Elizabeth Cron asked Filipinos of different ages and backgrounds what keeps them up at night.
Every person who had logged into the Manitoba Filipino Business Council’s community check-in on Zoom took a moment to think, then answered: work, comparison, raising a child in a pandemic.
One participant noted how unsafe she felt after the death of Asian-American woman Michelle Go. A 61-year-old man pushed Go in front of a subway train in New York in January.
“I think it’s just being in a community like this that’s going to get us through,” said Cron, a new board director for the council, after saying she won’t felt unsafe in Winnipeg for the first time when she was trapped in the truck-mandated anti-convoy on Portage Avenue.
The January 26 virtual meeting was the second held by the new board of directors of the works council. The board of directors – mostly women – are taking the “pulse checks” of their community as best they can during the pandemic, chairman Jackie Wild said.
“In our culture, and in many other immigrant cultures, we are taught to internalize our emotions and by extension, to sort of suppress the difficulties we go through. It becomes so easy to try to manage it on our own. ourselves, and we certainly don’t want to see our community suffer alone in silence. ‐ Jackie Wild, President of the Manitoba Philippino Business Council
“In our culture, and in many other immigrant cultures, we’re taught to internalize our emotions and, by extension, sort of suppress the hardships we go through,” Wild said.
The model minority myth portrays immigrants as hanging their heads, getting the job done and not complaining, Wild said.
“It becomes so easy to try to deal with this on our own, and we certainly don’t want to see our community suffer alone in silence.”
One of the goals of the council is to connect Filipinos to the business world, new and established, and direct them to opportunities.
It’s been difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic – but that’s where virtual calling comes in.
“It doesn’t have to be a formal, traditional event where we’re talking about taxes or starting an incorporated business,” Wild said. “It could be as simple as…having a frank, open, honest and vulnerable discussion with our members.”
Participants in the Zoom call expressed their sense of isolation and were greeted with encouraging smiles and uplifting comments on the chat box.
“I’ve known you for a short time, but I feel like I’ve known you forever,” Chris Clacio told some members on the call.
Clacio dreams of being an entrepreneur.
“I tried to figure out where me as a youngster, me as a young Filipino, where I fit in that space,” he said.
Seeing Filipinos in professional roles – and being able to connect with them – is what attracted 44-year-old Allan Pineda to the Manitoba Filipino Business Council.
“I didn’t grow up with architects and engineers. My family and the people I surrounded were mostly front-line workers, low-paying jobs. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s nice to see, ‘Oh man, there’s this architecture firm that’s owned by Filipinos – it’s crazy.'” ‐ Allan Pineda
“I didn’t grow up with architects and engineers,” Pineda said. “My family and the people I was with were mostly front-line workers, low-paying jobs.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s nice to see, ‘Oh man, there’s this architecture firm that’s owned by Filipinos – it’s crazy.'”
The chef hopped on January’s Zoom call for one of his favorite activities: networking. His first introduction to the board came before the pandemic, at an event for young professionals downtown. The experience opened his eyes: he met highly educated people of the same ethnic origin as him.
Previously, Pineda had searched for Filipino chefs all over town. He and the cooks would cook pop-up Filipino dinners, called the Baon Manila Nights series. The events – which are on hiatus due to the pandemic – have happened more than 100 times in Manitoba and abroad.
“I didn’t know there were things like (the Manitoba Filipino Business Council),” Pineda said.
After attending other council functions, Pineda and a group of at least 40 members rallied together to create the Kultivation Festival, a Filipino event connecting young people to their heritage. It was gaining ground until COVID-19 put things on ice, Pineda said.
“Now more than ever, (the board) actually sees young people… (and) people doing their side business or taking the risk to go all out and bet on themselves,” Wild said. .
The council’s new board has new faces and young leaders, which could help, she said. She is the organization’s first female president, aged 11.
“I also think as a society we have young people who are looking to become business leaders earlier in life,” Wild said, adding that barriers to entry are coming down.
“We’re now in this virtual world where you don’t necessarily need to have a brick and mortar or need to have a lot of up-front capital.”
The council continues to provide resources to its community, including hosting business basics workshops and anti-racism panels. Leaders are looking to hire more young people and people with side hustles, Wild said.
Pineda is a fan of the council’s board, which was elected in January 2021 and recently added Cron and political aide and community organizer Karla Atanacio.
“They’re super fierce and strong,” Pineda said. “It’s almost as if they weren’t afraid of anything.”
The group aims to showcase Filipino businesses through in-person events (if possible) and an online directory, among other things, Wild said.
Winnipeg has a population of 76,725 Filipinos, according to Statistics Canada’s 2016 census, the most recent data available. The city had a population of 705,244 that year.
Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.
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