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Sunday, April 11, 2021

AFCS Filipino House and Reminiscing Garden opens in Melbourne

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Maria Smith
Maria Smith
Maria Smith is the Chairperson of the Australian Filipino Community Services, a non-profit organisation based in Victoria.

By Maria Smith

With the rhythmic Filipino song “Leron Leron Sinta” excitedly performed by multi-talented guest performers Grace and Dennis Ramos, the Australian-Filipino Community Services officially launched the Filipino House and Reminiscing Garden in Doveton. This March 14 event has turned into reality the AFCS dream of creating a dementia-friendly garden in partnership with Dementia Australia and the Doveton Baptist Church.

DBC Minister, Rev Ranel Lamputi dedicated the Filipino Home and Garden to the Filipino-Australian, Samoan and Tamil communities to create a space and opportunities to spread dementia awareness. Rev. Lamputi has acknowledged both the AFCS and DBC as joint agencies for transformation and change in the community.

Begonias at the Reminiscing Garden | Photo: AFCS

On the other hand, Dementia Australia Executive Director (for Advocacy and Research) Dr Kaele Stokes metaphorically compared gardens with people growing together and communicating with one another, and in the process reducing social isolation through the breakdown of barriers. Dr Stokes has likewise acknowledged the commitment of the AFCS to bring together dementia-friendly communities, with dementia impacting the lives of around half a million Australians and 75% will live with this rampant disease. 

Reminising Garden | Photo: AFCS
Ceremonial potting with SMR Member Mr Tarlamis, Dementia Australia Dr Stokes and AFCS gardener Mrs Bornino | Photo: AFCS
Graceful Samoan dancers | Photo: AFCS

Special guest speaker, Member of Legislative Council, Southeastern Metropolitan Region, Mr Lee Tarlamis described the Reminiscing Garden as an “example of a Victorian multicultural community demonstrating social inclusion”, and reiterated the importance of the Garden as a safe space for everyone to come together and share experiences from various cultures and faiths.

This important and meaningful initiative has been the vision of AFCS Chaplain Norminda Forteza and was initiated in September 2020 but was temporarily postponed due to the pandemic. “The concept is not focused on planting or gardening but to create a space where people can reminisce. Familiar plants such as sampaguita (Philippine national flower) or jasmine can help recreate or bring back happy memories”, Chaplain Forteza nostalgically expressed.

Highlights of the official garden launch include White Ribbon Ambassador Gerry Ocampo reciting a Rolando Carbonel poem “Beyond Forgetting” (… For you alone can blend the music and memory into one consuming ecstasy. You alone.) This piece reflects the sadness and reality of forgetfulness among our dementia sufferers. Dancers from the Victoria Australia Samoan Seniors Inc (VASSI) did not fail to impress either, in their soothing and graceful dance performance. 

The ribbon-cutting, ceremonial potting (led by enthusiastic gardener Mrs Susan Bornino) and photo taking followed with the smell of mouth-watering pork barbecue enticing everyone’s appetite while admiring beautiful donated plants from Paradisia Nursery (courtesy of Gardener-in-Chief Board Member Albert Abarquez). The garden launch finished with a Happy Birthday song for AFCS participant Mrs Lenny Vijungco.

The Garden is now open to the community on Wednesdays from 10 am to 2 pm; birthdays and other special celebrations are welcome at the Garden. With ongoing support from Dementia Australia, DBC and partner communities, the AFCS Filipino Home and Reminiscing Garden is bound to create opportunities not only for social inclusion but also spiritual enrichment, good health and wholesome wellbeing. 


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