How I experienced stronger Filipino culture
outside my native country
ANAK’s Andrew Aviso presenting Sabrina Paras with her award at the Glenlawn Collegiate convocation
by Sabrina Paras
Sabrina Paras was awarded the 2018 ANAK Liwayway Scholarship for Leadership Excellence 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 my whole life in the Philippines, I was surrounded with close friends and families. We never sought to travel outside the country since wherever we went in the Philippines, we had kind family friends to conveniently accommodate us in their hometown and we would, in turn, do the same. I never gave much thought to the idea until years later when I had to adapt to the sudden changes that came with my immigration to Canada. It made me realize the value in these Filipino values I had taken for granted.
The biggest impact of this realization was right when my family and I arrived in Winnipeg for the first time. Landing in this new country felt like stepping into a whole new world. I was worried for my family; that we would have trouble fitting in. When we stepped down from the escalator in the airport, I was surprised when we were greeted by Filipino families who I had never met before. They welcomed us with open arms like we were naturally a part of them. With about five cars, they drove us to our new apartment where our kitchen cabinets were filled with a variety of grocery products and second-hand furniture placed around in every room waiting to be displayed. The generosity we received was overwhelming and what I experienced that day felt like the whole embodiment of Filipino unity in the bayanihan spirit.
It has been three years now since then, and their generosity has impacted me in many ways. We have settled in our new home and I’m delighted to be able to continue their generosity by helping new family friends in Winnipeg in as many ways as I can; whether that would be donating my shrunken sweaters and small winter coats to new little cousins or offering to play with and look after them whenever their parents are busy with work. These small favours inspired me to get involved with volunteering during my second year in high school. I managed to branch out into other communities, one of which being the Youth in Philanthropy community where youth have an opportunity to be involved with volunteering outside of school and organize an annual grant recommendation to non-profit charities in Winnipeg.
While our willingness to help and our strong bayanihan spirit is admirable, personally I would say hospitability is what makes a Filipino truly unique. Hospitality was apparent to me in the Philippines as well as in Winnipeg due to our large Filipino community. When I participated in an exchange program in Japan last year, I instantly felt it heavily missing during my stay. Fortunately, I went with nine other Canadian students who I quickly became friends with during the trip. If I had travelled alone, I’m sure it would have been additionally challenging to adjust in Japan, as I am not used to the absence of the usual friendly and welcoming habit of Filipinos. Therefore, when the program had asked us regarding our interest in hosting Japanese exchange students, I felt compelled to sign up as I am sure they have had the same worries I once had when I signed up for my exchange. My family and I managed to properly assist our exchange student without any trouble. I am thankful my family was supportive of that, as I would not have met my friend Kai if they hadn’t been.
These Filipino habits and values have helped me develop my personality and have moulded me into what I am today. Through the compassion our family friends who reached out to us on our arrival, and through my Filipino schoolmates who initiated friendships with me on my first day of school and many other connections that came with, I was able to realize how remarkable our values are from the multicultural society of Canada. With that, I learned to appreciate and understand my Filipino culture and I pride myself in being a Filipino now more than ever.
- Abrugar, Victorino Q. “14 Good Filipino Habits that Make the Philippines a Great Country.” FAQph, 2 Sept. 2014, faq.ph/good-filipino-habits-that-make-the-philippines-a-great-country.
Sabrina Paras graduated from Glenlawn Collegiate and used the ANAK Liwayway Scholarship towards her first year of studies at the University of Winnipeg. Applications for the 2019 ANAK scholarship program are now available. Submission deadline is Friday May 3rd. Visit www.anak.ca for more information.