Tatay Tom Avendano

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  • Many Filipino who migrate to Canada want a better life for their families; thus, despite the challenges that they will face coming to a foreign land to settle, Filipinos forge on and put their faith and trust that God will lead them where they need to be. Such condition was no different for ‘Tatay’ Tom Avendaño,Sr. who came to Canada in 1982.
    “I brought my family to Canada to get away from fear,” he shares with PNC-Balitang Vancouver. “Even then, the political situation was unstable, so we left.” He said coming to Canada was the best decision he has ever made. “Filipinos here should be happy and love this country for all the things it has given them.”
    “We moved here because we wanted a place where we can have peace, where we can work, and where we can save money for our family especially for our kids,” Tatay Tom adds.
    Like other immigrants, it was not easy to adjust at the beginning. “I was a member of the Pasay City Council before I came here for almost twelve years,” he says. “Politicos have a good life in the Philippines, but you have to be corrupt to get that good life.” He says that here in Canada, you will find peace no matter what you do for a living. He worked at MacDonalds for ten years before he conceptualized and worked on his dream to help immigrants “Tatay” Tom Avendaño through the Multicultural Helping House Society (MHHS).
    What Tatay Tom wanted was for Filipinos coming here to have an easier time adjusting to the new country. “At that time, there was not Filipino association that we could call our own.” Because he needed funding from the government, he had to reinvent The Filipino Canadian Support Services Society, which has now become MHHS. “It couldn’t remain a society for Filipinos alone so that we could get funding. Unfortunately, some of my friends did not appreciate the changes, and they turned their backs on me, but turning the Filipino society into a multicultural one helped us achieve more than what we could if we did it alone as a Filipino community.”
    Tatay Tom’s ultimate dream, however, is for Filipino-Canadians to be united. “Sumasakit ang ulo ko (I get a headache) when Filipinos bicker and work against each other, instead of working together,” he shares with sadness. “After we help some Filipinos who come here settle down, they never come back to at least volunteer to help us at the centre.” He says that the MHHS is his legacy to the future Filipino-Canadians and the only way it can further its objectives is for Filipinos to unite and do what is good for all Filipino-Canadians.
    The MHHS has established offices in Pasig City to give training for people who are coming to Canada. He also says that their office is planning to go to provinces to help prepare Filipinos who are coming here.
    Tatay Tom has a very long list of awards given him by government, business groups and civic organizations in recognition of his achievements. One of them is the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal conferred to him in the capital city of Ottawa in February 2012 by The Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada and in representation of the Queen. The medal was created for the 60th Anniversary of Elizabeth II’s accession to the Throne as Queen of Canada. Tatay Tom was the only Filipino Canadian among sixty medal recipients recognized for their significant contribution to a particular province, territory, region or community in Canada. He also received the Banaag Palanca Award given to him by President Noynoy Aquino in Manila in the same year.
    For Tatay Tom, awards are just icing on the cake. He says his reward is his legacy -the MHHS, and he wants to leave it to the future Filipino-Canadians so that they can take care of it. He plans to travel more to different parts of the Philippines to promote the society, and at 87 years old, there is no stopping Tatay Tom.•


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