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A model displays fashion design by Filipino migrant worker designers in Taipei. From the Sundays in Taiwan exhibition at 2018 TaiwanFest. TaiwanFest Canada: Fete with the Philippines

When : Sept. 1, 2, 11 a.m. — 10 p.m.; Sept. 3, 11 a.m. — 6 p.m.

Where : Granville St. (W. Pender to Robson); Vancouver Art Gallery Plaza, The Annex at Orpheum

Tickets and info : Taiwanfest.ca

When TaiwanFest began its “dialogues with Asia” series in 2016 the five year plan was to focus on a different city or country’s connection to Taiwan each year.

By digging deeper into the historic and cultural dimensions of these relationships, organizers hoped to inspire deeper understanding and also to generate jumping-off points for future discussions. Finding connections between Taiwanese and other Asian cultures and how these ties become relevant to Canada is one of the goals of this series.

Year one was reaching out to Hong Kong, a city that has a long trading history with the world and a very close one with Taiwan. Japan, which had occupied Taiwan for 50 years following the Treaty of Shimonoseki after the Sino-Japanese War (1894 — 1895), was the focus country the second year. This year, it’s the Philippines. “The connections between Taiwan and the Philippines are not as well known as those between Hong Kong or Japan,” said Charlie Wu, managing director of Asian-Canadian Special Events Association, producers of TaiwanFest.

“There are these unspoken ties between us that, once you start talking, turn out to be pretty big. My wife, who is Chinese-Taiwanese, was born in the Philippines and there are a lot of families like hers established there over the past few 100 years. Then there is the deep connection between the Austronesian Indigenous peoples who share language and many customs going back much, much longer.”

One of the reasons Taiwan has been a hotly contested territory through history, is that the island nation is particularly well positioned for trade and cultural exchange throughout southeast Asian waters. Long before Dutch and Portuguese traders fought over the prime ports, a well-developed long-distance trade network was well established among the Austronesian and Chinese peoples throughout the region. Some disputed scholarship argues that the migration of people to the Philippines, Borneo, Indonesia and beyond may well have kicked off in Taiwan around 3,000 BCE.

These earliest migrations are generally agreed to have been spurred by environmental demands, while more recent ones have been largely about employment opportunities. These days, there is reverse migration as people flock to Taiwan to participate in the country’s vibrant economy.

Wu notes that the influx of temporary foreign workers to Taiwan from the Philippines and elsewhere has created unique cultural experiences not dissimilar to those experienced by new immigrants and workers coming to Canada from Asia. Community building under difficult conditions seems to generate similar results planetwide.

Sundays in Taiwan is a series focusing on the experience of migrant workers from the Philippines in Taiwan.

“Mario Subeldia, started as a migrant worker in a factory seven years ago, working Monday to Saturday, very long hours,” said Wu. “The only day he and others have to themselves is Sunday, and a whole series of events has developed around this one day and expressing themselves. Mario developed as a sand painter and into fashion all with the hope of having the mainstream, local Taiwanese, take notice of what this community was doing.”

Initially drawing his family’s faces on the beach to overcome homesickness, Subeldia eventually obtained a Street Artist Permit, the first Philippine migrant worker to do so. He developed a network of migrant worker artists and set about showcasing their skills […]

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