Music: HanHan performs at Aga Khan Park Aug. 18.

HanHan is a Filipino-Canadian poet and MC. – Lex Junior/Photo

Toronto, Ontario

Music transcends the cultural and racial boundaries that divide people


Music is a universal language that  transcends the boundaries of culture, race, religion and gender, all factors that can divide people.

It is an important medium that can be used to encourage healing within oneself and community, whether local or global.

In a world of hegemony and Eurocentricism, both of which are very palpable today, it is more important than ever to be ourselves. If you want to survive in a world of conformity, resistance is necessary.

My resistance is through my music and performances.

The underlying message of our shows has always been empowerment, which starts with oneself. Over the years of practising my art, I realized that as I was empowering myself, I was also empowering others.

To raise cultural consciousness through music, one must look at the past, embrace the victories and failures of our people, accept our flaws and most of all, recognize our value.

Our racial identity is only a part of our overall identity, but if one part of our identity is broken, everything is broken. In other words, self-acceptance is the initial step to empowerment.

Once you have fully accepted yourself, flaws and all, under the premise of freedom and equality, then you will learn to love yourself. You cannot give what you do not have. Ergo, you cannot love others, your culture, your race, and your people if you do not have love for yourself.


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I understand the power of my voice, and I consider being an artist a responsibility to myself and to my community. My goal as an artist is to empower and encourage those people who are similar to me, an immigrant who has experienced institutional racism, deprofessionalization, forced migration and disempowerment, to respect and accept them as they are.

My road to self-discovery led me to music and luckily enough, I found people who guided and inspired me to pursue my art.

Our upcoming show at the Aga Khan Park on Aug. 18 will be showcasing members of my community and longtime collaborators who have been pillars in the survival of our culture as ethnic minorities.

Opening for my set are Folklorico Filipino Canada, a non-profit group whose main repertoire is traditional Filipino folk dance and music, and HATAW, a neo-Filipino diasporic performance arts group. Although many would consider these two groups to be opposites, I think they represent the evolution of Filipino culture.

The world needs more collaboration and less competition, more community and less isolation, more intersection and less division.

We just recently performed in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and being the first Filipino-Canadians to grace the stage at the Stern Grove Festival and Grand Performances, we have achieved more than we could have ever imagined.

Proud as I am of my team, I want to manifest what is possible if people who share the same goals come together in my performances and in my music.

I want to keep the bayanihan spirit alive.

HanHan is a Filipino-Canadian poet and MC. She is performing at the Aga Khan Park on Aug. 18.

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