By Benjie de Ubago
SYDNEY – It was a night of shining luminaries! It was a heart-warming night of gratitude and appreciation! The 75th Anniversary of Philippine-Australian Relations was a night of gratitude to Australia for having welcomed us to Australia, and likewise appreciation to the Filipinos who’ve made outstanding contributions to Australia throughout the years. It’s been the best of both worlds.
“We Filipinos remember the many benefits we have reaped from this relationship,” said Mao de Vera, Chairman of Handog Pinoy in his heartfelt welcome speech. It was a touching tribute that left everyone a little teary-eyed, as he ended with “Australia – my home – your home – our home – our country!”
Australia was well represented with dignitaries from the local, state and federal government. Guest of Honour and representing Prime Minister Morrison was the very youthful, Minister Alex Hawke MP, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs. Representing the Philippines was Consul Manny Guzman and Special Trade Representative, Alma Argayoso; Federal representatives, Michelle Rowland, MP and Stephen Bali, MP; Councillors Susai Benjamin and Linda Geronimo Santos of Blacktown City Council and Councillor Vince del Gallego of Hornsby City Council.
Community Leader, Ferdi Francisco took to the stage to retrace the Philippine Australian relations for the last 75 years and Australia’s contributions to the Philippines in the areas of Defence; in Education, Humanitarian Assistance in times of crisis and including their latest donation of the vaccines for the pandemic raging in the Philippines; and in Trade relations which have now seen more and more Philippine products enter Australia. Filipino food products are now available at a growing number of Woolworths supermarkets.
THE PIONEERS AND ACHIEVERS
Filipinos have no doubt contributed socially, culturally and economically to the multicultural landscape that is Australia today. From the day, the Philippine Folk Arts group stepped up to perform for the opening of the Opera House in 1973 to the day our special ice treat “the Halo-Halo” was served in a restaurant called “Little Quiapo” back in the 70s; to the doctors and nurses that front the hospitals; to the IT minds that fill the corporate boardrooms – we’ve undoubtedly shared the best of us, while keeping the very soul that defines us as a people. We’re mixed, blended and enjoying the best of both worlds.
The evening’s special guest of honour was author and artist Alfredo Roces whose volume of work has inspired many. He’s also the recipient of the Philippine Presidential Award 2014 “Pamana ng Bayan.”
Other pioneers and achievers present on the night included: Albert M. G. Garcia, the first Filipino importer of Filipino food products who also established Mr. Wong’s retail chain of stores; Dr. Corazon Francisco, the first Filipino doctor to be accepted as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of General Practitioners and is also a recipient of the Philippine Presidential “Banaag” Award in 2018; Ms. Irene Broad, the first Filipino to be elected to government office as a Councillor in Temora Shire; the first Filipino Child Care Centre managed by the Filipino Community Cooperative under the direction of Kate Andres; and Rey Nery and Jason Carter representing the first Filipino Rugby League team – the Philippine Tamaraws of the Philippine National Rugby League.
The video showcasing the Filipino pioneers and achievers left everyone silent. As one guest exclaimed “I’m so proud to be a Filipino.”
And right on cue, the One Voice Kids of Tina Bangel’s One Voice School of Singing opened the show with “Lead the Way” a Filipino/English song from the latest Disney film “Raya and the Last Dragon”. The talented teens showed off their talents in every way they could – mixing their performance with a little dance, a little drama, a guitar player – and their voices reverberated with their rendition of “Gidday, Gidday” to welcome everyone. These Filipino-Australian stars of tomorrow – Paulette Belista, Bridget Bosworth, Tash Bracken, Caitlyn Jorge, Christine Reodique, Kaitryel Pelaez, Sophia Baui, Jared Lesaca, Christian Bangel and the youngest Matthew Dino captured the hearts of the audience right from the start.
Tina Bangel, voice coach, singer and songwriter took the stage too, to remind us “We’ve Got a Friend.” Tina is no stranger to the stage having performed alongside celebrities and the corporate world including Channel 7 and was a regular entertainer at Star Casino, Captain Cook Cruises, the Australian Club and Entertainment (ACE) and the Mo Awards Nights. She has recently published a musical book “My Lola” a reminder of Filipino traditions.
And of course, mother and son teamed up to entertain. The vivacious and vibrant, Nanette Ursua Frohriep and the charming and versatile, David Michael White who was also the host for the evening took centre stage. They were the perfect mix! The perfect Filipino-Australian blend! Today’s best and tomorrow’s promise. Both mother and son are showbiz veterans having done the RSL circuit and have performed under the Las Vegas spotlight. And for the 75thAnniversary, they gave it their all and left us with a reminder with their closer “I Still Call Australia Home.”
Handog Pinoy spearheaded the event in collaboration with 11 Filipino associations. It was the first formal event that was organised after more than a year long pandemic restrictions. The Filipinos’ own diversity was well represented – five clubs represented the regions of the Philippines (Timek Iti La Union, Aguman Capampangan, Bicol Communities League, Australian Visayan Multicultural Communities and Samar Association) plus two civic organisations (Alliance of Philippine Community Organisations (APCO) and NARRA); one representing the Philippine Australian Medical Association (PAMA), the Philippine Australian Society of Senior Citizens (PASSCI), and representing the women – Illawarra Filipino Women’s Multicultural Group (IFWMG) of Wollongong, and in sports – the Philippine National Rugby League.
And yes – we did show the best of us – and the audience certainly beamed with Pinoy pride! And we shined!
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