CHICAGO (JGL) – The tens of thousands of Filipinos Canadians who turned up at the two-day “Taste of Manila” (ToM) food festival in North York, Toronto, Canada over the weekend for only the second time in as many years were pleasantly rewarded with a park that would be named after them.
Toronto Mayor John Tory announced last Sunday (Aug. 23) that he had signed on to the proposal of Member of Parliament Mark Adler and Toronto Councilor James Pasternak that at the next year’s holding of the “Taste of Manila” (ToM), the Bathurst-Wilson parkette locally known as “Little Manila,” will be renamed as a park for Filipino Canadians “because of your hard work and your many contributions” to the city “so that bigger and better festival will be held year after year after year.”
Adler told the crowd, “I may look Jewish but my heart is Filipino.”
Pasternak for his part said, “We should share values of civil society, respect, tolerance, freedom and democracy.”
Earlier Saturday (Aug. 22), Ontario Premiere (Governor) Kathleen Wynne paid tribute to the growing strength of Filipinos in the province, assuring them that the “Taste of Manila” is going to be held annually.
For her part, Philippine Ambassador to Canada Petronila Garcia, said Canada, home to 700,000 Filipinos, is spreading the Filipino culture with Filipino cuisine, which is a “remarkable phenomenon.” She thanked Rolly Mangante, chair of the Taste of Manila, and officer of the Philippine cultural community center in Toronto.
Mayor Tory said Toronto is home to the largest and fastest growing Filipino community in Canada because they are “embraced here and find opportunity of living together here and find a way to respect each other.”
A video footage of the festival was carried by Filipino Web Channel Editor and videographer Romeo P. Marquez in his website where Mayor Tory’s proposal to rededicate and rename the park was heartily cheered by throngs of Filipinos and Filipino Canadians, who turned up at the festival.
Because of the mammoth turnout, several Filipino Canadian and Canadian politicians, who were not even listed in the program, joined the parade as they allegedly broke “protocol” and turned it into their campaign platform.
An email request for comment by this reporter to Conservative party member Tobias Enverga, Jr., the first Filipino appointed senator in Canada’s Parliament, Julius Tiangson, Philippine-born Conservative candidate as Member of Parliament, and Finance Minister Joe Oliver, MP for Eglinton-Lawrence, was not answered.
Enverga, Tiangson and Oliver appeared to have upended the parade by spearheading the parade at the expense of the organizers led by Ambassador Garcia and her predecessor, retired Ambassador Leslie Gatan.
Oliver, who is facing a tough challenge in the Oct. 19 MP elections from Liberal candidate Marco Mendicino for the Eglinton-Lawrence riding (district), home to a significant Filipino population, was also reported to have delivered the longest speech, turning the Filipino celebration into his campaign stump.
“What the Conservatives did is a big insult on all of us,” a Filipino community leader told Marquez but wished to remain anonymous. “This is blatant abuse of Filipino hospitality,” she added.
As a courtesy, festival officials explained, representatives from political parties were given up to three minutes to speak, which was not the case with Oliver. His Conservative party mate, “Tobias Enverga, did the same, repeating his usual lines and an old talk he delivered sometime ago.”
Enverga, who describes himself as a Canadian “with Filipino descent”, even upped the ante in rudeness. As his routine in community events, he presented ToM founder Rolly Mangante with a plaque and asked his party mates to bear witness to the motion of handing it.
Even as a matter of personal courtesy, however, Enverga did not acknowledge by name the presence of Kathleen Wynne, a Liberal, and premier of Ontario province of which a part Enverga represents in the Senate. She simply dismissed the snub and made no big deal about it, looking unperturbed.
A ToM volunteer quickly approached Wynne while Enverga went on with his little ceremony and apologized on behalf of festival organizers. To which the Premier retorted: “It’s okay, it’s not your fault”.