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Courtesy of Kultura Festival
Courtesy of Kultura Festival
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Experience Filipino Culture In Toronto: Catching Up With KULTURA

Picture of Alix Hall
Updated: 6 January 2017
Toronto’s growing and thriving Filipino arts and cultural scene should come as no surprise. Filipino immigration to Canada is strong; in 2014, the Philippines was the top source country for Canadian immigration; that same year, more than 40,000 Filipinos became permanent Canadian residents. About half of Canada’s Filipino population lives in the Greater Toronto Area, with Tagalong being the city’s seventh most spoken language, evident in the Filipino arts, food, and culture scene. For the past decade, KULTURA Filipino Arts Festival has been celebrating the Filipino-Canadian experience and is back again this summer. Culture Trip caught up with KULTURA’s Executive Director, Nicole Cajucom, to get the lowdown on what to expect at the festival, Filipino culture in Canada, and the inspiring youth-led direction at KULTURA.

From live performances and curated interactive art installations to traditional and modern cuisine and a must-shop marketplace, KULTURA’s weekend festivities are always packed. Now in its 11th year, KULTURA is back this August 5th to 7th, 2016, to go beyond the clichés of ‘cultural costumes and food,’ fostering a deeper understanding of Filipino culture within Toronto’s communities and beyond. Executive Director Nicole Cajucom explains what makes KULTURA a must-visit.

Courtesy of Kultura Festival
Courtesy of Kultura Festival

KULTURA has been celebrating Filipino-Canadian culture for a decade now; how has the festival evolved over the past ten years?

There has been incredible growth over the past decade – KULTURA started as small BBQ in Kensington Market with zero budget and transformed into a mainstream, multi-day and multi-venue Toronto summer festival with public funding, partnership, and over 15,000 attendees from diverse communities! The festival continues to grow – we’re so excited to welcome international artists in recent years and hope to bring more international content to KULTURA in the years to come.

Courtesy of Kultura Festival
Courtesy of Kultura Festival

Summertime in Toronto really means festival time… with so many festivals; what makes KULTURA stand out from the crowd?

KULTURA is the only festival that celebrates the varied, contemporary expressions of diasporic Filipino-Canadians. There are also many Filipinx festivals during the summer, and what sets KULTURA apart from the others is the youth that spearhead it – it’s entirely run by young people who are passionate about arts, culture, and community.

Courtesy of Kultura Festival
Courtesy of Kultura Festival

KULTURA is spearheaded by the youth-led Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts & Culture. How has the youth-led presence shaped the festival?

Having young people at the helm keeps the festival relevant and promotes a side of Filipino culture that is vibrant and unique to young Filipinos growing up in and/or adapting to Toronto. There are so many diverse stories that need to be told, and KULTURA becomes a platform for Filipino youth to share their stories with the broader community through the arts.

What sort of opportunities do Kapisanan-involved youth receive from their involvement?

Mentorship! There are so many opportunities to receive mentorship from relatable role models. The Filipino-Canadian community has talked at length about the lack of mentorship within our own community, but Kapisanan and KULTURA have been providing youth access to resources, specifically mentors, for over a decade now. Getting involved also encourages young people to exercise leadership skills and to grow their network to help them realize their fullest potential.

Courtesy of Kultura Festival
Courtesy of Kultura Festival

The festival runs from August 5th to 7th, but how can Torontonians and visitors experience Filipino culture the other 362 days of the year? Any favourite restaurants, shops, or go-to spots?

KULTURA supports a ton of local Filipino talent – food-wise, music-wise, and more! Most, if not all, of the participants are accessible all year-round. Visit the many Filipino restaurants in the city, attend local art and music shows that feature Filipinos, and support local Filipinos’ businesses.

KULTURA has a pretty packed schedule – from the Filipino Street Eats Competition to the Multimedia Art Battle. What events are you particularly excited for during KULTURA 2016?

The amazing thing about KULTURA is that there are so many things that are happening at one venue! Nathan Phillips Square will be animated with art, music, food, and more – all of which you can very easily enjoy at one stop.

Courtesy of Kultura Festival
Courtesy of Kultura Festival

Do you have any tips for first-time KULTURA attendees?

Purchase a Kain Kalye Passport ahead of time to skip the KULTURA Dollars line! You’ll receive a discount on all the competition dishes too!

KULTURA runs from August 5-7, 2016. Check their festival schedule for complete details of events and locations.

Celebrate Filipino-Canadian Culture Any Day of the Year:

While KULTURA may just be one weekend long, there are plenty of opportunities to check out Filipino eats, art, and community projects in Toronto. Here are a few spots to get you started.

Market 707

Market 707 is Toronto’s most unique street food and retail market. Housed in retrofitted shipping containers, local entrepreneurs serve up over ten types of international street food – including Filipino eats. Unique goods and services are also available, making this urban food and shopping market a must-stop.

Spring & Summer (April-September): Tuesday to Saturday, 11:30AM-7PM
Fall (October-December): Tuesday to Saturday, 11:30AM-5PM*
Winter (January-March): Hours vary depending on the vendor
*Hours of individual vendors may vary

Market 707, Scadding Court Community Centre, 707 Dundas West, Toronto, ON, Canada, + 1 416 392 0335

Lamesa Filipino Kitchen

Discover the diverse flavours of Filipino cuisine at Lamesa Filipino Kitchen, located in the heart of Queen West’s bustling street. Lamesa celebrates the diversity and uniqueness of Filipino food, noting how various cultural influences throughout its development – Chinese traders, Spanish settlers, and American soldiers – have all contributed to this cuisine. Head to Lamesa for the combination of sweet, sour, and salty flavours and natural fusion of many cultures.

Lamesa Filipino Kitchen, 669 Queen St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, + 1 647 346 2377

Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts & Culture

The Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts & Culture is a safe space for Filipino-Canadian youth to overcome barriers that may prevent them from fully engaging in society. At Kapisanan, youth’s creativity is sparked, and pride is fostered. The organization regularly hosts or contributes arts and cultural festivals, exhibitions, and more (including KULTURA!), so check out their latest activities.

Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts & Culture, 167 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON, Canada, + 1 416 979 0600