June 2019 was a busy month for Paulina Corpuz.
The Toronto resident organized Larawan (English translation: photograph), an exhibit featuring images of inspiring Canadian Filipinos. It’s a project of the Philippine Advancement Through Arts and Culture (PATAC), an organization of which Corpuz was the founding president.
Corpuz also chaired a community get-together for the Philippine Independence Day Council (PIDC). The event was to celebrate Filipino heritage.
In addition, the mother of three participated in the June 12 flag raising event of the PIDC, which was held at the Toronto city hall.
During that occasion, she was recognized for her role in initiating the declaration of Filipino Heritage Month in the city, an initiative that led to similar declarations in other jurisdictions across the country.
Corpuz’s brainchild culminated in the 2018 declaration by the House of Commons of June as Filipino Heritage Month throughout Canada.
For Corpuz, the annual celebration of Filipino Heritage Month is just one step forward for the Canadian Filipino community.
“The work is not done,” Corpuz told Canadian Filipino Net. “The declaration is just a step toward the goal to make us visible.”
According to Corpuz, the Canadian Filipino community’s biggest challenge is “invisibility”.
“Yes, we are one of the largest diverse community. Yet we are not visible in the important places particularly in the three levels of government – we do not see our faces in the governing table,” Corpuz noted.
Corpuz suggested that “much education is needed”.
“We have to inspire our community and our younger generations to improve civic and political engagements,” she stated. “We have to be courageous in raising our voices and to step up.”
Corpuz continues to be active in supporting young Canadian Filipinos, particularly artists, through her involvement in PATAC.
“Right now, it is active in the Greater Toronto Area,” Corpuz said about PATAC. “It would be great if other Filipino organizations become part of PATAC as allies, and work towards a strategic goal to engage and promote our community’s agenda.”
Corpuz was born in the Philippine province of Isabela. The eldest daughter among 10 siblings speaks Ibanag.
Corpuz studied Psychology in the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City.
She was active in the Philippine student movement during the time of then President Ferdinand Marcos. After university, she worked at a cooperative credit union for San Miguel brewery workers, and later, as project coordinator with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines–Luzon Secretariat for Social Action.
She came to Canada in 1993 with her 11-month daughter to join her husband, Ben.
Scarborough Southwest has been her and her family’s home for many years.
“I am an entrepreneur-CEO of an accounting and bookkeeping company as well as a writer, producer and host of the Filipino TV program, Workers Agenda,” Corpuz said. She also co-hosts TV Migrante.
Corpuz is very much involved in the community. She was the past president of the Filipino-Canadian Parents Association in Catholic Education. She’s an organizer of the Filipino Workers Network. She is with the PIDC board. She was also recognized as Pinoy of the Year by the Golden Balangay in 2018.
Corpuz has been recognized by the Canadian Multicultural Council –Asians in Ontario, and the University of the Philippines Alumni Association in Toronto for her more than 30 years of community service and her work in the declaration of June as Filipino Heritage Month.
As an immigrant, Corpuz identifies with the challenges faced by many newcomers to Canada.
“Like you, I experienced the challenges of finding a job and losing a job, seeking an affordable place to stay, looking for affordable childcare and better City recreation programs, riding the bus and the subway, and much more,” Corpuz wrote in 2018. “Your story is my story too.”
Toronto was the first jurisdiction in Canada to declare June as Filipino Heritage Month. The celebration started in 2018. That landmark occasion was the result of Corpuz’s work, which included signature-gathering for a petition.
In November 2017, Toronto councillor Nathan Shan sponsored a motion declaring June as Filipino Heritage Month, which passed unanimously.
In October 2018, the House of Commons adopted a motion by Salma Zahid, MP for Scarborough Southwest, regarding the declaration nationwide of June as Filipino Heritage Month.