By: Charlene Aviles, Peak Associate
A conversation between friends led to the creation of the Sliced Mango Collective (SMC), an initiative to celebrate Filipinx culture. Realizing there were few resources for young Filipinx-Canadians to learn about the cultures of the Philippines, Claire Baguio and Kathleen Zaragosa wanted to provide youth, mainly those 16–25, an environment to learn about their heritage. In an interview with The Peak, Zaragosa described SMC’s history, goals, and initiatives.
By studying language, an important aspect of culture, Zaragosa learnt the significance of representation and nurturing adolescents and young adults within the Filipinx-Canadian community. To address the lack of Filipinx representation in academia, Zaragosa gathered data on Filipinx-Canadian youth. Zaragosa’s research found: Tagalog is the most common Filipinx language taught, most Filipinx-Canadians are not fluent in their native language, and Metro Vancouver lacks language programs to educate Filipinx-Canadians.
“Whether you were born in Canada or born in the Philippines and then moved [to Canada] at an early age, Fil[ipinx]-Can[adian]s are generally understanding a lot more from their heritage language than they can actively express. I use a term called ‘passive bilingualism,’ in that they have the makings of a bilingual brain,” said Zaragosa.
Acknowledging the diversity among various groups in the Philippines, SMC aims to work with participants to celebrate that diversity.
“In promoting diversity, we’re just trying to promote exploration and curiosity about heritage and about identity as a whole, and our hopes are that with how multicultural and how diverse the Philippines already is, that we’re able to nurture that in people through our work and various initiatives,” Zaragosa said.
At the heart of SMC’s work are values of “decolonization, anti-racism, and intersectional feminism.” Zaragosa explained that a common theme among these values is inclusivity. “Respect and the openness to learn and the openness to continue that conversation [ . . . ] is why we put those values to the highest precedent,” she said.
Zaragosa also explained that anti-racism involves holding people accountable for their actions and increasing public awareness of the injustices that BIPOC communities experience, and intersectional feminism supports SMC’s goal of creating a non-judgmental environment for its participants.
Illustrating the role that colonization plays in Filipinx-Canadian lives, Zaragosa provided this perspective: “Our homeland was set on hundreds of years of colonization, but [ . . . ] as Canadians, and as Canadian settlers, we’re also just settler immigrants on this land, whether we’re born or raised here.”
One of SMC’s first initiatives centered around the 5163-5187 Joyce Street rezoning application. Their campaign, #SliceofSupport, amplifies local Chinese and Filipinx businesses’ concerns about how the rezoning project will result in the displacement of marginalized groups and gentrification of cultural spaces. The campaign has encouraged those in the neighbourhood to engage with the issue and provide feedback to the City of Vancouver. While waiting for further updates regarding the rezoning application, SMC remains in contact with community organizations and leaders.
SMC is also designing their first zine issue, using the prompt “What’s your slice?” The issue will encourage the audience and contributors to self-reflect on their ancestry, culture, and identity. Zaragosa said that the zine’s theme reflects a Filipinx proverb that states, “You don’t know who you are, or you don’t know where you’re going, unless you know where you come from.” Through this creative outlet for contributors to express their identity and culture, SMC promotes cultural diversity and celebrates Filipinx heritage.
While reflecting on what she learned from creating SMC, Zaragosa recognized the potential impact of empowering and mentoring youth.
“If we see anything that we’re super passionate about or anything that we want to speak up on, then we shouldn’t be afraid to raise our voices and be heard, because the community’s got our backs. Even if one person hears and someone takes value away from that, at the end of the day, that’s truly what matters,” she said.
When asked about how the SFU community can support SMC, Zaragosa noted that SMC is searching for other Filipinx-Canadian organizations to partner with and hiring new members to help prepare their zine. Prospective contributors can also submit their work — including but not limited to essays, poetry, and art — through Google Forms. Supporters can stay updated with the Sliced Mango Collective’s work through their website, slicedmangocollective.ca, and Facebook and Instagram, @slicedmangoco.