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Filipino Memorial Plaque Unveiled
Title : Filipino Memorial Plaque Unveiled Filipino Memorial Plaque Unveiled
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Creator : Hennessy, Norma
Source : History and heritage
Place Of Creation : Australia
Date of creation : 08/12/2007
Format : Photograph
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Description :

Image: South Australian Migration Museum Courtyard

December 8, 2007: Filipino settlers in Australia etched their mark in Australian history with the unveiling of the first Filipino-Australian memorial plaque  to celebrate old and new Filipino arrivals to Australia at the South Australian Migration Museum, Kintore Avenue, Adelaide.  The marker  was the newest  plaque addition onto the museum's memorial wall and was set alongside that of migrants from the Baltic, Slovenia, Vietnamese, Jewish, Ukrainian, Serbian, Tatar-Bashkurt, Polish,  Hungarian communities and one which acknowledges British child migrants sent to Australia.

The Filipino Memorial Plaque Unveiling program was ceremonious and  full of symbolisms. It was an hour of nostalgic rekindling of  cultural memories and immersion in traditions brought  from an old home. Reception started at 1:30 with drinks and finger foods served by Filipino community volunteers  dressed in Filipiniana and Barong Tagalogs. Ribbons in royal blue color were pinned on every guest upon arrival to signify the Filipino hospitality of treating visitors like Maharlikas (royalty). It was also a gesture of gratitude by those whose hopes for better life have been kindly  answered. For the young, it was an  appreciation for their parents' migration history.    

At the stroke of 2:00 pm, food service was temporarily halted as the program commenced with the singing of Lupang Hinirang (The Philippine national anthem),  followed by Advance Australia Fair. Invocation was rendered by His Grace Leonard Faulkner DD, Archbishop Emeritus of Adelaide who especially paid tribute to the early Manila men who found their way in the northern shores of Australia (1890s).  

Opening and welcome remarks were given by the day's Master of Ceremonies - Dr. Reynaldo Dante Juanta, OAM.  

Ms. Vivienne Szekeres welcomed the assembly with a brief bird's eye view of the museum's history and a summary of previous Filipino projects. 

This was followed by the laying of flower bouquets on the red cloth below the veiled plaque by Angie Redden and Linda Watson.  This gesture was to remember those Manila men who first ventured into Australia and the other earlier migrants who followed.  

Mrs. Erlinda Calabio, Filipino doyen and one of the earlier migrants to arrive in Adelaide in 1971 eloquently shared her thoughts - "Fortunately, we came to Australia armed, as it were, with our innate Filipino traits, our cherished Filipino legacy, and these, together with a shining vision of hope for a better life, have guided us along and have inspired our efforts to make the most of our new blessings here in South Australia." 

Honorable Michael Atkinson, MP, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Attorney General, SA addressed the event with reverential acknowledgement of a shared past.  Pointing to the complexity of Filipino migration history, he was generous in his praise for all that were contributed and continue to be contributed by the Filipino community in Australia. 

A five stanza Pilipino poem titled Ang Pamana (The Legacy)was then rendered by Ely de La Cruz Quinto who composed the poem himself and  was translated by Dr. Juanta into English for the benefit of the non-Pilipino speakers.  Spoken with the old lilt and lyrical rhythm reminiscent of Balagtasan,  it was a fitting  lead-in to the  actual unveiling.  The communal manner that the plaque was unveiled was unprecedented.  Four long ribbons representing the four different colours in the Philippine flag - white, yellow, blue and red, were attached to the gold silk veil covering the plaque on the wall and were stretched out to all directions (east, west, south and north) and through to the entire assembly for all to hold or touch. Others linked up to the ribbons by holding the extended hands of those who held the ribbons, creating a chain of link within the entire assembly. Those who had their hands full with video cameras and cameras were touched on their shoulders by their neighbors who were linked to the ribbons. When the chain of link was completed, the whole assembly counted down from 8 to 0 whereupon the ribbons were simultaneously tugged. This then let fall of the veil that covered the plaque that has been securely mounted on the memorial wall.

