A movement has begun to finally realize the development of a Vancouver-based Filipino cultural centre in B.C.
At the forefront of the mobilization are grassroots community organizations, starting with the One Filipino Cooperative of B.C. (One FilCo-op) and its sister organization, the Fil-Cooperative One Housing Society.
The movement commenced when Angeles “Jody” Flores, president Fil-Cooperative One Housing Society, joined two other community leaders in petitioning Premier David Eby and members of his B.C. NDP Cabinet to take the next step in delivering on its commitment for a provincial Filipino cultural centre.
The two other signatories to the March 6, 2023 petition were Antonio Ortega, president of the Cebuano Society of Canada, and Rafael “RJ” Aquino, board member with the Tulayan Filipino Diaspora Society and convenor of the Beyond Representation campaign of 2020.
In the petition, the three recalled that the creation of a Filipino cultural centre was included in Eby’s mandate letters to Lana Popham, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport, and Mable Elmore, Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives.
The petition was promptly endorsed through a March 13, 2023 letter to Eby and Cabinet by members of One FilCo-op.
One FilCo-op’s letter was signed by the cooperative’s board of directors as well as nearly 300 members of the Filipino community.
In the letter, One FilCo-op explained that it is a “self-organized Filipino community organization in BC whose organizers relied on the Filipino resilience, character and hope for a better future”.
“A provincial Filipino Cultural Centre means for us a place for gathering to reconnect with our heritage, a venue for expressing our solidarity with our fellow Filipinos and British Columbians, a home where our children, seniors and young adults can connect and an anchor to our lives as productive British Columbians and Canadians,” the association stated.
Moreover, “The centre can serve as the venue for our regular member orientation and other educational activities. We can hold our Filipino festivals and celebrations there amidst a setting filled with reminders of our cultural heritage, historical legacy and collective aspirations.”
“We, therefore, urge you and your government to proactively ask, seriously hear, and earnestly engage us in the successful establishment of our own provincial Filipino Cultural Centre in Vancouver,” the cooperative asked Eby and Cabinet.
When sought for comment, One FilCo-op president Vivian Paule told Philippine Asian News Today that it’s about time for Filipinos to be able to showcase their culture and heritage through a physical centre.
“The long awaited Filipino community centre is the right venue for us to display our culture, our unity and our voice,” Paule said.
Paule and her family immigrated to Canada in 2011. She joined the cooperative in 2016, and has been an active volunteer in the community.
“This is the time now, so let’s do it!” Paule said.
In the March 6, 2023 petition to Eby and Cabinet, the signatories noted that the Filipino community wishes to see a variety of spaces in the future cultural centre in Vancouver.
“Components of this include performing arts and intercultural programming; recreational and sports activities; childcare; seniors care; affordable housing; and spaces to deliver sustainability and foster reconciliation,” the petitioners wrote.
The petitioners concluded: “B.C. is better because of your government’s leadership. Now is the time to answer the call of Filipinos in B.C. and work with us to build a place that we can all call home.”
Previously, Maria Andrelita Austria, Philippine ambassador to Canada, called on the community to support the establishment of a Filipino cultural centre in B.C.
Austria made the call in her remarks when she was feted to a farewell dinner in Surrey on February 28, 2023 following her four years of service as Philippine Consul General in Vancouver.
“For the first time ever, the provincial government has instructed a member of the legislative assembly to make sure that there will be a place for us Filipinos where we can call our home,” Austria said.
Austria was referring to mandate letters issued by Eby to Popham and Elmore.
Eby directed Popham and Elmore to “advance emerging museum programs and proposals including the Chinese Canadian museum, a South Asian museum, and a provincial Filipino cultural centre”.
In her remarks, Austria called on the Filipino community to support the development of the centre, an initiative that is being led by the nonprofit Mabuhay House Society.
“I would really, really look forward to the honour and privilege of coming back here to inaugurate or do the groundbreaking for Mabuhay House,” Austria said.
[Disclosure: Carlito Pablo is a staff member at the constituency office of Mable Elmore, Member of the Legislative Assembly of B.C. for Vancouver-Kensington.]