(This article is sponsored by the Asian Canadian Special Events Association, organizer of TaiwanFest.)
The Philippines and Taiwan share so many connections that are widely considered “common knowledge” by their citizens, yet rarely brought out to be discussed. For instance, did you know that many people from both nations have a great deal of very similar DNA? How about the shared languages and cultural traditions between some indigenous communities in both the Philippines and Taiwan?
Continuing their Dialogues with Asia series, the 2018 TAIWANfest welcomes the Canadian Filipino community to join them in the hearts of downtown Toronto and Vancouver. The annual festival began in Vancouver as a small Music Night of Taiwanese Composers, and in the past 28 years has grown to become the largest English / Mandarin bilingual cultural festival in all of Canada. With the goal to connect communities and foster new forms of artistic expression, TAIWANfest in recent years has sought to enrich Canada’s diverse social fabric by inspiring new cultural dialogues.
“Sometimes,” shares Charlie Wu, Managing Director of the festival, “examining and learning about a different culture ends up shedding new light on our own. While TAIWANfest has not directly engaged the Filipino community in Canada in the past, this year’s Fête with the Philippines is an opportunity for both communities to cast aside our preconceptions, discover new things about ourselves and each other, and inspire our communities and artists to new heights.”
Among the films, workshops, exhibitions, live performances by local and international groups and even a culinary competition (all free attendance!), the festival also shares the stories of Filipino artists and community leaders in Taiwan. Perhaps one of the most anticipated is the story of Mario Subeldia, Taiwan’s first Filipino migrant artist, accredited and acknowledged by both the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Culture in Taiwan.
Subeldia left his hometown of Luzon in the Philippines to work in the Hsinchu Science Park in Taiwan. While one of many Filipino foreign workers, Subeldia found the Taiwanese mainstream, communities, and people to be greatly welcoming of his artistic hobbies. Through his signature “sand painting” to acrylic painting to even fashion design and high couture, Subeldia has inspired an entire generation of Filipinos in Taiwan to join him in pursuing their artistic dreams.
As the creative mind behind “AFACE: Arts and Fashion: A Charity Event”, Subeldia gives the Taiwanese public a new perspective on arts and fashion through public art exhibitions, charity fashion shows, and even model selections. While showcasing and supporting the art and talent of the Filipinos in Taiwan, the group’s charity activities also raise funds to support impoverished communities back in the Philippines.
In addition to exhibiting Subeldia’s couture and paintings from him and his fellow migrant worker friends, TAIWANfest also features artist talks from inspirational speakers such as Subeldia himself; Filipina Gen Huang who married into a Taiwanese family and continues her philanthropy in the Philippines from Taiwan; Taiwanese newspaperman Asuka Lee and his inspiration to start e-media “Migrants’ Park” dedicated to migrants’ news; and even a genetic scientist who explores and explains our connections through perspectives of science.
It is widely accepted that Taiwan was the root of the Austronesian languages and the migration of its peoples & cultures. It’s no wonder that the Philippines and Taiwan share nearly identical language, heritage, and even blood in many communities. Perhaps our communities in Canada can continue to deepen and grow this relationship - all while sharing our very best with our fellow Canadians!
“Growth can only happen when we dialogue from one heart to another heart,” shares Wu, and the festival’s artistic direction quotes philanthropist Nelson Mandela: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
TAIWANfest kicks off in Toronto at Harbourfront Centre from August 24-26 and continues in downtown Vancouver from September 1-3. The event is family friendly, entirely bilingual (English / Mandarin), and free to attend!