Following the call for unification passionately and unstoppably began by Evelyn Zaragoza and promoted solely by PCHN as its 23rd anniversary celebration’s underlying theme, the possibility of UNIFICATION is indeed gaining steam.
As of that fateful day of Sunday 20th of August 2017, the first concrete and major step towards UNIFICATION happened via an open discussion on the subject held at Marayong Community Centre with the imprimatur of the Philippine Community Council (PCC).
A brief inspirational talk by outgoing Consul General Anne Jalandoon-Lois started the ball rolling. She stressed the importance of “community building” and called for the crowd of about 150 people in the audience to “rebuild and strengthen” the very foundations of the Filipino community.
After a quick run-down of PCC’s 3 annual sustaining events (the annual Independence Ball and , X-Mas at Tumbalong Park plus PADER), Malynne Andres-Chun, one of the past presidents of PCC who has been tasked to act as rapporteur efficiently laid down the strictly 3-minute parameter given each speaker.
UNIFICATION initiator Evelyn Zaragoza talked first and said “EVELYN please quote from your speech” When queried as to where the whole idea began she said the impetus came
Kate Andres, a two-time serving past president spoke of her love for an organization whose existence she has defended through the years. In the same breath, she acknowledged however that the present is “different from yesterday” and some damages done before are “irreparable” thus thinks that “merging is not a good idea” and opts instead to “start anew” with “new constitution” and all that.
Another past president now elected Councillor of Campbelltown suggested to “start from a clean state, zero, scratch—forming a discussion group that will brainstorm ideas first with no pre-conditions from both parties.” referring to PCC and APCO.
Other past presidents also spoke. Jun Relunia emphasized that the end goal should be towards “inclusion” with “one voice” to promote the common interests and shared benefits for the Philippine-Australian organizations.”Elsa Collado warned against many who want to be President and opined that ‘if two groups both do not want to dissolve then the possible option is to co-exist and collaborate without having to change names.”Rick de Vera, who claims that perhaps he was the oldest in the group, repeated the age-old expression “PCC will always be PCC” and alluded that to inn-fighting, confrontation, and separation happens even amongst couples and siblings. Current prexy, Serna Ladia, thanked everyone who took time out to share many “good ideas “out of which we all “decide which one is the best” even as she cautioned everyone as to “how e portray ourselves” and emphasized that “change must come from within.”
More Passionate Opinions
The robust UNIFICATION discussion per se which lasted almost two hours gave vent to various impassioned calls for “pagkakaisa” (unity) in terms of objectives, goals, purposes, vision and mission all for the greater benefit and welfare of and all Filipino-Australians.
Famous artists likewise inputted their ten cents worth of ideas kicking-off with veteran entertainer Lilian de los Reyes echoing ala-Hamlet, “to dissolve or not to dissolve”, that is the question saying that “everybody is capable” and regardless of whether you are in a position or not the important thing is to “put our efforts together.” Stage director Armando Reyes questioned everyone “what are we really prepared to give willingly” and reminded the leaders that if necessary “start again from the very beginning” with only one all-embracing “objective”. Visual artist-Daisy Cumming, a PCC drop-out and formerly associated with APCO expressed “to let the past be an experience for us to learn and unlearn:
“and bewared of ego-tripping and “self-centeredness.” Arts scholar-critic-educator Mars Cavestany summarized and philosophised three strands of thought pervading in the discussion: “that there exists factional war in the corridors of power; that it has been going on for 7 years and has spiralled out of control therefore we must act now; and that our fates are inextricably linked as ‘ka-puso’ and ‘kapamilya” and re-echoed Congen’s return to the basics of community building.”
Many other similar and divergent opinions were recorded and have been painstakingly transcribed and are printed on page 17 together with extracts from the numerous emails received by Ms. Zaragoza condensed for everyone to run through the plurality , diversity, and exquisiteness of thoughts and feelings expressed by one and all .
