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Celebrating our Asian diversity…

Hannyliz Villafuerte, Philippines

Tell us about yourself

I am Hannyliz Villafuerte from Philippines. Back home, I was a bank bookkeeper and I managed my parents’ restaurant and catering business in our island. In Whistler, I am a banquet captain server of Fairmont, and a YouTube Vlogger (Hannyliz Villafuerte in Canada).

In 2007, my sister accepted a job in Fairmont Chateau Whistler. In 2008, Fairmont Chateau Whistler also hired me for the upcoming world event-2010 Olympics.

Conference industries have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, so I was laid off. When I started processing my application for the Covid-19 support benefits, I realized it is not easy especially for someone who is doing it for the first time like me. So, I shared every step of my application for CERB /EI benefits with my friends through YouTube videos. A lot of people reached out to me (not just Filipinos) to say thank you for the video so I kept posting videos to respond to questions on about anything that can help during the pandemic.

How is Canadian culture/life different from your home country?

Hugging and kissing cheeks for greetings; growing up, I have not really noticed anybody hug a person for a greeting especially a gentleman greeting a lady. We are very conservative, so this was really a pleasant surprise.  

Addressing your Boss and anybody older than you in their first name; back home, addressing your Boss in their first name is disrespectful.  It should be Sir, Mam/Miss. And anybody older than us should be called Ate/Tita (older women), Kuya/Tito (older men), never in his or her first name.

Bringing food / drink to a party; in Philippines, when you attend a party, you go empty handed, except gifts (if it’s a birthday, wedding, or any kind of celebration that needs gifts).  If it is just a family dinner, or any informal dinner party or picnic you are invited to, we don’t really bring any food or drink as the host is expected to provide everything for the party. The only time we bring a food/drink to a party is when it is organized as like bring your own provision (BYOP) Party / Potluck Party.

Which parts of your home culture do you try to keep (in Canada), and why?

Placing the back of an older Family member’s hand in the forehead of the younger members of the family “Mano”. This is Filipino tradition that expresses our highest regards for the elders. Though living in Canada gives children more freedom to make their own decisions, I believe our children should still maintain that understanding and acceptance that parents and relatives will offer their suggestions. Because they wish what’s best for you. 

Children don’t need to agree to their opinions, but just understand, and remember to never raise their voice to the elders, to take care of them ‘till they die, and to always be polite. That is why you bow your head when you “Mano” to show your outmost respect for that person. Kids also “Mano” to their parents’ close friends; friends they consider family. We also consider anybody that can be traced to the same Great Grandparents as family. Family needs to support, take care of each of other, and be present in each other’s life especially when we are far away from home

Hannyliz is holding a flower, wearing traditional Filipino women’s dress during the Whistler Multicultural Festival 2014

Mano is an “honoring-gesture” used in Filipino culture performed as a sign of respect to elders and as a way of requesting a blessing from the elder.

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There has been a significant increase of hate crimes against Asian in Canada since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. How has that affected you personally?

I am a victim of an overt racist attack in Whistler.

Last December, there were unexpected comments in one of my posts. After a few minutes, a racist, messaged me via Facebook. This really hurt me because this attack came after I was trying to help. It felt like I was ridiculed for thinking I have anything else to offer besides serving these racists. (watch here for more details) 

This experience made me feel scared and upset. I have seen subtle racism before but an overt attack hits hard to the core.

I don’t imagine anyone to understand that it feels so threatening when you get attacked in your private space. I realized that this pandemic has probably added the hate for Asians more than the usual racist reasons. I am really careful now. I don’t walk alone anywhere, and I don’t allow my kid to be on her own anywhere. It is a scary world out there especially hearing and seeing on the news all these hate crimes against Asians.

Why is it important to recognize/celebrate Asian Heritage Month? This year?

I think this year, more than ever, it is important to recognize / celebrate the Asian Heritage Month to spread awareness of the Asian culture, their contributions to their local communities, and their thoughts and feelings. If they get to know the Asians, acceptance will hopefully follow. I think that because they don’t understand or don’t know why we do/see things differently, they just label us strange or inferior. Sometimes it is easier to categorize something we don’t understand as wrong or strange and just think less of it.

I hope that learning about our beliefs, our heart, and our contributions to the community will make them see beyond the color of our skin, our English proficiency, and physical attributions. And my God stop this stupidity that we brought the virus to this country. Asians regard their families as their greatest wealth and position; they would never do anything that will endanger their families. This virus is killing Asians too. We are not immune to this virus.

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