Culture Philippines of Ontario is non-profit, community-based and youth centred organization established in 1985.
Its objective is to retain Filipino cultural heritage by providing music, dance and performing arts instructions to children in Canada and share it with the community.
Since 1985, CPO has been the host of the Philippines pavilion in the annual Carassauga Festival of Cultures in the City of Mississauga. This festival allows residents of this fast growing community the opportunity to see the diversity in music, history, art displays, crafts, food and entertainment of more than twenty countries. The Philippine pavilion consistently draws the largest crowd and was awarded “The Most Outstanding Pavilion” for three years; 2003, 2004 and 2006, and “The People’s Choice Award” in 2007. CPO continues to be among the top passport sellers of the festival and has received numerous special awards.
CPO was under the tutelage of Fiesta Filipino until 2000. In 2001, CPO member, Ms. Maria Laset handled the dance instruction. Her caring attitude and dedication inspired the dancers to stay and improve their dancing skills. On the same year, Luz Del Rosario, then president, negotiated an agreement with then Paramount Canada’s Wonderland for CPO to host the Annual Filipino Day celebration at its International Showplace amphitheatre.
Due to its overwhelming success, the event was eventually moved to a larger venue, the Kingwood Music Theatre. For this event, CPO gathers talent from the local community and gives them the opportunity to be a part of the celebration by incorporating their musical and dance numbers in an evening show. Cultural and contemporary numbers are carefully arranged to entertain both the Filipino and mainstream audience.
It was in 2002 when CPO’s dance performances were brought to a professional level through Ms. Ma. Eleanor Mescallado-Kalash (Eno), a former dance director of the world renowned Bayanihan Philippine National Dance company, who joined CPO as its Artistic and Dance Director. She introduced indigenous and unpublished folk numbers, new staging and choreography, authentic costumes, and Philippine inspired contemporary dance numbers that boosted both the performers and the organization.
In 2003, CPO started an annual search for Filipino Singing Idols as part of its commitment in the promotion and development of young talent in the community. In the same year, a grant was given by The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) which helped the organization acquire new sets of costumes and musical instruments.
The dancers, spearheaded by Luz Del Rosario, were brought to Florida to attend dance workshops and perform at the Walt Disney’s Magic Music Days in Downtown Disney and in Disney’s Epcot Centre in 2002 and 2004. CPO’s performances were further enhanced in 2005 as Carlo Lopez and Julius Calum, also from Bayanihan Philippine National Dance Company, joined CPO and provided live music to its program.
In 2005 and 2007, Luz Del Rosario brought CPO’s youth performers to the International festival in Drummondville Quebec. In keeping with the times, CPO added the FlipHop competition on its Filipino Day event at Canada’s Wonderland in 2008. Another OTF grant was received in the same year.
With the help of CPO’s then Artistic Director, Eno, CPO went to Belgium in 2009 bringing home high participation ratings in the report that reached CIOFF, International Council of Organizations for Folklore Festivals and Folk Art. This led other festival organizers to offer government assisted exchange programs for CPO’s youth performers. Since then, CPO has participated in international festivals in Italy, Mexico, Poland, and Spain.
CPO is very visible in the community. It participated in many charitable events, fundraising and community celebrations. Some notable performances were:
● Road to Asia Festival jointly sponsored by the Consulate Offices of the Philippines, Japan, Korea and other Asian countries
● Mabuhay Festival
● Kalayaan Independence Day Picnic
● Pista ng Bayan Community Celebration
● Philippines – Pearl of the Orient at the Royal Ontario Museum
● Taste of Manila
● Pinoy Fiesta
● Luzviminda: the Philippines Dances for Canada 150 at York University
● INDAK at Harbourfront, In honour of the 120th Proclamation of the Philippine Independence
Day and the First Filipino Heritage Month in Toronto
● ASEAN Youth Cultural Performance
On its 20th anniversary in 2005, CPO presented an evening benefit concert “Pagkakaisa” at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga to contribute to the building fund of Kalayaan Cultural and Community Centre (KCCC) and to the Answering the Cry of the Poor (ANCOP) that are used in building small
communities of homes, schools and child sponsorship of the poor in the Philippines and other third world countries.
Since then, CPO continued to produce several successful shows, like “Malakas at Maganda, the Philippine Legend” and “Perlas ng Silangan: Pitong Alay” and will continue to dedicate its programs to share the Filipino culture not only to its members but also to the community.