Sunday saw a Filipino Heritage Month celebration at Island Park in Portage la Prairie. Oliver Cabading (ca-BAH-ding) is the President of the Association of the Philippines and says they started the event with a motorcade from the Shoppers Drugmart parking lot to Island Park. 

"After that we showcased many of our cultural presentations, dances, and songs; you name it. There was also two choirs who presented to us, and mostly cultural dances and songs. Then, of course, the potluck, where we are more famous for sharing our food with everybody. The famous pansit and spring rolls. We just had our roast pork. And it's very famous in the Philippines. It's called lechon. Right now they're doing the cultural games; Sipa Takyan. After the games, we'll end with our famous Karaoke."

He notes it's their very first event in Portage.

Cabading says they spread the word and many responded and saw about 180 arrive and join them. He explains they're just beginning to start a registration process to have a record of everyone who lives here from the Philippines. 

Kristina Fuentes was there with her family, and says she enjoined have fun with everyone. She's been here in Portage for five years, and likes it very much. 

Ryan Gellamucho also attended and adds it's an amazing event that the Filipino community organized.

"The mayor came by, (MLA) Jeff Bereza came by. Everybody enjoyed our events."

He notes it's good to be able to see the various cultures.

"There's a lot of cultures in the world and being able to see different cultures, it helps you understand these new people that come into our new community. This was a great party. I wish there were more people, actually. Even though there's a lot already, we could get more."

Shiela Reger was there was a group from their company with two branches in Neepawa and Brandon and works with many Filipinos, seeing as they're staffed by several Filipinos. 

"We had a big Heritage event in Neepawa yesterday. There are thousands of people there, too. We have a table with raffles and everybody chipped money so we can give some back to the community."

She notes they may start a branch in Portage.

Criscel Leo Garilva is a Philippine pastor and attended the event. He adds it's something that's needed, seeing as coming to a foreign country gives a tendency to be isolationist.

"This is a very good corrective against that," he continues. "Just bringing people together. Philippines is also a very diverse country. It's not a homogeneous society. We have different tribes of different languages. We have more than 100 different languages, so doing this brings us together, and it's valuable connections within that community. It makes us stronger, more resilient, and in that way, we become more valuable members of the society and the community here."

He explains he tries his best to do those very things. Garilva notes faith is a large component of community for Filipinos. 

"It's a country where 99 per cent of people believe in God. We have a sizable Muslim population. I would say that's around 3 to 4 per cent. The majority is Christian. I would say 95 per cent is Christian. I've observed, even in this country, how we express our religious liberty, how we express our faith in God is so valuable. If it's a community event, even if it's a secular event. you will notice that it starts with prayer."

A Nigerian newcomer, Mary Aniekwe, was there and notes the group did beautifully well and everybody's engaged. 

"It's good for mental health, as well; everybody coming together to interact and engage helps them and relieves stress. I think it's a beautiful thing that they are bringing people together with food games and connecting. It's a beautiful thing; a wonderful day. I tried the pansit. It was really good. It's really tasty."

Joylen Gellamucho says the is a great celebration. 

"Thank you to the local immigration, Mitch Tilk, from the PCRC. They're the ones who pushed us to put up this event. And also all the support that we received from the community."

She notes she's been in Portage since 2017.

"Portage is a quiet place. It's a small city, and I love to live in a small city. I love to live in a city, but not that's so crowded. This is a quiet place for me. Thank you very much for this event that we have and. Hopefully, next year we'll be having a great a big one. Hopefully, Portage will come and see what's going on here and learn the Filipino culture."