The Filipino community and local politicians gathered in Northeast Calgary to celebrate the groundbreaking of the city's own monument honoring the Philippines’ national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said erecting a monument of Rizal in Calgary is a tribute to the history of Filipinos in Canada.
"This is a chance for the Pinoy community with the Rizal statue to put down a permanent monument that speaks to your culture and history and your Canadian story; the values that animated your ancestors and drive your community forward," said Kenney.
For Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Rizal's monument represents the contributions of the Filipino community and the values of maintaining peace, unity, and justice that Rizal stood for.
"I live in this neighborhood. This is my neighborhood park. And anytime you walk around Northeast Calgary, you realize that those voices of divisiveness will never ever win here. They will never ever win on this land. Because we won't let them win. Because we will stand up for kindness, compassion, unity, mercy, and love and we will do that every single day. That's why having this statue here in Prairie Winds park means so much to me," shared Nenshi.
The Rizal monument project began in 2018 when senior community leaders suggested a version of Luneta Park in Calgary to represent the almost 40,000 Filipinos living in Alberta. The COVID-19 pandemic stalled the project but it finally pushed through this year.
Sherissa Celis, a board member of Fiesta Filipino, shared why she thinks having the monument is important. "It is my pride to be a Filipino Canadian and having Dr. Jose Rizal as the symbol of Filipinos here... is really important because it will encourage more Filipinos to contribute to the society."
A groundbreaking ceremony for a Rizal monument in Airdrie was also held in June. For many Filipinos in Alberta, having two Rizal monuments in the province is a source of pride.
"We have one symbol; we have one hero. So I think that will unify us. It is not a cause of division but unity," said Aurora Dacanay of the Philippine Cultural Center Foundation.
The Filipino community is also planning to have one of the streets named after Rizal.