Opened on November 3, 2001, the Bayanihan Community Centre and now debt-free is facing a crossroads. (Positively Filipino)
Can the envy of others continue after 50 years?
By Ted Alcuitas
For some, it is still a dream while others have come and gone.
But for the Bayanihan Community Centre in Victoria, it is a time of celebration and retrospection.
On Saturday, March 30, the Victoria Filipino Canadian Association will celebrate 50 years in the community with a dinner celebration at the Hotel Grand Pacific in Victoria followed by a stage production on March 31 at the Oak Bay High School.
The Bayanihan Community Centre at 1709 Blanchard was conceived 50 years ago by 15 Filipinos, according to a story by Ben Pires published in Positively Pinoy.
The women, all from the health field, formed the first Filipino Canadian association in Canada – the Victoria Filipino Canadian Association (VFCA), according to Pires’ account.
According to Pires’ article there were 770 Filipinos in the early 60s with a handful in Victoria – two physicians, an engineer, and nurses.
When the women formalized the organization on February 10, 1969, they made sure that “its leadership was not placed on a pedestal”.
Its focus was on sharing Filipino culture — music, folk dance, food, traditions —and caring for all people.
VFCA helped establish the Victoria Filipino Canadian Caregivers’ Association in 1989 with the influx of Filipino workers to the city. The society incorporated the ) on April 12, 1991 and began fundraising shortly after.
The monies raised were put into an investment account and were not to be touched until a centre can be purchased.
The association’s Sampaguita Dancers performed for the annual Fiesta and other venues and helped raise funds that ultimately grew to $120,00 over ten years.
With a provincial government grant of $215,00 and its savings, BCHS purchased the building on Blanchard St. on April 10, 2001 and so the Bayanihan Community Centre was born.
After renovation work mostly done by volunteers, the centre had a grand opening November 3&4, 2001.
The Centre completed its mortgage and a mortgage burning was held on January 28, 2007, paying down a $225,00 mortgage in just five years.
A mortgage-burning ceremony, after a $250,000 was paid down in just five years, was held at the Bayanihan Community Centre on January 28, 2007, with dignitaries attending. They included Victoria Hillside Member of the Legislature Steve Orcherton [2nd from left], acting Philippines’ Vancouver Consul General Raul Hernandez [third], provincial Community Services Minister Ida Chong [fourth], Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe [fifth], and Victoria City Councillors Charlayne Thornton-Joe and Helen Hughes [7th and 8th]. (Positvely Filipino)
According to Pires, the centre’s success can be attributed to its financial management under three pillars:
- No individual had any special status in the running of the centre and all were expected to work solely for the benefit of the centre and not for personal gain.
- Accountability – every donation is accounted for with monthly financial statements
- Transparency – monthly board meetings present financial statements available for public viewing.
But despite a debt-free centre and substantial money in its coffers, Bayanihan is facing a challenge whether to continue to the future or make changes.
For one , the building needs extensive upgrades, volunteers are ageing and very few new volunteers.
In 2017, a report was prepared for the BCHS by Randy Kennett of Hone Consunting Corporation. The report found 50% of the respondents to the survey favoured a sale of the property and partner with a non-profit housing society to build a new housing and community centre.
The Bayanihan Centre is indeed unique and is an envy to other community organizations in the country.
According to organizers, its success can be summed up in “appropriateness, accountability and transparency in financial management, getting involved in charitable activities, being involved in the Canadian mosaic and offering programs for older and newer Pinoys in Victoria.”