Taiwanfest in Canada highlights ties to indigenous people of the Philippines

By William Hetherington  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Sun, Sep 02, 2018 - Page 3

Last week’s edition of Vancouver’s largest free weekly, The Georgia Straight, featured a Rukai child from Pingtung’s Sandimen (三地門) area, who was to perform at this year’s Taiwanfest.

Taiwanfest is an annual music and cultural event that takes place in Vancouver and Toronto. This year’s edition was in Toronto from Friday to Sunday last week and is now in Vancouver, where it ends tomorrow.

The Auba Rukai Children’s Choir performed at the Vancouver opening ceremony yesterday.

The festival is especially important this year, given the setbacks Taiwan has faced internationally due to pressure from China, organizers said.

The festival has been held in Vancouver every year since 1990 and in Toronto since 2006.

The Toronto festival is held in the last week of August at the city’s Harborfront Center on Lake Ontario.

In both cities, the festival regularly attracts more than 200,000 people, and it is one of Canada’s largest English-Chinese festivals, organizers said.

Initially a music festival only, Taiwanfest today is also a celebration of Taiwanese food and many other aspects of Taiwanese culture.

Some of Taiwan’s best-known musicians participate in the festival every year, and the festival is regularly attended by Canadian politicians and other prominent Canadian figures.

In 2016, Asian-Canadian Special Events Association managing director Charlie Wu (吳權益) created a Dialogues With Asia series, in which Taiwan shares the festival stage with a different Asian culture each year.

In its first two years, the series looked at Hong Kong culture and Japanese culture.

This year, the festival is celebrating Philippine culture, Wu said, adding that Vietnam and South Korea would follow.

The theme of this year’s festival is “Fete with the Philippines,” with the Chinese version of the theme “Taiwan Thinks Philippines” (台灣想菲) — being a homophone for the expression “Taiwan wants to fly” (台灣想飛), showing the nation’s desire to connect with the world, Wu said.

Taiwan and the Philippines are more than just neighbors and there are links between the languages of both countries’ Aborigines, he said.

The focus on making the festival more diverse and multicultural — aspects of Canadian society that the country is often celebrated for — has won international approval for the festival, he said.

“Only by celebrating Taiwan’s relationships with other countries can we demonstrate the importance of its existence,” he said.

The festival lasts only two weekends across the two cities, but preparations take about a year, he said, adding that the organizers are mostly aged under 30 and all are passionate about telling Taiwan’s story to the world.

This year’s festival also marks the first time that Taiwan’s small farming villages and its new immigrant communities have been highlighted, he said.

This event also features performances by 13-year-old Taiwanese pianist Chan Cheng-an (詹程安) and Juno-award-winning Canadian-Filipino actor Warren Dean Flandez.