UP grads launch noodle bar, others push projects in Winnipeg

Chef Gian with noodle bar crew. INQUIRER/Isabel Buenaobra

WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Former students of the University of the Philippines now residing in this Canadian city have been a very busy bunch. One set of alumni opened a new restaurant while others held a “palaro” Olympics as part of ongoing alumni association activities.

A new restaurant called The Mami Project: Filipino Noodle Bar opened here August 14 owned by three UP Alumni–Gian Pau, Sonny Ong and Norman Garcia–with co-owner Emy Evangelista. They prefer to market the restaurant as a “Canadian restaurant serving Filipino food.”


With the aim of introducing Filipino cuisine to Canadians and making “mami” as famous and recognizable as the Vietnamese “pho,” the restaurant’s targets are Canadians and not just Filipino immigrants.

Welcome to MAMItoba shirt. INQUIRER/Isabel Buenaobra

Chefs and restaurateurs Gian (based in Manitoba) and Sonny (based in Calgary) conceptualized the theme and prepared the menus.


Diverse crew

The food is MSG-free, the eight-member crew diverse (Filipinos, non-Filipinos and indigenous), and the ambience casual but welcoming. The spray-painted mural on the wall depicts a colorful jeepney and a building right out of the busy streets of Manila. The crew’s T-shirts (black with white prints), “Welcome to MAMI toba” is typical Filipino play on words.

The appetizers consist of a variety of tacos made with sisig, tofu, mangoes and mushrooms. The mami is a fusion of Asian and Filipino flavors (the noodles are perfect in consistency, not too hard, not too soft). Spicy Bicol gambas in coconut milk and diced mangoes and cucumbers are a surprisingly delicious combination. This writer’s verdict: The Mami Project is a welcome addition to the Canadian restaurant scene.


Meanwhile, on August 19, the UP Alumni & Associates in Manitoba held Palarolympics in Assiniboine Park. Members and their families came to the sports festival, which included Filipino games such as tumbang preso, sipa, Chinese garter, agawang base and sack race. A game of sungka was also available for those who preferred a more quiet competition.

UPAA-MB members in Assiniboine Park. INQUIRER/Isabel Buenaobra

Palarolympics, while some members cajoled each other over the scores, others huddled in camaraderie.

The UPAA-MB Inc. began in 2007 as an informal online chat group among UP graduates. In 2010, the informal group put out an ad encouraging other UP alumni to come together; the meetings became frequent and potlucks, dinners and videokes were organized.


In 2012 the association was formally incorporated with the following objectives: To promote camaraderie and cooperation among members in a way that upholds the ideals of the University of the Philippines; work with Filipino and other organizations in various initiatives that promote cultural diversity, social unity and cooperation; assist members and the Filipino community, in Manitoba and in the Philippines, in improving opportunities for education and training; give due recognition to alumni and other individuals of Filipino heritage for their exemplary achievements and contributions to the Manitoba community.


Lourdes “Des” Casañares, current UPAA chair explained that the organization has helped members get their professional certifications, raised funds for various victims of disasters (such as Yolanda victims in 2013), volunteered for social causes such as the Siloam Mission (focused on people experiencing homelessness and poverty), offered continuing education opportunities, among other community-oriented projects.

Des Casañares, UPAA-MB chair. INQUIRER/Isabel Buenaobra

Casañares wants to include more activities on environmental awareness and indigenous perspectives in UPAA’s plans for 2017-2018. Passionate about sustainable agriculture, she advocates for the setting up of community gardens in Manitoba to enable folks to grow their own food and has started growing peas, beans, baby carrots, and other vegetables that she has shared these with fellow UP alumni.

Casañares would like to have cultural exchanges/sharing circles where indigenous First Nations perspectives and issues are discussed in the hope of forging respectful relations.

In the meantime, UPAA-MB’s plans for 2017-2018 will still include fundraising events for scholarships for UP students; picnics and social activities to provide that sense of belonging to Filipino newcomers and immigrants; seminars to assist newcomers to integrate in the workplace; and networking for employment and volunteering opportunities

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TAGS: alumni association, Palarolympics, The Mami Project: Filipino Noodle Bar, University of the Philippines alumni in Manitoba, UP Alumni & Associates
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