1. Ms. Zaragoza further noted and deemed it most important for PCC to disseminate the informational emails to all its affiliates especially those not present in the first meeting. The body agreed that there ought to be a series of further discussions encouraged by PCC as well as APCO to ensure diverse voices are heard and all are fully informed throughout the long process of dialoguing, consultation and synthesizing that hopes to arrived at a conclusive solution to the issue of UNIFICATION, which has been summarized as any of the following possibilities:
1. MAINTAINANCE of the STATUS QUO (As is, Where is)
-No room for unification
-Mind your own business; live and proceed separately based on track record and harvest of achievements and avowed goals
To each our own efforts, own mistakes/flaws, own innovations/changes/concrete projects that impact and benefit the Filipino community at large
- Let history decide
-Both groups agree to a united call for Reconciliation, Healing, Collaboration and Peaceful Co-existence
- Baptise/rename the merged groups with a new overarching/encompassing title e.g.
Philippine Council & Alliance of Community Organizations.(PCACO); Filipino-Australian Council of Elders and Confederation of Community Organizations (FACECCO), United Philippine –Australian Umbrella Organization (UPAUO), Philippine Community Alliance Inc-, NSW ( PCAI-NSW) etc.
-Charter Change ( Create a Volunteer Steering Committee who shall review both Constitutions, amalgamate, amend/correct flaws and weaknesses, and institute checks and balances thus resetting/creating an updated version)
-Create an Advisory Board (Council of Elders) composed of past PCC and APCO Presidents
-Call for a general Assembly of combined PCC and APCO affiliates plus possibly new non-aligned groups and Elect an Omnibus group of X number Board of Officers who shall elect themselves to specific posts (e.g. Pres, VP’s, Secretary, Treasurer, Editor, PRO, Committee Heads etc) as shall have been previously discussed and agreed upon in the revised Constitution & By-Laws
-Enlarge/strengthen membership by inviting/enlisting non-aligned groups
3. DISSOLUTION & CREATION OF A TOTALLY NEW PEAK/UMBRELLA BODY
- Dissolve both PCC and APCO or leave them as they are and
- Start anew via the creation of a volunteer, people-initiated Constitutional Convention that shall formulate a new Constitution & By- Laws based on and inspired by PCC and APCO’s common vision and mission
-Ratify the new Constitution via General Referendum (Before the Constitution could become the law governing the operation of peak body of the community , it would have to withstand public scrutiny and debate then signed/ratified by the majority of Filipino-Australians in NSW.)
- Elect a new set of officers composed mostly of younger leaders with the option to invite past PCC and APCO Presidents as Council of Elders/Advisory Consultative Board
The following extracts represent the summation of ideas and consensus of opinions from various individuals initially responding to the call for UNIFICATION headed by Evelyn Zaragoza, who via the 23rd anniversary issue of the Philippine Community Herald Newspaper called for “reconciliation, fruitful co-existence, and over-all healing by adapting a new collective body with one voice, one direction as well as common goals and aspirations for the betterment of the Filipino community.” Highlights (excerpts) of other wide-ranging responses are as follows:
• There is great potential in the community – to do more, achieve more, help each other more, and promote the interests of the community more. In the true spirit of bayanihan, we can move forward and progress. But this requires a collective resolve and a determination to put the interest of the body above the interests of a few. A strong and united Filipino community would be better able to present and have its voice heard by the government, by the media, by members of civil society, and other stakeholders.(CONSUL GENERAL ANNE JALANDO-ON LOUISE)
• There is so much talent in the Australian-Filipino community that if harnessed less than one roof, or one title, we can move mountains. As one unified group, we may have stronger stand to attain solid benefits and greater access to government – of all levels, in terms of grants, land etc. It will also be more effective when we hand over the reins to the next generation without discounting the selfless sacrifices and efforts of existing and past organizations. (LINDA GERONIMO SANTOS)
• Just take steps/devise strategy to reconcile and aim to have one peak body. A successful outcome will raise our esteem, achieve more, leave lasting legacy and bring glory to our Motherland. The status quo has been a continuing embarrassment to us all and to no one’s credit and any achievements are marred or tainted by self-pride. (JESS DIAZ)
• There were scenarios before: (a) first 3 years of PCC (with Manique group) ;( b) with PASC and Lolita not recognizing PCC? (c) then breakaway of APCO.? If there’s something wrong on both sides, it’s the people running them. All personalities -- and instead of looking at the organization and how they can help, they look at their personal agenda. Tama na nga! ( RIC DE VERA)
