Overseas Filipinos are culturally the same wherever you find them
Seating on a steel bench in the busy Union Station in Toronto last month, I was tempted to yell “Pssst,” and was sure that at least a couple of people would turn their heads in the direction where the call came from. That is because only Pinoys would respond to “pssst” everywhere around the world, and the Eastern Canadian city of Toronto is no exception. During my two-week vacation with my Fil-Canadian fiancée, the Union Station was my favorite spot from which to observe Torontons in general and Fil-Canadians in particular, as this busy train station is the city’s epicenter of human movement and interaction. It is like a smaller and more orderly version of New York’s subway system; the only difference is that Toronto’s Union Station is less congested and chaotic than New York’s subway stations.
My fiancée has pointed this out to me a couple of times, that “even on rush hour, there is no pushing and shoving,” with obvious pride in her tone. And I have experienced that sense of organized chaos as a two-week visitor. I was reminded of LA’s own young subway system, which I routinely use when I visit downtown LA to avoid its horrendous parking fees. The other stark difference of Toronto’s Union Station with that of New York’s is that the former has cleaner and well-maintained public restrooms (called washrooms here), with automatically flushing urinals and toilets and well-scrubbed floors and walls.
In fact, I was also surprised to discover that the rest stops on Canadian highways, which are constructed differently from rest stops in US freeways, were built like welcoming homes, painted in maroon paint, and with impeccably manicured lawns and trees. I found myself commenting, “Are these really rest stops?” I couldn’t believe my eyes because the Canadian government has maintained their rest stops in such superlative aesthetic and hygienic condition.
If I was impressed with the rest stops, I was more awed by the absence of very large billboards along the clean, mostly tree-lined highways. The largest billboard I’ve seen was like two meters long, and they were not advertising national brands, like McDonalds or Enterprise rental cars. A traveler gets the feeling that the highways are an integral part of the green landscape, not man-made intrusions in the serene and wooded terrains. With the fall colors beginning to show, the panorama unfolding through our tour bus’ glass windows has beckoned me to stay much longer than I had planned.
My two-week stay and peregrinations in Toronto and the other Eastern Canadian cities of Kingston, Ottawa, Montreal, Old Quebec City and Rockport had imbued in me a sense of appreciation for its sparsely populated landmass and the vastness and natural beauty of our English-speaking neighbor in the North and these two nations’ cordial sisterhood and mutual respect.
Canadian television networks routinely show American programs, and some of the favorites among Fil-Canadians in particular are reality and entertainment shows like “American Idol, “X Factor, America’s Got Talent,” and “Good Morning America, among many others. But TFC and GMA shows are very familiar with Filipino-Canadian families, young and old alike. That’s not all, though. Fil-Canadians share with their American relatives in the ways they interact culturally among each other.
Filipinos here, as in the United States, cling to the same cultural traditions. They love to sing, dance, and entertain. They love to have parties, from potlucks to community fairs, and festivals. One weekend, we attended a meeting in the city of Vaughn of an association of Fil-Canadians who hail from the city of Urdaneta, Pangasinan, my fiancee’s hometown. It was a potluck meeting where each attendee brings something special for the dining table, and where they discussed a dinner dance that’s slated for October 27. That same day, we also attended an evening show, dubbed “Pinoy Variety Show” at the Korean-Canadian Cultural Center in Toronto. The show was a project of a charitable foundation established by newly appointed Fil-Canadian Senator, Tobias Enverga, a former banker and an alumnus of Far Eastern University
That variety show prominently featured Chadwick Sabado, the youngest son of my fiancée, who is making a name for himself as an accomplished singer and performer. In that same show, I happened to meet Senator Enverga, who was conferring with one of his foundation’s key people. I introduced myself as the managing editor of PinoyWatchDog.com, a Los Angeles-based Filipino newspaper, and I asked him for a ten-minute interview.
Unbeknownst to me, the Fil-Canadian community and civic leaders here are in a state of fear of a particular Pinoy journalist, and he politely requested me to prepare my questions and he would return in an hour. He never came back to honor his promise. After Enverga’s departure, a member of the show’s organizers sidled up to me and asked if I knew a certain Pinoy reporter (his name to remain secret). I answered that I knew that particular reporter, but that I had not met him. Later on, I asked members of my fiancee’s family what the ruckus was all about this reporter. They told me that this reporter had been allegedly writing sensational stories that were considered unfair and unfounded by those involved in the stories. That’s how I found out why Senator Enverga eluded me like the plague. My newspaper’s name alone may have conjured fear in his mind, and he decided to junk the interview with me to safeguard his reputation from an interview that could have the potential of blowing up in his face.
Maybe when I come back, soon, I would have better luck interviewing Senator Enverga, but first I would have to show him proof that I am a respected journalist, not a yellow journalist.