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Sask.’s emerging second language
Published Tuesday, March 20, 2018 9:42PM CST
Last Updated Tuesday, March 20, 2018 9:50PM CST
Seven-year-old Quentin Silvestre belts out Ed Sheeran in perfect English. But his mother, Michelle Silvestre, hopes Quentin will learn the song in his home language too.
“We still speak Tagalog at home because they should still look after their roots,” Michelle Silvestre said.
Almost three years ago, Silvestre and her family left the Philippines for life in Canada. Friends already in the country suggested the Silvestre’s move to prairies.
“They recommended (living) in Regina because it's quiet and peaceful, and there's a lot of job opportunities,” Silvestre said.
Saskatchewan’s small communities and economic opportunities are a draw for the thousands of Filipino immigrants who've moved to Saskatchewan, according to Minister of Immigration and Career Training Jeremy Harrison.
“Actually, the Philippines has been the number one source country for international in migration into Saskatchewan for eleven years in a row now,” Harrison said.
In 2007, 722 new permanent residents arrived in Saskatchewan from the Philippines. In 2017, 3,022 Filipinos immigrated to the province, an increase of 319 per cent from 2007.
Now, according to Statistics Canada’s most recent 2016 census data, the Filipino language, Tagalog, is the second most spoken mother tongue in the province. Approximately 24,125 people speak Tagalog in Saskatchewan, only falling behind English, which boasts 910,865 speakers.
Five years prior, Statistics Canada’s 2011 census found Tagalog in the sixth place, with 9,260 speakers in Saskatchewan. The number of Tagalog speakers in Saskatchewan that year fell behind English, German, Cree, French and Ukrainian.
“It really is a remarkable change in a demographic context in the province,” Harrison said.
When Heidi Manquil came to Saskatchewan 12 years ago, she remembered being one of the only Filipino immigrants.
“When I came here first, I just saw one Filipino here, in the Cornwall (mall),” Manquil said.
At that time, there was just one Filipino grocery store in Regina. As the number of Filipinos in the city grew, Manquil saw the need for another. Eight years after Manquil moved to the city, Manquil and her brother opened up Mang Gerry's Filipino Store.
Manquil said the store attracts Filipinos, as well as Canadians looking to try Filipino cuisine.
“(Filipinos) mingle with Canadians and others, and then (the Canadians) like our food,” Manquil explained. “They ask their friends how to cook, and then they come here to get the ingredients.”
It's not just the rise of Filipino grocery stores that reflect Saskatchewan’s changing culture. Dante Collado, who works for Manquil as a software developer, is part of several Filipino organizations in the city.
“We have also some sports organizations, like basketball,” Collado said. “It’s because basketball is such a big thing in our country.”
Collado said he loves working in Saskatchewan, and plans to stay in the province.
“I love the people, because everybody keeps smiling,” Collado said, with a laugh.
Silvestre said people in Saskatchewan have welcomed her cultural practices, with some even looking to take part.
“Even my workmates at work, they will ask me, ‘What's the Tagalog of this word?’ They would like to learn some Tagalog words too,” Silvestre said.
It’s a gesture that makes the foreign language, and the community behind it, a bigger part of Saskatchewan’s cultural framework.