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By Rosalinda Cerrudo-Javier (In Collaboration with Rodel Ramos)
Since the early 70’s, Filipino-Canadian organizations and individuals in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) tried unsuccessfully to build their own managed community centre. A handful of these organizations were Silayan Community Centre, Culture Philippines and San Lorenzo Ruiz. This issue was shelved for about a couple of decades.
Towards the end of the millennium, Filipinos were once again inspired with the idea and revived the dream. Realizing that a push seemed necessary to jump start the establishment of a Toronto Filipino-Canadian community centre, they turned back to the homeland. To no one’s surprise, the push came and filtered down from the highest official in the Philippines, President Joseph Estrada, to former Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Domingo Siason Jr, down to Undersecretary and former Ambassador to Canada Clemencio Montessa.
To actually bring this GTA project to fruition, the Philippine Ambassador to Canada, Francisco Benedicto was directly instructed to oversee and make sure the plan gets off the ground. The ever accommodating, soft spoken ambassador not only personally talked to and convinced Filipinos of the GTA to roll up their sleeves and help, he initiated and donated from his own pocket $5,000 with the hope that like-minded Filipinos of the GTA share their time, efforts and resources to support the project. Sure enough, a handful of like-minded Filipinos immediately donated to the cause.
The seed was planted and the task of “firing up” and inspiring the rest of the Filipino-Canadians to join the bandwagon, was laid upon the shoulders of Toronto Consuls Olivia Palala and Sylvia Marasigan and later, by the newly appointed Consul General to Toronto, Susan Castrence
After several meetings called by the newly arrived Toronto Consul General Susan Castrence, two hundred and eight organizations were asked to nominate the president or chairperson of three different organizations in the GTA, and the Philippine Consulate was to decide who will form the core group from those whose names were voted the most. Their mandate was to create the organizational structure necessary to implement the ESTABLISHMENT OF A FILIPINO-CANADIAN COMMUNITY CENTRE IN TORONTO.
The chosen few were : Edgar Adan, Dr. Mario Andres, Jim Ariz, Ed Birondo, Manny Buado, ChitoCollantes, JulitaCorpuz, Rick Falco , Rosalinda Javier, Tessie Jew, ZoraidaLocquiao, Cecilia Mojica, Alex Parucha, Dr. Francisco Portugal, Ernie Quinit, Ores Ting, Vince Vargas and Bernadette Zaragosa.
For expediency, this original Philippine Consulate General core group agreed and chose among themselves temporary or interim officers until a proper election could be held. Dr. Francisco Portugal was chosen as the president; Rosalinda Cerrudo-Javier as the vice president; Ores Ting was the secretary and Cecilia Mojica, the treasurer.
As the group needed a constitution, Rosalinda Cerrudo-Javier was unanimously chosen to chair the constitutional committee with Rodel Ramos as the only member. This constitution was approved by the group in its finality.
Meanwhile, there were other groups in the GTA whose aspirations were parallel to that of the Philippine Consulate Toronto core group. One was led by Dr. Guillermo de Villa Jr. and the other was Kalayaan, whose president was Carlos Padilla. These two groups were invited to join forces, and while the first accepted, the latter refused.
With the addition of Dr. de Villa, Wendy Arena, Mann Nacario and Dr. Vicky Santiago, the FCT Board of Directors swelled up to twenty two. This newly merged groups sans membership, decided among themselves to properly elect their own set of officers and called themselves the Filipino Centre Toronto Board of Directors.
Along with the additions above, the de Villa secretariat was enshrined as the new FCT secretariat composed of Mary Ann San Juan and Rey Ballares while Evelyn Laraya was appointed Executive Coordinator and upon the recommendation of FCT’s CFO, Edgar Adan, Erlinda Gallardo was appointed treasurer.
As a compromise, the constitution of the Philippine Consulate Toronto group was voted in while the name Philippine/Filipino Centre Toronto, as filed by the de Villa group was accepted as the merged group’s official name.
Several committees were struck to facilitate the fundraising efforts. Few of these committees worked out and were embraced by those assigned with open arms. Meanwhile, it seemed that the intensity of the work load assigned to the other committees caused the departure of a handful of directors of the newly formed organization.
First Set of Officers – Philippine/Filipino Centre Toronto:
OFFICERS OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Chairman – Dr. Guillermo de Villa Jr.
Vice Chairman – Tessie Jew
Secretary – Bernadette Zaragosa
OFFICERS OF THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL
President – Rosalinda Cerrudo-Javier
Executive Vice President – Dr. Francisco Portugal
Secretary – Ores Ting
Chief Financial Officer – Edgar Adan
Auditor – Cecilia Mojica