By Carlito Pablo
For almost a half century, Teodoro “Ted” Alcuitas has been writing and sharing stories about Filipinos in Canada.
Now 83, the Vancouver publisher and editor who’s originally from the Philippines is telling his own story.
Alcuitas reports being an “accidental journalist” in Magdaragat: An Anthology of Filipino-Canadian Writing, which he co-edited with author C.E. Gatchalian and poet Patria Rivera.
“To me personally,” Alcuitas notes in a written interview, “it is a dream come true in that I have always thought of writing my story, albeit not in an anthology.”
“I believe this is a breakthrough for our community that will hopefully spur other writers to share their stories,” Alcuitas says about the compilation.
“I am convinced that it is our own responsibility to write and document our struggles, histories, and not rely on others.”
As the anthology published by Cormorant Books explains, “magdaragat” is Filipino word for “mariner” or “seafarer”.
“The title alludes to our experience of being ‘voyageurs of the sea’—being travellers from our small rivers to the vast oceans of other lands, albeit not by ship in all cases but mostly transported by modern means of transportation,” Alcuitas states in the interview in reference to the Filipino diaspora.
In a lot of ways, Alcuitas is a magdaragat himself.
“Personally I have travelled by ship from my home province of Cebu to Mindanao and other provinces and eventually to Manila. And like the ocean my life seems to be in constant flux—from the Philippines to Saskatoon in 1968 with my wife and eight-month-old baby and then to Winnipeg where I started ‘Silangan’,” Alcuitas recalls in the interview.
Magdaragat shares story of Silangan
Silangan, which translates to “east”, is the name of the community paper founded by Alcuitas. Its first edition came out in February 1976.
“There were no Filipino newspapers in Canada at the time,” Alcuitas wrote in his piece for Magdaragat.
Educated as an architect in the Philippines, Alcuitas did not have a journalism background when he ventured into publishing.
Initially focused on the Winnipeg community, Silangan eventually expanded its reach, becoming a national Filipino Canadian paper.
“Soon, I had people sending their contributions from Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver.”
Meanwhile, the family was growing. Alcuitas and wife Corazon had two more daughters in Winnipeg.
He sold the paper, and the last edition of Silangan came out in July 1982. The new publishers changed its name to Filipino Journal.
“Filipino Journal continues to this day, making it one of the oldest Filipino newspapers in Canada. The other is Atin Ito of Toronto,” Alcuitas wrote in Magdaragat.
He went on publish another paper in Winnipeg named Kalayaan, which means “freedom”. It came out in February 1983.
“The paper became a magazine, and I named it Mosaik to reflect the diversity of the city. Personalities that were featured included Elijah Harper, the first Indigenous member of the Manitoba legislature; and Evelyn Lau, the acclaimed Chinese-Canadian poet and author.”
In 1992, Alcuitas and his family moved to the West Coast and settled in Vancouver.
In his new city, Alcuitas wrote for the Philippine Chronicle, which was published by Boding and Erly Juatco. When the paper changed ownership, he became its new editor until it folded.
“In early 2009, I tried to revive Silangan with a first tabloid issue in April. It lasted for ten issues until January 2010.”
Alcuitas approaches 50 years in journalism
Alcuitas also worked as senior editor of Philippine Asian News Today (PNT), a Metro Vancouver paper published by former Philippine Olympian and boxer Reynaldo “Rey” Fortaleza.
In December 2014, Alcuitas started his own online paper, philippinecanadiannews.com, which he continues to publish.
“Working for forty-six years now as an ‘accidental journalist’ in Canada has not always been easy, but I have thoroughly enjoyed it, and I am truly grateful that I have chosen this path,” Alcuitas wrote in Magdaragat.
Including Alcuitas, Gatchalian and Rivera, a total of 49 authors contributed to Magdaragat.
“As diverse as the authors are,” Alcuitas states in the interview, “there is a common thread that emerged from the stories: how immigration impacted and shaped their lives, the common struggles against discrimination and racism, as well as stories of success.”
Magdaragat: An Anthology of Filipino-Canadian Writing is available through the Cormorant Books website and UTP Distribution. Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter @carlitopablo. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.