• Merge APCO, PCC and other groups under the one roof and under a new name. We make it harder for ourselves to embrace the opportunities and challenges. I also feel like a child of divorced parents. Let's look back in history and say that 2017 was the year we set things right. I call on our present leaders to show us the way and be the change they want to see in the community.(MICHELLE BALTAZAR)
• The only way to do the Unification is to dissolve both bodies and have a new name, new constitution, new address, in short RENEW everything. (LILLIAN DE LOS REYES)
• This is possible if everyone is willing to sacrifice, to embrace togetherness, and to move on. This will be our best gift for the next generation of Filipino Australian community servants” (JUN RELUNIA)
• Establish a unification team that will be composed of non partisan members, people who can share their thoughts without being subjective to their own interest.” (AMOR RAMOS)
• No need to dissolve either bodies They should just have their leaders involved before in the breakaway/split to clear the air. Unity can be achieved when parts agree to work together with one goal for the benefit of all. (CORA PARAS)
• To ensure an effective and peaceful transition of power for these 2 rival umbrella groups should vacate their roles/positions and start a fresh election. A new mandate will enable the reunified group particularly their low ranking officers who have been top performers for many years but unable to get to get a chance to be nominated and occupy the top echelon of the organization. (FRANCIS (Boy) DE LOS SANTOS)
• Let’s start with a clean slate, out with the old guard and in with the new! This is not easy but with goodwill and popular support, combined with dynamic leadership, it could succeed. (NENITA WEEKES)
• Issue-based partnership (is the answer). Structurally, a working party is established that will manage to fruition the achievement of the objective or resolution of the issue. Partnership relies on collaborative actions through a formal organisational structure to achieve a specific goal that is common to partners and/or stakeholders. (AIDA MORDEN)
• It's about time that this subject of unification is discussed openly Time for all of us to walk the talk, not just talk the talk. Draw out a volunteer management plan to avoid overstaying and burn out because they do everything year after year, with the same ideas - stagnant and outdated events. (Michaela Ramas)
• Like the government leaders in Western countries our basis and format is G20, G30 or G40 depending on membership. Only Pres and one VP to represent organization members (must be legitimate & registered minimum members). To satisfy both parties change of new name must be coined from two existing names. Sample - Philippine Council & Alliance of Community Organizations. New constitution, mission and objectives must be derived from both.(MANNY B. CASTILLO)
• Both parties (should) nominate 3 mediators each and hopefully you can find a common nominee who will chair the mediation process. (IMELDA ARGEL).
• Convene a transition United Philippine Australian Umbrella Organization chaired by Dr Zen Amores and Ms. Ladia as Vice-Chair. The rest of the office becomes the transition board tasked to draft a new constitution and bylaws, policies and regulations. Then live happily ever after.(TOM BAENA)
• We need to embark upon some basic principles of unity – the need to have a common identity or vision, a campaign to influence the younger generation. (DAISY ANN GONZALEZ-CUMMING)
• Our elders are taking us back in their past when they newly migrated to Australia, with a lot to prove then, still thinking of past glories. But in our time now, we have assimilated.(ALBERT FRIAS )
• Set aside jealousy and intrigues so typical in our culture then unification should work out. (VIA HOFFMANN)
• To tell all, no holds-barred- in reasonably colorful language is a testament to our indomitable democratic spirit, our resilient culture, and our unfathomable valor as Filipino-Australians. When more unified voices coexist and coalesce, UNIFICATION, naturally reigns supreme. (MARS CAVESTANY)
• I am all for One Direction. Maybe about time we solve this division in our Community. I believe that what we do as individuals or in a group is just as relevant as what the "other groups" are doing. In our Faith COMMUNITY, we talk about justice, equality, fairness, love and forgiveness. I advocate peace and understanding in my line of work. Be a proud, unified Filipino- Australian enjoying this very sublime country we now call home. Mabuhay! (EMILY RUDD)
• Let us involve our young people to assist us in sharing our ‘community building capacity’ so we can be a stronger TEAM –working together and responding to all age groups. Old leaders should show more sense of humility and build up their capacity to be mentors, not tormentors. No ego players please! Let us stop these people from monopolizing’ (PENNY PERFECTO)
