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Promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing of Filipino-Canadian Youth through Art and Music : Visual Arts

On September 9th, the Philippine Centre Canada (PCC), organized a visual arts workshop at the Arts Court as part of the “Promoting Mental Health and Well-being Among Filipino-Canadian Youth Through Art and Music” project, which is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada through the Canadian Red Cross. Each participant had the opportunity to create their own art and take home all the necessary equipment to continue this enjoyable and therapeutic activity. The workshop was a huge success, and we would like to take this opportunity to highlight two individuals who made this event possible – Roy Lumagbas (RoyLu), visual artist and Michaela Matibag, youth counselor.
Back in 2003, RoyLu studied fine arts and majored in painting and performance at the University of the Philippines-Cebu. He shared his knowledge in artistic expression to the youth with the workshop entitled: BALAKBAYANI.

BALAKBAYANI is a compound word composed of the words BALAK (poem), LAKBAY (journey) and BAYANI (hero). Together they encompass the various meanings or entanglements of the phrase: poem/plan of a heroic journey. In this instance, the journey towards realizing one’s multifaceted self-identity through one’s stories is expressed in the visual arts medium, which hopefully leads to one being able to navigate the wider and widening seas of self, family, friends and society.

Michaela has always been passionate about working with the youth. She used to be the Youth Coordinator of both the CFC-Youth for Christ, Ottawa Chapter and St. Maurice Parish Nepean Chapter. While working in the corporate world currently, she still finds time to volunteer in youth-focused activities. Her presence as a discussion leader/youth counsellor enriched the workshop, instilling a sense of empowerment and inspiring participants to make positive changes in their own lives and communities.

Our participants were guided through four activities: making passports, self-portraits, postcards, and mask-making. First, the participants were given blank passports, where they could fill in where and when they were born. This exercise encouraged confidence in their identity, specifically, about where they are from and why it should be celebrated. Next, the youth made several self-portraits: initially from memory, then using a selfie as a reference, and finally using the selfie upside-down. This exercise taught the youth technical drawing abilities and as RoyLu commented, “[In order to draw a realistic image, we have to use our eyes to copy what we see]”. Participants were then asked to think about who they wanted to send their postcards to, and what they wanted to share with others. Finally, there was mask-making. During the COVID-19 pandemic, people used masks to prevent disease spread. Before that, people used masks to change their identity in celebratory events. The idea of this exercise was to shift the understanding of mask use primarily for disease prevention to its original meaning, that is, to take on an identity that is not necessarily one’s own. Throughout the day, the participants engaged in thought-provoking reflection and contributed their personal insights to a fruitful discussion.
We extend our deepest gratitude to everyone who attended the Visual Arts workshop. Your enthusiasm and eagerness to learn were truly inspiring and we genuinely hope that you not only enjoyed your day with us but genuinely learned about yourself and expressed your identity through visual arts. We cannot wait to see the beautiful pieces you produced that will be proudly displayed at our upcoming Youth Art Showcase in December this year. Stay tuned for more details!

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