The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Consulates General in Vancouver recently celebrated its second annual ASEAN Festival at the Roundhouse Community Centre on Drake Street. The celebrations featured the Consulates General of the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. Present were the consulate generals headed by Neil Frank Ferrer of the Philippines, and Sutthiluck Sa-ngamangkang of Thailand, who is this year’s host.
In her speech, Consul Sa-ngamangkang said that the festival is a way for the people of these ASEAN countries to say thank you to Canada for its hospitality to its citizens. She said that the expansion of economic cooperation between ASEAN countries and Canada from 1977 to 1993 gave way to more to dialogue, which prompted a celebration of 35 years of ASEAN-Canadian relations in 2012. Thailand has around 3,000 immigrants and expats in BC, one of the smallest population of Asians in the province.
“The festival is a way to showcase the ASEAN ways of life, and to promote it from people to people,” she adds in her speech to the crowd of about 200 people.
This year marks the first year of the implementation of the action plan of ASEAN-Canada enhanced diplomatic relations, with its first economic and trade relations office opened in Manila by Premier Christy Clark. More diplomatic mission offices will be opened in other cities, and ASEAN’s first diplomatic ambassador to Canada, Marie Hannan, was appointed by the Canadian government and will have its offices in Jakarta, Indonesia, where the headquarters of the ASEAN is located.
Representing Premier Christy Clark, MLA Marc Dalton of Maple Ridge said that he thanked the organizers for helping build relationships between the peoples of these countries and BC. He said that the reason why visitors love Vancouver because of the mosaic of people who are warm and accommodating to its immigrants and guests. Dalton said that he and his wife were amazed at the friendliness of the people, especially the Filipino he worked with at the Vancouver General Hospital, when they first moved to BC. He added that he and the government of Canada honours the people of ASEAN for adding to the multi-cultural fabric of the country. He said that the ASEAN nations are some of the most spectacular and beautiful landscape in the world. He adds that with $780 million worth in trade, the ASEAN nations are the sixth largest trade partner of Canada.
Raymond Louie, representing Mayor Gregor Robertson, also thanked the crowd for the organization of the festival, and acknowledged the diversity that the ASEAN nations add to it. He also mentioned that it added multiculturalism to the Coast Salish people, and makes BC a strong and diverse province.
Part of the program was a fashion show where the different countries showcased their traditional costumes, and the Philippines presented a variety of costumes from the three major islands. The program also featured dances from all five countries, and the tinikling, and binasuan rendered by the Philippine Cultural Arts Society of Vancouver Dance Troupe were a hit with the crowd. Jeremiah Carag sang two Filipino songs, and a video presentation about the Philippines was also shown by the Consulate General of the Philippines.
Consul General Ferrer hopes that the festival continues to grow every year. It is a festival that was started by the Consulate General of the Philippines under his leadership of the ASEAN Consulates General Association last year. He adds that it is a wonderful opportunity to showcase ASEAN to Canada through its rich and diverse cultures.