Rain can’t dampen Pinoys’ Philippine Fiesta

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Heard, saw, felt

By ALICE GREGORIO-NICOLAS

All set to go for the 2009 Philippine Fiesta–bigger and better venue and all Pinoys from north, west, south, east were raring to show Australians how we celebrate Fiesta. There was pride, konting yabang, because deep inside we wanted to prove something and show the whole of Australia what Philippine fiesta is all about.

Liz Honey and I were exchanging emails the last few days. There was a running joke between us that I could change the weather every year. And so I played God and thought, yes, the weather might change. But fake Gods falter and should never be trusted so my last attempt was to tell her, really, it pays to offer eggs to drive away the rain. We were giggling in our own little corners but the fear was growing inside.

And the weekend came. Saturday, it rained only in the afternoon but at night it was pouring. Every hour or so I would check the weather and sad to say, it was always the same. Sunday came and it was even worse!

I gave up. So off I went and braved for a wet Fiesta. Despite the soggy weather, there were more to hear, see and feel in this year’s fiesta. Let’s admit it now: there could have been more people who came if the weather was perfect.

I collected droplets of rain and memories to keep. Some ideas and suggestions worth considering.

1. Nearly 15 young Filipino-Australians, who were equally lost like us guided me, Tess and Amalia to the Melbourne Showgrounds. These same teenagers were very polite always saying “po” and “opo”. It feels good to see young people in the heart of Melbourne not leaving us till we reached our final destination.

2. The Fiesta Management Committee made the right decision to hold the fiesta at the Melbourne Showgrounds. This time, the Filipino community should also cater to Australians and other nationalities.

3. A Filipina mum shares with Philtimes the disappointment of her teenage daughter who invited her ten or more friends to come to the Philippine Fiesta. “Mum, it was very disappointing. There was not much to see,” she told the mum afterwards. She said her friends (no Asian in the group) paid $10 and she was so embarrassed that her friends did not enjoy. What makes it worse is that the Spanish festival (where they just came from) coincided with the Philippine Fiesta and the Spanish festivity, she said, was livelier and more informative. This is a valid comment as we wanted the Philippine fiesta to cater to non-Filipinos as well. The atmosphere might be fine for Filipinos but maybe not a good one for non-Filipinos. For the international visitors the exhibit was not that exciting. “Maybe, the Fiesta officers should invite an event organiser to have proper planning and the events or activities more organised,” the mum said.

4. When it’s a bigger audience than the one in Laverton, the Australian public would expect more. My publisher, George Gregorio’s suggestion makes sense. He said we should have a trade fair or exhibit during the fiesta. We can invite exhibitors from the Philippines: furniture, pinoy arts and crafts, processed food, Pinoy wine (rice, mango, tuba, Tanduay). We can even have some stalls for food tasting.

5. The singing competition, with a good prize tag of $1,500 for the winner, was really a good part of the program. The winner was a favourite and shortly should be introduced to the community. We were told she’s from the Dausan clan. Roy Carbungco briefly mentioned they were egging the family to let her join the Australian idol. Wow, we might have another Charice Pempengco in Australia!

6.There should also be more competition like cooking competition, games, dance competition, choir competition. This is to discover new, hidden talents. A lot of us do not know but we have so many Filipino chefs in our midst. We would also like to see another Jokoy in the making.

7. Fiesta head Ross Manuel, donned in crispy Barong Tagalog, carrying a box on his head. With him was Fiesta Director Manny Asuncion, transferring another box to one corner of the venue. Being a Fiesta officer is not all glitz and glamour after all.

8. You spend the whole time texting friends where they are, meeting old friends, calling more friends, seeing other friends, ignoring those you did not want to see, being surprised seeing friends you haven’t seen for a while.

9. Amidst the flurry of activity in the covered area, there was always a time to make tsismis– who got separated, who acted badly, who bought a big house in this so and so place, and thousand things to talk about. One’s comment would normally spark tittle-tattle among friends and laughters would follow. Ampee M even came and showed us fresh bandage as she was recovering from a recent operation of her appendix.

10. Few Filipinos who are about to start their business or just started were there distributing flyers and networking madly. You could see their haggard yet happy face as they embark on new territories.

11. While the newbies were there, those who have been in the business for so long were also there. Surprisingly, some important businesses were inconspicous. This is lost oppotunity as 10,000 or more Filios going to the fiesta is a big business boost for someone thinking about marketing his/her business.

12. Those new in the business or other nationalities selling their products and services tried to give flyer to competitors. For example, an Indian looking migration agent handed out her flyer to a Filipina who is into migration service as well.

13. Nine out of ten people who were informally asked if they prefer the Melbourne showgrounds said they prefer the new venue. One said he preferred the Laverton Fiesta because the small size was conducive to people marketing their business and it was easier to reach out to fiesta patrons.

14. It could be true everywhere or it’s just original Filipino trend. The tissue in the ladies toilet could be seen all over the floor. One commented, “why is it so hard to put them in the bin?” “That’s being Pinoy,” explained another lady in queue.

15. While we have hundreds and one things to do, we need more people to help out during the two-day fiesta. If you saw Liz Honey and the worried look on her face yesterday, you would pity her as she was one of the people in charge of the program. “They keep changing the program,” she commented and was rushing to the stage.Thing is if we want Filipinos coming to the Fiesta, we likewise need more hands to help out. How can you “entertain” guests when there’s only a few hands doing the dirty work?

16. And speaking of dirty work, down the grandstand the Philippine Times witnessed in our own eyes the “unsung heroes” out there. While we were enjoying the shows and shrieking at the top of our lungs when we saw Jericho Rosales, Lydia John (Herald Sun’s Pride of Australia Fair Go awardee), Ellen Oftial and the other lovely unnamed ladies and gentlemen were in the kitchen re-filling food in the counter and washing the dishes. We even saw Mario Dumrigue “pretending” to be strict and asking people for food voucher. The free food was intended for volunteers. Apparently, some naughty souls directed others to go there to have free food.

17. If it’s a bigger venue, we could extend closing hours up to 9 or 10pm. We heard there were people from Sydney or Queensland who would travel this far just to experience the Melbourne fiesta.

18. Last but the not least, while the Fiesta was being held a group of Pinoys were holding their own separate meeting at the Philippine Community Centre in Laverton. This is a faction from the Fiesta group and apparently they are not satisfied on how the Fiesta should be managed and organised. We hope to hear from them soon. Once we name these individuals and hear what they have to say, we let the people decide if the concerns and issues being raised are sensible enough.

…And while we have a new venue to accommodate more people, we hope next year’s Fiesta would be even brighter, happier and bigger.

Please don’t forget to send in your comments and suggestions to the Fiesta Committee. This is our fiesta and we want the best. The world is looking at us!

[ With notes from George Gregorio ]

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