Happy to be gathering again

Philippine centre preps for return to community celebration


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It’s been hard for Winnipeg’s tight-knit Filipino community to bear nearly three long years of having to be apart.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/05/2022 (391 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s been hard for Winnipeg’s tight-knit Filipino community to bear nearly three long years of having to be apart.

So when the Philippine Canadian Centre of Manitoba was planning its first big outdoor bash since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there was some pressure to make sure the party everyone was anticipating was one to remember.

The PCCM Foodfest and Trade Show is set for this weekend in the centre’s parking lot. It was thrown together quickly, events chairman Dante Aviso told the Free Press, as soon as it became apparent people within the community were beginning to feel comfortable gathering again.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS PCCM president Virgie Gayot (left) and PCCM chair of events and programs Dante Aviso. Gayot says upcoming events will be an opportunity for friends to reconnect.

“There was only less than two months preparation, but we wanted to have an outdoor event because we want to invite the community, the Filipino community specifically, (to show) that the PCCM is alive and well,” he said. “And we want to introduce more programs that would benefit the community.”

Planning is still underway and vendors are still being signed, but there are 30 or so booths so far, ranging from Filipino food to free salsa lessons to family activities.

“We’ll be featuring entertainment and culinary delights, and activities for kids — we’ll have bouncy castles and rides, face painting. And we’ll have open karaoke,” Aviso said, before pausing to laugh.

“Of course, Filipinos love singing karaoke, so that one’s going to be filled up fast.”

The goal is to raise $5,000 for renovations in the PCCM building, including putting up a small kitchen in the multi-purpose hall, a goal Aviso said he thinks will be met.

It’s also a chance to kick-start a sense of normalcy back into the events that used to be a regular fixture of the PCCM and its membership pre-pandemic. With Filipino Heritage Month in June, there’s an opportunity for the central hub of Filipino organizing in the city to re-establish itself as such, Aviso said.

“I think this is the time that the PCCM has to introduce more programs and events to the Filipino community, especially (because) we have a new set of officers that are young and active,” he said.

“I’m not trying to say that the old ones aren’t but there’s a lot of new interests and new ideas that are coming into PCCM because of new sets of volunteers.”

Among those new faces is PCCM president Virgie Gayot, who said she’s taking this event and those planned for Filipino Heritage Month as an opportunity to reconnect friends.

“Filipinos (here) are really used to going out and doing socializing, fellowship to one another, going to parties, and having lots of parties in the community. And then it just suddenly stopped. So it’s been really hard for every one of them,” she said.

“And when the government said it’s open (restrictions were lifted) — for me, because I am always looking after the bookings of the centre, everyone was ready to book for parties or for an event. So this is good, that we are going back to our normal life.”

The event isn’t just about reconnecting the local Filipino community, however. While the vendors are majority Filipino, others come from all walks of life, and just as quickly as visitors may come across local lumpia or pinoy pork barbecue, they’ll find Mediterranean food and Taiwanese bubble tea.

“Everyone is excited to come out,” Gayot said.

“It’s in Filipino culture. I know for everyone, we are happy to help one another and to support one another. And at this time, our local businesses have been off for almost two years. So our community (wants to be) helpful in supporting them.”

Malak Abas

Malak Abas

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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