Tomas Avendano and Ching Colobong in an interview with Luisa Marshall of the TV show, Simply the Best on May 12, 2014 shortly after Colobong was elected president. (Photo: Simply the Best)

Vancouver, B.C.

Tom Avendano faces challenge, acknowledges mistakes in stunning admission

By Ted Alcuitas

After 22 years at the helm of MHHS and barely a week to its annual general meeting on July 28, Tomas Avendano, Sr. is facing a challenge to his leadership.

An anonymous group calling itself Concerned Friends of Multicultural Helping House is calling for a change in the decades old service organization founded in 1996.

https://concernedfriendsof.wixsite.com/website

In a stunning admission, Avendano wrote an ‘apology’ to Ching Colobong who was elected president in 2014 but was not able to serve.

The apology was dated July 18, 2018, a full three months since Colobong wrote to the MHHS board on April 17, 2018.

In the letter, Avendano, as president and CEO stated that “the board discussed the issues raised in your letter (Colobong’s) in a meeting on May 15, 2015.”

He did not explain why it took him and MHHS three years to answer Colobong.

Rey Fortaleza, publisher of Philippine Asian News Today (PNT) and Philippine Showbiz Today posted the letter on his Facebook page followed by a post from Colobong celebrating her ‘vindication’.

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Ching Colobong

16 hrs ·

Tatay Tom admits mistake in keeping me out of MHHS board

For the last two years or so, I have been fighting to claim my rightful seat at the board of the Multicultural Helping House Society (MHHS).

Because of reasons that I have not found satisfactory, I have been kept out of the MHHS board, contrary to the group’s constitution and bylaws.

With another election coming up on July 28, I am running again for a seat in the board of MHHS.

After waiting for answers, I finally feel vindicated as MHHS president and CEO Tomas Avendano has admitted that there was a mistake in keeping me out of the board.

For the sake of transparency, I am sharing Avendano’s letter, which you can read below.

Fortaleza is also president of the Filipino Canadian Cultural Heritage Society (FCCHS), a moribund group purporting to build a Filipino cultural centre.

Fortaleza’s two print media, PNT and PST did not carry the news of the anonymous group in its latest issues, despite the fact that the anonymous group sent emails to all known Filipino media including PCN.com.

Rey Fortaleza, right, is seen here with former Philippine Consul General Neil Ferrer at a farewell event for the outgoing consul. (Facebook)

Already an icon in the community, the 89-year old Avendano is affectionately called ‘Tatay’ (father) in the Filipino community, some of whom would kiss his hand in public, a customary Filipino greeting for elders. 

The group, who refused to come out in the open despite requests by this paper, is demanding that it is “time to clean up the helping house”. 

Without detailing what it wants cleaned up, it attacks Avendano as trying to build a family dynasty. It alleges that with two family members running in the AGM out of field of 22, it could  become a ‘Kamaganak Inc.’ if they get elected. The term refers to political dynasties in the Philippines which means ‘ Relatives Inc.’

Avandano’s younger brother, Demetrio ‘Demi’ is running for re-election and the other is his son Benidecto ‘Benny’ Avendano.

“Tanongin nila ang sarili nila. Ano ba ang isip nila? he asks when told of the existence of the group.

“Nasaan sila? I would like to question their motives. Walang akong nakikita,” he bristles with frustration as he told philippinecanadiannews.com (PCN.com) on July 17.

The anonymous group also accuses Avendano of helping a lady insurance agent sell policies to the caregiver group.

“There are ongoing stories that the caregiver group of the Multicultural Helping House Society (MHHS) is in the business of selling life insurance.”

The group alleges that Tom Avendano is “very much involved in the marketing of this insurance.”

PCN.com has been trying to reach out to the group but it has not responded to our emails.

According to the MHHS website, the  22 candidates which includes Tomas Avendano are the following: Michael Cayetano, Pocholo Insua, Reynaldo Fortaleza, Dr. Gloria Samosa, Joel Castillo, Merlina Fayusal, Ching Colobong, Levna Anorico, Susan Panlican, Marcela Reyes, Teresita Tang, Mitzi Echague, Benedicto Avendano, Janet Teves, Patricia Diamzon,Erlinda Cruz,Marilou Yodogawa, Demetrio Avendano, Dorothy Delos Reyes, Rebecca Delos Reyes and Limbay Deza Lau.

Funded by three levels of government

MHHS is funded by the three levels of government – federal, provincial and  municipal. According to Avendano, its current budget is less than a million dollars.

In 2009, it received a capital funding of $500,000 from the City of Vancouver to help build its current facility at 4802 Fraser St. In Vancouver.

Avendano originally founded the Filipino Canadian Support Services Society (FCSSS) in early 1996 and by 2001 it morphed into the current Multicultural Helping House Society (MHHS).

http://www.helpinghouse.ca/?pahina=page_view&page_view=7

The change was strategically done in order to be able to avail of funding from governments by not restricting its services to the Filipino community alone.

Its stated vision is to help newcomers of all cultural backgrounds integrate successfully into Canadian society.

“Ano ba ang isip nila? Hindi ako matanda,” he told PCN.com in a telephone  interview on July 17, 2018, a day before he wrote the letter to Ching Colobong.

In the interview,he told PCN.com that he suspected Colobong as the brains behind the anonymous group, Concerned Friends of Multicultural Helping House.

“ Nag-iisa lang ako noon. Nasaan sila?” he responded to our questions about the group.

“I would like to question their motives – wala akong nakikita,” he adds.

Asked if perhaps, a member of the group wants his position as CEO because of the salary, he stated that he is not receiving any from MHHS.

“Right from the beginning, I did not received any salary. It is a labour of love – second to my wife,” he says. 

The AGM and election of the board of directors is to be held on Saturday, July 28, 2018 at the society’s offices at 4802 Fraser St.  from 10 AM to 3 PM. It is open to the public.