12 ‘Outstanding Filipino Canadians’ receive Maharlika awards

By Alex P. Vidal/ PNS

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Twelve entrepreneurs and leaders in the Filipino Canadian community were honored during the Philippine Independence Gala Night 2010 with a theme “Gawad Parangal sa Mga Dakilang Pilipino British Columbia” at the Italian Cultural Center last June 19.

The 12 who received “Maharlika Awards” given by the Filipino Canadian Cultural Heritage of British Columbia (FCCH) represented by its chair Reynaldo Fortaleza and Mayor Gregor Robertson were: Mary Elizabeth Ebo-Reyes, Ronaldo O. Dulay, Dra. Marina Roma-March, Arturo S. Alafriz Jr., Rodolfo Nucom-Viray.

Also awarded were Tomas Avendano, Riva Oquendo, Petra Durrance, Dr. Danilo Salcedo, Ferdinand Gonzales, Rod Belleza, and Mable Elmore.

Reyes has been living in Canada for almost 15 years. Her family arrived on July 1, 1995 which was the “Canada Day.”

She is an artistic director and founder of Praise Theatre Ensemble and Arts Ministry (Praise T.E.A.M.) and dance teacher and choreographer, former ballet, jazz and contemporary dancer.

She is a graduate of BSBA major in Accounting and is a Child and Youth Counselor and coordinator of Youth Ministry.

She said she values everything she does for others in her own little way. She has significant contributions in the field of religion, arts and culture.

Because of her faith in God and love for the arts, she started Praise TEAM more than 13 years ago as a dance and theatre arts ministry whose mission is to evangelize through the performing arts. Their intention is to provide an arena for expression in dance, songs, music and drama , where through rigid but fun training, we share our faith, grow in spirit, develop one’s character and strengthen one’s values.

Praise TEAM encourages prayer, and involvement in community events, outreach programs and charitable works (such as GK, Project Mabuhay, among others)

Their services are catered to everyone especially the youth and the underprivileged

Aside from being a wife and a mother, she loves being the “Tita Beth” to many people in the community.

Starting with training nine dancers, they have more than 200 kids now, not counting those who have moved on.

She said their “warm, family atmosphere” in Praise TEAM has enabled them to develop and nurture young artists who have a deep passion for the performing arts at the same time have a strong faith and fervent love for God. Their style of training and mentoring “inspires our young artists to excel in the field of their choice, to win in competitions and be recognized locally and internationally,” she said.

Dulay has been living in Canada for 39 years. He is the past owner of the Fiesta Filipina (Pilipino Foods) 1972-1985, R.D. Professional Cargo Services 1987-2009, Cargo Manager-LBC Cargo, Vancouver Office, 2009-present; and member of Phil-Canada Trade Council (PCTC).

He is also the past president of the Filipino Association of B.C.(FABC 1977), Philippine Service Club (YMCA), Philippine Day Confederation 1994-1998, and chapter president- Philippine Centennial Commission, Vancouver, B.C. (1998); past vice president of Circulo Pampangueno; Pangasinan-Ilocano Civic Assn(PICA); lifetime donor of Pilipino Community Center Society(PCCS) and vice president of Pilipino Golfers Assn Of B.C.(PGA-BC)

His most significant contribution to the Filipino community has been his involvement in all fund-raising events in the Pilipino Community especially for calamities in the Philippines ; spearheading of the first fund-raising for the Pilipino Community Center In B.C.; and starting the first Pilipino Basketball League (Inter Color) In Greater Vancouver.

His most notable achievement/ accomplishment was Celebrating our Centennial Independence Day with almost the whole Pilipino Community in the Greater Vancouver Area; the Maharlika Award nomination and awarding of FCCH.

Roma-March has been living in Canada for 37 years. She is an optometrist by profession and has been in practice for 16 years. She owns two eye clinics: the Broadway Station Eye Clinic and Champlain Vision Care in Vancouver . She is the founder of the Third World Eye Care Society, a non-profit charity registered for 15 years in British Columbia .

Upon graduation in 1994, she established the Third World Eye Care Society (TWECS). The society has been collecting eyeglasses from compassionate individuals all across the Canada with the help of thousands of volunteers and service organizations such as Lions Clubs, Rotary Clubs, Boys and Girls Clubs, Girl Guides, optometry clinics, optical stores and churches.

In 15 years, over a million eyeglasses have passed through the TWECS eyeglass warehouse. Volunteers at the eyeglass warehouse spend months processing tens of thousands of eyeglasses for travel to eye care projects overseas. Over 59,000 people have been helped by Third World Eye Care Society.

