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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Filipino Profile provided courtesy of the 1984 Alberta People Kit

  The Philippine Islands, named after the Spanish King Philip II (1527-98), are located in the western Pacific approximately 375 kilometres south of the island of Taiwan. They consist of over 7,100 islands on which 55 ethnic groups coexist.

The culture of the islands reflects centuries of settlement and colonization by different peoples, including the Malays, Chinese, Spaniards and Americans. About 80 different dialects are spoken in the Philippines, although eight or nine of the most common languages are sufficiently similar to allow communication among different regional groups. Filipino is the national language and over 60 percent of the population speaks English.

Although Filipinos did not enter the country in large numbers until 1970, Filipino immigration to Canada began in 1946. Between 1946 and 1964, only 770 Filipinos came to Canada, most of whom had lived in the United States for a number of years. After 1966, when Canadian immigration laws were re-evaluated, immigration from a number of nations increased and the Philippines was no exception. From 1970 to 1975 approximately 35,000 Filipino immigrants arrived in Canada and this has continued to increase. Today there are approximately 327,500 Filipinos in the country, 36,200 whom live in Alberta. In 2001, 18,700 Alberta residents spoke Filipino and Tagalog. 

Filipino immigration to Canada did not follow a typical pattern of male immigrants preceding their spouses and families. Rather, employment opportunities in the teaching and nursing fields, traditionally dominated by females, contributed to a process whereby many single, college-educated Filipino women entered Canada first. Female Filipino immigrants, consisting mainly of those aged 20-29, outnumbered their male counterparts until 1976. In recent years Filipino immigration in the under-19 and over-60 age categories has increased, due to the arrival of younger and older family members who have come to join their relatives in Canada.

Filipino Canadians have organized a variety of fraternal clubs and associations which sponsor many cultural and recreational activities. The organizations also provide recently arrived Filipino immigrants with assistance in finding jobs and accommodations. The National Council of Canadian Filipino Associations is the umbrella organization for numerous Filipino societies across the country and has branches in most major Canadian cities. The organization exists to enhance the ethnocultural identity of Filipino Canadians.

In 2001, Alberta's Filipino community consisted of about 15,000 Edmontonians, 17,450 Calgarians, 825 residents of Red Deer and smaller numbers scattered throughout other areas of the province. There are several Filipino organizations in Alberta that provide social services and organize cultural activities. The Filipino Canadian Society of Southern Alberta organizes social events and art exhibits as well as sponsoring marriage counselling and employment services.
Edmonton's Filipino community celebrates Philippine Independence Day with many activities associated with the Heritage and Klondike Days festivities. Filipinos in Edmonton have formed the Filipino Canadian Saranay Association, whose membership is composed mainly of persons from northern Luzon. The members receive a quarterly newsletter. Other publications the Filipino Canadian community in Alberta read are the Filipino Forum and the North American Filipino Star, both published in Montreal, the Philippine Reporter, from Toronto, and the Filipino Journal, published in Winnipeg. There are Filipino radio programs in both Edmonton, broadcast on CKER and Calgary, broadcast on CJSW.

Edmonton is also the home of the Philippine Cultural Society, whose members trace their heritage back to the Visayan Islands, the Philippine Choral Society and the Kakalagan Dance Society. Wetaskiwin is the headquarters of the Philippine Folkdance Group of Alberta, and other Filipino cultural associations can be found in Red Deer and Fort McMurray.

The Filipino organizations in Alberta have worked hard in preserving their heritage through many programs, including language classes for the children of the community. The success of such programs augurs well for the future of Filipino culture in the province.

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