By Kristhine Gestano
The event was like a family affair – filled with smiles and laughter from both the young and old, familiar faces adorned a corner or two and a steady supply of Filipino dishes got the starving back on their feet. The entertainment kept coming from different parts of this side of Melbourne, easing everyone’s anguish from the freakish weekend weather.
Such is the warmth of the recently concluded Philippine Festival of Music Arts and Culture that Ed Guevarra, the event’s organiser, considers it a success. The two-day event was held at the grounds of Polish Syrena Community Centre in Rowville, Victoria from 28 February to 1 March.
Guevarra estimates the number of people to have reached more than 2,000. And these are not only Fil-Australians. Guests of various ethnicity also came to witness first-hand how the Filipino community celebrates their culture and heritage.
This is the first Philippine fiesta in Melbourne’s Southeast and Ed thinks that it is fitting and timely to come up with such a celebration because of the growing number of Fil-Australians in the area. Ed, through EMG Sports and Entertainment Network and with the help of friends, has actively pursued the promotion of Philippine culture and traditions in Australia over the years.
“In the past, people have asked me about having an event such as this in the area (Southeast) so we decided to make this a reality. There are a lot of festivals and events in the west side so we thought it would be a good idea to cater to those in the southeast also,” Ed explains.
The event was centred at showcasing the various talents in the community, from singers, dancers, bands to former table tennis champions Mark Smythe and Dennis Makaling. Food and dry good stalls bedecked the venue and provided Fil-Australian entrepreneurs the opportunity to promote their business.
Mayor of City of Knox Peter Lockwood and Philippine Consul Felix Pintado commended the celebration organisers and acknowledged the Fil-Australians’ contributions to the community.
The much-anticipated Ati-Atihan wowed the crowd with their elaborate costume and vibrant music. Watching their performance was a first for a couple of people in the crowd. Ed started the Ati-Atihan in Melbourne 17 years ago and since then, the group has garnered recognition and awards like in the Melbourne Moomba Festival.
Come day two, a bevy of young men, women and kids participated in the Santacruzan. The religious procession honours the Virgin Mary and reaffirms the Filipinos’ Catholic faith. Ed and his team made the Santacruzan into a festival last year. These pet projects were Ed’s inspirations to the current Philippine festival in the Southeast.
A concebrated Mass concluded the event. It was officiated by Fr Alfred Yap with the St. Francis Choir providing the music. Former Philippine Consul Gigi Kalong coordinated the Mass. Attendees agreed that it was a fitting conclusion to the two-day merriment.
Mark from Cranbourne came with his family on the second day. It was his first time to attend such an event and he was pleasantly surprised to see how many Filipinos came out to show their support. “It’s nice to see all your kababayans in one place just having fun,” he observed.
People from other ethnicity also seemed to have had a good time. Some of them enthusiastically participated in the Zumba routine that was led by instructor Marita. Others stayed throughout the stand-up comedy act, amused at how raucous laughter would erupt from Negi and Pepay’s jokes. The stand-up comedians are part of popular TV comedy programs in the Philippines. Non-speaker of the language got help from friends who eagerly translated all the Tagalog jokes to English for them.
Performers were AMSSG, Inc, SPAG Cultural Dance Group, Dose Band, Wendy and Ning Sotto, Benjamin Trillado, Chantik Belly dancers, Filipino Elvis, Jovy Dabu De Leon, Marcus Band, Julienne Sacris, Passionate Band, Pauline Edralin, Pwerza Azul, Signe Pop Band, Skaf Hip Hop Dancers, Urban Misfits, Vanessa Cox, Vee and Josh, Zandata Band, Charlene Sotelo, Melanie Silva, Arcilla Latin Band, Ballarat Cultural Dancers, James Sotto and Co., and 3Stars and D’Sun Band. Hosts were Jovi Adeva, Vic Valencia, Pauline Edralin and Charlene Sotello.
Ed promises an even more exciting festival next year. He happily shares, “All the comments I have received have been all positive. Considering it was our first time hosting this festival, everyone was happy with the outcome. People are definitely looking forward to the event next year.”
Apart from the festivity, Ed thinks it is a good venue to impart the Filipino culture and traditions to the young and at the same time, raise funds to support worthy causes and projects. Proceeds from this year’s festival will benefit the Conference on Filipinos Ageing in a Foreign Land that is slated in September 2015.
EMG’s main man acknowledges the many volunteers, calling them unsung heroes of the event.
Other organisers are Pat De Luna, Rene Sotto, Pepito Legaspi, Vic Valencia, Pauline Edraline and Jovi Adeva.