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Fostering a Filipino identity in Canada

   Bea Mariz Bernardo
ANAK Director Johsa Manzanilla and Bea Mariz Bernardo at the St. Mary’s Academy convocation

by Bea Mariz Bernardo

Bea Mariz Bernardo was awarded the 2018 ANAK Liwayway Scholarship for Leadership Excellence – Honourable Mention last June based on her high school GPA, a group interview, and an essay in response to the question, “How do values and cultural stereotypes affect your Filipino identity in Canada?” The following essay was her submission.

Throughout the course of my life, I truly believe that identity has been a very prevalent aspect in my personal growth. As a young child, I attended an elementary school with a population made up almost entirely of Filipino people. “Who I was” was not something that plagued my thoughts. It was only until I began to attend my middle/high school where I had become a visible minority.

The lack of diversity was the fault of nobody, who was I to resent my parents for sending me to such a prestigious school? I had become everybody’s token Filipino friend, an acceptable target of Asian jokes, because I was a friend of theirs. This was the point where I began to feel confused and almost embarrassed of my heritage. I questioned myself, wondered why I was feeling that way in comparison to my other friends of Filipino heritage who seemed to be content and at peace. All the while being everybody’s “go-to Filipino person,” I myself was grappling with the idea of not being Filipino enough.

Many of my old friends told me I wasn’t Filipino anymore, and that because I only lived in the Philippines for one year, it didn’t count, I wasn’t actually born in the Philippines they said. I felt as if my identity was in a bizarre in-between, neither here nor there.

Growing up Filipino was not a completely trying experience though. Many important Filipino values were instilled in me growing up, whether it be working hard, aiming for self-sufficiency in post-secondary education and, most important to me, bravery. These values are the driving forces behind my desire to become a doctor. Though becoming a doctor is no easy feat, my parents’ tireless support and affirmation of my ability to become one has helped me immensely on my educational journey.

I have always strived for excellence knowing that my parents not only expect it from me, but also simply deserve it. Something that resonates with me to this day is that my parents moved to Canada to give me better opportunities. The love that Filipino people have for their family is vast. “They are even willing to work [on] foreign soil just to achieve [goals]. And in return, we study hard… to fulfill the dreams of our parents for us.” (Abrugar)

I truly believe that the era my generation is growing up in is revolutionary. We have so much potential to make a change, make a difference, start a wave. In a time of sociopolitical growth in the Western world, it is discouraging to see the complacency of the Philippines. Whether it be the abhorrent comments made by President Rodrigo Duterte who ironically called the leader of the majority religion in the Philippines a wildly unspeakable slur (“Profile: Duterte”), or the backwards comments made by Filipino icon, Manny Pacquiao, regarding his condemnable and rigid stance on LGBT rights (Murphy), it is an interesting time to be a young adult with a unique amalgamation of Western and Filipino views.

With this being said, growing up in a Filipino household is something I will cherish forever and work to preserve. As a result of the beautiful and unique values that have been taught by my parents, through actions and perseverance, I truly believe that my generation will be able to not only rid society of the negative stereotypes placed on Filipino people, but also further educate them.


  • Abrugar, Victorino Q. “14 Good Filipino Habits that Make the Philippines a Great Country.” FAQph, 2 Sept. 2014,
  • Murphy, Chris. “Manny Pacquiao Sparks Fury after Homophobic Remark.” CNN, Cable News Network, 17 Feb. 2016,
  • “Profile: Duterte the Controversial ‘Strongman’ of the Philippines.” BBC News, BBC, 4 Oct. 2016,

Bea Mariz Bernardo is a recent graduate of St. Mary’s Academy and will be entering her first year of studies at the University of Manitoba. Visit to learn more about ANAK programs, opportunities, and ways you can get involved or support our youth.

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