THE VIBRANT FILIPINO COMMUNITY
- Filipino is the 8th largest population in Toronto, population 140,420 just before German.
- About 1 out of 2 Filipinos in Canada live in GTA
- Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, is one of the fastest–growing languages in Canada.
- Tobias Enverga Jr., frst Filipino–Canadian in the Senate and frst elected to local government in Toronto.
- Rey Pagtakhan, Winnipegger, was the frst FilipinoCanadian elected to Parliament, and frst cabinet minister
Last year, readers may recall Beaches Living dedicating an entire edition to train transportation in Toronto. Interestingly enough, the frst wave of immigrants from the Philippines to Toronto arrived by train! Tey were women who came via the United States where they had frst moved in order to work in the healthcare industry. But in the 1960s when their visas expired, these skilled women came to Canada – specifcally Toronto.
As Toronto's hospitals rapidly expanded, there was an increasing demand for healthcare workers. Te Filipino women soon found plenty of work. Tey were well educated, skilled, and had all received English language training in schools. Most accepted jobs that were much below their level of expertise in order to make a living. Within a couple of decades, families as well as individuals were arriving in Toronto as new Filipino Canadians directly from the Philippines (and not via the US). Te community was strong and vibrant, and it was connected and supported by the strong ties that Filipinos have to the Roman Catholic Church.
Parkdale and St. James Town were two areas of the city that soon became established Filipino communities. Te new Filipino–Canadians settled in areas where there were healthcare facilities, and then made the local catholic church a centre of the community. In Parkdale, the women found employment at St. Joseph's Hospital near Roncesvalles Avenue, and started to attend a catholic church on King Street West, east of Jameson Street.
In St. James Town, the women settled into what was – at the time – the new high rise apartment buildings for lower income families (currently being demolished and replaced with improved housing). Tey found work at the nearby Wellesley Hospital (no longer in existence), and attended Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church, built in 1879 on Sherbourne Street, just south of Bloor Street.
Today, the Filipino Centre of Toronto still is located on Parliament Street, in the heart of the original St. James Town area. Toronto's Filipino business community remains one of the major participants of the city's annual Cabbagetown Festival. Te community also has a strong business presence in the Bathurst and Wilson area, which is also the location of the "Taste of Manila," a street festival with food and entertainment.
As Anita Beltra Chen, Filipino Canadian, author, speaker and professor, writes:
"From the 1960s wave of healthcare workers, to those who have made Toronto their home since, the story of Torontonians of Filipino descent is one of perseverance, determination, and the importance of family and cultural bonds. With those of others, their story goes hand in hand with the reconstruction of Toronto's own identity as an international centre of cultural diversity in the second half of the 20th century."
Before the arrival of Filipino immigrants, Toronto didn't keep a good record of how many Filipinos lived in Toronto. Tis is simply because at this time in our city's history, those from the Philippines were classifed as "Asian", rather than by country. But changes were underway in the country to Canadian immigration laws that opened doors to more migration beyond Europe, and thus, better records that identifed country beyond ethnic heritage. It soon became much easier for individual and families to come to Toronto directly from the Philippines.
Anita Beltra Chen, From Sunbelt to Snowbelt: Filipinos in Canada, (Canadian Ethnic Studies Association, 1998)
"A Growing Community in Fast Growing City' Polyphony: Toronto's People, Vol. 6" (Multicultural History Society of Ontario, 1984), Rosalina Bustamente