Jul 17, 2024

The Victoria Filipino Canadian Association has a long tradition of nurturing the Canadian Filipino community in Vancouver Island.

Forty-eight years ago, on February 10, 1969, 15 Filipino immigrants — all women, mostly in the health care field, signed an application for incorporating the first Filipino Canadian association in the country: the Victoria Filipino Canadian Association.

 Over the years the association has grown in stature and prominence in British Columbia’s capital.


Some of the reasons for its success:
- The number of Canadians of Filipino ancestry in the Capital Regional District was comparatively strong and there was a need for a united group before the Charter of Rights and Freedom with its bill of rights came into force in 1982, the Canadian Multicultural Act was passed in 1988, and the British Columbia Multicultural Act was created in 1993.

- The association focused on show-casing Filipino culture: folk dancing, music, arts, fashion and food. Since 1972, it has participated in the Victoria Day Parade and in 1991 and 1994 sponsored a Philippine Musical Extravaganza. Among a long list of cultural programs, it also hosted visiting performers from Himig ng Lahi, the Bayanihan Dance Group, the Philippine Educational Theatre Association, the Alumni Ensemble of the Philippine Madrigal Singers, Pilita Corrales, Powerdance, and Kontra-GaPi, the U.P. Madrigal Singers and the Manila Concert Choir.

- Hosted high-profile guests: Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal and his family, in 1970, Philippine delegates to the APEC conference ministerial and senior officials in 1997.

- Hosted the Second Conference of Filipino Canadian Association of B.C. in 1989.

- A determined effort is made to avoid any conflict of interest or even the slightest perception of it. No individual, whether an official or member, had special privileges or status: all are equal and are expected to work for the community's benefit, and not for personal aggrandizement, financial gain or other benefits. There are no entitlements.

VFCA food kiosk
In 1980, VFCA introduced its Filipino food kiosk, which members built in three days, at the annual Folkfest.

However, in 2006, after 26 continuous years, the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria [ICA], organizer of the event, terminated the event due to escalating costs.

Since then, the VFCA takes its food kiosk to the three-day Saanich Fall Fair at the fair grounds in Central Saanich. It has been returning to the fair every year since.


VFCA’s Sampaguita Folk Dancers
In 1971, VFCA established the Sampaguita Folk Dance Group.

Each year, the VFCA Sampaguita folk dancers join the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival.

Over the years, the children under 14, the youth and the adult dancers have received awards and performed at the Honours Performance, which highlighted the festival.

The dance group performs at VFCA sponsored events, such as the Independence Dance, Christmas parties and entertainment for visiting government officials.

It also participates in community events and performed at the Vancouver EXPO 86 stage and at the opening ceremonies of the XV Commonwealth Games in Victoria in 1994.


VFCA’s Carolers
In 1978, VFCA had its caroling and shared the joys of Christmas caroling with some Filipino carols and fun-raised for the future Bayanihan Community Centre.


Victoria Filipino Canadian Caregivers Association
The need to discuss topics of childcare standards, domestic services duties, human rights, employer and employee contracts, immigration rules and assertive training prompted a group of caregivers to establish the International Childcare and Domestic Services Association, under VFCA's auspices and full support.

By February 1989, the association was registered under the Society Act.

In 2001, the association changed its name to the Victoria Filipino-Canadian Caregivers Association. Its purposes, however, remain unchanged.

An annual VFCCA activity is the Valentine's Day Dinner-Dance. It also sponsors a community picnic.

From 2008 to the present, VFCCA has continuously worked for the improvement of the working conditions of all live-in caregivers and temporary workers through information, counseling, education and training programs, referrals for legal advice, workshops.

VFCCA provided much needed information about their rights, especially in abusive situations.


Victoria Filipino Canadian Seniors Association
In April 1988, a group of elderly new immigrants from the Philippines and Canadians of Filipino ancestry got together to form an organization, under the auspices of the Victoria Filipino-Canadian Association [VFCA].

The next year, the group was formally registered under the Society Act as the Victoria Filipino-Canadian Golden Age Association.

In 1995, the members amended the constitution and changed the name to the Victoria Filipino-Canadian Seniors’ Association.

The VFCSA sponsors the annual Halloween Dinner Dance and organizes trips and social events for the seniors.


Bayanihan Cultural and Housing Society
On February 16, 1991, VFCA officers took the bold step of incorporating the Bayanihan Cultural and Housing Society to focus on acquiring a building for a cultural centre.

To ensure the integrity of BCHS as an arm of the VFCA, with support from the VFCCA and the VFCSA, and that it will not succumb to any individual's or groups' personal ambitions, the society's membership was limited to 16 members: seven ranking VFCA officers; one representative each from the VFCCA and the VFCSA; five other individuals appointed by VFCA — two of whom must be VFCA directors for the year and three from the VFCA membership.

BCHS was incorporated under the Society Act on April 12, 1991

On April 30, 2001, it acquired the property at 1709-1711 Blanshard Street, for $395,000:

- BCHS had raised, from 1991 to 2001, $120,000 for a centre.

- City of Victoria gave green light for BCHS to apply for a building permit and to operate a community centre.

- The provincial government gave a 'Community Partners Program' grant of $215,000 on March 26, 2001.

- A credit union authorized a mortgage of $310,00 on April 27, 2001.

- Capital Health Region [now Vancouver Island Health Authority] approved the operation of a commercial kitchen on April 11, 2001, in the building.

