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Adina Shafi and Mila Bongco-Philipzig

Mila Bongco-Philipzig originates from Manila, Philippines and resides in Edmonton. She completed her masters in University of Alberta and left on another scholarship for her PhD in Germany where she met her husband and have one son. She is an active individual in society and is passionate about inter-connectedness among cultures. Mila and her family have been around the world exploring different cultures that have influenced her writing style. She has published a book “Reading Comics: Language, culture and the Concept of Superheroes in Comic Books” as well as many articles and two bi-linguals children’s books in Filipino and English portraying her passion in traveling and multiculturalism

Q1. From the emcee.ab.ca page, your writing about ‘Embracing our differences’ talks about cultural challenges that you have faced and your integration into Canadian culture but still maintaining your background. Reflecting on everything, what does multiculturalism mean to you?

Mila: We have to recognize that we are living in a world that is increasingly becoming global, where people, ideas, economies, policies, beliefs, and concepts are very mobile in that, even if they come from different parts of the world, they are all interconnected and somehow have a way of converging – sometimes leading to growth and expansion, sometimes leading to clashes and challenges. Multiculturalism to me means enjoying the diversity of our wonderful world —  trying to be open-minded in understanding and accepting different cultures and perspectives, even if we don’t agree with them; being able to recognize bigotry and intolerance, and deciding to do something against injustices and discrimination. 

Q2. How did your experiences around the world and the cultures you have experienced effect your writing style?

Mila: Perhaps not my style but the focus of my writing which are mostly on multi-culturalism, diversity, travel, family, and home. Travelling so much, you realize what grounds you, what is truly important to you, as you move and live from place to place. You also get exposed to and understand different cultures, and the similarities in values and thinking and people across cultures.

Q3. Why did you choose to write? and why did you choose to write what you do?

Mila: I started telling stories and writing when I was a child, and had encouragement from family, friends, and teachers. I also started travelling alone when I was young and had many experiences to share that I thought would be helpful, enjoyable, humorous for others. I wrote them in letters to family and friends (no email or social media then) – most of them kept my letters and we enjoyed reading them when we got together, and again, I received encouragement to keep writing. I decided to write children’s books because I like the interplay between text and images. If I have time and I find an illustrator I could work with, I would like to write a graphic novel.

Q4. What advice may you give to individuals who write with English being their second language? 

Mila: Keep on writing. Your stories are your own, your story is unique, and your thoughts, experiences, dreams, imaginations – these are always worth sharing. You never know who will be touched and inspired by what you write. 

Regarding the language (English) – you may know people who can help you on the language part (grammar, style, etc.); there are editors who can help; there are writing programmes you can attend; there are writers-in-residence at the public libraries or universities who can offer advice and suggestions. Join a writing club, and read, read, read, and read some more.

Mila Bongco-Philipzig has inspired me to travel and reflect on the other cultures I may encounter on a day-to-day basis. Also, being of a multicultural background, I have learned to appreciate the uniqueness of my culture and the many others that surround me through her invigorating articles that revolve around traveling, family and culture.

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