- On the day of a general meeting of the suddenly-rich Filipino Centre Toronto on Sunday afternoon, not a soul showed up at the cavernous hall in Toronto’s eastern neighbourhood of Scarborough. It felt spooky to wait in an empty hall surrounded by chairs and tables wrapped in white linen. After patiently waiting for about an hour, a colleague and I left the chamber, disappointed that nobody was there to say the meeting had been canceled or postponed. An agenda filled with monetary payables was among those to be considered.
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“Even in the familiar there can be surprise and wonder.” ― Tierney Gearon
TORONTO – The capacious Rembrandt Hall in the city’s eastern town of Scarborough was eerily quiet on Sunday, Nov. 26, even as the time came for what was supposedly a general meeting of the members and officers of Filipino Centre Toronto (FCT).
The meeting was scheduled at 2 p.m. Half an hour before, a colleague and I were there already, waiting for one familiar soul to show up.
At that moment, I am reminded of this bad habit among Filipinos of coming late, Filipino time it is called, for appointments or events. I had personal encounters with tardiness, and in all cases, I simply walked out within 15 minutes of the appointed time.
When the clock struck the hour, I began to worry. Why is no one here?, I asked myself.
Inside the empty hall, the white linen covers wrapped around the chairs heighten the ghostly ambiance. The chairs around the circular tables had a sinister look. The occupants must be invisible, I murmured. Once the thought that somebody had died a few days earlier, the feeling of being spooked became real.
Not until I got home in the early evening did I find the answer. The FCT annual general meeting had been canceled without explanation “till further notice”, according to an email sent to me nearly two hours after the meeting was to be held.
That means my conjecture was unfounded. One person’s death that had happened 10 days earlier, and the wake that followed, had nothing to do with why the FCT meeting was scrapped. If it had been, it would have been reasonable and understandable.
It turned out that the culprit was the lack of quorum, according to a member who did not want to be identified. FCT officials had called off the gathering based on a phone survey indicating the required number of attendees would not be enough to pass important matters.
The organization has a claimed membership of more than 200 individuals. Out of this, 90 were contacted by phone. However, only 40 people confirmed their attendance, which is way below the requirement, sources said.
Lacking the numbers, FCT would be hard-pressed to proceed with its agenda – an indication perhaps of the widespread hostility among members to a proposal to pay off certain individuals from the proceeds of the sale of the FCT building.
The building on Parliament St. has been sold early this year for $5.9-million. A suggestion has been made to chip off $680,000 from the money for “payables”, actually persons identified only by their initials and nicknames.
That triggered the resignations of seven top officials and members, including Rey Tolentino, former chair; Raffy Fabregas, Marilou Parcero, Theresa Sevilla, Luna Vince, Evelyn Pagkalinawan and Fred Gamboa.
It appears, according to published reports, that the $680,000 payables have not been “properly reflected in any of the previous years’ financial statements. “In fact, the accumulated salary claims of some FCT members and Board members only came to light after the building sale,” the Atin Ito newspaper said.
The FCT cannot pay the money claim without violating its constitution, sources explained. So, a scheme has been decided, which was actually part of the meeting’s agenda, to amend the constitution which would then allow the payment.
Part of the payables goes to an individual for $300,000; another for $122,000; one other for $96,000; and still another for $30,000. Other payables were not listed.
The proposed amendment to its constitution is potentially explosive. Some members are set to file a lawsuit to stop it from happening.
Now, as I look at the vacant Rembrandt Hall, a favourite venue for many joyous celebrations, I couldn’t help but compare its ghostly appearance to the many ghosts currently bedeviling FCT. For sure, the money claims are not ghost claims. Or are they?