When a passion for service for others is what keeps you up and about everyday, there is nothing that you can do that will be challenging. Mateo Caparas, or Matt, has known how to serve others through his father since he was a young lad in Manila. Born in Manila in 1955 he went to San Beda College for grade school; and in 1969, at age 13, he left for the US a few days after his grade school graduation. The whole family, except for his father, went to Mountain View, California – a city 45 miles south of San Francisco – to start their lives as students in a foreign country.
“My father, a lawyer in the Philippines, commuted back and forth between Manila and Mountain View as often as he could,” Matt shares.
They moved to Vancouver from the US in 1974, but the rest of his family went back to California to finish their studies, while he and his brother stayed in Vancouver.
“At 18, life without my family started. While I missed California the first couple of years, my brother and I enjoyed the fact that we were two single guys living on our own in a city like Vancouver. We lived in a townhouse, had our own cars and did pretty much what we wanted to do. It wasn’t San Francisco, but not bad!” says Matt.
After studying Marketing at Simon Fraser University, he held many jobs and even tried his hand at the insurance industry, but set his sights on the men’s fashion industry. His post at Harry Rosen Mens Wear, a very high end retailer that specializes in men’s fashion allowed him to deal with the movers and shakers of Vancouver – managers, owners, politicians, company presidents and other executives. This introduced him to the life of service and to Rotary International.
You could say Rotarian blood flows through his veins, since Matt Caparas’ father was also a Rotarian, having joined Rotary in 1959 as a member of the Rotary Club of Caloocan. When he passed away in 2020, he had been with Rotary for 61 years! He’s the only Filipino who has served as Rotary International President.
“Among other things he was one of the pioneers of the Polio Plus Program to help eradicate polio in the world. It was also during his Presidential year that women were allowed to join Rotary,” Matt shares. He may have joined the Rotary club of Vancouver-Mountainview for only a few years, but he’s lived in a Rotarian home for a long time! “I always consider myself a lifelong Rotarian!”
Now serving as the current President of Rotary Mountainview, he considers his life fulfilled, and now he can pour in more of his time to help others, just like his father. “As I was easing into retirement, I decided to join a Rotary club made up of Filipinos here in Vancouver.”
“Back in the late 90’s, I did leave Rotary for about 20 years to concentrate on my work and to raise my kids. I came back to Rotary in 2019 partly to help extend my father’s legacy in Rotary. But now that I’m back, it seems like it’s the best decision I’ve made. As my father’s Rotary motto says, ‘Rotary Brings Hope…ALWAYS!’”
Matt says that while he is not familiar with the Philippines, he knows Filipinos very well – and they are some of the hardest working people in Canada, in America, everywhere. “If you show them appreciation and give them a little bit of help, they will smile and help even more. Filipinos in the Philippines will occasionally be affected by calamities, disasters, and social injustices. We should always be open and ready to help out when we can. A little help from here always goes a long way for people living in the Philippines,” Matt shares.
He says that his advice to new immigrants is to be patient and to keep busy. “At some point I realized I was better off living in Canada than the US. There are people and organizations in and around Vancouver that provide help and support, especially within the Filipino community.”
He says that living simply, being nice to everyone, treating them with respect, and being available to those you love are his words of wisdom and legacy for his children and grandchildren.
“I always try to treat people the way I want them to treat me. It’s worked very well for me throughout the years. Whether or not other people notice, it doesn’t matter. What’s important is that my family, friends and relatives know me and appreciate me for the way I am and what I do for them.”
And with that, another Fil-Canadian makes his mark in the community.