York International is inviting students, faculty and members of the community to welcome the Consul General of the Philippines to Toronto, Orontes V. Castro, on his first official visit to York University. The Consul General will provide remarks during his visit at a free hour-long event at 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 7. in 901 Kaneff Tower, Keele Campus.
Castro, a certified public accountant, assumed his post in Toronto in September 2019, following a career in consular services that included roles in Beirut, New York and Chicago. In the Philippines he also served as an assistant secretary in the offices of Fiscal Management Services and Foreign Affairs. He is a graduate of University of the East, Manila and the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines, and has been awarded the the Presidential Medal of Merit the Mabini Award (Rank of Commander) for his service in promoting the interests of his home country.
The Consul General will make a presentation that will focus on building closer academic and community partnerships between York University and the Philippines that range from academia to community work and beyond.
According to Helen Balderama, associate director of International Partnerships and Programs at York International, the University receives an average of 70 special delegations a year, including representatives from universities, research partners, non-government organizations and diplomats like Castro. For Balderama, these official visits represent an important opportunity to expand and deepen the University’s existing relationships. “The Philippines is an important partner for York because of the different, multifaceted angles of our partnership,” she explains.
A critical aspect of that multifaceted partnership includes a continually strengthened relationship with University of the Philippines (UP), the country’s top-ranked and largest university. In addition to research and faculty mobility agreements already in place, York has also signed an agreement with UP that will see a York student heading to the institution on international exchange for the first time. UP is also recruiting a student to send to York as part of the reciprocal mobility agreement.
Philip Kelly, a York University professor and the Chair of the Geography Department, has been championing York’s relationship with UP and the Philippines throughout his career, from his graduate studies in Manila to his involvement with York’s Centre for Asian Research. His current research project, which examines the role of the Filipino diaspora in Canada in imagining and enacting alternative economic practices and political visions for the Philippines, includes two UP faculty researchers. In addition, Kelly has been responsible for recruiting a handful of UP graduate students to research and study in his department, and has an undergraduate student who hopes to be the first student to attend UP on exchange.
For Kelly, the increasing opportunities for Philippines studies at York are an exciting development. In addition to student and faculty mobility agreements, York offers the David Wurfel Award for Philippine Studies which helps encourage students to pursue studies in Filipino topics and research areas. Furthermore, Patrick Alcedo, York Associate Professor of Dance, will be leading a group of York students to a month-long dance and culture summer abroad program this summer in the Philippines. “I think it’s pretty exciting that we have those opportunities for students at York,” said Kelly.
Further to the public talk, the Consul General will also be having meetings with York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton, a group of faculty and the Filipino Student Association at York University. Organizers hope the visit will be of interest not only to Philippines researchers and York’s estimated 300 Filipino or Filipino-Canadian students, but to the entire University community. Kelly expects the event could appeal to “anyone who is interested in how the Philippine government sees its relationship with its diaspora.”
The Philippine Consulate General has operated in Toronto since 1978.