During the week of January 30, the Filipino Student Association of Toronto (FSAT) held its annual Filipino Appreciation Week (FAW), hosting a variety of cultural events and activities. FAW has been running since the club’s founding in 2005, and members of the U of T Filipino community look forward to the event for its festive games, cultural workshops, and delicious feasts. 

One major goal of the FSAT is to educate both Filipinos and non-Filipinos about Filipino culture. Ernest Esteban, FSAT’s co-president, said in an interview with The Varsity that having grown up in a Canadian suburb with few connections to his roots, getting involved with the FSAT was an opportunity to grow closer to his heritage. “We’ve been planning [FAW] since September and the whole team got involved… I’m really proud of my team this year.” 

A language workshop and tote bag painting night simultaneously celebrated and educated on Tuesday evening of the Appreciation Week. AJ Vidal — a recent U of T Life Sciences graduate and member of FSAT — led an engaging lesson about Baybayin, a Tagalog script. In pre-colonial Philippines, Filipinos who spoke Tagalog wrote in Baybayin. However, the written language was lost due to Spanish colonialism and is rarely used by Filipinos today. “What we do here is anything related to how we can amplify the voices of Filipinos in our community, educate even Filipinos themselves on things that have been forgotten from the pre-colonial era,” said Vidal. 

Also, Vidal expressed how the FSAT comforted her during a lonely period of her university career. Craving the community and comfort of a culture she grew up with, but could scarcely find in the classroom, Vidal searched on Google whether there were any Filipino student groups on campus. This is how she discovered FSAT, and by her graduating year, she was co-president. 

The week concluded with a talent show on February 3. At the Cat’s Eye, an atmospheric café clubhouse at Victoria College, fairy lights and balloons decorated the talent show stage. A variety of acts took the stage, including an acoustic guitar, vocal performances in both Tagalog and English, comedy skits and a Tinikling routine, and a traditional Filipino dance with bamboo sticks. Cheerful club members and their friends packed up the venue, hooting words of encouragement at each talented performer. People lined up to taste Filipino specialties such as barbeque skewers; baked turon — banana in a sweet fried pastry; and lumpia shanghai — Filipino-style egg rolls. Overall, the atmosphere was wonderfully warm. 

Kim Sales, a first-year international student from the Philippines, performed for the first time at the talent show with a love ballad vocal number. Despite admitting that he initially felt pressure when performing in front of his talented peers, Kim spoke about the importance of Filipino Appreciation Week to his integration into Toronto life: “I found a community that I feel I belong to… the cultural differences between the Philippines and Canada are very different, so [the FSAT] helped me transition to this kind of environment.”

Co-president Esteban looks forward to more team-building opportunities and memorable events like FAW in the future. The talent show was a festive conclusion to a successful week that showcased the unity and spirit of U of T’s Filipino community.