Philippines Independence Day a celebration, chance to reflect for Winnipeg community

Winnipeg’s Filipino community came out in droves to eat, sing and celebrate the anniversary of their home country’s independence from Spain on Sunday.

Celebration marks independence from Spain every June, independence from U.S. every July

Virginia Dayot is the president of the Philippine Canadian Centre of Manitoba. She said she was excited to finally celebration Philippines Independence Day in person again, after the pandemic cancelled it the past two years. (Joanne Roberts/CBC)

Winnipeg's Filipino community came out in droves to eat, sing and celebrate the anniversary of their home country's independence from Spain on Sunday.

Philippines Independence Day happens every year on June 12, marking the declaration of Philippines independence from Spain in 1898. Another independence day in July celebrates the country's independence from the United States.

The community pulled out all the stops for its first full-scale in-person community celebration for the independence day since before the pandemic, said Dante Aviso, chairperson for events, programs and fundraising of the Philippine Canadian Centre of Manitoba.

The event, which was held at the centre on Keewatin Street, included 10 lechons, or roast suckling pigs — a mainstay of celebratory Filipino food, Aviso said.

"People are here to celebrate. [They're] very excited to come," he said.

The event also marks the celebration of the month of June, which is now known as Filipino Heritage Month in Canada, Aviso said.

Celebrating Independence times 2! Guest host Marjorie Dowhos learns more about the history behind the two Independence Days from Jon Malek, post doctoral fellow in Filipino history at the University of Winnipeg.

And though the planned outdoor picnic got rained out, moving indoors didn't get anyone down, he said.

"People are still excited and there's still warm[th] in their hearts," Aviso said, adding the event also had games, live music and karaoke.

Genaro Gueverra said celebrating Philippines Independence Day is also about sharing his culture and showing what Filipinos offer to the world.

He thinks it should also be a time for those in the Filipino community to honour their ancestors and reflect on the sacrifices they made.

"I think we should really keep in touch with our roots," he said.

"We are [where we are] right now because of what they went through."

Virginia Dayot, president of the Philippine Canadian Centre of Manitoba, said that's important to her too.

"We don't want to forget our freedom from other [countries] that colonized our country," she said.

"Even though we are Filipino Canadians, it's nice also to remember our history, you know? Our culture, our heritage."

Dayot said she was also looking forward to finally getting to reconnect with people in her community who she hadn't had a chance to see during the pandemic and celebrate their culture together.

"My favourite part is when we're talking to one another.... We find friends that we have not seen for a long time," she said, adding she estimated around 1,000 people came to the event throughout the day. 

"Even though we are far from [the] Philippines, we still have the opportunity to celebrate our own heritage."

With files from Joanne Roberts and Rosalie Loiselle