As the plaque was revealed, euphoric applause erupted.  Many eyes misted in nostalgia.  Many were overwhelmed in being among each other's presence in that momentary feel of a-coming home. Non Filipinos were awed by the symbolisms and were touched by the emotional reminiscence that such one hour event triggered. It was an afternoon that would linger in the memory of all those who attended. Amanda from Salisbury, North of Adelaide said, "It's great to have our own plaque!"  One esteemed visitor said, "It's the most amazing unveiling program I have yet been into!"  Vilma from the eastern suburbs of Adelaide said, "I was so touched, I had tears in my eyes!" Honourable John Trainer, Mayor of West Torrens said, "A fantastic day, kababayan!" while a young new arrival from the northeastern suburbs remarked  "Tita, I felt just so proud to be a Filipino!" The director of the Migration museum Viv Szekeres gushed, "I just love your magnificent and fabulous attires and the lovely and cheerful smiles!" Tom from Hamley Bridge said, "The Filipino community has come a long way!"

The plaque took a year of planning and negotiations due to the museum's stringent specifications and policies on the lay out and wordings. The event was sponsored by  Ethnic Radyo Pilipino (ERPI), member of the Ethnic Broadcasters, Inc. 5EBI -FM Adelaide. The preparation saw the revival of the old Bayanihan spirit. Individuals from various sectors and locations around Metro Adelaide volunteered their services and assistance. The program was  prepared and coordinated by  ERPI. The volunteers were Miriam Cocking, Violy Leslie, Jun and Marita Macalalad, Maria Barredo, Rose Howland, Eileen Bennett, Rebecca Cooper, Beth Withal, Virgie Tacke, Maria Dixon, Emil Sagun, Luzcel Camacho, Esther Wenzel, Fely and Rudy Simbol, Cielo Mercado, Corina Cruz, Cholly Winter, Cora Juanta, Hong Juanta, Gloria Joule, Lucita Monteodorisio, Nemy Christensen, Primo and Elvie Villena, Vicky Manalo, Jun Lapuz, Jun Bernardo, Sonny Directo, Fe Gilbey, Rachel and Edwin del Pilar, Butch Juanta, Ely Quinto, Francis Faustorilla and this writer. True to old Filipino tradition of ''huwag  tantanang silbihan mga bisita," food service resumed as everyone net-worked after the unveiling.

The energy that swirled around the preparation and the strength of the rationale for the event rested partly on the sense of a having a shared history- part of which was contained in the event's circulated brochure. (Below was a reproduction of its contents as prepared by this writer).

Braving New Frontiers

1800s ….MORE than a hundred years ago from today, people from the Philippines set off to seek refuge in other lands to wherever the highs seas would take them.  They sought  freedom from the oppression, destitution and bondage under the feudal masters of their home.

They were Manila men. Many made their way to the northern coast of Australia and found niche in Australia's pearling industry.  Others worked in Queensland's sugar cane plantations. They established families in various settlements in places like Broome, Palmerston (now Darwin) Torres Strait islands and other states. Adhering to their Filipino traditions and their religious culture, theirs became a backbone of faith in their settlements. Others would etch themselves in local history. Heriberto Zarcal became a jeweller in Thursday Island and owned a hotel named Noli Me Tangere.  Zarcal was one of Emilio Aguinaldo's links outside the Philippines throughout  the period of the Philippine revolution through to after the declaration of the first Philippine Independence in 1898. Unsurprisingly, he operated a fleet of pearling boats, all bearing names indicating his Filipino patriotic and nationalistic sentiments.

1900s ...The Philippines held a significant link of history with Australia during the Second World War and played a crucial role in the Allies' effort to delay Japanese assault on Australia. In 1941, with the help of General Douglas MacArthur, a man escaped the initial ravages of war in an exile through Australia en route to the United States of America. He was the Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel L Quezon. War time communiqué and despatches vital to the end result of the war were transmitted from various points in the Philippines to Brisbane and Melbourne in Australia.

