Taste of Manila street fest celebrates Filipino culture and cuisine

To the rat-a-tat-tat and the boom, boom boom of the snare drums, the dah – ditty – dah –ditty dah of the brass, and high-stepping majorettes, the Philippine Heritage Band opened the festivities at the fourth annual Taste of Manila.

Soon, the aromas of pinoy barbecue – that’s pork marinated in a sweet sauce – mixed with menudo – a spicy beef broth – drift over the site blending with bouncy Fiipino music and rainbow-coloured decorations turning the gray-brown, low-rise office buildings and stores, known as Little Manila, into a street festival.

The ToM, held at the intersection of Wilson Avenue and Bathurst Street and north eight blocks to Laurelcrest Avenue, showcases the best of Filipino food, music and crafts.

“Our theme this year is ‘United in Love and Peace’ to commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday and the partnership between the two peace-loving countries of Canada and the Philippines,” says Teresa Torralba, major domo of the event and publisher of Filipinos Making Waves, a Toronto area community newspaper.

Torralba is a veteran festival organizer having had her own festival in the Eaton Centre area.

The ToM is produced by the Philippine Cultural Community. Directors are chair Danny Doma, Lino Eroma, vice-chair, Augusto Capitin, treasurer, Joey Abrenilla, secretary, and Rolando Mangante, chair emeritus.

This year’s version of the ToM was held on two sun-drenched days in August.

One of the festival’s participating merchants, who run the booths that help make the ToM a street fest is Gigi, of Gigi’s Emporium, where she sells cosmetics and handmade cosmetic bags.

Gigi, also known as Razel Gotinga – besaravina@yahoo.com –  has been selling cosmetics for two years.

Looking at the customers filling her booth, she says “business is very good and besides the festival gives me a chance to celebrate Filipino culture.”

The Bathurst and Wilson is little Manila, a clutch of law firms, immigration counsellors, restaurants, bakeries and beauty salons catering to a Filipino clientele.

There are an estimated 700,000 Filipinos living in Canada; roughly 43 per cent reside in Toronto. No one knows how many live in the Bathurst and Wilson area, but there must be enough to keep the businesses thriving on either side of Wilson west of Bathurst.

This year’s ToM came up with a surprise: a delegation from the Kingdom of Cambodia showed up to add a taste of Cambodia.

“As a feature country at Taste of Manila 2107, I am proud to share with you Cambodian culture, arts, food and entertainment,” said Chhat Chour, Cambodia’s honorary consul.

When asked why the kingdom was a participant, Chour said “We are in the same region; we have a similar culture and the Taste of Manila is in the heart of Toronto and attracts more people, so we have a chance to get together and renew our regional friendship.”

Last years, celebration attracted an estimated 350,000 to the area. There are no estimates as to this year’s attendance.

This year’s sponsors who helped make the festival possible are Telus, Trureal Inc., Ford Canada and TD Canada Trust.