SEIU-West's Multicultural Mentorship Committee member, Leta Raquel Lee, caught up with a community leader, Marte Clemente Nogot, to talk about Filipino Heritage Month. This is their interview:

Question:  Why do we celebrate Kalayaan?

Kalayaan is the Independence Day or Day of Freedom, an annual national holiday in the Philippines observed on June 12th, that commemorates the declaration of Philippines Independence from Spain in 1898.

This is a major celebration for all Filipinos. A century, two decades and four years hence, it’s up to all of us as heirs to the legacy of our heroes to make sure that the Kalayaan they valiantly fought and died for continues to be safeguarded for Filipino generations to come.

This day of freedom has become a noble celebration that helps to preserve Filipino culture for future generations. It is very important to keep our own culture because this is the representation of the lifestyle and identity of Filipino people and our own cultural heritage is central to protecting the sense of who we are, it gives us an irrefutable image or connection to the past (especially to certain social values, beliefs, customs and traditions) that allows us to identify ourselves with others and deepens our sense of unity, belonging and most importantly, our national pride of being a Filipino.

Question: Why is it so important to keep your culture?

Being in a new generation, who lives in another country and considers myself a Filipino-Canadian, my family and I became a part of the multicultural community here in Saskatoon. This city has a lot of immigrants of different races, ethnicities and nationalities living together. We now see the multiple cultural traditions that exist in every corner of our city.

I've lived here in Saskatoon for fourteen years, and as the former president of Filipino – Canadian Association of Saskatoon, ( FILCAS ) my experience dictates me to continue to support my fellow Filipinos. In my mind and in my heart, I will remain a leader. I want to help bring people, not only Filipinos or groups, into equal participation and into any membership of social group or institutions to be a part of the community here in Saskatoon. We Filipinos can play a big part of a diverse community.

Question: How can we support others as part of a diverse community?

We can support each other by integrating with other people, and with other government groups and volunteers. We just need to invite people to help the newcomers build their lives here in Canada.

Any individuals or groups can volunteer with government programs. This helps society and its people. There are lots of resources offered for free, like: multilingual program and services in settlement, language, employment, community engagement and mental health. These resources are full of information, skills and connections for peoples' journeys towards success. For me, it was easy to help people; we only need to offer ourselves, volunteer, and open our hearts in helping other people with their needs.

Question: Please share your own experience being a part of a multicultural and diverse community.

I arrived in Saskatoon in November of 2008. I applied as a worker for a two year contract. I had no relatives or friends that lived here and the only person from the Philippines that I met was the employer that hired me. I experienced a lot of struggles and challenges at that time. Then I was introduced to FILCAS, a Filipino community group that helps newcomers here in the city. 

I quickly became one of their volunteers so I could help others like I was helped. Since then, I never stopped volunteering, joining any events or community gatherings, even if I didn’t know most people I was talking to. I realized that once you become a part of the multicultural community, you are also building your own self. I think after eight years, I was invited to join the board, and a year later I become the President of the organization for two years. Thanks to all executives and members of the FILCAS board and all volunteers who supported me.

These are all volunteer roles that develop my growth as a man and a leader. These activities have given me opportunities to help people, it gives me an opportunity to survive in a multicultural community where  my family and I belong now. I am not only proud of any position I mentioned, but I am proud because I can help and support other people in need through these organizations.

How do you support the Filipino-Canadian community in Saskatoon?

I will always keep my eyes open to see what’s happening, my ears to hear the needs, my hands to lend help, and my heart to understand in helping people.

To SEIU-West, thank you for this opportunity. I believed in your cause, and I fully support you all. To President Barbara Cape, it was very nice knowing you as a person when you visited me in my home. To all the executive board members of SEIU-WEST, staff and members (especially Ate Leta Raquel-Lee) on behalf of Filipino people, thank you, thank you.

“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilisation." –Mahatma Gandhi

MABUHAY and GOD BLESS US ALL.

You can reach Marte, Saskatchewan State Council, Knights of Columbus at: [email protected] or call 306 -880-1397

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