Last year, Hay Riverite Anna Crosman and fellow immigrants to the North asked a question: how can we marry our Filipino traditions with our love of Canada? Two snare drums, one symbol, 50 marchers and a Canada Day parade later – they had their answer.
“The marching band was born on July 1,” said Jovy Brito, a fellow member of Hay River’s newly-formed Filipino Marching Band.
After regular practices, moving around schedules and sacrificing lunch-breaks, Crosman said the “dedicated” team – which began as a social club among Hay River’s close-knit Filipino community – landed a high-profile gig, opening up the Arctic Winter Games at the new recreational centre in February with a performance that featured song, dance and rhythmic flag waving.
While the jump to the big stage was a first for the group, Crosman said its members have long held an affinity for performance art.
“Playing music and marching was something pretty much all of us did back home in the Philippines. We were all pretty much involved in the cultural performances in our town,” she said.
In carrying on past traditions and paying homage to her homeland, Crosman said the group also aims to show appreciation to the community it calls home.
“Hay River has been great to us; welcomed us with open arms … I’ve never felt more welcome than when I moved here,” said Crosman, who has now lived in the town for 20-plus years.
Juaning Capulso, another member of the band, echoed his appreciation of Hay River.
“Why we’re united in doing this is to give back to the community because Hay River is home to us,” said Capulso.
“It’s basically a way of saying thanks.”
Along with her appreciation for Hay River, Crosman said she’s thankful for being a part of the band, too.
After moving to western Canada, she said she worried about how to act and behave in a world that was foreign to her.
“It was total culture shock. But eventually I got used to it; started getting to know and meet new people my age and older,” she said.
“It helped me grow.”
With an Arctic Winter Games performance under their belts, band members said they won’t be resting on their laurels – or slowing their march – any time soon.
There are plans to expand the marching band’s membership, upgrade instruments and add new costumes, Sheila Domingo, one of the band’s two lyres – xylophone players – said.
Even track and field meetings are in the group’s sights, said Domingo. “We’re just waiting on invites.”
In the meantime, there won’t be a shortage of socializing between members, who often meet over food and laughs when not practicing.
“It’s family. The feeling of the tight, close-knit family that no matter what happens, good or bad, when somebody needs something, we all jump in and help each other,” said Crosman.
Since gaining exposure through a national live-stream of the marching band’s opening at the Arctic Winter Games, Juaning Capulso said the collective has received support from the Philippines and across Canada.
“Those comments really made us proud,” he said.
“We’re all family, we’re all proud.”