KAGAB-ÍHON A Short Story

Robert Coe spent most of his younger years loving and enjoying the great wide outdoors of Georgian Bay with family and friends.  

Robert also worked in a more restricted environment at Guelph Correctional Centre as an officer with recidivous inmates. Robert is also a PK (Pastor’s Kid).  He later became a CBOQ (Convention Baptist of Ontario and Quebec) Ordained Missionary to serve for many years in the Philippines with his wife Norma and children.  His time in the Philippines with the people and community greatly enriched his life and love for writing.  However, in later years, while in Canada, Robert was diagnosed  in 2013 with a rare disease called Amyloidosis. Like cancer, it has no cure.  Generally, people will go for years before the disease is accurately diagnosed by medical specialists. In Robert’s case, a kidney and bone marrow biopsies finally confirmed the condition.  While living in Hamilton, Robert achieved, remission (disease in hibernation) after chemo treatments and Analogous Stem Cell Transplant at Juravinski Cancer Centre.   Sadly, the Amyloid disease destroyed Robert’s kidneys and he has been on Peritoneal Dialysis every single day since 2016 while awaiting prayerfully for a Kidney Donour to come for transplant. Rob’s medical condition however, gave him the opportunity to pursue when able his passion for writing, which is also inspired by his favourite authors; John Steinbach, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Dostoyevsky, James Mitchener and Pierre Burton. Robert has a degree in History at McMaster University and Master of Theological Studies at McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton.

KAGAB-ÍHON By Robert Coe E:1 P1

The night in the little village was as dark as dark can be. The village still had not electricity and no streetlight shone to give relief from the darkness. John Klein partially lifted open a framed bamboo panel that covered the window. Looking out into the night’s blackness, he saw no evidence of any visible stars. Being night, he again closed the window panel to keep the mosquitos out. A typhoon was further away to the northeast causing the sky to be heavily clouded for days. He and Keren had arrived at the bário earlier that afternoon from Roxas City.  The mission house had not yet been built, so they were staying with Keren’s parents. Her mother and father were tenants on a farm property on the other side of the river that wound its way through the village. To get to it, John and Keren had to cross a three-bamboo bridge. This was to be John’s first overnight visit to Keren’s family in the Visayas region of the Philippines.

          That night, placed on a roughly cut planked table, were two kerosene lamps made from a condensed milk can and the other from a recycled medicine bottle. A short distance away on a raised fireplace’s ledge was a single tin can lamp whose wick’s flame cast a fluttering shadow against the nipa hut’s back wall. John not yet use to the intense darkness of village nights felt closed in. He felt that guttural need to take refuge from the impenetrable blackness of the outside night that seemed intent to invade and overcome the dim light of the flickering lamps. John took his place with the others huddled around the table trying to remain in as much light from the lamps as they could –his wife Keren sat beside him, her mother and father and brother Alfonso across from them. There were a couple crudely made chairs and a bench; the chairs being what John and Keren sat upon. John felt his wobble on the hard-packed earthen floor whenever he shifted his weight.

          Alfonso’s English was quite good, and he was delighted to be able to use it with his newly met Canadian brother-in-law. Alfonso had that Spanish appearance common to many Filipinos and John could detect what sounded to his ear a Spanish accent whenever he spoke. Alfonso was thin yet wiry from a life of hard work. His black wavy hair was beginning to show some grey.  John was glad too to have this conversation in English with him. While John and Alfonso talked, Keren and her parents became occupied speaking in their Ilonggo dialect. Alfonso would from time to time refill his as well as John and his father’s glass jars with the family-size RED HORSE beer. All along, he would tell how he rarely drank but that this was a special occasion being together. John wondered, but no matter, he took him at this word.

Keren’s dad, Karding, thin like his son, got up from the table and went over to an area of the nipa hut that served as a kitchen. He appeared just a shadow away from the lamps’ light, but John heard the sharp clink of glass. Karding returned into the dim glow of the table’s lamps and set a liquor bottle on the table. John saw the tattoos that had become faint from age on his outreached arm. Earlier in the daylight, he had seen many of these prison tattoos all over his body. John had been told that he had killed a man many years before.

“You drink the juice of the coconut tree?” he said in English.

John lifted the bottle and it read Tanduay on the label and that it was 80% proof rum. However, Alfonso intervened: “It no longer has rum in it. He puts tubâ  (coconut palm wine) into his empty bottles.”

          “Papang makes it,” Keren explained. “He climbs the coconut tree still at his age. He wants you to drink some.”

