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Alba Iulia
Saturday, December 5, 2020

Melbourne’s Filipino seniors village

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Jason Cordi
Jason Cordi
Editor-in-Chief, The Philippine Times

For 30 years, Filipino-Australian seniors have been living in independent flats at the Lions Elderly Citizens Village in West Footscray. The village includes 21 single bedroom residential units, as well as a Community Hall with kitchen, owned by the Lions Club of Footscray.

According to the history of the Lions Club of Footscray, the village was established through several successful fundraisers and completed in stages throughout the early 1960s, and fully completed in 1971. The Club was proud of the achievements through the support of the community, providing safe and comfortable housing for senior citizens.

Today, the Lions Club provides low-cost community housing for the 21 Filipino-Australians, and three Australians who live in the village. Some of the Filipino residents have lived there for several years, including Julie Uy who has lived there since 1997, and Concepcion Limjuco, who was part of the first batch of Filipinos to live in the village in 1991.

The open green space and hall is central to the village, which is a place of gathering for special occasions. The residents also maintain their respective gardens with the support of friends and family. Prior to the pandemic, many of the residents would join the weekly Tai Chi and line dancing classes, as well as the monthly rosary prayers.

The Filipino residents are happy to be living their twilight years with Filipino neighbours, where they are able to share their stories, laughter, and of course, food!

  • Leonila enjoys looking after her garden, like many of the other residents. For her, watering the garden is an uplifting activity.
  • Like many seniors, Concepcion likes to drink herbal tea. Turmeric tea is one of her favourites. | Photo: Jason Cordi
  • JULIE enjoys cooking, even after a busy day. She continues to teach and tutor Year 12 Tagalog students online at the Philippine Language School of Victoria. | Photo: Jason Cordi
  • Rita enjoys cooking Tinolang Isda (Fish in Ginger Broth), a healthy traditional Filipino dish. | Photo: Jason Cordi
  • VIOLETA is a Charismatic Catholic and enjoys watching Mass via YouTube in the Philippines. She has her Bible and rosary beads with her. Often some of the other residents join her to attend Mass online. | Photo: Jason Cordi
  • NELA has been busy gathering food and goods to pack into a balikbayan box. She hopes for the box to be delivered to her family in the Philippines in time for Christmas. | Photo: Jason Cordi
  • ANICIA is the caretaker of the Lions Elderly Citizens Village, and walks across the village for her daily exercise. | Photo: Jason Cordi

Life in the village

The lockdown in Victoria has changed the way many go about their daily lives. For senior citizens, this has meant that social programs and gatherings have been suspended for over six months and counting. Due to the stay-at-home rules, visits from families and friends in most cases have not been possible. 

Despite the challenges of life while in lockdown, the Filipinos at the Lion’s Elderly Citizens Village in West Footscray still find simple activities that they can enjoy. Some residents watch the Mass daily on TFC (ABS-CBN’s The Filipino Channel), while others meet with their neighbours outdoors to have a chat while maintaining physical distancing. Consultations with a GP continue to occur and medications are usually organised for delivery, all of which can be done conveniently over the phone.

The residents of the village look forward to the easing of restrictions where they can see their friends and loved ones freely in person, rather than solely through FaceTime. In the meantime, aside from staying connected with their loved ones digitally, they continue to enjoy some of the simple joys in life while staying optimistic during the coronavirus pandemic.

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