A first-generation Filipino-Canadian, Alfonso Ralph Mendoza Manalo entered Global Asia Studies to learn about important political issues in the Philippines and other parts of Asia. It gave him an opportunity to stay connected to his roots – and later, to help others do the same.
“The whole essence of migration studies is so much more than immigration. It’s about how you are accepted by Canadian society,” Manalo says.
“I was always looking for new understandings of what it meant to be Asian Canadian. It was interesting to have a theoretical understanding of myself, but also how others viewed me.”
Manalo graduates from U of T Scarborough with a double major in public policy and global Asia studies, and minor in critical migration studies. Thanks to an opportunity through his co-op program, Manalo has already made significant contributions to fostering inclusivity with a new, full-time job at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
In 2020, Manalo landed his first job at the RCMP as an information management research assistant. To his surprise, the interview for the role didn’t necessarily go as planned.
“I entered the interview with the mindset that, ‘Alfonso, I don’t think you’re going to get this job so why not just ask questions you’re curious about?’” Manalo recalls.
“Those questions are what landed me the job. It’s always those moments where I push myself to ask a question that leads me to the next job.”
Just four months later, Manalo became an equity, diversity, and inclusion policy advisor in the RCMP’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Unit. There, he was the unit’s principal representative in the creation of the RCMP’s first mandatory anti-racism course, taken by 30,000 RCMP employees. He successfully advocated for – and wrote – sections about anti-Asian racism.
The project came at a time of racial reckoning and critical conversations about race in Canada, after the murder of George Floyd and rise of anti-Asian racism during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, as a full-time junior anti-racism policy analyst in the RCMP’s Anti-Racism Unit, Manalo is working with a team to collect perceptions-based data on officers' interactions with the public. The unit is also working to formulate and implement the RCMP’s first anti-racism strategy.
As he continues to work for equity-deserving communities at work, Manalo has been praised for his accomplishments at the RCMP and efforts to insert discourse about the Philippines in academia. In 2021, he received the Golden Balangay Award for Educational Excellence (Post-Secondary). The national award is given to a post-secondary student who has made a historic contribution to the Filipino Canadian community and Canada.
Throughout his studies at U of T Scarborough, Manalo’s goal was to give people a theoretical framework about diasporic life – there are currently no established Filipino studies programs across universities in Canada – and he often asked professors if he could write papers about Filipino, Southeast Asian and anti-racism studies to fill that knowledge gap.
“All of my journal entries are in open access journals. What I really wanted to do is give people a glimpse of what they could discover about themselves in their journey of learning, who they are and what the Philippines is going through.”
He credits Renan Levine, associate professor, teaching stream, in the department of political science, to lending time to listen and give advice about Manalo’s career questions, and even once sent an early morning email to ensure Manalo was ready for a job interview.
“Alfonso has one of the most distinguished records of any undergraduate that I've taught in 20 years,” Levine says. “I didn't realize just how 'typical' that level of excellence was until I realized he had reached similar heights in a range of challenging courses.”
Manalo notes that it was the welcoming and safe spaces that UTSC provided that allowed him to grow and explore his interests – which range as one of the campus’ first male cheerleaders to a $6,000 scholarship to study abroad at the National University of Singapore for a year.
“UTSC was a safe space for me to challenge myself and ask questions,” Manalo says. “UTSC has inspired me to go abroad, and even audition for cheerleading. It was great to be in a place where I could express myself and be celebrated.”