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Mabuhay House Society receives $250,000 grant to proceed with planning and public engagement on provincial Filipino cultural centre

David Eby
Premier David Eby held up a proclamation on June 1, 2022, declaring Filipino Heritage Month.

The B.C. government has moved a long-awaited provincial Filipino cultural centre one step closer to becoming a reality.

On April 14, the Ministry Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport announced a $250,000 grant to Mabuhay House Society. It will use the funding to lead public planning and engagement about the facility, starting this summer.

“Having a Filipino cultural centre where the community can connect and share their heritage has been a dream of the Filipino community in B.C. for a long time, and it’s exciting to support the work towards making this vision a reality,” the minister responsible, Lana Popham, said in a news release.

Last December, Premier David Eby instructed Popham in her mandate letter to advance a provincial cultural centre for Filipinos. The premier included the same message in another mandate letter to the parliamentary secretary for anti-racism initiatives, Mable Elmore.

In the April 14 news release, Elmore said that the provincial government is “committed to the values of diversity, equity and inclusion”. She’s the first and only B.C. MLA who traces her family roots back to the Philippines. Her mother Maria, a nurse, was born and raised in Cebu and immigrated to Canada in 1965.

“It’s been a long-standing desire to have a physical space for the Filipino community to come together and celebrate culture and heritage,” Elmore said. “This is an important first step towards creating a community space that gives the Filipino community a place to call home.”

Pancouver revealed the instructions in the mandate letters last December. That later prompted BC United MLA Teresa Wat to ask Popham about this in debates on her ministry’s estimates.

Ben Flores Bowen Island Museum and Archive
Benson Flores was the first documented Filipino immigrant to Canada. Photo courtesy of the Bowen Island Museum and Archive.

Early Filipino immigrant settled on Bowen Island

Last December, Elmore told Pancouver that there are nearly one million members of the Filipino community in Canada. She also said that more than 160,000 live in B.C.

According to Elmore, Filipino Canadians want a provincial centre in Metro Vancouver to include meeting space. Plus, she said, some have expressed wishes for a seniors’ centre, childcare facilities, art exhibitions, and possibly a museum.

For more than two decades, the Bayanihan Community Centre has served the Filipino community in Victoria. But there is nothing like it in the Lower Mainland.

The first documented landing of Filipinos in the continental United States occurred in 1587. Crew members of the Nuestra Señora de Buena Esperanza disembarked with a priest in Morro Bay on the California coast. The ship was part of the galleon trade between the then Spanish-ruled Philippines and the then Spanish-ruled Mexico.

One of the earliest Filipinos to immigrate to B.C. was Benjamin “Benson” Flores. He settled on Bowen Island in 1861, remaining there until his death in 1929.

Meanwhile, Mabuhay House Society derives its name from the Filipino word mabuhay. It’s a celebratory term, literally meaning “long live”.

“Our society is a strong voice for this key project and this funding underscores the B.C. government’s commitment to bringing this important centre into existence,” Mahuhay House Society co-chair James Infante said in the news release.

Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter @charliesmithvcr. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.