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Mahal 3: Packing and Unpacking Balikbayan Box Flows VANCOUVER COMPONENT

Join us at Yactac Gallery for “Mahal 3: Packing and Unpacking Balikbayan Box Flows VANCOUVER COMPONENT”

Opening reception: June 8 at 7:00pm / Show runs until June 9 at 11:00pm.

Vancouver is a city defined by its expanding and deepening connections with peoples and cultures from around the world. The dynamic growth of immigrant populations reflects the wealth of knowledge and experiences contained in the everyday life of the city. To give students an opportunity to learn from Vancouver’s diverse immigrant communities, the UBC Departments of Anthropology and Sociology offer the Immigrant Vancouver Ethnographic Field School (IVEFS).

In his book “White Love,” historian Vicente Rafael considers the Tagalog word mahal as a translation of the word love. It refers to that which is dear, but also means valuable and expensive. Rafael writes that such ambiguities express love as a promise of fulfillment – a costly one. mahal explores the desires which carry the Filipina/o across borders.

The first leg of the mahal exhibit, organized by the UBC Philippine Studies Series and curated by UBC Anthropology undergraduate student Chaya Go and Vancouver Filipino-Canadian artist Patrick Cruz, was held in November 2011, scheduled to coincide with the lecture of Vicente Rafael at the Liu Institute for Global Issues. In February 2012, the second part was held at the UBC Lobby Gallery, which opened on the same day as the Filipino-Canadians Professionals Conference, showing a different set of artworks that depict intimate stories of Filipino migration to, and Filipino integration in, Canada and the U.S. The documentation photos and essays of these exhibits can be found at

The new project is the third installment of the mahal exhibit. It explores the packing and unpacking of the balikbayan box, the oversized cardboard box “filled” with gifts by Filipino im/migrants living and working abroad, and sent to family and friends in the Philippines. This collaborative project builds upon narratives depicted in the short film, produced by the UBC Ethnographic Film Unit and directed by Dada Docot, Almira Walde-Renaud and Daniel Smartt, “Balikabayan: Return to the Nation” (

The project, as part of the IVEFS coursework, endeavors to add to the discourse involving cultural global flows associated with (im)migrant communities, specifically the Philippine community in Vancouver. With academic, artistic, and community-based exploration of the balikbayan box phenomena, the project aims to “unpack” personal and community narratives of the Filipina/o in Vancouver.

Instead of releasing the typical “call for artworks”, the project introduces the project to the Filipino (im)migrant community in Vancouver with a “call for padala (gifts)”. These collected gifts will then be contained in two ordinary balikbayan boxes, for shipping to the Philippines. Essential to this project is the recording of the narratives behind the gifts. Who are the gifts’ senders, and who are its recipients? What can we unpack from these big boxes of gifts? Not to be treated as objects of curiosities, we hope that this project will reveal to us fragments of the intimate stories in migration – stories which are often ignored, when migrants are reduced to mere numbers and statistics.

The Vancouver component of the project collaborates with academic institutions and art spaces both in Vancouver and Manila. The UBC Liu Institute for Global Issues and the YACTAC Gallery are points of “departure” for the packing, and display, of the balikbayan boxes as they fill up with padala. When the boxes arrive in Manila, the Kanto The Collective Artists-run Space, will then serve as a point of “arrival.” It is in this space where the balikbayan boxes will be unpacked by the recipients of the gifts who would have then been notified of the boxes’ opening night. It is within these spaces and among the communities that the stories recorded will be shared.

To learn more about the project, please visit For inquiries, please

Kindly forward this CALL FOR PADALA (GIFTS) to your Filipino and Filipino-Canadian friends.

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