For five years now, a group of Filipino-Canadians has been raising funds for less fortunate kababayan back home in the best possible way—by holding beauty pageants.
Tobias C. Enverga, the first Filipino-born senator in Canada, founded the Philippine Canadian Charitable Foundation (PCCF) when he was still employed by the Bank of Montreal.
With wife Rosemer and other well-meaning Fil-Canadians, the PCCF hosts beauty contests—Little Miss Philippines Canada, Little Mr. Philippines Canada, Miss Philippines Canada, Ms. Teen Philippines Canada and Mrs. Philippines Canada—to raise awareness about Filipinos needing assistance through medical missions and donations in cash and kind.
The Envergas, representatives of Fil-Canadian nonprofit groups and some pageant winners visited the official residence of Canadian Ambassador Neil Reeder last week.
“We love beauty pageants. It’s one way to attract the Filipino-Canadian youth at the same time. Even in basketball tournaments that Filipinos are also crazy about, you have to have a muse.”
The ambassador’s charming wife, the Filipino-speaking Irene Reeder, prepared a menu of Pinoy fiesta favorites in a simple celebration of solidarity and cooperation.
Senator Enverga, who represents the province of Ontario in the Canadian Senate, looked amused when asked why PCCF chose beauty contests as fund-raisers.
Obviously, Filipinos are pageant-crazy whether they are in Manila or Mississauga.
“We love beauty pageants. It’s one way to attract the Filipino-Canadian youth at the same time. Even in basketball tournaments that Filipinos are also crazy about, you have to have a muse,” said Enverga, so far the highest-ranking government official of Filipino descent outside the country.
Rosemer is executive vice president of PCCF and is hands-on in fund-raising projects. Since Canada’s Governor General David Johnston appointed Enverga as senator in 2012, Enverga has kept his distance from PCCF’s activities.
“I’m just a supporter now,” he said.
Aside from the pageants, the PCCF also hosts an annual Pinoy Fiesta and Trade Show in Toronto—considered the biggest Filipino-hosted indoor event in Canada—to raise money.
PCCF’s main beneficiaries in Toronto include the Archdiocese Filipino Catholic Mission (AFCM) and Answering the Cry of the Poor (Ancop).
Ancop president Ricky Cuenca was with the party that joined Ambassador Reeder for breakfast.
Ancop has supported the building of houses for the poor in the Batasan area in Quezon City; Daet, Camarines Norte; and “Yolanda”-stricken Tacloban City in Leyte.
Rosemer said the pageants and trade show held last year netted an estimated P500,000 that was brought to Manila. The amount has been distributed to charity institutions, including the Elsie Gaches orphanage in Muntinlupa City, Tahanang Walang Hagdan, the Missionaries of the Sisters of Charity in Tondo and Aklan, Don Bosco in Makati City and GMA-7’s Kapuso Foundation.
Before PCCF, the Envergas said they have been involved in community work among Fil-Canadians. It is said that word about their efforts reached then Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who recommended Enverga’s appointment to Governor General Johnston.
Enverga noted that Filipinos are among the most assimilated ethnic groups in Canada.
“They integrate really well and have the lowest unemployment rate,” Reeder noted.
Reeder added that the Philippines has become “the largest source of new Canadians,” with the host country issuing 40,000 permanent resident visas in 2014.
In an impromptu speech at breakfast, Reeder lauded the charity efforts of his Fil-Canadian guests and announced that Canada would allocate 20.6 million Canadian dollars (P700 million) “to support long-term economic recovery initiatives” for communities hit by Yolanda in 2013.
The amount represents the second tranche of funds pledged by Canada through its Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund (THRF). Haiyan is the international code name of the supertyphoon.
“Canada took immediate action at the onset of the crisis to assist the Philippines. Two days after Yolanda’s landfall, our government established the THRF,” Reeder said.
His office explained that under this mechanism, every “eligible dollar” donated by individual Canadians and Canadian businesses registered under Canadian charities responding to Yolanda efforts “would be matched by the government of Canada,” the ambassador said.
So far, the Canadian government has matched a total of 90.6 million Canadian dollars (P3.2 billion) in eligible donations.
From this figure, 70 million Canadian dollars had been released to several UN agencies and other international and Canadian humanitarian organizations doing relief and early recovery projects in Yolanda-affected areas.
The balance would support longer-term economic recovery initiatives based on the Philippine government’s Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Plan.
Reeder’s office said other assistance projects for Yolanda-affected areas include:
Rebuilding through micro-insurance and women’s micro-enterprises through the Canadian Cooperative Association;
Typhoon Haiyan Reconstruction Assistance to be implemented by CARE Canada; and
Restoring, Empowering and Protecting (REAP) Livelihoods Post-Haiyan, to be done by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency World Renew Consortium.