by ALEX P. VIDAL
VANCOUVER – The Filipino community in British Columbia now "has strength in numbers and it is growing fast," Mayor Greg Robertson said in a speech during the 1st Maharlika Awards Philippine Independence Gala Night last June 19 at the Italian Cultural Center.
"And by many estimates, the Philippines has overtaken China and India as the number one source country for new immigrants."
He stressed that recently, the Vancouver Sun ran an in-depth four-part series looking at Filipinos in British Columbia where it featured Filipinos as "the third largest ethnic group in the province."
Clad in Filipino costume Barong Tagalog, the mayor said, "Filipinos are part of every facet of our city. Vancouver could not function without the contributions of Filipino-Canadians from our schools and hospitals to our banks and businesses and at City Hall."
Robertson hailed the Filipino Canadian pioneers honored in the inaugural awards night arranged by the Filipino-Canadian Cultural Heritage of British Columbia for "paving the way for newcomers and the younger generation to succeed."
"Their struggles and triumphs as immigrants to Canada are worthy of our respect and gratitude," he pointed out.
"I know that even with all the progress that has been achieved, there are still some challenges faced by the Filipino-Canadian community."
Robertson assured that " Canada is a welcoming and open place but we can still do a better job of helping newcomers maximize their skills and experience in the workforce. So that’s something we need to keep working on together."
Robertson observed that "something’s happening in the Filipino community, something exciting. The Filipino community was for many years fairly quiet…sometimes seen, but rarely heard."
"All that has changed," he quipped. "As tonight’s event shows, Filipinos have a strong voice and so much to be proud of across a wide spectrum of endeavors."
The mayor said, there are now elected officials of Filipino heritage – one at the municipal level and one at the provincial level – in British Columbia.
He said "he was lucky enough" to attend the picnic that took place in Slocan Park in relation to recent celebrations across the region of the 112th Philippine Independence Day.
Robertson described the events as "filled with people representing a wide variety of community organizations, church groups, local businesses, trade associations and the media."
He added: "I’m proud to be Mayor of a place that so many distinguished Filipinos now call home. Vancouver would not be the world-class, liveable city it is today without all of your contributions."
"I look forward to all your ideas and enthusiasm as we continue working together to make this great city of ours even better."
Meanwhile, Robertson lauded the event otherwise known as "Gawad Parangal sa Mga Dakilang Pilipino ng British Columbia" chairman of the board and Reyfort Media Group publisher Rey Fortaleza and his wife Cely for "assembling a local media empire that is becoming the source for Filipino news and entertainment in British Columbia ."
"They are entrepreneurs and leaders in the community and tonight they have turned their vision into reality with this event and the launch of the Philippine Summer Festival," he said. /MP