LINGAP-Canada: Reviving a Vision for Interdependence & Global Awareness of the Philippines & Canada
Updated: Aug 12, 2020
Alberta Filipino Journal - June 2020
In February, 2020, a group of Edmontonians, including several Filipino-Canadians and other Canadian citizens from diverse ethnic backgrounds and vocations, gathered to revive the NGO known as LINGAP Institute that was formed in the 90s. LINGAP stands for “Learning for Interdependence and Global Awareness of the Philippines”. Founding members included Josie Pallard (Filipino-Canadian Saranay Association), Noreen Berkes ( Changing Together) , Toh Swee-Hin & Virginia Cawagas (University of Alberta), Zoltan Berkes (Concordia Univeristy), Caridad Bernadino (Edmonton Immigrants Services Association) and Jea Cawagas (inaugural Director, Saranay Rondalla Orchestra; Artist House Studio). LINGAP Institute is now renamed as Association of LINGAP-Canada, or LINGAP for short.
Among all the ethnic-cultural communities in Edmonton, Canadians of Filipino ancestry and heritage have a reputation for organizing many associations and groups since their arrival from the 60s and 70s. These associations contributed enormously to the maintenance and promotion of Filipino culture , such as Filipino music, dances and other performing arts and language. A number also catered to the needs of regional ethnic identities (e.g. Ilocanos, Visayan-Mindanaon, Bicolanos etc), generational groups (e.g. senior citizens, youth) and different occupations (e.g. caregivers, nurses, businesspersons etc).
LINGAP was formed in the early 90s to highlight the need for Filipinos in Edmonton to also be concerned about the Philippines as a society and nation as well as relationships between Philippine and Canadian societies. As reflected in our acronym, LINGAP, which is the Filipino word for “compassion”, LINGAP seeks to encourage all peoples in Canada, not just Filipino Canadians, to exercise personal and social responsibility in building a more peaceful, caring, and just world and to promote solidarity for each other’s well-being and challenges. So with this vision and mission, LINGAP became well known in the 90s for our educational and social activities.
While respecting and supporting the contributions of other Filipino associations and groups to multiculturalism, we also emphasized the importance of education in raising awareness of the Philippines and developing positive , compassionate and interdependent relationships between Canadian and Philippine society. Hence in terms of membership, LINGAP attracted not only Filipino-Canadians but also citizens, immigrants and residents of Canada from diverse heritage and countries (e.g. university students from Africa, Arab and other Asian nations).
Our educational and social activities included workshops and forums to help Filipino-Canadians, especially youth, to better understand their Filipino roots and the history and contemporary affairs (social, economic, political, cultural, environmental) of the Philippines. We organized the big successful conference in 1998 to commemorate the 100th Centennial of Philippine Independence which brought together over 200 youth from the Philippines , Canada and USA. Through forums , Edmonton schools’ workshops and visiting Filipino speakers, other Canadians also gained a wider perspective of the Philippines and were encouraged to show solidarity for the problems of human rights, social injustices and environmental destruction experienced by Filipino peoples.
We participated in co-organizing a study visit to the Philippines by Canadians who learned about the challenges, resiliency and hopes of Filipinos at the grassroots in urban and rural areas. We helped to promote conflict resolution skills and anti-racism so Filipinos can overcome discrimination in a multicultural Canada. LINGAP was a major partner in the campaign to protect the human rights of Filipino caregivers, such as the successful campaign for our dedicated member, Leticia Cables , to maintain her OFW status. Our organizing of the concert tour of Joey Ayala and Bagong Lumad to perform in Canada and the USA was not just to promote their musical talents, but also because their music integrated awareness of indigenous peoples and environmental issues in the Philippines.
When the crisis of COVID 19 is resolved, and public events are allowed, the members of LINGAP-Canada look forward to reawakening the vision and mission of LINGAP in this second decade of the 21st century. We feel that the original goals and purposes of LINGAP continue to be very relevant, meaningful and important for the development of Canadian multicultural society. Our forthcoming activities will endeavour to rebuild LINGAP as an active member and partner of the Filipino-Canadian community of associations and NGOs in Edmonton , Alberta and the wider Canada. We welcome opportunities to collaborate with groups, communities and concerned individuals ,from youth to senior generations, who share the values and principles embedded in our vision and mission. LINGAP will also draw on its members’ extensive networks in the Philippine among NGOs, CSOs, professionals and educational and social institutions to co-sponsor activities and projects in which Filipino Canadians and other Canadians can contribute ideas and energies.
In the midst of this global pandemic that has caused much suffering, hardships, and uncertain futures to billions of people worldwide, including in Canada and in the Philippines, LINGAP-Canada is supporting initiatives and campaigns such as advocating for the Canadian and Albertan Governments to meet the needs and fulfill the rights of temporary foreign workers and undocumented workers, many of whom are Filipinos. LINGAP members are also very concerned about the increasing acts of racism and discrimination against Asians in Canada and we are joining the ongoing campaign calling on all Canadians to loudly say that racism has no place in Canada’s multicultural society.
Toh Swee-Hin (S.H.Toh is President of LINGAP-Canada and Professor Emeritus, University of Alberta. Since the late 80s, he has helped to promote education for a culture of peace, social justice, human rights , intercultural/ interfaith dialogue and sustainable futures in various regions of the Philippines, especially in Mindanao.