Thursday, January 13, 2011

Elenor Diaz

Th following is my second (lol) article and first feature (the first one was more like "straight-news") to appear in this month's issue of the Filipino Forum:

"Elenor Diaz" has certainly become a household name both within (and without!) the Filipino community of Montreal, if not of all of Canada, owing to the media attention her phenomenal story has received over the holidays - her story of being a hard-working and devoted mother who had left her beloved family behind in the Philippines to go ahead and pave the way for a better life for them in Canada, braving cold, loneliness, and enduring many other hardships, and finally after years of separation, eagerly anticipating a joyful reunion with her family having made all the necessary arrangements and preparations for their arrival just in time for Christmas, but only to find out that they had been defrauded by the unscrupulous travel agency in Manila from which they purchased their one-way tickets to Canada. But her story doesn't end there as it takes a turn for the better, after her sympathetic and kind employer, Lissa Matyas, takes the initiative to write to the Montreal Gazette, hoping to get Elenor's predicament published. Elenor's story elicits an overwhelming response, with people from across the country coming through, offering to help in whatever capacity, and ultimately, a benefactor generously shoulders the cost of new tickets for her entire family, allowing them to arrive for the holidays as originally planned.

Phenomenal indeed, but to recount the exact details after having been already covered extensively by the media, would just be redundant and superfluous. So we at the Filipino Forum wanted to do a different "take" on the story, and sit down and chat with the generous benefactor who came to Elenor's aid, Mr. Larry Modafferi, president of Ria Canada. Mr. Modafferi graciously accommodated our request for an interview.

Filipino Forum: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Mr. Modafferi: I'm an Italian - a son of Italian immigrants. I founded a check cashing business that has now become Ria Financial.

Filipino Forum: How did you hear of Eleanor's Story?

Mr. Modafferi: My wife and I read the Montreal Gazette story about Elenor's predicament.

Filipino Forum: What compelled you to help Eleanor?

Mr. Modafferi: After reading the article, we looked at each other and lamented "not again!" Being in the cash remittances industry, we see all too many similar incidents like these where innocent people get scammed. We just had to do something to repair or rectify at least one problem. The Filipino community is very dear to us on a professional level. We deal with them on a daily basis. Moreover, as I had mentioned, I'm a son of Italian immigrants whose parents - my grandparents - worked hard to provide for and ultimately bring to Canada. So, Elenor's situation struck a personal chord, it resonated with my wife and myself.

Filipino Forum: To who or to what would you ascribe the credit for helping you to become the person you are now, the generous and kind person - "a good Samaritan" -willing to help a complete stranger in a bind?

Mr. Modafferi: First, you are far too complimentary, I believe there are many Montrealers that would have stepped in had I waited just 10
minutes more before calling Lissa. Montrealers seem to always pitch in when necessary. To your question: My upbringing, after all, we are the products, of our parents' patience in instilling values us. Also, my wife has always been a wonderful influence.

Filipino Forum: Describe what your company does.

Mr. Modafferi: Ria Financial Services provides cash remittance services to families worldwide, Philippines included! I wanted to take the time to sound this warning. When making such remittances or other business transactions like buying airline tickets, etc. always choose to deal with larger, recognized, and reputable companies to avoid pitfalls like that of what the Diaz family encountered.

As for Elenor, I asked her over the phone whether there was anything else, anything at all, that she might want to tell everyone and especially Mr. Modafferi who had helped her and her family out. She told me, that just as she had expressed before on previous media reports, she is certainly grateful from the "bottom-of-her heart" to everyone, and that her experience strengthened her faith in God. "These people are God's instruments” she recognized. It certainly made for a joyous Christmas and New Year for her and her family and makes her “hopeful” for 2011.

However, Eleanor wanted to know whether this paper is also published in the Philippines. She expressed concern similar to that of Mr. Modafferi, over the corruption and proliferation of shady businesses there. She was hoping that her story might somehow serve as alesson for others to exercise caution and discretion when it comes to the businesses they choose to deal with as well as an incentive for the Philippine government to enforce measures to protect innocent patrons, considering how Canadians put them to shame, in coming together to turn what would otherwise have been another unfortunate scam story into a heartwarming one that, sharing Eleanor's sentiment, "strengthens" one's faith in God and humanity.

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