Pinoys on Parliament
by Karla Atanacio
Photos by Sarah Alma courtesy of Pinoys on Parliament
From February 21 to 23, 2020, I had the privilege of representing ANAK and Manitoba at the second annual Pinoys on Parliament Conference in Ottawa, Ontario. Pinoys on Parliament is the country’s first and largest Filipino-Canadian youth leadership conference. Through leadership panels and workshops, Pinoys on Parliament provides a platform for young Filipino-Canadians to explore their identities while examining how their upbringing affects their future career prospects.
The story that resonated with me the most was that of Clement Nocos. Clement Nocos is a federal policy analyst with Natural Resources Canada. He holds two master’s degrees and was NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s handler this past federal election. Clement tells the story of his father who was a seafarer back in the 1970s. When he arrived in Ontario he decided not to return to the Philippines. He only knew a little bit of English and did not have formal education. However, he eventually got a job and settled in Canada for good.
While listening to this story, I was reminded of every Filipino immigrant who took a chance in Canada – those who could hardly speak English but survived because they were driven by their desire to find a better future for their families.
Clement adds to this sentiment by telling his own story. When asked about the importance of representation, Clement says the reason why we don’t see many Filipinos in government is because we do not have enough leverage to be in government. We lack existing connections that can help pull us to where we want to be. Thankfully, Filipinos are industrious people. If we are not given opportunities, we create them. Similarly, Clement credits his success to a Filipino friend who let him write an essay on Jagmeet Singh that eventually led him to become the latter’s handler. At the time, he was writing pieces for magazines to pay his bills. However, with his hard work and perseverance, combined with the help of the people around him, Clement is now content with where he is.
Pinoys on Parliament operates on the same philosophy. This year’s theme was Magkasama or Together. It showcases the things that we can achieve when we uplift each other. The creation of Pinoys on Parliament began when Filipino staffers on Parliament Hill noticed that there were very few Filipinos there. To this day, Dr. Rey Pagtakhan remains the sole Filipino-Canadian to serve as Member of Parliament. Pinoys on Parliament was built because young people saw the need for an incubator for the many potentials of Filipino-Canadian youth. As Filipino-Canadians, we often ask ourselves, “Am I more Filipino or more Canadian? Am I both? Am I a fraud?” And with that question, I remember what our predecessors went through 60 years ago and what many Filipinos continue to go through every day. They leave the motherland in order to provide for their families or to simply build their own destiny in a foreign land. In Kanata, they built a community that looks out for one another. Now, it is up to us to put what they have given us to good use. For a weekend, Pinoys on Parliament showed hundreds of young Filipino-Canadians what we can be if we work together.
Karla Atanacio is currently in International Development Studies at the University of Winnipeg. At 13, she moved with her family to Canada to seek a better future. Karla enjoys being involved in the community and volunteers with different Filipino-Canadian heritage organizations. In her spare time, Karla enjoys fusion cuisine and listening to podcasts.
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