The New North | Arctic Multiculturalism

Part 2 of CBC North's four-part series on immigration in the North. Part 2 looks at how some newcomers bring their customs and traditions with them to their northern homes.

Part 2: Northern dreamers

Two girls hug at one of the common celebrations within the Philipino community in Iqaluit. (Emily Ridlington/CBC)

During the cold of an Arctic winter on a Sunday afternoon in Iqaluit, there’s a party that looks, smells and sounds like celebrations in the Philippines.

There's the lechon – a roasted pig which was flown up from a specialty shop in Ottawa. There are also games, dancing and karaoke.

The city of Iqaluit is home to a vibrant Filipino community, and with more and more people coming, celebrations are held in the city every couple of months.

Like immigrant communities in other parts of the country, Iqaluit's Filipinos bring their customs with them.

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"The fellowship with all the Filipinos – it's the relationship between us is we see each other. It's like family even if we don't know them," said Bonnie Derzamina, who has lived in Iqaluit for five years.

Derzamina works as a live-in nanny and she volunteers her time to help other Filipinos new to town feel welcome.

Derzamina’s parents are retired and she is helping to pay for her brother’s university degree. She also hopes to bring her parents to Iqaluit.

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, about 70 Filipinos work and live in Nunavut, and mostly in the capital. Some come looking for a better life for themselves and their families, such as Ryan Aguilar.

Aguilar moved to Iqaluit three months ago from Manila, the capital of the Philippines. His wife has been living in Iqaluit for the past 12 years. He's thrilled to be reunited, but also excited about the opportunities of a new life in Canada.

"There's a lot of jobs here. It's easy to find a job, it's nice for living or work and easy to save money."

Gatherings provide support where newcomers like Aguilar can meet others who have been in the same situation as him.

After dinner, the karoake begins. Laudeline Atienza prefers to sit and watch and catch up with new friends. She certainly remembers what it was like to arrive to Nunavut.

Atienza moved to Mississauga, Ont., in 2005. She lived there for a year and a half before moving to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.

"In the Philipines the weather is very different we have. It's really hot there compared to here. Here's it's really cold. We're not sweating anymore."