Salazar emigrated from the Philippines to Calgary in 2001, and in 2019, he moved north to Lac La Biche, Alberta. Salazar now feels at home in Lac La Biche’s flourishing Filipino community, where he can share a sense of connection.
Lac La Biche is a small Filipino town of about 2, 300 people. The town is surrounded by panoramic lake views and stretches of farmland. Lac La Biche is halfway between Edmonton and Fort McMurray.
When he first came, Salazar knew that the small town would win him. Today he lives in Lac La Biche with the Filipino community that has helped him remind him of his past back in Manila.
“Growing up in my childhood, I remember going to a friend’s house every day, or having a street party, or having a big group of neighbors just hang out, eat, and sing karaoke. I never really saw that in Calgary.”
But in Lac La Biche, every night, people go out together and sing karaoke. Salazar says that it is literary a Filipino heritage deep in the depths of Alberta rural. How that tightly-knit came to be, is a long story.
The first Filipino arrived in Lac La Biche in 1965. The Lac La Biche article published in 1967 indicate that the first Philippines came to Canada as assistant nurses at St. Catherine’s Hospital. However, it took many decades for the Lac La Biche Filipino community to grow.
The 2006 Canadian census data indicate that 15 Filipinos were living in the country. That number increased to 50 in 2011 and over 155 in the recent census data. The community grows and blossom as families reunite and people reconnect to things they love.
Jocelyn Magbitang recalls when she arrived in the small town back in 2009. She was surprised by the warm welcome from Filipinos as well as Canadians. Magbitang says that the community has welcomed other Filipinos into their unique food and culture in over a decade.
“The Filipinos parties are not just for everyone. You can just show up there, and you are going to have fun and get full with all the meals.”
Magbitang added that the mayor has attended a few of the Filipino Christmas parties and recognized the community. Many Filipinos initially worked as nannies, caregivers, construction workers, but have now advanced to other professions.