Take a look into the dynamic lives of Filipino-Canadians with the third season of Isabel Kanaan’s sketch comedy series ABROAD. Co-created by and starring Kanaan, the show is loosely based on her experience immigrating to Canada from the Philippines.  

ABROAD offers a humorous look into the immigrant experience, exploring social issues, tech trends, celebrity culture, and ever-changing family dynamics. The third season premiered on OMNI Television just in time to celebrate Filipino Heritage Month this June.

Balancing back and forth between Filipino humour and those of ‘Balikbayans’, those who have lived overseas, this show features beloved skit characters going through exaggerated motions of the Filipino-Canadian experience. 

In episode three of Season 3, a Philippine love team talk show biz on a variety show, and their grandfather discovers the wonders of healthcare in Canada. Since ABROAD’s premiere in 2022, sketches have gone viral on social platforms such as TikTok and Instagram.

 “Humour is such a subjective thing, and so it’s nice to have sketch comedy because you can cater to all these different people and have it work out for the show,” Kanaan says. 

The third season of this multi-Canadian Screen Award nominated series will feature six 30 minute episodes— 50% in English and 50% in Tagalog. Kanaan prioritized casting actors who could speak both languages, and creating characters who would reflect a variety of Filipino immigrant experiences across the country. 

Courtesy of OMNI

“These people are all from different walks of life. We have people that were born in Canada but speak Tagalog and people born in the Philippines who don’t.” 

Over the last three seasons, Kanaan worked closely with the cast to produce a series that reflects her experiences as a Filipino-Canadian amongst others— but she tells us it took her some time to gain confidence in sharing these stories. When she was first pitching the show, she wasn’t sure if Canadian networks would be interested in a story specifically focused on the Filipino-Canadian diaspora.

“It takes one person to believe in you and OMNI was the network to believe in us. It made me believe that people would want to hear these stories,” says Kanaan. “Though our stories are not heard of as much, it doesn’t mean we don’t exist.”

At first glance, many remain unfamiliar with Filipino culture. Oftentimes it boils down to famous fast food chains or celebrities, but the culture extends far beyond. Kanaan was sure to infuse Filipino history and different aspects of the immigrant experience into the show, and she believes both Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike will take something away from ABROAD

 “I want to showcase a different angle of our culture to thrive in comedy, I just want non-Filipinos to see that we can all come together through laughter,” she says.

Courtesy of OMNI

Hardship is one part of the immigrant experience, however ABROAD pushes these narratives further. Rather than viewing these experiences as a weakness, Kanaan’s skits are an empowering form of storytelling.  

Aside from this project, Kanaan is a member of CBC’s sketch comedy troupe Air Farce, The Sketchersons, and Second City’s House Ensemble and Educational Company, and has received several awards for her achievements in theatre, film, and TV. She encourages young Filipinos to engage with their cultural identities, explaining that these stories can become an asset to the industry.

“There are parts of our lives that we easily shy away from because we’re either ashamed or embarrassed. We don’t want to feel sad when we think about these things but I think we should lean into it.” 

Regardless of the specificity of the content, Kanaan believes that laughter is universal, and healing can take place through comedy.

 “We can heal through art and so you’ll realise that not only are you healing, you’re helping others heal from their similar experiences. Don’t forget who you are and stay tethered to those memories,” she proclaims. 

ABROAD Season 3 will stream on OMNI Television. Don’t forget to follow to keep up with her activities!