A Filipino-Canadian was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his significant contribution to Canada, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced Thursday.
Tom Avendano of Vancouver, British Columbia, was the sole Filipino among the 60 medal recipients recognized for their dedication to their fellow citizens, their community and their country.
The statement said Canada’s Governor General David Johnston conferred the medal to Avendano at an inaugural presentation ceremony last Feb. 6 at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.
The 83-year-old Filipino-Canadian awardee was particularly cited “for his commitment to helping new immigrants on Canada's West Coast to integrate into Canadian society.”
“The solemn rites at Rideau was a once in a lifetime experience. I will always treasure the award conferred on me not for myself but for the good it will generate and the recognition it brings from the government and the community," Avendano said as quoted in DFA’s statement.
According to DFA, Avendano gained prominence after establishing the Filipino Canadian Support Services Society in 1996 which catered to distressed new immigrants and caregivers.
His organization evolved into the Multicultural Helping House Society in 2001 with funding support from the city government of Vancouver.
Today, the organization owns a three-storey building which serves as respite housing for fresh immigrants and workers. It also offers settlement and employment assistance, and counseling and training services.
Avendano, fondly known as Tatay Tom, was a former councilor of Pasay City. He migrated to Canada in 1982, and took the challenge of uniting a fragmented community and sought to lead the way especially for young Filipinos, the statement said.
“Our extended family support system is unique. Despite our shortcomings, we can be proud of our culture," Avendano said.
The medal was created for the 60th anniversary of the Elizabeth II's accession to the throne as Queen of Canada.
Gov. Gen. Johnston said the awardees, like Her Majesty, have inspired others to take up the call to make Canada better.
“Individually, they have improved the well-being of many in our communities, and together, they have helped to create a smarter, more caring nation. They represent a mosaic of individual experiences and accomplishments,” Johnston said.