March 16, 2018

Now’s the time for a Filipino Bilingual Program!

by Darlyne Bautista  (Published in Pilipino Express March 16-31)

Community delegates present at the Seven Oaks School Division School Board
in support of the Filipino Bilingual Program last December

Times have changed a lot since I grew up here as a kid. For me, being Filipino-Canadian in the 1980s meant being part of an immigrant and blue-collar sub-culture that hammered home the merits of hard work and sacrifice. I recall the focus then from our schools was to assimilate us children, to perfect our English or to learn French, so that we could go further in our professional life as adults. Now decades later, as many of us have matured under this philosophy, what did we do with our Filipino-Canadian identity?

It was not until I reached my mid-20s that I could comfortably say I spoke Filipino. Although I continue to speak English with greater ease, there are a myriad of Filipino-only words I use to better express my feelings and from them my culture as well. It would take a lot of practice, a stop in the Philippines, and numerous (yet willing) patient conversation partners with their bemused smiles to learn the language. I have had to swallow my pride about pronunciation and try again with incorrect terms to be told I sounded “slang,” again and again. It’s quite the process to reinvent oneself back to the cultural direction we come from.

Former school trustees, Darlyne Bautista & Cory Juan

Second-generation Filipino-Canadians (or Canadian-born Filipinos) like myself range in their ability to speak or understand Filipino. It all points to the ways we navigated through our adolescence. From only hearing Filipino at home to only communicating in English (or French) at school to wanting to fit in among a diverse group of peers, we chose to communicate in Filipino consciously or sparingly. Undoubtedly, many of us will have had little to no formal instruction in Filipino. And now that we have grown up using as little or as much of the language, the foundation of our Filipino language knowledge now rests tenuously to be passed onto the next generation. That is, if they rely entirely on us (the way we did on our parents) to teach them what we know or don’t know.

It is an important time now for our community to acknowledge that the Filipino language also belongs in our schools. Just as French, Spanish, Hebrew, Ukrainian, German, and Ojibwe language programs are taught in classrooms throughout Manitoba, the Filipino Bilingual language program is set to be offered at the Seven Oaks School Division in September 2018. The Filipino Bilingual program will give the next generation an important opportunity to build their own positive self-identity. Our children will not feel the need to compromise parts of who they are in order to gain acceptance or to succeed. Instead, they will realize that being Filipino-Canadian is but one kind of Canadian in this very diverse country of ours. To be multilingual and truly multicultural with a confident understanding of their own heritage will make them stand taller, stronger, and confidently among the rest.

Darlyne Bautista is a past director of ANAK. She served as School Board Trustee for the Winnipeg School Division from 2010 to 2014. She is presently volunteering with the Seven Oaks Filipino Employees Association to promote the Seven Oaks Filipino Bilingual Program. Forty students from grades K to 3 must register by April 30, 2018 to ensure that the program will run in September 2018. For more information contact Dr. Porfiria Pedrina at (204) 632-6641 or