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Filipino Guide to Toronto

From a humble group of Filipina nurses in the 1960s, Filipinos in Toronto have grown to over 250,000 people, composing 62% of the entire Filipino-Canadian population.

Today, Pinoys are a permanent fixture in Toronto’s cultural mosaic. They are bustling people, who help each other adjust to culture shock and manoeuvre life in their new home in The Great White North.

Learn more in this Filipino guide to Toronto.

History of Filipinos in Toronto

After years of Spanish and American colonisation, two World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and political uncertainty, a group of Filipino healthcare workers chose to venture out and find work abroad. Their first stop was in the United States of America (US).

After their American work visas expired in the 1960s, these health professionals, mostly women, travelled by train to Toronto to start a new life as immigrants and explore employment opportunities in the area. They found affordable housing at the St. James Town high-rises at Bloor and Parliament Streets and built a community around the nearby Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.

Despite all the growth Toronto had to offer, starting fresh outside of the Philippines had its challenges. Filipino-Canadians then had to endure these struggles:

  • They had difficulty being recognised as healthcare professionals because they earned their credentials outside of Canada.
  • Some chose to retrain as healthcare workers in Canadian institutions while finding a way to make ends meet without a stable job.
  • Others chose underemployment.
  • They were alone and homesick because it took time to bring the rest of their families to Toronto.

It is because of these challenges that today’s Filipino community remains tight-knit. To overcome these hurdles, Filipinos in Toronto created organisations to connect and help each other rebuild their lives as immigrants.

Today, these organisations continue their mission to assist Filipinos as they grow in Toronto.

Filipino communities in Toronto

If you are new to Toronto, trust that there will be a Filipino who can help. In this huge Canadian city and the neighbouring municipalities that make the Greater Toronto Area, you can turn to these communities for assistance or a taste of home:

The Silayan Centre traces its roots to the Filipino Christian Workers (FCW), formed in 1969 by Sister Mel Madamba, OMI and volunteers who congregated in the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church near St. James Town. In the Filipino community’s early days in Toronto, many of the members were Catholic, and FCW meetings at Sherbourne St. were a time to socialise and practice their faith.

In 1979, FCW moved to Gerrard St. and incorporated as the Silayan Filipino Community Centre, rebranding as a non-profit organisation that aims “to meet the needs of new immigrants, seniors, and youths in the Greater Toronto Area.”

In the 1990s, Silayan built these cooperative housing buildings for the Greater Toronto Area:

Silayan also offers the following services:

  • Tax filing assistance
  • Legal services
  • Networking opportunities
  • Crisis aid and social work for Filipino-Canadian youth and their families
  • Day-care services

Formed in 1999, The Filipino Centre gathers and fosters a Filipino community in the Greater Toronto Area.

Like Silayan, The Filipino Centre offers the following services to help Filipinos adjust to life in Toronto:

  • Income tax filing services
  • Job postings and networking
  • Tutoring services for elementary school students
  • Tagalog classes

The centre also has dance, art, and martial arts classes as well as a Filipiniana library filled with books about the Philippines, written by Filipinos, and published in the Philippines.

Every year, you can also spend time with fellow Filipinos during these yearly events sponsored by The Filipino Centre:

  • Bayanihan – Celebrated every Philippine Independence Day, this event attracts over 6,000 guests in a span of two days and celebrates Filipino history and culture.
  • Victoria International Basketball Tournament – This sporting event gathers youth from all of Toronto for a Victoria Day Weekend of fun and exercise.
  • Presidents’ Gala – This ball presents the Young Entrepreneur and Professional Awards to distinguished members of the Filipino community in Toronto. It also holds a silent auction and a much-awaited dance: the Rigodon de Honor.
  • Dr. Guillermo De Villa Memorial Cup – This annual golfing tournament aims to raise funds for the centre’s many services and activities.

If you’re missing the Philippines, this string of 47 Filipino-owned businesses on Bathurst and Wilson Streets will feel like your home away from home. The community here formed in the 1980s and 1990s when a group of Filipinos moved to Toronto to work as caregivers for senior citizens living in the area. Through this work, they eventually gained permanent residency and brought their families to Canada.

When you’re in the area, sample these restaurants and bakeries and be transported to the Philippines:

  • Wilson’s Haus of Lechon Order cebuano lechon here for your next celebration. This restaurant also serves lechon manok (roasted chicken) if you don’t eat pork.
  • Da Best Filipino Bakery Visit this shop for your pandesal (Filipino salted bread rolls), pan de coco, and pan de buko cravings. Da Best also has Filipino pantry essentials like kare-kare (oxtail stew) mix and instant noodles.
  • FV Foods Apart from empanadas (stuffed pastries) and Pinoy snacks, FV Foods is your go-to place for balikbayan
  • Sampaguita Village Head to this family-owned restaurant for some lechon kawali and pancit in a-la-carte servings or party trays.
  • Republika RestoBar and Grill Enjoy beers and cocktails with a side of lumpiang shanghai (Filipino egg rolls) or bangus (milkfish) sisig. You can also find sinigang and your favourite silog (viands with rice and egg) here.
  • Foodtrip If you want to eat kamayan­ (with your hands) and share one big plate with all your friends, order Foodtrip’s boodle fight menu.

As you walk around Little Manila, you may spot some popular locals. Don’t forget to say hi.

Famous Filipinos from Toronto

With a large Filipino community in Toronto, don’t be surprised to run into Filipinos who have gained popularity or success in and out of the area. From actors, academics, writers, politicians, scientists and creatives, they’re everywhere!

To name a few, here are some notable Filipinos from Toronto:

  • Erica Natividad This Toronto-native started her career as a reporter and video journalist before becoming an anchor for CityNews Toronto. She now reports on social justice, gender, race, and medical research.
  • Patrick de Belen You may have seen Patrick de Belen rapping in the Toronto Raptors 2017 TV commercial. An educator, speaker, host, and performer, De Belen teaches young poets while acting as director of BAM! Youth Poetry Slam. He is also a Poet of Honour of the Canadian national poetry festival YouthCanSlam.
  • Alex Mallari Jr. Hailing from Lubao City, Pampanga, Alex Mallari is best known for playing Christos in the Netflix hit The Adam Project alongside Ryan Reynolds, Zoe Saldana, Jennifer Garner, and Mark Ruffalo. He will soon be playing the romantic lead in the CBC Gem original series HELLO (AGAIN), with Simu Liu of Shang-chi and the Ten Rings as executive producer.
  • Mikey Bustos Bustos started as a singer, competing in Canadian Idol, and singing for Christina Aguilera and The Pussycat Dolls, before finding fame in the Philippines as a YouTuber. He is known for his musical parodies and his videos on Filipino-Canadian culture.
  • Don Laurel Now a policeman in Toronto, Laurel was a Filipino-Canadian who found success as a matinee idol in the Philippines. He acted in popular Pinoy TV dramas, such as Gimik and Sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan. Today, Filipinos still stop to take photos with him and even request ask for his help when in crisis.

Send money to the Philippines from Toronto

Whether you’ve found success or are just starting out in Toronto, you may have investments waiting or loved ones you want to help in the Philippines.

So, the next time you need to send funds back home, choose a secure app that lets you make international money transfers in a safe and convenient way.

With Kabayan Remit, you can send money to major Filipino banks and mobile wallets, including:

  • Metrobank
  • Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI)
  • Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC)
  • GCash
  • Payamaya

You can even use the app to pay your bills, Philippine government contributions, loans, real estate investments, and tuition.

To learn more about Kabayan Remit and how it can help you make the most out of your money, click here or talk to our 24/7 bilingual customer support team.


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