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Top 5 Filipino Canadians

Immigrating to Canada is no walk in the park. Filipinos must contend with moving away from their loved ones, adjusting to a different culture, and dealing with culture shock. So, when we see one of us going against all odds and making headlines, we have every reason to celebrate.

And there are many reasons to celebrate.

From politics, culture, arts, and healthcare, these are the top five Filipino Canadians that have taken a leap of faith and made an impact in their new home.

Arlene Oliveros

filipino canadian Sommelier looking at wine

In Tondo, Manila, young Arlene Oliveros never would have thought she would become Canada’s first Filipino Canadian sommelier. Instead, she spent her youth earning scholarships, building a marketing career, and planning to enter law school.

But life took her in a different direction.

To be with her college sweetheart, Oliveros left her career in the Philippines to start a new life in Canada. The two then eloped, moved away from Oliveros’s in-laws, and worked several jobs while running a small business that catered to Filipinos in Canada who were employed as caregivers and needed training and connections.

Oliveros also worked as a caregiver for an elderly woman who enjoyed her company and brought her to parties and cultural events. It was through this job that Oliveros began to appreciate wine.

After her employer passed away, Oliveros decided to turn wine into a serious career. She enrolled to George Brown College’s sommelier programme, but encountered challenges due to her unfamiliarity with the fruits, smells, and tastes that made up most wines.

Still, she persisted. To develop her palate, she would visit markets to smell fresh produce and visited wine events to sample different bottles

Eventually, she completed the program and went on to receive more training at The Vintaly International Academy, where she became the first Filipino Certified Italian Wine Ambassador. She also earned her certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Today, Oliveros has several achievements under her belt, including becoming an author and wine educator.

In 2019, the Global Filipina Women’s Network named her one of the 100 most influential Filipino women. Before this, she served as a sommelier for the Toronto International Film Festival. In 2020, Tatler Asia named her one of Asia’s most influential female wine experts.

These days, Oliveros is working on building her online community through her Facebook page, The Food and Wine Guru. She also has something lined up in the Philippines: the opening of Olive Rose Farmhouse and Fine Foods, a food and wine retreat in Cavite.

Genette Mujar

filipina canadian designer taking measurements

Growing up in Albay, Genette Mujar was the fifth of nine siblings and was used to inheriting her older sisters’ clothes. To add a twist to her hand-me-downs, she would take her mother’s manual sewing machine and reinvent her old clothes.

It was clear fashion was the career for her.

However, like some Filipino Canadians, Mujar had to put her dreams on hold and work abroad to support her family.

She first worked as an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Taiwan. According to Preview, she then went to Hong Kong, “where she was thrown out on the streets by her employers.”

In 2007, Mujar moved to Canada to work as a caregiver. In her new home, she would still send most of her earnings to the Philippines. So, to save what money was left, Mujar would only buy second-hand clothes and spruce them up with her sewing skills.

Only years later, Mujar finally mustered the courage to take out a loan and enrol in fashion school at 50.

This didn’t mean she studied full-time. Mujar was still a caregiver in the day. In the afternoons, she would go to school before taking care of her granddaughter at night. It was in the wee hours of the morning that Mujar had the time to work on her designs.

The hard work paid off. This former caregiver has become a fashion designer whose clothes have been featured in the Asia Pacific Fashion Week and Bb. Pilipinas – Canada.

Mujar now works as a part-time designer for a Canadian clothing brand while running her own fashion line, Gnetz Designs. She hopes to one day work with Filipino seamstresses to make an everyday Filipiniana line that incorporates Philippine textiles and materials.

Edsel Mutia

filipino canadian nurse in discussion

One of Canada’s top 25 immigrants, Edsel Mutia is one of many Filipino Canadians who arrived in Toronto to work as a nurse. Before he arrived in the city in 2008, he had over a decade’s work as a nurse in the Philippines and Saudi Arabia.

