In March of 1992, a group of forward-thinking, community-minded advocates, led by Mrs. Jasmin Reyes-Tjong met in the home of the late Elizardo Reyes. This group deliberated on a proposal for a Filipino Center, which was to search for an existing property, for lease or for purchase, that would be appropriate for a community centre and accessible to all kababayans (Filipino-Canadians) living in Windsor and Essex County. The idea was to have a quick and affordable turnaround, at a lesser cost than the option of developing a site and building a facility. This group agreed to form a new organization which they aptly called Filipino Community Centre (FCC). Together, they identified the new organization’s principal mission: run a Community Centre to meet the needs of Filipino-Canadians in the City of Windsor and neighbouring municipalities within the County of Essex.
The Application for Incorporation of the new organization was put together and signed by thefounding members: the late Azucena Achurra, Josefina Amores, Melquiades Avinante, Myra Barrera, Victor Barrera, the late Ken Bragg, the late Nida Brocoy, Jasmin Reyes-Tjong, Alberto Siojo, Angelita Siojo, and Gloria Ymana. On October 2nd , 1992, the Filipino Community Centre, Inc. (FCCI) was officially incorporated as a non-profit organization. Shortly thereafter, FCCI’s Constitution and By-laws, outlining its new mission and goals, composition, and goals/purposes were drafted and eventually approved. An interim Board of Directors was formed with Alberto Siojo as President.
Searching for a temporary Centre was quite difficult and challenging until the Community Living Windsor (CLW), a charitable organization supporting people with intellectual disability, offered their unused building on 935 Northwood Street as a temporary Filipino Centre, subject of course to mutual agreement by both parties. In recognition of the FCCI’s need for a building, its limited resources, and the feasibility of the plans for a Centre, the CLW approved FCCI’s request for a longer-term use of the building, subject to a token, annual rent of $1.00 and FCCI taking care of the costs for the upkeep and maintenance of the building and property.
Through the hard work of the newly elected Board led by then President Victor Barrera, the Grand Opening of the new Filipino Community Centre was held on February 14, 1993. The celebration, well attended by our kababayans, members and their families and friends, supporters, and invited government officials, featured not only the customary ribbon-cutting ceremony, but also had the makings of a typical Filipino fiesta (feast): a special time for fellowship with the celebration of a community mass, lots of different foods and delicacies, and performances by local artists and dancing led by the Luzviminda Dance Troupe. It was a remarkably memorable event and signalled the start of many years of the Centre opening its doors to the community.
Three (3) years after FCCI’s temporary use of the building, CLW decided to sell it along with the adjacent property rented by the Maranatha Christian School. CLW agreed to sell the property to Maranatha, under a provision that the part of the property occupied by FCCI will be severed and FCCI be given the option to buy this part of the property and the building. This seemed to be a colossal undertaking, given the Centre’s meagre financial and human resources. Nonetheless, led by their very optimistic President, the late Mrs. Nida Brocoy, the Board decided to put in an offer to acquire the property which was finally severed and FCCI’s purchase offer was accepted in 1997. This purchase brought to the fore the need for major financial outlay which was met through a combination of monies raised from various fundraising campaigns, donations and/or loans from members and supporters, along with a banking mortgage. In 2005, the mortgage was fully settled and the privately funded loans were paid.
Over the years, the operational requirements were mainly covered by membership fees and rental fees. While the major part of the upkeep such as caretaking, maintenance, and minor repairs, has been, to this day, handled by dedicated, long-serving volunteers and Centre members.
Under the leadership of its long-term and current President Milo Santos and with the help of numerous hardworking and committed volunteers, the Centre has gone through many much needed structural and aesthetic changes during the last several years. These projects could not have been undertaken without the help and generosity of the Centre members, their families, friends and benefactors.
In 2012, the FCCI applied for and received significant financial assistance from both the Provincial Government through the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Government of Canada through its Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund Program carried out by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. Along with the requisite counterpart funding raised by the FCCI, these Provincial and Federal grant funds were used toward an expansion and improvement of the Centre. This project was completed in March 2014 and the much improved Community Centre was presented to the Project Funding providers, benefactors, and the community at a Grand Re-opening on June 14, 2014.
The FCCI has had its share of advocacy for the disadvantaged both in our community and in the Philippines. It has been a critical point of contact for many newcomers to Canada, some of whom may not have family members or friends upon arrival. It has also been a source of information for members of our community needing advice or assistance about various concerns. For many occasions, the Centre has pulled in its membership and other community resources to put together fundraising campaigns to benefit people in the Philippines who have been severely and adversely affected by calamities. One worthy of mention was the fundraising campaign for Filipino communities affected by typhoon Haiyan in 2013 which took thousands of lives and caused catastrophic destruction mostly in the Visayan regions of the Philippines. FCCI was able to raise $47,600 which was remitted to GlobalMedic, an organization that was one of the earliest emergency providers for areas and people affected by that super typhoon. It also needs noting that these funds were given to and used by a recognized Canadian charitable organization in the Philippines, were matched by the Canadian government.
The Filipino Centre has been the place to go for some major and notable community events and celebrations; among others, Gala Celebrations, Carrousel of the Nations, Flores de Mayo, Karaoke Night, and various religious and cultural activities. In addition, it has been home for the International (Filipino) Language and Culture classes funded by the Ministry of Education. This is an avenue for young Filipino-Canadians to learn not only the Tagalog language but the many other facets of our unique culture.
In October 2001, the Philippine Consulate in Toronto held its first outreach program in Windsor for consular services and information updates for our kababayans. The Consulate has been providing the same service at the Centre every year since.
Access to the Centre has not been limited to Filipino-Canadians. The FCC has also collaborated with and/or assisted and accommodated a number of non-profit organizations and other ethnic groups on numerous community and cultural events.
Much has been done during the last twenty five years but MUCH MORE IS YET TO BE ACCOMPLISHED….
The Filipino Centre has made great strides during the last two and half decades, more significant than what can be put on a couple of pages. In the coming years, the Filipino Centre will forge ahead with plans and programs to keep its valuable, vibrant presence in the Windsor-Essex Community.
In line with its raison d’etre, it will continue to focus on its mission as articulated in its Incorporation document; i.e., “to establish, operate, and maintain, a Filipino-Canadian cultural, and/or community centre, to be conducted on philanthropic principles for the purpose of relief of poverty, advancement of education and religion, and other purposes beneficial to the community.”
On its own or in partnership with its members, families, and friends, member organizations, other non-profit groups, and government agencies, the Filipino Centre will continue to be a venue for community, social events, and outreach programs; provide opportunities for recreational, sports, cultural, and religious activities; and, help raise awareness and transfer of knowledge on Filipino heritage and culture. MABUHAY!