“If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.”
By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY — I only learned over the weekend that Tomas “Tatay Tom” Avendano, Sr., 89, was reelected as president of the Vancouver-based Multicultural Helping House Society (MHHS) in an election held on July 28, 2018 described by our media colleagues in Surrey and Vancouver as “tumultuous and chaotic”.
MHHS is the umbrella organization of all Filipino-Canadian associations in British Columbia.
I also learned that some of the characters I personally know who used to support Tatay Tom were among those who tried but failed to dethrone him.
Tatay Tom has been president and CEO of MHHS uninterrupted for 22 years.
He has described MHHS as his “twin” saying he would only relinquish the leadership in that office if he is dead.
Many of his friends and former MHHS buddies have turned their backs on him and openly lashed at his brand of leadership for a myriad of reasons.
Their disenchantment growing, some of them had plotted to oust him but through a legitimate proceeding, and their only chance was during the election on July 28.
There were a total of 322 voters.
There was no accurate report how many showed up and how many were able to cast their votes, but Tatay Tom reportedly got a “landslide” victory.
Tatay Tom’s tormentors reportedly protested the “fraud” that attended the election to no avail.
When I left Vancouver sometime in November 2012, I noticed that Tatay Tom’s imposing leadership in the MHHS was suffering from unwarranted cracks and starting to crumble.
So many personalities with different motives and valid advocacy were eyeing his throne; and they wanted him to yield the coveted positions and pave the way for other fresh faces to also lead and govern the beefy MHHS, a recipient of municipal, city and federal government funds that run to millions of Canadian dollars.
Tatay Tom, a Pasay City councilor for 12 years before he migrated to Canada in 1982, was unfazed. He refused to blink.
One of the first and biggest casualties in the MHHS power play when I was there was Vice President Amado Mercado Jr., an engineer from Minalin, Pampanga, who was fired by the MHHS board in a turbulent meeting I exclusively covered for the Philippine News Service (PNS), Global Balita, and my blogs:
Tears, word war, name-calling, charges of betrayal, shaming and emotional confrontation marred Mercado’s ouster who fought tongs and hammer trying to redeem his “sullied” reputation.
Mercado blamed Tatay Tom, his long-time buddy, who convinced him to attend the last board meeting he was present “only to be fed to the lions.”
I learned also that some of those who prepared the “surprise” near-midnight farewell or dispededa party for this writer in a Surrey pizza house in November 2012 were among those who had collaborated but failed to topple Tatay Tom in the recent election.
Or they envy his power and authority as MHHS big boss?
MHHS assists newly arrived Filipino caregivers and displaced OFWs who can avail of board and lodging in the center for several days.
Filipino-Canadian friends had valid reasons to introduce me to Tatay Tom in one of my frequent trips there in 2008: Tatay Tom wanted to maintain a regular column in the Philippine Asian News Today published by our friend, Reynaldo “Rey” Fortaleza, who recommended me to “ghost write” for Tatay Tom for a modest sideline.
Without these friends, I wouldn’t be able to break bread and, for a while, earn the trust and confidence of the legendary community leader, who, at 89, is still in a fighting form and prepared to tackle all comers.
I learned that Tatay Tom “resented” the expose I made about the apparent lack of transparency in the construction of the MHHS annex building.
The City of Vancouver and the Federal Government of Canada reportedly chipped in $500,000 apiece for the entire MHHS building.
“Where’s the blue print of the project?” I inquired in an exclusive interview. “Where are the job orders?”
If Tatay Tom was slighted, I had no idea because I hadn’t talked to him until I left for Los Angeles.
I had no regrets with the expose I made.