A colorful parade of various Filipino groups ushered in the celebration of the 124th anniversary of Philippine Independence Day in Vancouver.
The celebration was made more special with the formal launch of a bayanihan campaign to help build a Filipino cultural center in Vancouver. The project is spearheaded by the Mabuhay House Society, a non-profit organization made up of young and young-at-heart Filipino Canadians.
"Panahon na [It's time] really to come together to work towards this dream of ours and also show elected officials, other supporters, and advocates that we need their help turning this to reality," Maita Santiago of the Mabuhay House Society asserted.
Santiago said their dream is to have a multi-purpose center where local celebrations and cultural performances, among other gatherings, can be held.
"We envision an intercultural, open, inclusive welcoming center that is also a home. A place where we can gather to do everything, from your local celebration to your group’s gathering, cultural performances to child-care, hopefully, housing."
Portliving CEO Macario 'Tobi' Reyes said he will be providing the space for the Filipino center on a property that his company is developing. He added that if they’re able to secure all the permits, they may start construction within the next two years. Reyes hopes the center, which will have an area of at least 30,000 square feet, will help connect Filipinos born in Vancouver to their heritage.
"I hope it’s gonna do for them what in general Canada has done for me. That is, give them a way to sort of grow into the community and enjoy their life in a different way that they probably would have imagined without the Filipino center," Reyes said.
Philippine Consul General Maria Andrelita Austria, a member of the society's advisory board, is also hopeful that the center will ensure that younger Filipinos will remain connected to their roots.
"We would like the younger generation to be in touch with their roots and engage in activities in the community," she said.
The building of a Filipino community center in Metro Vancouver has had its share of controversies since the 1980s. Community leader Salve Dayao, who was among those who raised funds back in 1986, said this money went missing.
Dayao hopes, "yung in the past, makuha yun, ma-retrieve yong pera na yun, makatulong dito sa ginagawa ng mga kabataan [what happened in the past, we’ll be able to get it back, we’ll be able to retrieve the money, so it can help the project of these young people]."
For her part, Mable Elmore, member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, assured the community that there will be more transparency this time around. The Filipino lawmaker has actively supported the new initiative.
"You saw members of our Board in terms of integrity of the people involved, and also around expectations around reporting, financial accountability, transparency. We have accountants and I’m very pleased that the FIlipino Accountants Association has offered and volunteered to help so we’re really gonna ask the community to support across the board," Elmore said.
Federal, provincial, and city officials who attended the celebration have already signaled their support for the proposed Filipino cultural center.