PSG celebrate local research with its award of six community-engaged grants to local organizations

The Philippine Studies Group (PSG) at York University is celebrating local research with its award of six community-engaged grants to local organizations.

“One of the core principles of the PSG is supporting community-engaged and community-grounded work. We are delighted to support exciting and innovating research creation projects from community organizations with a track record of working with the Filipinx community in Canada and beyond,” said Politics Professor Ethel Tungohan.

The community-engaged research grants are one of the PSG’s 2023 activities, which are supported through funding from the Philippine Consulate General in Toronto.

Culture Philippines of Ontario (CPO) is a non-profit, community-based and youth-centred organization established in 1985 in order to preserve Filipino cultural heritage by providing music, dance and performing arts instructions to children in Canada and share it with the community. The aim of CPO’s funded project, Enhancing our Representation of the Philippines, is to extend our knowledge of the stories that represent the Indigenous tribes of Mindanao. CPO will use the grant funds to invite and collaborate with Victoria-based dance artists, Jean Graciela Peñola and Geoffrey Peñola as well as host a dance workshop focusing on dances of the island’s Indigenous tribes.

“As an organization dedicated to preserving the Filipino heritage, we want to continue strengthening our understanding of our heritage and the significance of folk dance to our cultural identities, so that we can wholly represent the Filipino community within Canada and the Philippines,” said CPO in their application.

Each grantee is supported by a PSG faculty member. Dance Professor Patrick Alcedo will work with CPO in support of the organization’s success.

This grant is a huge boost not only for CPO but also for the Philippine folk dance community in the Greater Toronto Area, said Alcedo. “The dances they will teach from this southern region of the Philippines will deepen the embodied understanding and practice of Philippine folk dance by CPO members and those who will participate in the planned workshops.”

The Filipino Canadian Writers and Journalists Network’s (FC-WJNet) project responds to the need of youth, the Filipino Canadian community and others wishing to learn about Philippine history and culture. The group is developing accessible, shareable and user-friendly educational tools: resource materials in poster format and a website with a modified version of the posters with resources and references focusing on the Filipino people’s continuing struggle for independence. This project expands on the organization’s development of a poster—The Filipino People’s Continuing Struggle for Independence—that covered the period from the Spanish colonization of the Philippines to the declaration of “independence” in 1946.  

FC-WJNet is committed to advancing Filipino-Canadian literature and journalism. Its members include writers, journalists, playwrights, screenwriters, book authors and others who aim to serve the community and larger society by writing about the important issues of the day that affect a significant sector and their long-term interests.

habi po, a collective of Toronto-based Filipino/a/x artists focusing on building community through traditional textile art practices to preserve Philippine cultural heritage and revive ancestral connections, received funding to co-create historical, material, and embodied knowledges about sustainable Philippine textile/weaving traditions with GTA-based Filipino/a/x youth.

The group and its youth participants will consider the challenges that Filipino/a/x-Canadian youth experience when called to support sustainable, ethical and authentic Philippine textile practices and local businesses, and how can collaborative zine research-creation bridge the gap between the knowledges of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines and diasporic Filipino/a/x youth in Canada on the preservation of sustainable textile traditions.

“We strongly believe in the urgency of sharing these knowledges in a zine as a political strategy of resistance against 1) the devaluation of weaving as a commodity and its disappearance as a “dying” tradition and art practice, 2) the erasure of culture, community and livelihood for Indigenous and working class Filipino/a/x artists, artisans, and garment workers, and 3) the whitewashing and cultural appropriation of sustainable textile practices,” said habi po members in their successful application.

Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts & Culture is using its grant funds to identify gaps in its programming/service delivery to queer and trans Filipino/a/x via an assessment of queer and trans Filipino/a/x youth’s needs through an environmental scan of their service areas. This grant allow the organization to continue to be a supportive space for Filipino/a/x youth to connect with their community and culture, form meaningful relationships, gain mentorship and develop a sense of belonging, said Tungohan.

Kapisanan is a queer-led grassroots organization that has provided arts programming to Filipino/a/x youth in Toronto and the GTA for the past 20 years.

Seafarers’ Stories: Understanding the Realities of Filipino Seafarers is the funded project that Migrante Ontario/Scarborough is undertaking this year. They are developing consolidated, free and accessible information materials about the current situation and challenges that Filipino seafarers face. The research team will engage in a series of one-on-one conversations and collective discussions to document the experiences of seafarers that dock in Hamilton weekly before vessels move on to their final destinations. Ultimately, they hope to use this information to help build a campaign and/or recommendations for policy changes that could improve the work and living conditions of seafarers.

Founded in 2018, Migrante Ontario is a grassroots organization of Filipino migrants and their families with the goal of advancing the rights and welfare of Filipinos in Ontario within the framework of people’s struggle for national liberation and genuine freedom in the Philippines.

Professor Philip Kelly (Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change) will be the York liaison with Migrante and will support their work. “We are delighted to be working with Migrante,” says Kelly, “which is an advocacy organization with global reach in the Filipino diaspora. The plight of Filipino seafarers is an especially important issue as their work is so often ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ The York Centre for Asian Research-based Work at Sea project is pursuing some similar questions around migrant labour rights at sea, albeit in the context of global fishing fleets.”

Migrants Resource Centre Canada (MRCC) has been supporting migrant workers with labour and immigration issues since 2017. Over 60 per cent of their clients are from Filipino communities and in the literature, several barriers to Filipino migrant workers’ help-seeking of mental health support are revealed. Through their funded project, MRCC is conducting an environmental scan and literature review of existing resources targeting mental health for migrant workers as well as consulting with local experts. Their findings will be shared through Tagalog and English information pamphlets, social media posts, and a Tagalog information session focused on mental health. The outputs of this research will help the organization to strengthen their core services on education and training, information and referral, and research and advocacy, said Tungohan.

“These projects will contribute to our knowledge base on the Filipinx community’s experiences, and will, more importantly, support the important work that community organizations are doing. I can’t wait to learn more about the results of these various projects,” Tungohan concludes.

Representatives of the recipient organizations will share their projects and research findings as part of the PSG’s research celebration symposium at York University in early December 2023.