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Filipino Australian community group in Ballarat celebrates 30th anniversary

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By Katrina Baraquiel

The Filipino/Australian Association of Ballarat Inc. (FAABI) finally held its 30th Anniversary Gala Night on 26 February 2022 Ballarat & District Trotting Club Inc. Due to COVID-19 State Government restrictions, it was rescheduled from the original date in July 2021. Despite that hiccup, the event was successfully held. Filipino-Australians across three generations filled the room and got socially reacquainted, with attendees hailing from Ballarat suburbs, Bendigo, Creswick, Guildford, Linton, Maryborough, Melbourne, Napoleons, Scarsdale, Snake Valley, Waterloo, Waubra, and Yendon.

The Gala program was scheduled to start at 7 pm, with guests trickling in as early as 6 pm. A proud Yorta Yorta woman and a Ballarat Intercultural Ambassador, Rachel Muir kicked off the proceedings with a traditional Aboriginal ceremony: The Welcome to Country. It was followed by the Processional March of FAABI’s new Committee of Management, elected during the 2022 Annual General Meeting on 5 February 2022. Sherley Hart, who served as the FAABI President for 15 years and has recently accepted her new role as FAABI Advisor/Representative, announced the new officers to the 235 members of Filipino-Australian community present that evening. 

The new Committee of Management conducted a quick team-building ceremony, highlighting the values they aim to keep fostering as leaders. The Executive Committee is comprised of Gersen Wardlaw (President), Eddie Racho (Vice President), Katrina Baraquiel (Secretary), Lenie Prenda (Assistant Secretary), Arlene Brewer (Treasurer), Lina Relouw (Assistant Treasurer), Frank Williams (Public Relations Officer), Virgie Hocking (Property Custodian), and Rodelo Quezada (Assistant Property Custodian). They will be supported by eight sub-committee members, namely: Jovy Ball, Genie Den Ouden, Urbing Duffin, Peter Hughes, Lawrie Hocking, Juliana Mavrikis, Brenda McMahon, and Dionesia Muaje.

Donato Abrigante, the representative of the Filipino Australia Sports Club of Ballarat Inc. (FASCOBI), led the invocation then every one stood up for the Australian National Anthem (Advance Australia Fair) followed by the Philippine National Anthem (Lupang Hinirang).

The Welcome Address was delivered by Gersen Wardlaw, followed by messages from esteemed dignitaries who have expressed their support for FAABI: Honorary Consul Jan Sherwin Wenceslao from the Philippine Consulate General in Melbourne, Ms. Lizzie Kouth from the Victorian Multicultural Commission, Ms. Juliana Addison MP from the Victorian Legislative Assembly representing the electoral district of Wendouree, and City of Ballarat Mayor Daniel Moloney.

Filipino Australian Association of Ballarat Inc.
Filipino Australian Association of Ballarat Inc.
Filipino Australian Association of Ballarat Inc.
Filipino Australian Association of Ballarat Inc.
Filipino Australian Association of Ballarat Inc.

Attendees watched a photo presentation highlighting 30 Years of FAABI as the first of three courses started getting served. Sherley Hart then delivered her message for the community and her hopes for FAABI’s new Committee of Management.

Also present at the FAABI Gala is Dr Sundram Sivamalai, the Founding Chair of the Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council and City of Ballarat’s 2021 Citizen of the Year; Rose Boquida, Ballarat Intercultural Ambassador; renowned Philippine artist Diokno Pasilan, and Independent Candidate Tara Tran who is running for Senate in the upcoming 2022 elections. 

The rest of the evening was filled with entertainment, from raffle draws, dance and song productions, as well as public dancing following the ease of State Government restrictions days prior. The Masters of Ceremonies, Urbing Duffin (Sub-committee Member) and Eddie Racho (Vice President) ensured the flow of the program while also joining FAABI’s officers and members to showcase cultural dances, namely ‘Magtanim ay Di Biro’, ‘Sitsiritsit’, ‘Pamulinawen’, ‘Pasawaya Ko Day’, and ‘Tinikling’. RB’s Friends in Motion, led by Rose Boquida, performed a Modern dance medley. Additionally, the Filipino Australian Social Club of Loddon Campaspe Inc. (FASCOLC) performed the folk dance ‘Pandango sa Ilaw’, while Leila Rogers, Clarence Nielsen, and Gersen Moreno wowed the crowd with their song numbers. 

Special kudos go to Virgie Hocking for coordinating with the venue and meticulously curating the table assignments and to the rest of the volunteers for planning the night from start to finish. All their efforts were visible in the details, and their hard work paid off as the room was filled with laughter, awe, and gusto.

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The night ended at 11:30 pm, following Eddie Racho’s closing message. However, if people had it their way, they would have been dancing until breakfast. As they say, “It’s more fun in the Philippines!” or at least, in this case, it’s more fun with Filipinos.


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