Over dinner, I talked to my spouse, who is born-and-raised in Edmonton, and asked him ‘how can I describe Community Leagues to fellow Filipinos?’. And he said “It’s basically your baranggay!” I exclaimed, ‘my goodness, you are right!’. He has visited the Philippines a few times, including where I grew up and where my relatives live. He knows I’m from barangay Camp 3, Philex Mines. My mother’s side relatives are from barangay Cablong in Pangasinan, and my father’s side relatives are either from barangay Merville or Palanan in Metro Manila.
One thing we Filipinos are known for, is we take a lot of pride and love in our location-based affiliations, whether it is the village, province, or region. Right here in Edmonton, there is an opportunity to capture that again, right in our neighbourhoods.
Community Leagues is a one-of-a-kind in Canada and even North America. Since my involvement in my own Community League here in Rio Terrace, I have learned so much more about this neighbourhood I now call home. There is so much potential here when it comes to making newcomers to the city feel integrated and welcomed.
Community Leagues are not 100% like our Baranggays or Sitios but it is a relatable analogy. These community-based associations are the best equivalent we have, as far as entities that provide a sense of affiliation we have from the ‘baranggay’ or the village. It’s like a barangay association, a registered nonprofit organization, and neighbourly helpfulness combined. If your neighbourhood was built from the 80s or older, you are likely to know of a community hall in your neighbourhood that you can rent for cheap, or that hosts neighbourhood-wide events throughout the year. By getting a membership fee which is fairly affordable, you get access to the sports facilities such as a tennis court or ice rinks that is within walking distance, and discounts to some services offered by our municipality.
The community leagues conduct fundraising for things like playgrounds, spray parks or a community hall retrofitted with solar panels. They can be a powerful means to be political, if there is a bylaw change or a development in the neighbourhood happening, and you want to voice your concerns.
There is value from having pride and affiliation based on the location we live. For myself I have certainly embraced the identity of being an Edmontonian, being an Albertan, and now, through the community league of Rio Terrace. I miss saying with pride “I’m from Philex Mines!” and now I do say with pride “I’m from Rio Terrace!” Over the years, I volunteer to get a local newspaper published on a regular basis, with a Canada 150 project painting murals on an outdoor wall, tidy up the building, host events, sit through meetings and read legal and financial documents.
The value of being connected to your neighbours is really important for one’s health, well-being and thriving in this new country we call home. Yes, there is value in connecting with other people based on hobbies (like a basketball group), based on faith (like a Christian church), or culture (like the local Filipino cultural group). However, there’s another one we need to embrace, positive relationships with people living literally next to us, who share most of the letters of our postal code.
There is government support and involvement in this setup. The city provided the land where the community league halls are built, and they provide funding grants for various objectives that the community league does. There are bylaws and agreements as well. But this entire system is volunteer-run, and just like any similar initiative, the labour of love that comes from sharing one’s talents is what keeps it going.
What I encourage you to do is to learn about your community league and work on being a more active neighbour. Follow them online, drop by the local community league, participate or volunteer for any activities that suites you. The organization that oversees and support these 160 community leagues is called Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, and the website is www.efcl.org.