having organized around the issues of migrant rights in our city for a number of years now though, I recognize that each of these individuals in these "survival jobs" are doing the work that makes all the other work possible.

To me, ensuring that one's children are well-nourished and cared for, knowing the intricacies of having a clean environment, is sacred and takes great skill. It's interesting that care labour is often overlooked because it offers others many more possibilities in their lives. I hope that at the end of the day the greater community comes to value our community for more than our labour and skills and recognize the roles we played in shaping their lives.

Rosman Valencia is passionate about volunteerism, decolonizing education, social justice education and 2SLGTQ+ causes. He is the co-founder of Bahaghari Filipinx and affiliated with End of the Rainbow Foundation, Fiesta Filipino, Filipinos Rising and Calgary Gay History Project. (Lionel Migrino)

Rosman Valencia, teacher and volunteer

I am a 1st generation Filipino/x and was born in Manila and raised in Caloocan City, Philippines.

I moved to Canada in 2015 to be with my partner. We have been together for 12 years now, in which six of those years were a 10,000-mile long-distance relationship.

I am currently an elementary school teacher with the Calgary Board of Education, a graduate student at the University of Calgary and a volunteer to various organizations and causes in the city.

CBC: What would you say defines you as a Calgary Filipino/x?

Valencia: I am no different from most Calgarians who have arrived here from different places. Like most of us, we are settlers to this beautiful city.  I carry with me the desire and dream to better my life, and I also carry the hope of contributing to the betterment of the place I now call home. Therefore, being a Filipino Calgarian means having the capacity to see the intimate details of two different spectrums of my identity without forgetting my roots and embracing my new home.

CBC: What aspect of your Filipino culture inspires you to do the work you do?

Valencia: I was taught that no matter what your situation in life is, you can always give a hand. It doesn't need to be big or grand, it is your presence, effort and genuineness that count the most. Filipinos are known to help one another in times of need or even in the times of abundance. This concept is known as Bayanihan, which means "communal" or "group unity," and the word is rooted from the nouns bayan, which means "town," and bayani, which means "hero." Many scholars see this trait as the backbone of family and village life in the Philippines. So, drawing from this important trait and knowing that I am part of a bigger community, I strive to give back as much as possible.

Roxanne Singlot is a program co-ordinator for Alberta Network of Immigrant Women for its mental health and wellness program. She also sits on the board of directors for the Philippine Festival Council of Alberta and is the program co-ordinator for their Youth Empowerment Program. (Lionel Migrino)

Roxanne Singlot, community builder, healer and advocate 

I am a 1st generation Filipina Canadian here in Mohkinstsis (the Blackfoot name for Calgary).

My family immigrated to Canada from Bontoc, Mountain Province, Philippines when I was 19. Just like many immigrants before me, we moved here for a chance at a better life, and just like most, it has not been an easy journey.

My story is an echo of any other immigrant story, a story of sacrifice, resilience, heartbreak, learning, unlearning, separation, courage and above all hope — hope that the people, places, relationships, beliefs, and culture we have left behind will one day be worth uprooting ourselves to start all over again in Canada.

CBC: What aspect of your Filipina culture inspires you to do the work you do?

Singlot: Bayanihan is a part of my Filipino/a/x culture that continues to motivate the work that I do. Bayanihan means coming together as a community to work toward a common goal. It is a practice that is still very much alive with us, and the pandemic has been a testament to this. The pandemic has highlighted problems of racism, domestic violence and the poor treatment of our temporary foreign workers here in Canada. All of these issues are complex and require a lot of work and care, and I am truly grateful and inspired to have a community who have taken it upon themselves to do the work.

CBC: What's the best little known fact about the Filipino Calgary community that most people don't realize?

Singlot: The Filipino/a/x community here in Mohkinstsis (Calgary) has a wealth of educators, doctors, entrepreneurs, engineers, lawyers, artists and leaders who are all highly capable but aren't able to work in their sector due to deprofessionalization practices in Canada. Next time you run into a food server, a nanny, a janitor, please keep in mind that these are all honourable and essential jobs, just as this pandemic has proven again and again. In addition, keep in mind that that person might also be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, and currently face multiple barriers in continuing their profession due to the systems that are in place here in Canada.

Follow #FilipinoHeritageMonth on Instagram for content throughout the month.