by Levy Abad
The warm welcome of the friends and acquaintances I have made in the Filipino community helped me forget the dreadful cold of winter…
I cherish my conversations with Kaka Rey Pacheco about Philippine history, most particularly the Marcos era, because he personally knew a lot about a number of leading personalities during that time. I love reading Kaka Rey’s biting articles and insightful poems because of his lyrical style of writing. He also shared to me that the first Chair of the Breakfast Council (est. 1997–2000) was Ric Dela Cruz, followed by Bob Gabuna (2001–2002), Kuya Ted Marcelino (2003–2005), and Kuya Fred De Villa (2006–present). On the subjects of Theology of Liberation and Church History, Fr. Greg Sevillo is the person to have good discussions with; on Filipino Social Democracy, Kuya Vic Pao and Mar Cadiz; on Philosophy and Conservative Ideology, Kuya Mar Javier. Kuya Fred was the one who shared to me the history of PAM (Philippine Association of Manitoba) and the beginning of PCCM (Philippine Canadian Centre of Manitoba).
Another person whom I could not forget to mention is Tatay Joe “Doc” Inot, who is also a musician and a great drummer. He used to play with Tito Ted Ombrog at community parties. I had the chance to watch them perform, and I found them amazing. Kuya Bert Nagutom is another, who told me that he used to be a SIKARAN/Arnis instructor and that he used to play as an extra in Philippine movies. But the most important experience I guess that he shared was his Trade Union experience in the Philippines. I listened attentively when he shared his NAFLU (National Federation of Labour Unions) days of standing up for the rights of Filipino workers. I also want to add to the list Kuya Tem Chavez, who is a close friend of Manong Popoy Gomez. Kuya Tem is fond of sharing not only jokes and funny stories but also practical insights on how to survive here in Winnipeg.
Aside from the political and social discussions I had with members of the Breakfast Club, the Scripture was also a controversial topic. Theological orientations were expressed at times. I remember exchanges with Kuya Manuel “Boy” Negado, Bro. Bert, Kuya Nilo Almodal, and Jared Moran, an El Salvadorian who also wanted to share his perspective. There were convergences and contradictions but, in the final analysis, everybody goes home learning and unlearning something.
At the Breakfast Club, we used to have discussions about the old country and what should be done to make it progressive. We discussed the massive corruption and how to end it. We made comparative analysis between life in Canada and in the Philippines. Discussions ranging from left-wing politics to the right of the political spectrum elicited provocative ideas and opinions. The Breakfast Club also became a forum for coming up with ideas on how to fundraise for the victims of the different natural calamities that hit the Philippines. Forums were organized on immigration issues and have successfully lobbied for the reduction of the landing fee, otherwise known as head tax. Kuya Fred De Villa also told me that they used to invite experts to discuss particular issues.
Another major achievement of the Breakfast Club, according to Kuya Fred, is the story of nurses hired from the Philippines. Back then, a group would go to the Philippines to give test to nurse; those who passed were hired right away. The Breakfast Club protested this initiative, citing the fact that there were about forty-five licensed nurses originating from the Philippines who were already working in garment factories in Manitoba. They pushed for the prioritization and consideration of these professionals. This initiative became successful.
There was indeed a mix of clashing perspectives, jokes, laughter, fun, and grief. I heeded the advice given to me. I listened and learned until such time that they asked me to share my thoughts. Well friends, one day all of us will become seniors and we will take their place. I will remember all of them, especially those who passed away, and I will sing The Beatles’ song “In My Life.”
There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I’ve loved them all