Trailblazers and Torchbearers

What was it like to start an organization for youth and students, when the Filipino community was dominated by people from your parents’ generation?  Why did you feel it was necessary to get involved?  Why should Filipino youth today continue to be involved in community initiatives? 

These are some of the questions our panelists – some of the first Filipino youth “leaders”  in Toronto – will be addressing in our panel. 

Filipino Youth Activism in Canada

RAMON GRAJO is a PhD student in Philosophy. His research area is in the method of political economy. Ramon is a student of Philippine society and culture. He first became active in the early 1990s in various Filipino unversity student associations then in the Philippine solidarity movement. He was a co-organizer of the Filipino-Canadian National Youth Consultation of the Philippine-Canada Human Resources Development Program of the Canadian International Development Agency. He is also a founder of various youth organizations, an organizer of migrants, workers, and community organizations, and a human rights advocate. 

Filipino Student Associations

ROEL SARMAGO is an alumnus of the Filipino Canadian Association of Ryerson.  He started out as a general member in 1993, became Sports Rep the following year, served as President during the 1995-1996 term.  He played an active role in the events organized by the United Filipino Students’ Associations (UFSA, the alliance of the FSAs of Ryerson, UofT and York U) – he was chairperson of the UFSA Christmas Gala during the 1996-97 term;  keynote speakerfor the Canadian Awareness of the Filipino Experience (CAFE) Student Conference in 1996; and performer at Superskillz in 1997 and 1998.  He was also the co-founder and publisher of BrownSugar/BrownScene Magazine which ran issues from 1997 to 2002.  Roel was a member of the Board of Directors of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce in 2007-08.  He is currently a member of the Toronto Board of Trade and the North York Chamber of Commerce.   

Filipino Canadians in Arts and Culture: The Carlos Bulosan Theatre Company

NADINE VILLASIN is the current Artistic Director of the Carlos Bulosan Theatre (CBT) and is responsible for transitioning the company from a community theatre group to a community-based professional theatre company.  She co-wrote and performed in CBT’s Toronto production of Miss Orient(ed) (with Nina Lee Aquino) in 2003, as well as Teesri Duniya Theatre’s Montreal production in 2005, both of which played to sold-out audiences.  Nadine developed (and sometimes performs in) Tales From the Flipside, CBT’s annual showcase of emerging Filipino-Canadian playwrights and theatre artists. Nadine is one of the co-founders of the Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts & Culture located in Kensington Market and has been instrumental in initiating community such as the Kultura Filipino Arts Festival, as well this year’s Flipside Festival. 


Balikbayan Tales

MANUEL LUIS VENERACION is a regular balikbayan who just returned from The Philippines after being away for a year. During his stay he was able to travel through various towns and provinces, cultures and classes from the Northern Cordilleras down into Mindanao. Travelling mostly for the heck of it he also volunteered with the Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns and the Children’s Rehabilitation Center. He took part in their relief efforts during Typhoon Ondoy as well as several of their other missions and projects. Manuel will share his experiences as a first-time balikbayan as well as show some video and photos from his trip. 





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