          Keren’s mother, Rosing, got up from the table. She wore a drab and worn dress. The kindness that showed so clearly on her face is what John had noticed when first meeting her at the threshold of the nípà hut. Keren told her in Ilonggo that she need not bother to get another jar since John could use the now empty one his RED HORSE was in. Rosing sat down again while John poured a little of the tuba into his jar. He drank it. Its taste was not familiar nor to his liking. However, with Keren’s father anxiously watching for his reaction, John politely lied, saying that it was good, but declined when Karding lifted the bottle offering to pour more into his jar. Undeterred, Karding and Alfonso again filled their own with tubâ.

Alfonso was becoming freer in conversation, asking questions about Canada.  John was impressed that he already displayed considerable knowledge. It became obvious that Alfonso was a reader and educated himself through books somehow obtained. He clearly knew more about Canada than the average American did. Being a rice farmer, he was interested in the weather and the kind of crops grown in John’s country. He was a little surprised to learn that rice was not a crop cultivated anywhere in such a vast land, but when John described just how long and severe the winters could be, he understood.

In conversation, Alfonso got around to the reasons commonly and fatalistically put forth by Filipinos for poverty in the Philippines. “Your country Canada is a very rich country. I have read that there are many natural resources. And the people do well because you have a democratic parliamentary government that actually cares for them.”

“I suppose, basically that is true,” John concurred with some hesitation. “Sometimes, I wonder if our politicians really care so much for us. Generally, it is mostly their interests and those of the party they represent that matters most to them.”

“Still, it is nothing like it is here,” Alfonso continued. “Corruption is what holds us back. The corruption begins at the top where it is at its greatest and flows down to the barangays. However, it is the dynastic families that are the most powerful and corrupt in economics and politics.”

End of episode 1 part 1… to be continued or click here to proceed to page 2

Pomoy Facts

He is the hottest trending topic in YouTube.  Non-Filipinos just can’t have enough of him. Here is a review by Ms Chawla about 10 things you might not know about him. Enjoy.

FILCRAH USHERS IN 2020

Filipino  Canadian Retirees Association of Hamilton (aka FILCRAH) held their first ever Appreciation Night at Hamilton Filipino Community Centre, December 31, 2019. Over a hundred people attended as they dined and danced the night  away and helped usher in the New Year. Shown below are current Officers of FILCRAH

Seated L to R Gaspar Aberilla 2nd VP, Yoyex Chan, Social Director, Ron Chan 1st VP Standing L to R Perla Rafols, Treasurer, Cris Aberilla, Membership Director, Vina Sibayam, President, Evelyn Vanderspek, Secretary, Pong Palafox, Auditor, Bernia Elkami, Social Director, Tessie Abugan, Social Dircetor.

The star of the event was The Star(no pun intended) which was  unique, as it featured the Holy Family in the center of it. See picture below.

It drew a lot of  positive comments. A number of people took pictures as well as posed with it.

Click on picture to enlarge it.

The different organizations such as ATOATO, ZHC, PBA, PCA were well represented.

The activities included handing out of Door prizes, 50/50 draw line dancing, singing Karaoke  which made for a  lively event.

The night started with the playing of the Canadian & Filipino  National Anthems. Mrs. Elizabeth Burgie delivered a prayer before meals. Cris Aberilla , FILCRAH Membership Director emceed and Music was provided by DJ Rey Sibayan. 

FILCRAH officers were grateful for the support of the public and our generous donors who made the night extra special.

The audience ushered 2020 with a lot of noise with the provided noise makers. To cap the night off participants had a shot or two of champagne. It was a great night!

Written by  Jung Aberilla

History Of HFCC

How HFCC was created

The dream of establishing a Community Centre goes as far back to the year 1975 when the first Constituted Organization in Hamilton, the Pilipino Canadian Association (PCA), etched in their Constitution and By-law, “to save enough money to start a community centre”.

This dream remained dormant for many years due to lack of resources, finance and know how.  In 1989 – 1990, the past president of PCA was appointed to head the 1st Community Centre Committee. A conceptual drawing of a building and a projected cost of 2-3 million dollars was presented to the community.

At that time, the population of the Filipino community in Hamilton was around 700 families and the 2-3 million dollars seemed unrealistic. There were a couple of meetings by the committee and the dream remained just that, a dream. After two years of inaction, the PCA revived the project and appointed another executive member, Mr. Rolando Tanglao, to lead the project. There was a kick off start where people pledged personal and financial supports to move the project forward. Even after the kick off started the drive suffered a let down.   

In 1990 the project leader decided to recruit another person, Mr. Boanerjes (Bonner) Villabroza to be his co-leader. The other members of the committee were named and put in place. The first decision to come up was how to raise the money. The pledges that remained uncollected were only over $2,000.00.

