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Tuesday , 28 September 2021

Filipino community leader Lina Cabaero-Ponnambalam passes away

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By Peter Murphy

Many of you will have heard that Lina died late last night at St Vincent’s Hospital. Her death was peaceful, as she was asleep. She had been able to meet her children, Miko and Natasha, and Jega the previous evening, sharing jokes, songs and stories, and her siblings overseas were able to join online. Jega was with her all day yesterday when she was mostly sleeping. While Lina knew her life was ending because the treatment for her cancers was stopped last week, we did not expect this to be so immediate, and so we have seen our last FB posts or text messages from Lina the previous week. She was fighting to the end, but her body could not do it anymore. Our heart goes out to Jega, Miko and Natasha, and all Lina’s family at this time of loss and grief.

For us in PAUL, Lina was constantly engaged in our work to reach out to Filipino workers in Australia, especially those on temporary work visas. She got involved with the trade union movement, the Labor Party, and the Greens in solidarity with the Filipino union movement and the broader democratic struggles of all sectors in Philippine society. Here in Sydney, Lina was always at the protests at the Philippine Consulate, always ready with a song, always making banners and placards for us to display.

Lina worked as the Coordinator of Asian Women at Work, aiming to empower migrant women from the Asian region through a community organising strategy and working with the relevant unions. These were the Textile Clothing & Footwear Union, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, United Workers Union, and Unions NSW. She was a speaker at several Sydney May Day rallies and organised One Billion Rising dance events at International Women’s Days and on Valentine’s Day. Lina also worked with Philippine Australian Community Services Inc in Blacktown and Immigrant Women’s Speakout in Parramatta. For all this, she received an Edna Ryan Award in 2016.

Lina Cabaero-Ponnambalam | Photo from Facebook
Lina Cabaero-Ponnambalam front row centre with Asian Women at Work, IWD 2008 in Sydney | Photo: (supplied)

In the Filipino national democratic movement, Lina is known far and wide because of her commitment, hard work, and joyful comradeship starting in the last few years of the Marcos Dictatorship. Then she was active in the League of Filipino Students at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. She went on to work with the Asian Students Association in Hong Kong for seven years, met Jega there, and eventually came back to live in Sydney. Alongside her paid job, Lina also helped expand and organise Migrante Australia, part of Migrante International, the organisation for overseas Filipino workers.

Because of the pandemic lockdown in Sydney, Lina’s funeral will be very small, for her immediate family. However, there will be a celebration of her life at the earliest opportunity that we can all attend. In the meantime, Mel Baltazar, Chairperson of Migrante Australia, is collating photos of Lina for an online salute to her life. If you have a photo, please email it to Mel at baltazar@westnet.com.au by Wednesday, and include a short caption and when it was taken.

Let’s salute Lina Cabaero-Ponnambalam, celebrate her extraordinary life, and be inspired by her to persist with the struggle for a better world!

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