- Cost of renovations of building plus permits, was $71,746.80. Volunteers helped to minimize the renovation costs by contributing their skills, labor, time and effort.

- Total cost was $471,748.80 [a total of $335,000 raised from donations, including the $215,000 provincial grant].

- Bayanihan Community Centre was formally opened on November 3, 2001.

- On April 26, 2002, BCHS was designated by Canada Customs and Revenue Agency a "charitable organization," allowing donors to get an income tax deduction for their donations to BCHS.

- On January 2, 2007, BCHS paid off the mortgage for the centre and on January 28, 2007, held a mortgage burning ceremony.

Bayanihan Community Centre
The Bayanihan Community Centre is the venue for:

- Sunday Open House Lunch;

- Charitable programs, such as 'Feeding the Needy" and helping others here and abroad;

- Fund-raising for disaster victims [Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines — $63,125.88 as of December 13, 2013 — and the Nepal earthquake];

- The annual Filipino Food Fiesta;

- Philippine Consulate Outreach Services [passports, visas, affidavits, etc.];

- Leadership, Food Safe, CPR and other training programs, information workshops for caregivers and Temporary Foreign Workers;

- Tagalog classes;

- Supporting annual dinner-dances of the three organizations; dancing lessons [folk dancing, ballroom dancing, line dancing, etc.];

- Parties and other social events;

- Programs with the InterCultural Association, Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society, and the Community Partnership Network; and, among others,

- A gathering for prayers for bereaved families and for religious observances.

- The centre welcomed in 2007 Dr. Emerlinda Roman, University of the Philippines' 19th and first woman president, in 2009 B.C.'s first Filipino Canadian MLA Mable Elmore representing Vancouver-Kingsway, and in 2011 federal Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney.

A big part of the centre's success can be attributed to its financial management by the BCHS board:

- Appropriateness of expenditures;

- Accountability — monitoring; and

- Transparency — reporting in monthly financial statements by the treasurer.

Maharlika (Nobility) Award 2010 to VFCA for Outstanding Filipino–Canadian Association
The VFCA was singled out as an Outstanding Filipino Association for establishing the Bayanihan Cultural and Housing Society and, with its strong support, the BCHS successfully acquired property to establish the Bayanihan Community Centre.

The unity of the Canadians of Filipino ancestry in Victoria was cited as a significant factor in accomplishing this.


Maharlika (Nobility) Award 2014 to the Bayanihan Cultural and Housing Society for Outstanding Filipino–Canadian Association
The BCHS was singled out as an Outstanding Filipino Canadian Association in 2014 at the awards ceremony in January 2015 for its many charitable programs and fundraising efforts for victims of natural disasters.


BCHS sponsors Syrian refugee family
BCHS welcomed a Syrian refugee family from Aleppo [a young couple in their 20s with two kids, eight months and 2.5 years] to Victoria on April 27, 2017.

The sponsorship is in partnership with three generous individuals and is under the auspices of the Inter Cultural Association of Greater Victoria and the federal government.

The sponsors were exceedingly lucky to get a unit close to downtown and near the InterCultural Association [for ESL and services for refugees] and the Bayanihan Community Centre.

Before the family arrived, the pace was hectic: child-proofing the balcony of their third-floor, two-bedroom apartment, installing drapes, and moving donated furniture, kitchen and kids stuff, and a TV set.


BCHS looking at options for centre:
While the centre is financially stable, with the mortgage paid off in five years and about $15,000 in the bank, BCHS is looking at options for the future:

- The centre has a prime downtown location and near major bus routes.

- Building is aging and requires an expensive seismic upgrades, better heating/cooling indoors.

- The hall can only accommodate 60 persons. It is packed for certain events. It has inadequate storage space and limited parking.

- Many individuals and groups donated money over the years to establish and maintain the centre.

- Current operation is purely voluntary [except for janitorial work]. This could be unsustainable unless more people come forward and volunteer.

- A small core group of volunteers help run the Centre. Most of them have been involved in:

- Raising funds for a centre since BCHS was established in 1991 [26 years]

- Buying the property and renovating the building in 2001

- Operating the centre for the last 16 years.

They are now in their 60s+ and are getting burned out in their volunteer work.

- There are only a few new volunteers, despite a dramatic increase in newcomers [immigrants, caregivers, skilled workers] to the Capital Regional District in the past decade.
Many of the newcomers do not feel the need for a centre compared to those who came in small numbers in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s and who needed a place to get together. Today, like in the big Canadian cities, they belong to various and religious denominations and regional Filipino groups, each growing bigger, that have their own social activities. The sense of being united is diminishing with "me" trumping "we'.

- Most ethno-cultural groups that have a centre face the same dilemma.

- Volunteerism across Canada is declining. Four in 10 Canadians volunteered in 2013 down by four per cent from 2010. Decline in the volunteer rate is most pronounced among persons aged 35 to 44 with a six per cent decrease from 2010 to 2013. There are less newcomers who volunteer than Canadian-born.

- Newcomers from some cultural background have never volunteered in their home country. Some view volunteering as "help" while others as "work without pay."

- Some volunteers expect entitlement to some tangible benefits for volunteering — not a selfless giving back to the community.

- More women volunteer than men because in some cultures it is not "macho" to volunteer.

Consultations are currently in progress. The options for the future are on the centre's website at https://www.bayanihan.ca/community-future.

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