In support of this eye care work five years ago, she initiated a work program with the British Columbia department of Justice to train inmates in optical procedures. They have successfully trained 60 inmates prior to their release into the community.

In 15 years, over 25,000 underprivileged men women and children in the barrios of the Philippines have been given free eye care and eyeglasses.

Her most notable achievement/ accomplishment was being the recipient of the “Presidential Banaag Award” from President Joseph Estrada in 2000.

Alafriz.has been living in Canada for 30 years. A lawyer by profession, he has been practicing privately on his own.

He is involved in Multicultural Helping House and Ateneo Alumni Association of British Columbia. His most memorable contribution to the Filipino community is his being chairman of combined Filipino organizations to welcome then President Cory Aquino to Vancouver . His most notable achievement/ accomplishment is his being the First Filipino lawyer to practice in Canada in 1984.

Viray has been living in Canada for 34 years. He is the former president of Circulo Pampanggeno/ Macabebe Town Fiesta BC; Phil Day Confederation overall organizer and three-time chairman from 1987-89; and chairman of special project of Philippine Day Confederation for one year 1990 (Community center project). He wants to unite the Filipino community in BC. He was able to unite different Filipino organizations under one umbrella called Philippine Day Confederation to celebrate the Philippine Independence day.

Avendano is more popularly known as “Tatay Tom.” He heads the Mutlicultural Helping House, an organization that assists not only Filipinos but other immigrants from other countries in their transition from their homeland to a new life in Canada .

A born leader, he is propelling MHHS to heights that all levels of Canadian Government do not fail to notice. Avendano was given the award for community leadership.

Oquendo is a pixie and diminutive lady who dances well. She formed her own La Riva Dance Studio to train kids as young as four years old to dance the Philippines native dances.

Riva and her troupe are everywhere where there are Philippines festivals or in other community activities that showcase Philippine culture.

Riva Oquendo was awarded for cultural development for Fil-Can youth.

Durrance is a native of Kalinga Apayao. Born so poor and abandoned at birth, by luck she was adopted by the Good Sisters of the Holy Child Orphanage in Sagada, Mountain Province . She studied hard at the orphanage which opened her eyes to the poverty that plagues her community. Through another struck of luck, she met and married David Durrance, a B.C. high school teacher who did community work in Mountain Province .

Together they formed international association for transformation and have helped thousands through the eco-villages and global youth training and development centers which they formed in the Philippines .

Durrance was awarded for humanitarian service.

Salcedo is the owner of Deva Dental Clinic and a doctor of medical dentistry and a registered acupuncturist.

Where other medical practitioners dare not delve into, he did and pioneered in alternative healing. He is into music therapy, water therapy, ear candling, stress management, acupressure, acupuncture, reflexology, shiatsu, energy healing and pranic healing.

A true Filipino by heart, he joins dental and medical missions to the Philippines to help the unfortunate and needy.

He was given the award for humanitarian service.

Gonzales hails from Leyte and a long-time resident of Nanaimo in Vancouver Island .

He is currently the president of Viva which stands for Vancouver Island Visayan Association.

The association helps new Filipino immigrants in their community to cope up with the economic and social changes they have to undergo to adjust to a new life in Canada .

Gonzales was awarded for community service.

Belleza is a financial advisor and fellow of The Institute of the Canadian Bankers. Holder of Political Science and Law degrees, he immigrated to Richmond in 1980 from the Philippines .

He is a member of Richmond Intercultural Advisory Committee for the City of Richmond and president of Richmond Multicultural Concerns Society. He is also member of Richmond Community Services Advisory Council and board member of Association of Multicultural Association and Service Agencies and East Richmond Community Association.

He is also charter member of the Vancouver Fraserview Rotary Club – Charter Member and director of Jaycees Pacific Southwest.

He is the president of Richmond Bayanihan Society and past president of Various Filipino & Canadian Organizations.

Belleza is the first Filipino elected as School Trustee in the City of Richmond .

Elmore is member of the Legislative Assembly and is the first Filipino to run for office in the Provincial Government who was elected successfully.

She ran for office because she believes that the people are not getting good enough service from the present government.

Elected MLA for Vancouver-Kensingto n on May 12, 2009, she serves as deputy opposition critic for Children, Family Development and Child Care.

She has been a transit operator for 10 years, driving a bus in Metro Vancouver while taking a role in her union, the Canadian Auto Workers Local 111, where she coordinated the “More Buses Now” campaign to improve public bus transit.

She is a second generation Filipino-Canadian who has also been active in the peace movement and on immigrant, social justice, women’s and gay, lesbian and transgendered issues.

She was awarded for government service.