Pagpupugay kay Joselito “Joe” Calugay (Honouring Joselito “Joe” Calugay)

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Joselito "Joe" Calugay Mass leader, community organizer, friend (December 2, 1966 - October 3, 2022)
Joe Calugay (second from left) was a key figure in the formation of Migrante Canada and served as Deputy Secretary General on the Migrante National Executive Committee from 2012 to 2014. In 2018, he was re-elected Secretary General at the 4th Migrante Canada Congress.
Joe Calugay (second from left) was a key figure in the formation of Migrante Canada and served as Deputy Secretary General on the Migrante National Executive Committee from 2012 to 2014. In 2018, he was re-elected Secretary General at the 4th Migrante Canada Congress.

It is with profound sadness that Migrante Canada, the alliance of Filipino migrant and immigrant organizations across Canada, acknowledges and announces the passing of Joselito “Joe” Calugay who has devoted his life to serving the people and fighting for the rights of Filipino migrants and their families.  This he did in so many ways – formally as the former Deputy Secretary General of Migrante Canada for two terms, and informally as a dedicated community organizer within the Filipino community for over three decades.

Migrante Canada mourns the loss of Joselito “Joe” Calugay, and our heart goes out to his wife, Beth Casuga, their three children Gabriela, Mateo, and Kaitlyn and to his parents, siblings, in-laws, and nephews and nieces. Joe dedicated his life to serving others and defending the rights of Filipino migrants and their families. He was a key figure in the formation of Migrante Canada and served on the Migrante Canada National Executive Committee as Deputy Secretary General from 2012-2014. He was re-elected as Secretary General once again at the 4th Migrante Canada Congress in 2018.

Joe Calugay was a committed community organizer for the Filipino community for more than 30 years, having started as a youth activist in the early 1990s. Joe was part of a Canada-wide youth organization that sought to define the identity of young Filipinos across Canada. It was in Montreal where he made significant contributions and led the formation of the first national democratic youth organization, the Montreal Coalition of Filipino Students (MCFS), along with a group of young activists. Joe understood the significant role of the Filipino diaspora as an integral part of the Philippine national democratic movement. Through his leadership, he helped the movement grow in strength, and laid the foundations for the advancement of the national democratic movement in Canada. He connected the struggles of youth, such as identity issues, with the struggles of the workers. He led the organizing of workers and the formation of the Filipino Workers Support Group (FWSG).

By 1999, Joe was key in starting the systematic Canada-wide organizing of Filipinos under the national democratic framework. It meant reorienting and educating the Filipinos in Canada of the root causes of our migration and our role in the fundamental changes in the Philippines. This is the start of migrant organizing across Canada. His brilliant revolutionary qualities to advance workers’ rights and welfare helped in laying the groundwork for the formation of the Migrante Canada Alliance in 2010.

Joe was a trade unionist. He worked and was actively involved in different unions. He was an organizer for a union formerly known as UNITE (Union of Needle Trades, Industrial and Textile Employees). Later, he became the Communications Officer of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). For more than twenty years, he participated in the international solidarity work with the Global Justice Program that brought Filipino mass leaders like Antonio Tinio and France Castro of ACT, Ferdinand Gaite of COURAGE, labour leaders like Cecilia Tuico from the Workers Action Centre and many more to Canada.

His pioneering work in youth, migrant and workers sectors across the country led to the development of our national democratic organizations today.

Joe is an inspiration to us all. He was filled with unending sympathy for those who had to endure social injustice, and he possessed an outstanding intellect that allowed him to see what needed to be done to create a movement that addressed the causes of exploitation and oppression. He was a rock that made it possible for Migrante Canada and other organizations to establish a solid base for their work fighting for the rights of migrants and Filipinos in the face of imperialist exploitation, feudal oppression, and the absence of genuine democracy in the Philippines. We have the utmost admiration and deep respect for Joe. Rest in power, dear comrade.