Friday 10 July 2015


A benefit concert was held for Maria Victoria (Vicky) Venancio last June 27, 2015 at the St. Theresa’s Parish in Edmonton organized by Migrante Alberta, Kabisig Society of Fort Saskatchewan, and Memoria Vita Society of Edmonton.

Vicky’s story has been reported in both news and social media. She arrived in Canada as a temporary foreign worker. She was struck by a car while on her way to work, and suffered a severe spinal cord injury and was told that she will no longer be able to walk. Unable to work, her work visa expired and a decision for her deportation was made in a public hearing last February 16, 2015. There is currently an appeal for her to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
Vicky with MLA Rod Loyola

With no health care coverage and no disability insurance from her employer, Vicky volunteered in a pilot study at the University of Alberta using the ReWalk Robotics exoskeleton, and is now able to stand and walk a short distance with a walker. Her appeal to the Canadian government is for her to be able to stay in Canada to recover, be able to contribute economically and not be a burden to the Canadian social care system. Like most Filipino migrant workers, she is the breadwinner for her family and elderly parents living in the rural Philippines.

The fundraiser gathered supporters for Vicky in the different circles of Edmonton society politicians,
advocates, Filipino community and migrant workers group. Artists lent their talents to the cause, performing probono: Juno-nominated songwriter Maria Dunn; Chilean guitarist Marco Claveria; the Narra band; and a rendering of the Kalinga Unity Dance, with audience participation.

Councillor Amarjeet Sohi
There were greetings and messages from representatives from the government:
● MLA Rodrigo Loyola, who was instrumental in presenting Vicky at the Legislature and who spoke that night of the importance of solidarity in the community for equal rights and welfare.
● Councillor Amarjeet Sohi: “A society is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable members.”
MLA Christina Gray
● Former MP David Kilgour, an advocate for an exception for Vicky for provincial health care coverage and federal appeal on residency on compassion and humanitarian grounds. In his message, he likened Vicky’s situation to the flight of the Canadian geese when one is weak, some geese will fall out of formation to support the weak one until it’s strong again.
● Health Minister Sarah Hoffman: “Ms. Venancio is an amazingly strong individual, who has overcome a very tragic situation and is making the best of it… She has fallen through the cracks provincially, federally with the temporary foreign worker program and now with applying for permanent status.”
Also present were: MLA Christina Gray, MLA Jessica Littlewood, and MP Tim Uppal.

Maria Dunn
But the most heartfelt moment in the evening was the message from Vicky herself who demonstrated the traits that others have extolled on her: her tenacity, positive outlook, gratitude, and resiliency. And through her tragic circumstances, she has chosen to focus on the angels, known and unknown, who have supported her from the medical practitioners who have provided free medical services and medicine, the numerous people who have provided financial aid for her daily cost of living, to the volunteers and donors for the fundraiser.

It was indeed a night of solidarity, of awareness and advocacy. The benefit concert, together with the silent auction, raised close to $15,000. The funds raised are earmarked for her medical and legal expenses. According to Marco Luciano, Director of Migrante Alberta, it is important to hear and retell the stories of migrant workers. And the awareness and campaign around Vicky Venancio’s plight shows that miracles can happen when people band together.

To know more and to support the campaign, go to

Saturday 4 July 2015

Duyan ng Magiting - Philippine Independence Day Celebration in Edmonton 2015

Finale number: Dakilang Lahi, Choreographed by Jojo Lucila, at the Edmonton City Hall
MLA David Sheppard with Entertainment Committee 
The Filipino community in Edmonton celebrated the 117th Philippine Independence Day last June 13, 2015 at the Edmonton City Hall, organized by the Council of Edmonton Filipino Associations (CEFA). Opening with a thanksgiving mass officiated by Father Nilo Macapinlac, it proceeded with a program themed Pilipinas: Duyan ng Magiting (Philippines: The Cradle of the Brave), with noted choreographer/director Jojo Lucila at the helm of the program, and Paul Briones and Lito Velasco mobilizing volunteer performers, as co-chairs for entertainment.

Greetings were delivered by government representatives MLA David Sheppard (provincial), Councillor Amarjeet Sohi (municipal) and Philippine Honorary Consul General Esmeralda Agbulos who read the message of President Benigno S. Aquino. Common themes in the messages include: the recognition of the increasing numbers of Filipinos both in Edmonton & Alberta; the acknowledgment of the astounding economic contributions of the Filipino community, and thus, is a significant part of the cultural tapestry of Alberta; and the importance of remembering and instilling pride in the heritage.

In line with this year’s theme, the program incorporated significant Philippine icons from the revolutionary heroes, the collective representation of Filipino overseas workers, to the bigger than life personality, Manny Pacquiao. Featured performers were Ronald Idon who gave a heartfelt rendition of “Dakilang Lahi”, Sharmaine Pagtakhan, Koro Filipino, volunteer dancers, and the Filipino Senior Citizens of Alberta in Sakuting, all under the direction of Jojo Lucila.  Other participants were the Knights of Columbus and the Filipino Retirees Association in Alberta.
Koro Filipino

This year, the Filipino community all over Canada received felicitations from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, members of parliament, provincial premiers and municipal leaders. The ties between Canada and the Philippines were further strengthened by the recent visit of President Benigno Aquino III to Canada.

Filipino Senior Citizens of Alberta
The Filipino community, with a penchant for celebration and festivity, gather on this occasion through a variety of activities flag raising, dinner-dances, picnics, competitions, parades, and exhibits. It is my personal opinion that celebrations abroad are more sentimental in nature, the reasons of which are apparent. Removed from our home country and faced with a society of diverse cultures, we are compelled to extol the virtues of the Filipino and the salient history of our heritage. It is imperative then and much desired, that in the retelling and elaboration of these, that we do not just zero in on pomp and circumstance but exemplify the very same qualities that we take pride in, and live them each day. In a country where we are referred to in a collective as the Filipino community, may we be united rather than fragmented, filled with idealism rather than cynicism, and as Gandhi would state it, be the change that we want to see in our being Filipino.