• I have seen how the two groups have operated and ran its organization and meetings. I also seek unity but am also wary of what motivation has been behind a lot of the people's well meaning comments. Unity must mean being of one mind, one objective, respect and non-ego seeking motivation but to seek only the betterment of the Filipino-Australian community on the whole. So until we can do that and set aside difference and corruption to enable accountability for each board member to its peers, I am sorry to say it will never be appealing to the younger upcoming youth. ( RICHARD FORD)
• I tried my hardest to keep an open mind, but I gave up. A peak body that celebrates Filipinos thru an annual ball lacks the creativity and foresight to serve their very own people. Furthermore, the vision and mission of PCC-NSW seems to be limited, lack creativity and many of its former leaders are more on a power trip with the title/status given to them. I've been a member and director in the past, and I've now removed myself from any future dealings with PCC-NSW for these very reasons. (MIKO SELORIO)
• Let us look at the bigger picture. What is it do we desire to accomplish as Filipino Australian in this beautiful country of ours - Australia? (LUZ PRESS)
• Very ambitious objective. Go for it. You might just be able to get it happening and going! (ROD DINGLE
• UNIFICATION issue to be confined to organisations only and nothing to do with personal matters and personalities. It would be nice (if rather naive) to think that these Filipino organisations are totally independent of personal matters and personalities. (DIZZY DIZON)
• Send both organization’s leaders to Mindanao to prepare soup kitchen to indigenous people to prove their sincerity to serve the less fortunate.(MARX CANOY)
• Interesting. Yes there is definitely a benefit to have a stronger voice so that we can raise issues of importance to us. (MARISSA MEYN)
• YEMCHA – (Yes to Merger and Change!) Reprepresentatives from both organizations will meet for the Unification Process for a definite period of time and at which cost will be borne by both parties. Among the topics to be considered are: type of organization of the new body; winding up and dissolution of the affairs of the Council and the Alliance, determination-selection process, celebration. Finally, an end to conflict of ideas and of personalities (MANNY ROUX)
• I am young and new. Hindi ko alam kung ano talaga ang punot dulo ng conflict. I am disappointed with what I saw and what I observed. I said to myself I don't want to be a member anymore dahil wala akong mapulot na magandang values sa mga leaders. As a new member, I can consider myself as an active supporters to the Filipino community most specially when there is a fundraising para sa ating mga less fortunate na kababayan sa Pilipinas pero what I can observe is para lang sa mga kapakanan ng may mga katungkulan. (ALMA MIDDLEBROOK)
• True humility and generosity are the top factors to unity and peace. Only with these two values can one avoid being self-centered, hence will become more objective and focused on the vision/mission. Hope it will materialise. (SOL LAPALMA)
• Wouldn’t it look better if the headline speaks: APCO and PCC sets aside difference merges to establish Filipino community peak body? This is me thinking ideally but if people involved in the conflict cling on to their ego, pride, and personal interests, unification will remain an afterthought. (DAVE TAN)
• With the split of PCC into two groups, the dream seems more difficult to become a reality. At this point in time, it may not be productive to go through what happened and worse engage in a 'blaming game'. I feel that we need to take little steps at a time towards healing and moving forward. My view is that going for the "instant" dissolution of both groups and having one group could present issues that would set us back further. (VIOLI CALVERT)
• This is a very noble and big task. We always aim for a unified, strong, body for the Filipino community. (SERNA LADIA)
• I believe that if we are thinking and acting as one, we will be able to assist our compatriots who have been duly elected to the positions they hold now in supporting legislations that will benefit the multi-cultural community that includes us. Let us show and continuously prove that we, Filipinos, are uniquely cohesive and we think as ONE...... ISANG BANSA, ISANG DIWA. (LINDA BAISA).
• Whether the collective path we choose be division, unification, cooperative, co-existence or subordination, the most important factor to consider is the well being of the ordinary Filipino resident in NSW. Competition is inherently adversarial. Cooperation and peace, on the other hand is the state most conductive to advancing the collective interests of the Filipino people in a foreign country. (PERRY PERALTA)
CONDENSED, EDITED & PRESENTED BY: Evelyn Zaragoza and Mars Cavestany