Fort St. John artist Ovvian Castrillo Hill is receiving $10,000 in funding to document the history of the Filipino community in the Peace region.
Telus announced Wednesday that Castrillo Hill is one of 91 artists being funded through its inaugural STORYHIVE Voices program for emerging content creators.
The funding will support her upcoming project, EX-SITU: Thriving In Our New Bayan, which Telus says will be an “opportunity to create a conversation around the Filipino community, which makes up the largest group of immigrants in the Peace Region.”
“EX-SITU: Thriving In Our New Bayan will reveal the narrated history of the Filipino diaspora into the Peace Region, and the varied experiences of this demographic through profiles,” reads a news release. “It will share their challenges and personal stories, as well as their contributions to the area and to Canada. The variety of stories will include the many manners of immigration experienced by the individuals and highlight what being Canadian means to them.”
Ex situ means living and thriving in a place that’s not your natural habitat.
Castrillo Hill curates the annual EX-SITU exhibit for local Filipino-Canadian artists at Peace Gallery North, and was a runner-up for the Culture Award at the city’s 2020 community awards. Her public artwork can be seen at the new festival plaza at Centennial Park, where she designed one of the four fire obelisks outside the plaza, and she was recently selected by the city to design a new plaque for the community award program.
“This is a good way to explore the potential skills of making a documentary and telling the story of EX-SITU,” Castrillo Hill said. “We still continue to have a mission and vision for the local community to know and appreciate the contribution of Filipino-Canadians in town, and at the same time have a venue for Filipino-Canadians to share their stories.”
As of the last federal census in 2016, the Filipino community represented one-fifth of the immigrant population in the Fort St. John metropolitan area, which includes Charlie Lake and Taylor. Castrillo Hill first came to Fort St. John in March 2009, and later immigrated in June 2011. She has a background in journalism and interior design from studying at the University of the Philippines, and says she’s always been interested in learning how to make a documentary.
Castrillo Hill plans to produce eight episodes as part of her documentary, and notes that Filipinos who have settled here come from all over the Philippines archipelago, which consists of more than 7,000 islands.
Their journeys to Fort St. John are as varied as their dialects and cultural differences. Across the decades, they have come as spouses or live-in caregivers, or to work in the oil and gas industry. Castrillo Hill says she wants to capture stories that celebrate their successes, and how they overcame challenges.
“A lot of them have gone through leaps and bounds in their journey to becoming Canadians,” Castrillo Hill said. “I’d also like to see the history of Fort St. John from their perspective. What was it like in the 70s, in the 80s? What challenges were there? What satisfaction did they get?”
Castrillo Hill adds that many of the people she met when she first arrived here are now Canadian citizens with children and families.
“I was very impressed. The community was quite tight and active, and that’s where I met a lot of people I’d like to interview,” she said. “Their lives have changed immensely. I was witness to those changes and I think those stories are worth telling.”
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