Aquino’s visit to Canada: what it means to Flipinos


MORE than 2,000 Fiipinos living in Toronto welcomed President Aquino during his visit here on May 6th. His speech was ala-SONA, reporting on the progress of his Daang Matuwid toward good, honest governance, but lightened up with Pinoy jokes.

Speaking in Tagalog, Aquino was warmly applauded especially when he gave examples of how millions of pesos have been saved through more transparent and effective management of public resources.

Why was Aquino invited to Canada? There’s a general perception that because it’s an election year, the Conservative Party of Prime Minister Harper is seeking the approval of ethnic, diaspora communities. Last month, India’s Prime Minister also came to visit Canada.

To reduce the state visit to mere political usury is to insult the accomplishments of the Filipino diaspora in Canada. The stronger relationship that’s evolving between Canadians and Filipinos deserves our deeper appreciation.

Harper celebrated the fact that the Philippines is now the top source country for temporary foreign workers, with more than 40,000 valid work permits issued in 2013. The Philippines is also the third top source country for new permanent residents who can live, work and study in Canada.

These numbers signal that Filipinos are seen as human resources valuable to Canada’s society and the country’s economic growth. Filipinos are found in every industry, in the largest cities and the smallest (and coldest) villages in Canada.

Doors to more opportunities are opening. That’s the result of the contributions of hardworking, honest Filipinos and the more reliable bilateral partnership anchored on Daang Matuwid. These should inspire us to use these opportunities so that many more Filipinos gain equitably from increased trade and migration.

The underpinning economic agenda is to expand trade and investment between the countries. How are we then preparing small and medium enterprises to participate in bilateral trade with Canada? How can the Philippines benefit to the fullest extent from the technological innovations of Canada in the medical sciences, infrastructure development, and the creative industries? How can we bring Filipino businesses and products to Canada? How do we help create more Filipino-owned businesses in Canada? Fil-Cans remit more than US$2 Billion back home. How are we working with both governments and the remittance businesses to help reduce remittance fees? How do we make sure that remittances are used so that families and their communities progress sustainably?

With new doors opening come many questions for the Filipino community here in Canada. How are we taking advantage of the increasing focus on our positive people-to-people connections? Perhaps up until Aquino’s visit, we in Canada have not fully appreciated the extent of our accomplishment as a “diplomatic” community. As a people, we have a much greater potential to create positive change for our community here and back home. In the words of Consul-General Junever Mahilum-West of Toronto, “marami po tayong galing, hindi natin pinapansin.”

Despite this, the Filipino-Canadian community is a quiet bunch of talented people. The groups are still fragmented when you compare them with other organized diaspora groups in Canada and in other countries. Many new immigrants are not yet part of social groups and are not sufficiently assisted by formal community support system here. Many new immigrants survive Canada through their own small social support systems, usually family members, schoolmates, or kababayans, who help them out in their first difficult years in a new country.

There’s a lot of organizing for collective action to do in Canada, and to tie that up with efforts by the government, civil society, faith-based groups, the academe, and businesses.

Rowena Basco-Sugay holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of the Philippines. She lives in Toronto, and continues to serve the Philippines as an international development specialist.


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  1. Like our past presidents, Manuel Quezon, Ramon Magsaysay and Corazon Aquino, President Noynoy will go down in history as one of our top leaders mainly due to his incorruptible stance and sincere efforts to improve Philippine economy. Yet he is not perfect and free from criticisms just like everyone else. We should appreciate him for what he does to encourage him to do his best This is the least we can do to help.

    REPLY: Incorruptible? Bribing congressmen and senators to pass the Reproductive Health Bill and to impeach and oust CJ Corona? Cancelling approved projects so he can use the funds for those projects as “savings” that he can use according to his wishes? Unconstitutionally creating the DAP? Refusing to have his corrupt and wrongdoing cronies charged by his DOJ Secretary? Removing a moral and clean Commissioner of Customs so that his and the Liberal Party’s man can replace him? Appointing an LP factotum chairman of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office so its funds can be used in the 2016 elections? Allowing relief efforts for Haiyan/Yolanda victims to go undone, causing prolong misery for millions of people in Leyte, just because he hates the Romualdezes? Allowing the 44 PNP-SAF commandos to be massacred by MILF/BIFF soldiers because he does not want to upset his MILF friends? Allowing corruption in key government Cabinet departments despite being told about these works of corruption? So many other things for which you should not dare to offend the God of Truth vy saying this man is incorruptible.

    • Rowena Sugay on

      Thank you, Maestro Romi MananQuil (our brilliant visual artist and mentor based in Toronto), Conrado and Susan for your comments. I’ve seen other comments to my commentary (good suggestions, criticisms, counter arguments) on Facebook. Others sent their input through my email.

      Conrado, your suggestion to work with the Canadian immigration authorities (the CIC) and other academic and social agencies to review the method for evaluating educational credentials of graduates from the Philippines is practical and very important. In Canada, many Filipino professionals (e.g., CPAs, doctors, engineers, etc) need to study again. I do not have the data right now but many Filipinos in Canada are underemployed. Does anyone have the statistics/research data? I am sure some groups are already working on this.

  2. Conrado Maramag on

    Yes, we must have a cordinated efforts in assisting immigrants from RP. For one , funds for bridging programs be psrtially subsidized or offered thru lower interest rates in conjunction with financial body or commission, 50 % funded by Phil. GOVT, and a sort Provident fund from contributions of employed Filipinos. Further, new method of evaluation of academic records or course contents from top 10 Philippine schools be coorfinated with CIC or Labor Ministry. Top 10 be 4 in MM, 6 from Regions. My suggestion just to start deeper discussion on this. Good Day.

  3. susan sarmiento on

    Kudos to you Ms. Sugay for a very inspiring article! Mabuhay and God bless you and all our kababayan’s there in Canada!

  4. susan sarmiento on

    Our President is a caring and honest person, he values everything that our hard working kababayan’s is doing for our country and their families here in the Philippines. Our country’s economic growth can be attributed to his clean and straight management of our country’s finances and and for gradually eradicating our country of corrupt officials, there are still some, who instead of praising him for what he is doing, choose to become more critical. There is too much corruption in our government system, even those officials in the lowest level of hierarchy. I pray that God will give him more strength physically, mentally and spiritually, more patience and guidance! and may his critics be touch by God! God bless our President!