PCA the supposed owner of the project had only $20,000.00 on hand. One member of PCA was a frequent Bingo player, Elizabeth Barantes Burgie. She saw the potential of Bingo fundraising as a major source of raising the necessary funds. The general feeling was we might not reach the million dollars that we projected but this will be a good start to supplement the other fund raising events that we were having at the time, such as car washing, calendar sale, bazaar sale, walkathon, beauty pageant and dinner dances.  

On the deliberation of how, what and why the organizational structure were to be formed took many months. In the end we finally found what we thought was the right direction.  We asked and entertained community feedback on how to start and how we could expect the community’s continual support.  Remember, this was a project started by PCA and therefore they felt they had the right to claim that it was their project.  However, the other major Filipino Association in Hamilton, the Philippine Islanders’ Association of Hamilton or PICAH expressed non-support if PCA claimed ownership. The other smaller organizations, sports and social clubs expressed the same sentiments.

Based on these strong feedbacks, the committee, on the recommendation of the legal counsel, decided to form another organization, hence, the birth of Hamilton Filipino community Centre in 1990.  The project starter, PCA, relented and gave full consent for formation of another non-profit organization with its own Mission, Vision and Objectives, www.HFCC3.com.  PCA also made a solid commitment to donate the $20,000.00 that they saved over the years to HFCC once the property was bought.  Soon after we formed and registered the organization with the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Affairs and other organizations and clubs came aboard. This was the case of ‘you build it and they will come’.

The moment we accomplished this very important foundation, the fundraising activities intensified. Every supporting organization had their own fundraising events with the proceeds going towards HFCC. In our fundraisings, we learned not to entertain ‘high profile events’, such as hiring well known entertainers back home to promote the event. The feeling was It usually cost a lot of money for our small community and in the end either we did’nt make any money or we lost money. We just stuck to bingo sponsorship which brought us quick funds.

A Breakthrough 

In 1993 we were in the hunt for a location. After an aborted attempt to purchase a small church in the mountain, we stumbled upon a whole page advertisement in the Hamilton Spectator about an old warehouse being offered for auction. Apparently, the place was in the market for quiet sometime but there were no takers. The owner, Teppitt Richardson, got tired of the dead Real Estate market as the real estate bubble burst the year prior. The owner decided that instead of paying a huge annual property tax, he would place the property on a public auction with a minimum bid of $100,000.00.

This writer, who was serving as President and CEO was driving by the place on his way in to work one day, when he noticed the sign and called the listing agent soon after and made an appointment to see the place at lunch time. He then called for an emergency meeting of HFCC Board of Directors that evening. The decision was made to participate in the bidding the following day.  The HFCC team led by President Bonner Villabroza, Vice President – Mr. Domingo Nuesca and Treasurer – Mr. Ben Baliat won the bid. We got our Community Centre, a 2 storey building with total square footage of 8,000 sq. ft., paid cash for it -$106,000.00- and spent approximately $150,000.00 in renovation to bring it up to usable condition.

Since we had enough funds to sustain our operation, we stayed away from government hand outs.  We received assistance from our City to finish and improve our parking lot and since then we have been self-sustaining as we operate the organization with business acumen gleaned through experience.

Our organizational structure consist of 21 Board Members, 9-4 elected or appointed from the general public and we have 9 supporting organizations and each of them is represented at the Board of Director with equal say and voting power.

At the time of this information release, Nov. 30, 2019, HFCC property has been expropriated by Metrolinx for City of Hamilton Light Rail Transit (LRT) project. Price has been set between Metrolinx and HFCC, and now, HFCC is shopping for a new place.

Bonner Villabroza
President & CEO
Hamilton, Filipino Community Centre
Hfcc@cogeco.net

LRT Story

It is almost done. The deal is in the final stages of completion. HFCC property basically is now sold to Metrolinks. There are a few kinks to be ironed out. However it is good as sold.

Then what? Is it the end of HFCC? Not so fast.

Twenty-six years ago we were at the threshold of making a big decision. Money was being raised to buy a place to build a community centre. Different Filipino Associations banded together and agreed to raise enough money to purchase a lot and/or building in Hamilton. The opportunity arose in 1993, by chance, when CEO and President Bonner Villabroza saw a for sale sign on a building, on his way to work. The rest is history.

HFCC was a building bought with the support of the different Filipino organizations 23 years ago. It is still in use today.

At present we are again at the cusps of another momentous decision. We are seriously looking for another place for another community centre perhaps even better than the one we have right now.

In the meantime we don’t really have to move till construction starts. The best part is HFCC can stay in the present building rent free till Metrolinks comes knocking at the door to signal construction has begun. That maybe 1-2 years down the road. Stay tuned!

Submitted by Gaspar Aberilla-The opinion expressed are of the author alone and not by HFCC.