Kris Ontong is the host of the vodcast and co-founder of the Barangay Canada media project, along with colleagues based in various Canadian provinces. In June of 2020, Kris was honoured as one of the Top 75 Finalists of the RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards (link), the most prestigious accolade for newcomers to the country.
Residing in Steinbach, Manitoba, Kris took on the role of President of the Southeast Manitoba Filipino Association (SEMFA) in 2017, revitalizing the organization with projects designed to help newly-arrived Filipino immigrants get settled and integrate more effectively with the local community. After his term in SEMFA, he co-founded the Eastern Manitoba Broad Alliance for Cultural Enrichment (EMBrACE), an umbrella organization of the region’s various ethnocultural groups. EMBrACE aims to give the steadily growing multicultural population a stronger voice in the community. As its founding Vice President, he spearheaded the production of a video montage for the 2019 International Migrants’ Day, and a well-received multicultural art exhibit in early January 2020.
In 2019, Kris joined the Board of Directors of the Manitoba Filipino Street Festival. He was also appointed to the Executive Board of the Filipino Music and Arts Association of Canada, Inc (FMAACI). In that same year, he embarked on a personal initiative to get the vote out for the provincial and federal elections. He interviewed candidates from the three major parties to let them explain the electoral process and the differences in party platforms. This endeavour attracted the attention of CBC Manitoba who invited him to their morning radio show and then to their Election Night coverage to be among the in-studio reactors as the election results came in.
For his active community advocacy, Kris was among the awardees in the 2019 National Filipino-Canadian Heritage Event. He was also a finalist for Outstanding Community Service at the 3rd Golden Balangay Awards, a nationwide search for exemplary Filipinos in Canada.
Among his various roles though, Kris is especially focused on Barangay Canada, a media project that seeks to learn and share how newcomer groups across the country are building a life in Canada. By sharing this collective knowledge and experiences, these scattered communities will hopefully be able to connect and support one another like a barangay, the Filipino term for a small self-supporting village. Typically, Kris visits the newcomer communities to interview their leaders. However, due to the travel restrictions and social distancing brought about by the pandemic, actual visits were replaced by online video interviews, thus paving the way for its current format as a video podcast or vodcast. The episodes can be viewed in full or in segments on BarangayCanada.com and Facebook.com/BarangayCanada. So far, the program has had notable guests like provincial legislators, veteran media personalities, local government officials, and even a former Cabinet member in the person of The Hon. Dr. Reynaldo Pagtakhan.
In Manitoba, Kris looks after the provincial chapter known as Barangay Manitoba. It has a presence on print media as a column in the Manitoba Filipino Journal, and as a media blog on Facebook.