With his experience, Mutia had hoped to move to Canada with his wife, start a family, and continue his nursing career in Toronto; however, he was in for a surprise: After receiving his application, the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) required Mutia to earn another four-year degree before he could take the registration exam.

Luckily, he found an ad for the CARE Centre, which supports international nurses and trains them for a nursing career in Canada. With their help, Mutia was able to appeal his case with the CNO and cut his training period down to a year.

He studied at George Brown College while working in the Salvation Army as a personal support worker to pay the bills. In a year, he became a Canadian Registered Nurse and started working for North York General Hospital (NYGH).

As Mutia’s career in Canada grew, he earned recognition for his work. He won the 2013 Joan Lesmond Internationally Educated Nurse of the Year Award; later, his peers and patients nominated him for a Dr. Morris Siu-Chang Memorial Award and a Toronto Star Nightingale Award.

In 2022, Canadian Immigrant and COSTI Immigrant Services named him one of Canada’s top 25 immigrants.

Today, Mutia still works as a full-time ICU charge nurse at NYGH. He also serves as a part-time member of Scarborough General’s Critical Response Team and mentors new nurses with CARE and with the Integrated Filipino Canadian Nurses Association.

Dr. Rey Pagtakhan

filipino canadian in parliament discussion

Raised in Cavite, Philippines, Dr Rey Pagtakhan grew up around the family bakery with a father who drove jeepneys and taught himself to be an accountant and a mother who sold thrift items.

Pagtakhan veered from business and studied medicine at the University of the Philippines. He had his own practice in Bacoor, a city in Cavite before he left the country in 1964 to pursue a fellowship in the United States.

With his US exchange visa expiring in 1968, Pagtakhan and his young family moved to the Canadian community of Emerson, Manitoba. They became Canadian citizens six years later.

In Canada, Pagtakhan had a flourishing medical career as a university professor, doctor, and medical researcher during the ‘70s and ‘80s. He was also an active member of the Filipino Canadian community, helping build the Philippine Canadian Centre of Manitoba and participating in the Canadian International Development Agency’s 1986 program planning delegation to the Philippines.

In 1988, he became the first Filipino-born member of the Canadian Parliament, representing Filipino Canadians and other immigrants who came to the country in search of a better life.

A public servant for almost 16 years, Pagtakhan served in the cabinet of two prime ministers. He supported universal healthcare, set the path toward Canada’s modern blood donation system, and, as Minister of Veteran Affairs, ensured all veterans received their benefits during his term.

For his achievements, Pagtakhan now has a park named after him in St. Vital, Winnipeg.

He continues to write columns for Filipino Canadian publications to this day.

Ida Beltran-Lucila

Group of filipino canadian dancers rehearsing

Once the principal dancer and executive director of Ballet Philippines, Ida Beltran-Lucila and her husband Jojo moved to Alberta, Canada, to provide a better life for their children.

Far from her dancing career, Beltran-Lucila worked in industries outside her comfort zone to help support her family. But she could never let go of her art.

While working an office-based day job, Beltran-Lucila found time to run Chameleon Dance Edmonton, a dance company she founded with her husband that highlighted Filipino culture and performed throughout Alberta. They were even invited to dance in the Philippines and Scotland.

She also served as artistic director for Edmonton Festival Ballet.

Gaining her momentum, Beltran-Lucila soon founded the Philippine Arts Council and became a board member of the Edmonton Arts Council and Edmonton Philippine International Centre.

By finding her way back to art, promoting the culture of Filipinos in Canada, and finding new ways to promote creativity in her community, Beltran-Lucila became one of Canada’s top 25 immigrants.

Today, she and her husband run The Lucila Project, offering dance training and creative consultancy services in Edmonton, Alberta.

Living in Canada

filipino canadian in a park in Canada

It’s possible to build a life along with the thousands of Filipinos in Canada.

But apart from grit, you must also be careful with your money to thrive in this northern country. To learn more about using a secure money transfer service abroad, discover more about our services here.


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