Mangosing1Caroline Mangosing and her family

Name: Caroline Mangosing 
Place of Birth: Quezon City Metro Manila
Elementary School: St. Scholastica’s Academy Marikina, Columbus Elementary (Glendale, California), Tracy Elementary (Baldwin Park, California)
High School: Mc Nair Senior Secondary (Richmond, BC)
After High School: Kwantlen Polytechnic University for Fashion Design and Technology (Richmond, BC), Emily Carr University of Art and Design  for Bachelor of Fine Arts major in Photography (Vancouver, BC), York University to complete my academic credits for my degree from Emily Carr (Toronto, ON)

1. When did you come to Canada (year and age)? 15 years old

2. What are some of the reasons why you (left the Philippines) and immigrated to Canada? Why did you choose Canada above other countries? My father decided he wanted us to leave the Philippines after Ninoy Aquino was assassinated. He was very much pro-Marcos, and he knew that once Ninoy was killed that there was going to be political unrest. 

3. Describe your experience (what was involved) in the process of immigrating to Canada? We moved to Los Angeles California, because my dad got a 5 year work visa. He was a software developer. He was getting sponsored for a green card by Xerox, but then he was laid off. So he applied for Australia and Canada. His application for Australia was rejected. So the summer of 1989 we drove up the west coast and crossed the border into British Columbia with Permanent Residency status. It was still easy to get in back then. And with my dad being in technology, we really had it easy.

4. Describe your experience of growing up, living, and/or working in Canada? When I arrived in school there were already rumours floating that there was a “California girl” coming to the school. But when they saw me (a brown girl that dressed like a goth) the rumours changed into a “gang member from L.A.” — so no one talked to me for 2 months. Not a single person. I never warmed up to Vancouver. The culture there was unfriendly and flat out racist. At that time, there was no diversity. When I moved to downtown Vancouver to go to Emily Carr, the neighbourhood people thought I was a nanny. At 27, I sold everything I owned, packed 3 boxes and bought a one-way ticket to Toronto (even though I had never been there. I just thought it ought to be better than Vancouver). From Manila to LA, Vancouver felt like such a small town to me, so I looked to the biggest city in Canada to make a new life. 

5. What are some of your major accomplishments? What were/are some of your major struggles? My move to Toronto changed my life for the better. I found my life partner, who also was my work partner for a while. We made films together. I ended up founding and running Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts and Culture in downtown Toronto for close to 10 years. I feel like I helped bring in the change of how Filipinos in Canada were perceived by the broader community by carving out an innovative space for Filipinos to express their authentic voice. Although organizing in the Filipino community has its share of struggles: the divisiveness, the lack of support for our youth, the struggle of trying to keep a non-profit sustainable. But I learned a lot. About myself, about how to run a sustainable business, what not to do again, etc. I had started Vinta Gallery within Kapisanan because many people asked us about where to find Filipino cultural clothing. With my background in fashion, I was able to start up something as a social enterprise. Eventually, with a major loss in private funding at Kapisanan, I felt like it was time for me to move on. I took the Vinta Gallery project with permission of the board of directors and turned it into an ethical for-profit business, now owned by me. I have since gotten private investors to build it into the business it is today. As I write this, I am in Manila working in my atelier with 5 women employees. I now go to Manila twice a year from Toronto. I get to see my parents often (since they moved back here in the 90s), and I get to bring my child (who is Canadian born) to see his homeland. And I get to skip at least one month of Toronto winters to be in Manila. And I make beautiful Filipiniana clothing for Filipinos all over the world through my e-commerce business. 

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