Culture, unity and pride: Filipino Heritage at Pinoy Festival

On June 22 at Swangard stadium, a day-long festival will celebrate the third largest visible minority group in B.C. Pinoy Festival, now running for a second year, will bring a celebration of the Philippines to Burnaby for a day of food, dance and games – all to showcase and unite its rich and diverse culture.

“It’ll be a packed day where people can see and experience the Philippines without having to leave the Lower Mainland,” says Burnaby councillor, Maita Santiago.

As the first Filipino elected to a city council in Metro Vancouver, Santiago says she always makes the effort to promote and help with Filipino initiatives like this one.

The event takes place in June’s Filipino Heritage Month, which recognises and celebrates the contributions of Filipino Canadians to the social, economic and cultural fabric of B.C.

Uniting in cultural diversity

The scope of Filipino culture and traditions is wide, with large distinctions between its Northern and Southern regions. According to Santiago, awareness of this cultural diversity is limited, with many Filipinos themselves being unaware of each region’s own traditions.

This year’s Pinoy Festival looks to celebrate from across the Philippines, including the Sisiwit dance whose roots lie in the northern Cordillera region.| Photo courtesy of Pinoy Festival.

Approximately 70 Filipino community organizers will participate in the June 22 event, with the aim of representing culture from the Cordillera region in the north, to Mindanao in the south.

“The purpose of the event is to underline three things: our culture, our unity and our pride,” says Santiago.

Each of the community organizers will bring with them dance and traditions from their own region or province, many of which will reflect those performed by Indigenous Filipino communities. Santiago predicts that Sisiwit community dance will be a likely highlight of the day. The dance, which originated from the northern Cordillera region, incorporates gongs and invites participation by anyone who desires to do so. She welcomes a return of this tradition from last year’s festival, which she says was a meaningful moment of the day.

“What was really heartening on the part of the Filipino community was seeing so many people who weren’t Filipino participating and joining in,” she says.

Prioritizing community engagement

Burnaby city councillor Maita Santiago hopes to showcase Filipino culture wherever possible. | Photo courtesy of The City of Burnaby.

Taking place on the day alongside traditional dance performances, food vendors serving traditional Filipino food, and a market selling Filipino products will be a cultural procession called the Grand Santacruzan. With religious roots in Catholicism, Santiago says the tradition is one celebrated broadly by Filipino communities from north to south. During this procession, young women dressed in traditional Filipino attire partake in a beauty pageant-like competition, in which one is crowned the Reina Elena.

For the Pinoy festival, voting on who to crown will be put to the community, even though that particular choice is not traditional.

“Organizers decided it’s too hard to decide…but it’s community engagement. People are engaged and people are voting,” she says.

Engaging Filipino youth in the event is also something on the minds of Pinoy Festival organizers, according to Santiago. During the evening, a Filipino rock concert will showcase local Filipino bands and artists, aimed at bringing in young people. M.C.-ing the show will be Canadian beatbox champion duo, The Wookiez, consisting of Vancouver local artists CiMaX and Vino.

“The intent is it’s going to be youth, high energy,” says Santiago.

Keeping objectives in mind

In April of this year, the province announced support for the development of a Filipino cultural centre in B.C., something Santiago says the festival will be highlighting.

A moment from the banga dance at last year’s Pinoy Festival, a performance named after the earthen pot which women dancers balance on their head while performing.|

“We hope that people also come away from the event seeing the need for the cultural centre,” she says.

Over 174,000 people living in B.C. identify as Filipino, according to Statistics Canada’s 2021 census, making it the third-largest visible minority group in the province.

The provincial government recently released a website to attract public engagement with the proposed cultural centre. The site includes a survey in which the community has the opportunity to input what they would like to see from the development.

According to Santiago, this has been a desire of the Filipino community for some time.

“[The Filipino community] is fast growing… but there’s no physical space… a home that could serve to anchor the community and from which the Filipino community can take root to help ensure their place in BC.”

To find out more about Pinoy Festival, visit

Leave a Reply