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Remembering Eddie Lee

Eddie is not only a good friend, he was my senior fraternity brother, and along with his wife marita, my family’s invaluble guide during our early days in Canada. It is difficult to do justice in a eulogy wth words alone, as he accomplished much. His body of work substantial, meaningful and enviable. To my mind, the pinnacle of his body of work was his unswerving dedication and commitment to community service, through his newspaper atin ito, bringing and promoting Filipino Canadians together in a common cause. I was fortunate to have witnessed and work with Eddie for many years.

I remember… unlike today, it took a lot of sweat to bring out a newspaper in those early years.

Long before the age of computers, we would work for days until the early hours of the morning, to catch the publication’s deadline. Eddie and Noel Cruz would layout the proofs, assisted by Mila Eustaquio. I would write my column and back up Jimmy Borres who would typeset the articles and help layout. Tony Cruz and Ruby Talavera provided the laughs and entertain the many well wishers who would drop in our offices on Queen Street West. They were stressful, but happy nights. Unfortunately, it also widowed our wives and partners, who are all nodding in agreement, I am certain. Their sacrifices were substantial.

We set up Atin Ito 43 years ago, starting out as the newsletter of the Atin Ito Credit Union. Contrary to what some may believe, it was not a cabal, but a movement to establish a strong voice for the growing Filipino Canadian community, to protect and represent its vital interests in the increasingly multicultural face of Canada.

Looking back now, the alumni of Atin Ito, many of whom are Upsilonians, reads like the roster of the Filipino Illuminati, our first editor Ruben Cusipag, who later established Balita, Dr. Edgardo Lim, Tony Cruz, Jimmy Borres, Noel Cruz, Editor Vic Cruz, Ruby Talavera, Mila Eustaquio, Filipiniana publisher Bin Kun Loo who started as our photographer, Mel Catre, Jess Cabrias, Tessie Jew and the many others who were associated with the newspaper.

Many of them have since passed on. May they rest in peace and embrace Eddie as he joins them in a happy reunion.

I remember… I first met Eddie over 53 years ago, when I was initiated to the Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity at the University of the Philippines in 1966. He was 13 years my senior. He was branch manager for a bank in Pateros and was not known to inflict physical pain, but was feared, nonetheless for his short temper. He only had one request from us initiates, to bring him an ashtray, not purchased, but filched, with a logo as evidence. I did manage to swipe an ashtray from a barbershop in Baguio city. I do not know what he did with the over 50 ashtrays we brought to him. Perhaps it was a fetish, but to me, at 17 and not having done anything daring, it was a test of courage and confidence building, exploring the edges of what was acceptable social behaviour.

I remember… the story of how Eddie ended up in Toronto in 1972, 3 years before Tess and I arrived in Canada. We never heard the end of it for it is a wonderful love story.

He met wife Marita working in a bank in Manila. Falling head over heels for Marita’s charms and beauty, he followed her halfway around the world to Toronto where Marita’s family immigrated, and never looked back. Like Hercules,he was prepared to pursue Marita to the edge of the world. From this union came 3 wonderful sons, Robert, Jude and Chris.

I remember well … Eddie and Marita’s generosity. Not only were we fed well whenever we dropped in his home in Mississauga, he also provided us with financial help and make the down payment we needed for our first home. $500 may not seem much nowadays but, in those days, as newly landed immigrants to Canada, that was a substantial life changing event.

This was at the core of Eddie’s nature. He was unflinching and sincere in his friendship, always there to help, and many in the fraternity, owe him a debt of gratitude.

His omnipresence was a force and gave comfort, guidance and stability in the early days of uncertainty as new immigrants to Canada.

I will always remember … and never forget, the legacy that Eddie is leaving. We can only hope and aspire to emulate his lifelong commitment and dedication to help our community.

To my brother Eduardo Lee Batch 1953 of the Upsilon Sigma Phi, an Upsilonian fanatic, while we mourn your passage, we also celebrate you. You have lived your life well, and I, and the 3000 Upsilonians who continue to pour tributes from around the world, salute you. We are proud.

You have done your duty of service to our community and humanity, and you can now rest with the assurance that you have inspired those who remain, with the courage and the strength to continue to carry on your legacy.

Farewell my brother.

By Rogie Concepcion