2019 came to an end, giving way to a new year—which means renewed hopes and seeing new challenges. But 2019 was not just a date in the calendar that went by for nothing. Just like the yesteryears, 2019, too, was one which was filled with stories and events from within the Filipino-Australian that are worthy of reckoning.

Here are some of the highlights of 2019.

Annual celebration

The New Year is indeed a staple celebration at every advent of any year, especially in Australia. But for the Catholics within the Filipino-Australian community, the first month of the year is also a special time for displaying reverence of their faith, particularly during the celebration of the Feast of the Black Nazarene. To those in West Melbourne, specifically, the event drew a large crowd when the celebration started comprising of a Mass, a procession, and a fellowship at the Holy Family Shrine, also called St Mary Star of the Sea Parish.

Feast of the Black Nazarene 2019
Feast of the Black Nazarene

Also not to be missed are the annual Feast Days of Saints, which takes foothold on our strong Catholic foundations. Celebrated every year, not only in Melbourne, are the feasts of the Sto Niño (Sinulog), Our Ina (Our Lady of Peñafrancia) and San Lorenzo Ruiz.  

2019 also saw the second staging of the dramatisation of the Stations of the Cross at St Peter Chanel in Deer Park. Various actors from different nationalities joined the portrayal of the Passion of the Christ led by Bryan Yap of Hoy Pinoy who played Jesus Christ.

Charity

Kicking off the early parts of 2019 is a charity program with generosity as its theme. Thanks to the collective effort of the non-profit group, Diabetes Victoria, the program began receiving an influx of material goods as donations from a multitude of Australians who started giving out items for the cause. 

charity

Several organisations have also held their own fundraising events, some more subtle and some more grandeur. Organisation and individual efforts should be credited, whether these are new initiatives, short- or long-term, or staged annually. 

Bolstering of ties between nations

Career diplomat Her Excellency Ma. Hellen Barber De La Vega presented her credentials to the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia as new Philippine Ambassador to Australia. 

As a token of Australia’s willingness to strengthen ties with the Philippines, the Australian government sent out the newly-assigned ambassador to the Philippines, Steven James Robinson, to present his credentials and who was openly welcomed and received by the Philippine Representatives, including President Duterte himself.

Simeon Remata III was elected and awarded the International Student Ambassador in Brisbane
Simeon Remata III was International Student Ambassador.

Speaking of getting chosen to represent a group by means of merit, a native from Dumaguete City and an international student in Australia, Simeon Remata III, was elected and awarded the International Student Ambassador in Brisbane. A special ceremony was held last April to officiate Remata III’s status as the International Student Ambassador.

Sports achievement

Fans of the bowling sport, especially those in Australia, ought to add two names in their list of “must-follow” individuals on the sport after two members of the Victoria-based and representative Filipino-Australian community managed to win the Junior Interstate Tournament which was held in Melbourne. Namely Bernie Grueso, Jr. and Althea Mata, their winning subsequently heralded them the “elite” status in the ten-pin bowling sport.

Filipino-Australian kickboxer River Diaz
Filipino-Australian kickboxer River Diaz

Filipino-Australian kickboxer River Diaz remained unbeaten as he took on Germany’s Vincert Foschani in France. The respected fighter has fought both internationally and locally and has earned admiration of combat sports fans for his tenacity. 

Taking care of our seniors

Filipino seniors on the runway
Filipino seniors on the runway

The elderly is among the most vulnerable group in society, especially if coming from a multicultural community that has to face cultural and language barriers. The Australian Filipino Community Services, the Council of Australian-Filipino Organisations of Victoria Inc and the Filipino Community Council of Victoria Inc have been at the forefront of serving this marginalised sector. 

Noteworthy programs have been launched by AFCS to help seniors avoid the feeling of isolation, to put issues of seniors in a foreign land on the forefront, or simply provide socialisation activities. Through AFCS’ representation, a number of Filipino-Australian seniors walked the runway in a bid to empower the elderly. 

In keeping seniors’ mentally sharp, Eddie Atacador’s Knox Community Chest Enthusiasts has been holding tournaments and initiating chess games every week at the Community Space of the Westfield Knox Shopping Centre. 

Notable guests

Ambassador Ma. Hellen De La Vega met with the Filipino community in Melbourne.
Ambassador Ma. Hellen De La Vega (2nd from left, front row) met with the Filipino community in Melbourne.

This year, as part of the Philippine Ambassador’s tour of duty, Hon Ambassador Ma. Hellena De La Vega had a meeting with Filipino-Australian organisation leaders. In Sydney, Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo was hosted as special guest as part of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia feast celebrations.

Melbourne was also fortunate to have witnessed the staging of shows and concerts from artists in the Philippines, led by no less than world-class artist Philippine entertainer and world-renowned stage actress Lea Salonga and Filipino-American stand-up comedian Jo-Koy. Other entertainers who wowed our audiences this year included K Brosas, Mitoy Yonting, Pilita Corales, Bamboo, Mike Hanopol and a slew of Philippine comedy bar staples. 

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