By Leila Castro
As immigrants, we gave up many life comforts in our home country including the support system of having many relatives and friends around. Here in Canada, we work hard to reach our dream of having a far better life. No one is prepared for the worst situation that could possibly hit a family. A situation that makes us realize that we indeed are vulnerable, being immigrants.
When we found out that we have a missing kababayan, 204 Neighbourhood Watch immediately connected with various Winnipeg community social media groups and with Bear Clan. Twenty-four hours from the time Eduardo “Eddie” Balaquit was last seen, 204 Neighbourhood Watch patrollers met with the family’s relatives and friends of at least a dozen people while they were doing search at the Brookside Cemetery. Realizing that a centralized plan was needed, that same evening we spoke to Eddie’s son and suggested about engaging a Bear Clan volunteer skilled in finding missing persons and having a more organized and coordinated search effort. We designated an indoor assembly area for the evening search party and 204 Neighbourhood Watch made a call to different networks, including the 204 Filipino Marketplace social media group, for bayanihan action. On the following day, inquires and pledges for food and water started flooding my inbox. At 530pm, we arrived at the assembly venue and found an overwhelming number of volunteers. Close to 200 people joined the evening search. The volunteers were dispatched to areas surrounding the place where Eddie was last seen. On search day 3, there were again around 200 people that showed up. Volunteers were instructed to concentrate on the open field at King Edward and Brookside. Within 204 Filipino Marketplace social media group where over 30 thousand Filipino Manitobans are connected, hundreds mentioned about offering prayers and helped spread the announcements. Searching for Eddie continued for another week, until WPS mandated all community search efforts to stop, as it focused on Arborg town, north of Winnipeg.
Each night we ended our search with a community gathering over food provided by generous business owners and individuals. We witnessed how frustration pounds hard on the family members who are very worried about Eddie. Many times, I was asked on media interviews if the search went well. I always responded that it was not successful because we did not find Eddie, but it went well in terms of the number of people that came out to join the search, considering that we are immigrants, we have fewer relatives and friends here compared back home. But based on what we see happening now, it is evident that we have here a wonderful community that provides the much-needed support system to any immigrant in devastating situation.
Eduardo Balaquit has been missing since June 4, 2018. His last possible location was at 380 Keewatin Street around 6-8pm. He is 5’4” in height and 155 lbs medium build. Please phone the police if you have any information about him. For search schedules and updates, please see announcements at fb page Help find Eduardo Balaquit, and fb groups 204 Neighbourhood Watch Inc. and 204 Filipino Marketplace. You may also help by donating to gofundme account Bring Eduardo Balaquit Home.