Controversy clouds effort to build B.C. Filipino cultural center
The BC Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sports is stepping in to resolve the brewing controversy surrounding the proposed Filipino Community Centre, PhilippineCanadianNews.Com (PCN) has learned.
A meeting with the two groups is taking place this Thursday, (August 10, 2023). No response from the Minister to confirm the meeting has been received at time of posting.
Less than four months after the Filipino Canadian non-profit group Mabuhay House Society received a $250,000 grant from the provincial government, it is now embroiled in a controversy as to who should run the initiative.
Sources close to PCN, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said that Mabuhay has been in “chaos” as it tries to deal with efforts from another group to wrest control of the initiative.
The group, calling itself Filipino Canadian Community & Cultural Society of British Columbia has just registered as a Charitable Society. It was initially known as “Filipino BC” and has been in support of the community center all along.
Former allies now opposing each other
Yet, former allies cannot seem to agree on the best way to go about establishing a community center. A Mabuhay source claimed that Member of Legislative Assembly Mable Elmore should have maintained an ”arms-length” relationship with them to maintain their autonomy or independence.
“I’ve said that I’m here to support it and [the] initiatives and activities in the community,” Elmore told ABS-CBN News in an interview, directly avoiding the question of duplication of work by the two groups.
PCN has reached out to Elmore who acknowledged our request by leaving her phone number, but could not reach her at the time of posting. We also reached out to RJ Aquino of Filipinos BC and Joel Castillo of United Filipino Canadian Associations in British Columbia (UFCABC) but both did not respond at posting.
Other groups wait in the wings, key players in the quest
Looming in the background of all this controversy are other groups vying to build the “dream.” There is the National Pilipino Canadian Cultural Centre (NPC3), organized some years ago with an ambitious plan to build a “national” center. Some of its key people are also involved with Mabuhay House.
But foremost among the players is the real estate developer Macario “Tobi” Reyes who has been pushing for the project long before it became public.
While he maintains a low profile, Reyes is listed as the co-founder of Mabuhay House in his LinkedIn profile where he posted: “….building Vancouver’s first Filipino Canadian Cultural Centre and the first of its kind globally.” (Italics ours). He is also shown as a partner of Mabuhay House with his company PortaLiving.
A recent report by real estate publication Storeys, reveals that PortaLiving has filed for creditor protection related to its Vancouver project Terrace House. It is touted as the world’s tallest hybrid timber building in the world.