To Celebrate Filipino Heritage Month, SEIU-West’s Multicultural Mentorship Committee interviewed Fay Santos-Vargas from Filipino Heritage School in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Here is their interview.

As a Filipino-Canadian in Saskatoon, how do you connect with the community at large?

It can be difficult for many people to adjust and become comfortable with the new environment but taking little steps in getting to know this new community sure helps. Don’t be shy, and be true to yourself. We learn from people around us, and it’s good to focus on the similarities rather than differences.

When we arrived in 1981, the Filipino community was so small that we knew everyone by names, by relations, and by the neighbourhood we lived in. I started volunteering in activities of the Filipino organization in Saskatoon. This seemed to be an easy transition because of common language, beliefs, and heritage. My sister had already been a volunteer for a few years prior to me starting. Over the years, I moved on to participating in activities in schools where my children attended. My community has now expanded, and I know more people from different walks of life. My volunteer work took me to further involvement in other organizations within the province.
Based on my experiences, we connect to the community at large by starting to participate in small-scale activities of any groups like school, sports, church etc. I felt a sense of satisfaction to see a project to its completion, and knew the success of a project depends on all the combined efforts of every participant. I encourage others to share their time, skills, talents, and ideas no matter how big or small they can be. At the end, the essence of volunteerism is the reason why I continue to be involved in my community.

How do you get together to support and continue what you have started with the Filipino Heritage School during the pandemic?

We are proud to have the Filipino Heritage School that allows us to promote and preserve the Filipino language and heritage. This school has been operating for over 25 years now! Unfortunately, the pandemic does not discriminate against anyone or anything in our society. It continues to cause havoc around the world. Most of all, it has affected our work and our families. The Filipino Heritage School, along with other heritage schools in Saskatoon, were not spared. We were forced to cease classes in March of 2020 and we have not been operating since then due to COVID-19 restrictions. The Board decided to discontinue classes until such time that we are allowed back in school safely. We continue to review options including platforms and are preparing online classes as soon as we can. Once we are ready, we are hoping that we can inspire parents of young people from our community to enroll their children in our school.

Fay Santos-Vargas can be reached @ [email protected]

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