Bring the FOBs and BACONs together, and cut the beef between the two.
This is one of the things the brothers behind Toronto-based apparel brand Filipinas Clothing Co. want to do.
Not that it has anything to do with meat.
After migrating to Canada in 2000, then teenagers Corwin, Harvey, Nikki, and Gino Agra, who were originally from Quezon City, could see the tension between the two groups of Filipinos: the FOBs, or those who had just immigrated to Canada; and the BACONs, or those who were born in Canada. They did not exactly come together in the most harmonious of communities.
“The BACONs didn’t really like the FOBs so much because of how [the latter] talked with the strong accent or the way they used to dress. The FOBs didn’t like the BACONs either because [the latter] didn’t want to be associated with the FOBs and some acted [like] they were superior to the FOBs,” Nikki wrote InterAksyon in a Facebook message.
“I wouldn’t say that all of the FOBs and BACONs were all like that but we’ve seen that tension for years.”
This was, in part, what inspired the brothers to launch their own clothing line, Filipinas Clothing Co., or FCC for short.
“As concerned members of our community, we want to abolish [the rift between the two] so we try our best to bring both together and show them that we are all dope and have different dope talents,” said Nikki.
“Whether you’re born or raised here [in Toronto] or [have] just recently immigrated, we can co-exist without hatred. Together as a strong community, we can help contribute to the changes and solutions to our current problems back home.”
Thus, they found another meaning for FCC: “For Continous Change” in the Philippines.
From Dream to Reality
FCC crewnecks and T-shirts bear words like “Likas na magaling kahit na kapit sa patalim,” “Got that heart of Bonifacio,” and “Praying for continuous change.” Images of the fighting rooster, the haribon, and Our Lady of Guadalupe also mark FCC’s products.
Originally stemming from the brothers’ desire to help bring food to the table, FCC is now their “instrument” through which they teach Filipinos who grew up in Canada about the “history and culture” back home.
After seven years of dreaming, the Agras were able to print their first shirts in 2009. They began by selling to their friends and families, who, in turn, sold FCC products to their co-workers.
To take their business a step further, Nikki volunteered to work at the sewing and screen printing shop where they had their shirts made. Although he did not receive pay, he did learn how to use the equipment from the owners who treated him like one of their own.
When the owners retired, the Agras were able to buy the equipment, a feat they didn’t think would happen until five years into their business.
By 2010, their screen printing shop was fully operational, and the brothers began selling their products at various events—both Filipino and non-Filipino—in Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, and Montreal.
Visions and Designs
Today FCC remains active in the events scene, having taken part in Independence Day activities in June and a musical event in July, as well as participating in a Bamboo and Dong Abay concert in August.
“We support dope Filipino artists and musicians who share the same vision about uniting our people,” said Nikki. “Together, we cook up events that bring all of us as one solid community [with] respect for one another.”
The Agras also team up with “Grafistas” or freelance graphic designers both in Canada and the Philippines.
“We have collected design ideas from long time ago and we just keep them in mind and in our heart. Once the right time comes, we send the project to a Grafista and… take it from there,” explained Nikki. “We try our best to offer a wider range of designs [like those related to] heroes, landmarks, national symbols, and history, not only focusing on one aspect of our culture, so that we can exhibit [the Philippines] in a much broader view.”
Though the brothers have only gone back to the Philippines once since they migrated to Canada, they remain fiercely proud of their homeland, and hopeful for its future.
“Our educational background doesn’t relate to business at all,” said Nikki. “We all ventured in the skilled trades.”
While he and his younger brother Gino are reservists in the Canadian Forces Army, their older brothers Corwin and Harvey are a metal technician and an electrician apprentice respectively.
“I guess the desire to have a better life for the whole family is what drove us to become entrepreneurs. And that love for the family drove us to become modern revolutionaries fighting for the motherland in our own special way.”
The brothers dream of one day distributing their products to Filipino communities worldwide, as well as opening a manufacturing plant in the Philippines to “generate jobs and livelihood for our less fortunate brothers and sisters over there,” said Nikki.
“By hustling hard all over the world, we can bring new hope to our people back home with the support of our people overseas.”
Filipinas Clothing Co. can be found at www.filipinasclothingco.bigcartel.com.