The historic and cultural significance of the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Australia has caught on, and the Filipino community in Victoria, as in other parts of Australia, is getting excitedly involved in the celebrations.
Very early in the year, Ambassador Ma. Hellen De La Vega engaged the Victoria community in an online meeting to elicit ideas and recommendations on how to celebrate the event. Ambassador De La Vega’s call has been met with enthusiastic response and offers of support, and immediately, members of the community proposed a variety of creative ways of commemorating this milestone.
Then the idea just snowballed. On the suggestion of one community leader, the Philippine Consulate General in Melbourne organised a Steering Committee to lead the planning and preparations.
Chaired by the Consulate, the Committee has 10 members, selected on a first-to-volunteer basis. These are hardworking women and men contributing their time and talent to this endeavor. Their participation assures the Committee of diverse membership from various community organisations, gender balance and active involvement from the youth/student sector.
The Committee has met four times. The first was on 10 February, in-person at the Consulate, to formally organise, adopt goals and objectives, identify activities, and agree on a timeline and tasking. The second was held virtually last 1 March, to discuss concept papers and proposals submitted between meetings. Then a third and a fourth meeting followed, until finally a set of projects took shape.
The Committee has developed and assembled the following events which have been made part of the Australia-wide Indicative Notional Calendar of Activities:
- Gala Ball (A Night of Diamond Fil-Auship), envisioned to be the centerpiece event, scheduled on 29 May at the Langham, Southbank, Victoria. It aims to bring together on one occasion state (Victorian) and federal MPs, the Philippine Ambassador, Consulate officials and Filipino community leaders. The program highlights speeches by key officials, cultural performances, and a slide documentary – visual retrospective of events and milestones in Philippines-Australia relations.
- Tribute Concert for Philippines-Australia Friendship and Food Fair, calendared for 12 June at the Seaworks Maritime Precinct, Williamstown. The show features five bands paying homage to 40 years of Original Pilipino Music (OPM) and Australian pop music, which also enjoys broad following among Filipinos. The concert will be livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook. The food fair, meanwhile, showcases a mouth-watering assortment of Filipino regional cuisines.
- Australian Barbecue Festival and Competition, booked for 22 May, to be held in the culturally-diverse city of Wyndham. The event had been held for a number of years, discontinued, but revived this year in time for the 75th anniversary. It highlights the Filipino element of this favourite Australian cultural and social activity and promotes the lechon as a cherished Filipino cultural and culinary contribution.
- KaZoomustahan with Regional Pinoys, scheduled for 29 June, a pre-recorded online conversation between Victoria regional community leaders and the Ambassador and the Consul General, including video greetings/messages from regional government officials. The event seeks to draw attention to the little-known and seldom-discussed lives and conditions of Filipinos living in Victoria’s rural regions.
- Trivia Fridays and Slide Documentary, Online Photo Exhibit, Mateship and Bayanihan, and Gala Night participation. Organised by FASTCO, an association of Filipino international students in Victoria, this continuing series of events aims to popularise the Filipino narrative, history and culture to the Australian mainstream as well the younger generations of Filipino Australians.
These events are and wholly arranged and organised by community members, with little guidance from the Consulate. In the true spirit of bayanihan, the project proponents are putting in some serious work – developing the concept, preparing guest lists, attending to minute details, and soliciting funding support from various sources.
Outside of the Steering Committee, many other groups are organising events, converging and rallying around the themes of Philippines-Australia friendship and partnership. Worthy of mention are the Australia-Philippines Business Council (APBC), which has lined up four unique activities to highlight business and economic ties between the two countries; and a group called Alyansang Barangay-Victoria, which reached out to the Committee to synchronise its Independence Day celebration with the 75th anniversary calendar and themes.
Meanwhile, the Consulate is finalising the details of a lecture on the Philippine Cinnamon (Kahoy Mana) by Dr. Augustine “Yob” Doronila, a noted Filipino-Australian chemist and academic, also in conjunction with the festivities; and a presentation on The Calamansi Story and its role in Philippines-Australia friendship, a concept advanced by the culinary-minded group The Entrée Pinays.
If we’re lucky, maybe we can also convince the Melbourne city government to light up one of the city’s iconic structures, such Town Hall or the Flinders Train Station, as a way to commemorate the milestone.
Last 17 April, of course, the permanent office of the Consulate formally opened its doors to the public in a simple but solemn Launch and Blessing ceremony, combined with an art exhibit honoring the late Joel Magpayo, a pioneering Filipino-Australian artist. The event, attended by no less than Ambassador De La Vega, officially launched Philippines-Australia friendship festivities in Victoria.
There is no limit to the number of ways we can celebrate this important event. The year is long, and there is inexhaustible energy, enthusiasm and creativity in the community. We wish to make the celebrations as inclusive and participative as possible. We’re hoping that with bayanihan constantly inspiring us, we will see more unity and cooperation at work as we mark this historic occasion.