The famous words of General Douglas MacArthur "I Shall Return" ( to the Philippines), which he made good a promise  by  his historic landing at Lingayen Gulf in 1945 were  delivered in Terrowie,  a town in the South Australian Outback. The promise that became the lifeline of the Allies' underground movement in the Philippines was delivered by hand by Emgidio Cruz, Quezon's physician all the way from Australia via clandestine channels.  Such fibre of the past that is little known about doesn't undo history nor make it any less meaningful.

1950s...During the 1960 and 70s, many Filipinos sought Australia as their adoptive home. Many arrived to contribute their skills and industry. Others arrived to escape political persecution under the Martial Law and still others came to face new frontiers and establish new beginnings. Today many look to Australia for the realization of their dreams to better themselves and improve the quality of their lives.

The Filipino heritage bears a quiet presence among its descendants. Shelley Reys, a forceful advocate for aboriginal rights once said:  "...My father was one of the nine. His name was Frank, the first child in this second round of children. They knew that life could be difficult if certain standards were not adhered to, an 'unsaid agreement', 'instinct' or 'silent understanding' that served them well. The instinct was to maintain their Filipino heritage, build their standing amongst the community on such a heritage and only then could the family remain intact, free from being removed from their parents and free from the many struggles that other Aboriginal families faced..."  

The first Aboriginal woman to earn PhD from Harvard University, Mary Ann Bin Sallik was of Filipino ancestry along with her cousin former Olympic runner Nova Perris Kneebone. Their grandfathers hailed from Iloilo in the island of Panay.

The first female recording artist in Australia was a Filipino-Spanish singer named Pilita Corrales "...who was shipwrecked on her way to Australia with a circus act in 1958 and rescued by the Navy. She became a star of the Melbourne TV circuit, and became the first female artist to score a hit on the newly-established pop chart, with the song Come Closer to Me."  

Frank Reys, ("The Filipino Boy Who Has Done Well!") was a legend in the horse racing sector. He topped his outstanding career as jockey by winning the Melbourne Cup in 1973  on the horse Gala Supreme. His father was a Filipino cook.

TODAY... Many second generation Australians born to post war Filipino immigrants continue to carve their niches alongside  the best in their chosen fields.  Among those more known to us are Craig Wing, a rugby league player from Sydney Roosters, TV personality Kathleen de Leon, 2007 Australian ranked Number 1 female Chess player Arianne Caoili, Olympic swimmer Dyana Calub, celebrity singer Cate Ceberano and a host of others.

The plaque signifies gratitude for the heritage with which Filipino-Australians establish their places in the Australian multicultural society.

"Today, we remember our beginnings as we also celebrate the chances we made. With the marker that we unveil, we commemorate those who fled their homes in strife and pay tribute to their faith and determination. We, acknowledge too, that by their stories, the option is ours to make the world our oyster."

Subjects
Period : 2001-
Region : Adelaide metropolitan area
Further reading :

Hennessy, N. A Journey In Antipodean Land - The Filipino Heritage in Australia Henley Beach, S. Aust.: Seaview Press, 2004

Aboriginal Women By Degrees, edited by Mary Ann Bin-Sallik, St Lucia, Qld: University of Qld. Press, 2000

Renolds, Henry North of Capricorn: the untold story of Australia's north Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen and Unwin 2003

R.C. Hunt & B Norling. Behind Japanese Lines, An American Guerilla In the Philippines Univ. Press of Kentucky 1986

Connaughton, RM, John Pimlott, and Duncan Anderson The Battle For Manila London: Bloomsbury, UK 1995

(Migration Museum) History Trust of SA. From Many Places Kent Town, S. Aust.: Wakefield Press SA, 1995

R.D.G. Juanta, OAM, Filipino Legacy in Australia Manila: Philippine Normal University Press, 2005

Internet links :

'Pushing the door open' The Age 25 January 2005. viewed:03/11/2007

'Clare Valley to the North and West, South Australia' About Australia.  viewed 04/11/2007

MILESAGO: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964-1975see: Record labels: Astor. viewed 09/11/2007


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