Largest Canadian-Filipino Youth Conference kicks off this weekend

Lauren Roulston • Feb. 22, 2024

Pinoys on Parliament organizers attend CHUO for an interview. From left to right: Chairperson Karla Atanacio, director of finance Lissa Landicho, and CHUO’s Lauren Roulston (Parujee Akarasewi/CHUO).



Members of the Filipino-Canadian community are flying to the capital from all across the nation. They’re here for an annual event called Pinoys on Parliament, (POP).

It’s a national leadership conference for Filipino youth in Canada, the very first and largest of its kind. POP began in 2018 when members from uOttawa’s Filipino Students’ Association reflected on the lack of representation in the Canadian government. 

They banded together to create a space for growth and networking within the community. The event has grown since then. After six years, POP 2024 is their biggest year yet, according to organizers.

Karla Atanacio, chair of Pinoys on Parliament, has been a part of the organization since its inception. 

“Six years is a long time,” she says. “We started with about a hundred delegates and now we’ve tripled that number. It’s really amazing, there’s an appetite for this kind of conversation.”

For Atanacio, these youths are looking to expand their social connections, especially after the pandemic. 

What’s more, they aim to bring members into a network that sets their sights on future goals. POP has a series of esteemed members of the Filipino community that will greet and connect with attendees this weekend. 

“We want to uplift Filipinos that are very respected in their industries, but we also want the Filipino youth that are coming after them to be comfortable enough in themselves to pursue whatever they want,” says Atanacio. 

Tomorrow, the three-day conference will commence with an opening ceremony and cultural showcase at the Sir John A. Macdonald building downtown. 

Sen. Gigi Osler, the first Filipina in the Canadian Senate will be there. The conference will see many other trailblazers and role models.

Rechie Valdez will also be there. Last year she became the first Filipina to be elected as a Canadian MP.

“We’re a group of Filipino youth really looking to solidify Filipino representation in all levels, in all industries, not just government,” says Atanacio.

Director of finance Lissa Landicho says this is one the things she loves most about POP.

“The people I’ve met, we all come from different types of professions,” she says. “It’s definitely inspiring seeing other people in different areas.”

According to chair Atanacio, this is exemplified by their speakers’ various talents. They’ll have 12 workshops and hear from many from across Canada. 

They’ll hear from a Filipino playwright, an artist with cyberspace knowledge, and a pastry-maker. Canada’s Drag Race star Kyne Santos will also be participating in the conference.

“We try to bring people from all walks of life,” she says. “The point that I guess we’re trying to make here is that you can be the type of Filipino that you want, and there’s no wrong way of being that.”

Landicho and Atanacio both flew in from Winnipeg for the conference. It’s Landicho’s first POP and she says she’s been meeting plenty of people from across Canada.

“That’s honestly been one of my favourite parts,” says Landicho. “I feel like growing up here in Canada I kind of felt like I lost a part of my identity as a Filipino-Canadian. So when I joined [POP] my intent was to surround myself more with what it is and find my identity.”

This year’s theme is the Tagalog word ‘Laro,’ or in English, ‘play.’ POP’s website says that childhood memories are the foundation of who we are today. 

On Instagram they write, “Let’s explore our heritage together and meet new people with a childlike sense of wonder and excitement. Through learning about Filipino/a/x-Canadians in the arts, culture, education, politics, and more, hopefully, you can all reminisce, embrace, and heal your inner child.”

Atanacio says the theme resonates for many in the Filipino community. 

“For a lot of us, especially children of immigrants, we were forced to grow up a lot faster than other kids,” she says.

She recalls a friend who says she’d read legal documents for her parents at nine years old. Landicho also recalls cooking dinners for her family when her parents worked late.

“So there’s moments when you were younger where you’re supposed to be playing with other kids but your parents would tell you maybe you can’t afford to do those things,” says Atanacio.”Or maybe we just don’t have the resources because we’re starting from scratch, we’re building our lives here.”

For Atanacio, who’s been a part of POP since the beginning, and newcomer Landicho, the organizers hope the conference continues to grow and sustain itself.

“I’m hoping that this will translate into a larger social movement of Filipino-Canadian youth reclaiming their Filipino identity,” says Atanacio.


Listen to this conversation as heard on CHUO’s weekly show The Mosaic: