Let’s vote Erie Maestro and Ovvian Castrillo-Hill for 2021 Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards

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  • On July 30, ReyFort Media Group founder and CEO Rey Fortaleza urged the Filipino Canadian community to support and vote two Filipino Canadians for the 2021 Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards.

    They are Ovvian Castrillo-Hill and Erie Maestro.

    “Ovvian and Erie are known for their passion and dedication not only in their chosen professions, but also in uplifting people and the community as a whole,” Fortaleza wrote on social media.

    Voting is going on for the 13th annual Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards.

    The award program was started by the Canadian Immigrant magazine, and for this year, COSTI Immigrant Services is its partner.

    The magazine launched the voting phase of the program on July 27.

    The award recognizes immigrants who have made immeasurable contributions to the Canadian economy, Canadian society, and Canada overall.

    Here are the stories of Erie Maestro and Ovvian Castrillo-Hill:

    Erie Maestro
    Storyteller and community activist
    City: Vancouver
    Country of Origin: Philippines

    “Erie Maestro is passionate about early literacy and storytelling, and about community organizing and social justice work.

    “As a children’s librarian, Maestro pioneered the first Pilipino Parent-Child Mother Goose Program/ Programang Nanay Gansa, an oral early literacy program for Filipino parents and small children. She also introduced the Pilipino Baby Welcoming Program, which welcomed all babies to the library and organized Pilipino language storytimes inside and outside the library.

    “Before she retired in May 2021, “Auntie” Erie welcomed families to the children’s online storytime Kuwentuhang Pinoy of Vancouver Public Library. Maestro continues her advocacy for early literacy and storytelling in Pilipino even in her retirement.

    “Maestro is a founding member and active volunteer of two grassroots organizations: Migrante BC, which protects and promotes the rights and welfare of Filipino migrants and immigrants (2009) and the Canada Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (2008). In 2012, she joined other Filipino community artists to create the grassroots PANCIT art collective. In 2019, Maestro joined the National Pilipino Canadian Cultural Centre (NPC3) as its founding member and board secretary.

    “A large part of her life in the Philippines was lived under the shadows of martial law as a student, human rights worker and organizer of the families of political prisoners where she saw firsthand the sacredness and fragility of human freedoms.

    “In 1991, Maestro arrived in Nova Scotia with her young daughter and balanced her single mother roles and graduate student tasks. There, she also found the time to help found the Immigrant Women’s Support Association in Halifax with other immigrant women friends. She has a master’s in library and information studies from Dalhousie University and a master’s in archival studies from UBC.

    “She writes for the Philippine Asian News Today and for the Philippine Reporter. Her story is found in, And I will paint the sky: Women speak the story of their lives (2000), a collection of autobiographies of Canadian women edited by Carole Trainer, and in Aboriginal and Visible Minority Librarians: Oral Histories from Canada (2011), a collection of personal narratives edited by Lee and Kumaran.”

    Ovvian Castrillo-Hill
    Artist, writer, curator
    City: Fort St. John, B.C.
    Country of Origin: Philippines

    “An established artist and writer from the Philippines, Ovvian Castrillo-Hill came to Canada in 2009 and married Bryan Hill of Fort St. John, in the Peace Region of Northeast B.C.

    “When she left her successful art profession in Manila (she created multiple public art monuments, most notable of which is the signature sculpture of the Philippine Stock Exchange), she adjusted to life in Canada by volunteering with the North Peace Filipino Canadian Association (she’s been a cultural director and officer for many years), while being a stay-at-home mom to her young son, Brendan.

    “In 2019, she established/curated the first EX-SITU Filipino-Canadian Art Exhibit held at the North Peace Cultural Centre — a first for any immigrant community in the region. Castrillo-Hill expanded EX SITU 2020 to include a B.C.-wide online art exhibit. With its success, EX SITU was featured in various media (Omni Channel, CBC Radio, Alaska Highway News, Bell Media-Moose FM, Philippine Asian News Today) as a positive example of cultural celebration and opportunity for Filipino immigrants. Because of this, Castrillo-Hill was invited as one of the speakers at the second National Asian Symposium (Montreal), where she spoke about EX SITU and how this model can be replicated by immigrant communities everywhere in Canada.

    “In 2019, Castrillo-Hill was a finalist for the City of Fort St. John’s Community Awards (Art and Culture). In 2020, her design was selected in the Festival Plaza Art Competition held by the City of Fort St. John; and her bas-relief was a winner at the 2020 Incheon (Korea) Metropolitan City International Art Exhibit (Sole Canadian Entry). In 2021, her painting was among those awarded at the Peace Liard Regional Arts Council Juried Art Competition.

    “Castrillo-Hill is a settlement practitioner for SUCCESS, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help immigrants’ settlement journeys. Her awareness of the unique challenges of immigrants allows her to personally assist newcomers in her city.

    “Castrillo-Hill also authored Goddess in the Mirror: A Book of Self-Discovery for Filipino Women the World Over.

    “Castrillo-Hill continues to curate EX SITU. She also dreams that her art-concept for a Filipino-Canadian Friendship Monument will someday become a reality.”

    Voting is open until September 17, 2021. Winners will be announced November 8th, 2021

    To vote, click here: https://canadianimmigrant.ca/canadas-top-25-immigrants/vote

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