Apr 13, 2024

Benjamin “Benson” Flores, shown here in a photo from the Bowen Island Museum and Archives, lies in an unmarked grave in Vancouver.

March 16, 2024 – On March 7 in British Columbia’s legislative assembly, Vancouver-Kensington MLA Mable Elmore delivered a statement on a fundraising effort to install a permanent marker on the grave of Benson Flores, the earliest recorded Filipino to have arrived in Canada in 1861.

Elmore, who is also parliamentary secretary for anti-racism initiatives, spoke about Flores and the efforts of the Filipino community in B.C. led by Ted Alcuitas to install a tombstone at Flores’ grave in Mountainview Cemetery in Vancouver.

Alcuitas is the publisher of Philippine Canadian News. Aside from leading the fundraising effort, Alcuitas is working on a documentary about Flores in cooperation with the Philippine Consulate General in Vancouver and broadcast journalist Joseph Lopez who wrote about Flores.

“He was an early settler of Bowen Island, and while there were a number of seafarers from the Philippines among diverse crews of European and American vessels trading in the Pacific Northwest since the 16th century…Benson Flores is the first one documented on the census,” said Elmore referring to the 1911 census which recorded 1861 as Flores’ immigration to Canada.

Elmore enjoined her fellow lawmakers to “join in this effort to raise money for a tombstone to mark (Flores’) place.” The installation of the memorial tombstone is set to coincide with his death anniversary in April.

The Go Fund Me page led by Alcuitas notes an immediate target of $5,000 by April 9 to cover the cost of an upright memorial marker. A small ceremony at the Mountainview Cemetery is being planned following the installation of the marker as part of the 75th anniversary celebration of Philippine-Canadian diplomatic relations in 2024.

About the Author
Rachel Ramos-Reid started writing for magazines and newspapers when she was still a junior at the University of the Philippines’ Communication degree program majoring in Journalism. She continued to write in a public relations/corporate communications capacity in various private and government offices until moving out of the country in 1997 to work as Programme Officer for the arts and culture branch of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO-SPAFA) in Bangkok, Thailand. At the end of her term, Rachel found herself immigrating to Canada in the year 2000 and again searching for new beginnings. Currently she is the Executive Assistant to a small rural college on Vancouver Island.

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