Goodbye MPC

August 4th, 2015 · No Comments

Twenty five years ago, the Filipino community was hopeful.  I, for one, was bursting with optimism and idealism.  There was a semblance of unity and the community seemed to be working as one.  At least, there was a dream. Sure, there were detractors then, as there are now, but somehow, differences were laid aside for the common good of all.  The community characters rallied together, if only for the building of a Filipino Multi-Purpose Centre.

The old MPC at Rooty Hill.

The old MPC at Rooty Hill.

Today, 25 years hence, that dream has been shattered.  The Philippine Multi-purpose Centre (MPC) at 80 Grange Street, Schofields has been sold.

I am still reeling from a call from Mr. Manny Villon who advised me that the MPC at Schofields had been sold. I am not surprised at the news of the sale as I knew that before his call but more shocked for the call itself and his expressed gratitude for the logo I did for MPC, and as he said “you were a part of it.”  Wow, 25 years a little late!  Ironically, I guess, the logo will never get used, unless they revive it, for something.

MPC was sold 25 years, exactly to the date that it was registered.  “We are free.” said Villon with a sigh of relief.   Yes, it must be a great feeling of release for those who have taken on the stress and burden of making the regular payments.

The Schofields property was sold for $2.5 million, less an estimated $1 million to settle outstanding debts ,will leave an estimated balance of $1.5 million.  According to Mr. Villon, it would depend on the community what they want to do.   There are talks to “buy a warehouse, or a property somewhere in Blacktown, if there are any available at that price.”  “That’s like a saving of $100,000 a year,” he added.

Well, if the Rooty Hill property had not been sold, we’d  still end up in the same place as we are now, minus the stress, heartaches and disillusionment.  How much was the trust and goodwill they lost?

Mr. Villon  also advised that there will be a meeting on Saturday, 8 August at 1:00pm at the Schofields site and a farewell to the place on Saturday, September 12 prior to the final exchange of contracts in October. But wasn’t it only a month or two ago that they did a whole hoopla to celebrate their 25 years anniversary?  So what was all that for?  Now, they’re celebrating the farewell?

With the sale of the property, memories come gushing back: the $100-a-plate/no frills dinner held only at a St. Mary’s hall but people did not seem to mind; the excitement of the ground-breaking at Rooty Hill;  the numerous flyers that had to be done for various fund raising events and Carols by Candlelight; and Danny Garcia coming to my office to pick up prizes for the numerous fund raising events and his tasty arroz caldo for meetings on winter nights.

Likewise, I remember the clash of the Titans to get the MPC model presented during the Ramos State Visit, meeting with the community at Darling Harbour, and their insistence on having Ramos visit Rooty Hill without any thought given to the logistics and security risks involved.  It probably was the trigger that strained relationships.

The euphoria lasted a few years, and then it was downhill from then on. The Rooty Hill sale made it worst and Schofields alienated more supporters.  Despite the best efforts of some to revive it, with a name change, arty-crafty projects, pulling in the devotees with the grotto, and my favourite of all – the vegetable patch – it was too far gone and beyond redemption, not to mention the mounting debts. As support dwindled, people left, and the more tight-lipped the MPC people became.

While there were others supporters and donors, the Philippine Community Council of NSW (PCC-NSW) was one of its mainstays from day one.  However, supporters had no say on the matter.  They were kept at a distance and out of the loop.  It was only during Consul General Collinson’s Sydney posting and with her negotiations,  that PCC-NSW got to have seats on the Board.  But even with seats on the Board, decisions were made without consultation, as in the case of the sale of the Rooty Hill property and membership changes.   Suddenly, while some were asleep, Amores, Lopez and company got seats on the Board. Ask them how and why and it was a case of deny-deny and evade! (and that is why I am so shocked with the phone call and personal invite.)

But all that will now be bundled as past.  Of utmost importance would be the discussions on what to do with the money; what type of property to buy; and who will manage it, which will no doubt bring more verbal diatribes.  Knowing the people who have managed to sneak in, is a real worry. When asked about NARRA, the organization who also have building plans, Mr. Villon replied, “NARRA has nothing to do with the MPC foundation.”

I’m two-ways whether  to go or not to go.  As for the farewell party on September 12, not only do I have a previous appointment, but I really hate goodbyes.  Besides, I never stepped at the Grange property as a matter of personal choice.  As for the meeting on August 8, what would it really achieve?  Knowing the community’s penchant for “majority wins” even when it’s wrong, then why bother?  I won’t have a say on the matter anyway. For me, 25 years has been already a stretch.  The question is: Can the community trust them all over again?

Consul General Cabactulan’s words during a Philippine Independence Celebration are still ringing in my ears: “Let this not be a white elephant. Let this not be an embarrassment to the Filipino community.”

Sadly, it has, and the elephant has long been gone.


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