By Dr. Mars Cavestany
At long last! After seven years of cold war, PCC and APCO, two of the leading but warring groups confederating many allied groups under each umbrella, have finally agreed to reconcile.
This was one of the significant historical highlights emanating from the second-in-a series of discussion-cum-camaraderie meetings under the banner of UNIFICATION initiated and convened by PCHN publisher Evelyn Zaragoza in her own right and capacity as a community organizer/leader.
The historical date that goes down as a high-water mark in the epic story of the growing Filipino community in NSW is 22 October 2017, recorded from 2:14 – 5:05 p.m. at the Sizzling Filo Restaurant, 13 Railway St., Lidcombe NSW by Acting Secretary, Pamela Ventura, former President of UPAA.
Outgoing Consul Marford Angeles, who acted as moderator, offered to host at the Philippine Consulate office the soon-to-be-carried out reconciliation meeting among the officers of PCC, APCO including a third body comprised of non-aligned groups or people who are not affiliated with either of these two lead organisations.
Additionally, the highly contentious suggestion by businessmen Ed Alcordo to merge the Philippine Independence Day Ball celebrations which has been conducted separately in the past seven years since the break-away of APCO from PCC was put into a vote and unanimously agreed upon by the body. Consul Angeles emphasized the fact that there’s a lot to iron out in terms of mechanics and details of the proposed combined PID celebration which can be discussed in a different meeting after the said reconciliation meeting.
The prepared agenda and running order ran briskly and without any hitch with past APCO President Jun Salazar delivering the hearty and thoughtfully inspiring opening prayer.
Evelyn Zaragoza’s welcome message set the tone, quoting and reminding everyone of former Consul General Anne Jalando-on Louis’ remarks delivered during the first Unification meeting hosted by PCC last August at Marayong Community Centre. (It must be remembered that Congen Louis was immediately appraised and affronted by the prevailing factionalism so she tried to call for a meet to reconcile the two bodies both claiming to be the peak/umbrella organization but failed as it was generally perceived by many pundits in the community then as too early when affected parties are still licking their wounds.
Zaragoza also read the suggested options for conflict resolution prepared by Dr. Mars Cavestany that became the springboard for discussions. Her famous last words: We are not getting younger and let's leave something that will be implanted to the youth. Please think and reflect, it’s not only the name of the organization which we created and worked hard to establish that will be passed on to our next, future leaders. But they are our actions, good deeds, and intangible virtues and values which we shall impart to them like legacy of parents to their children.”
Consul Marford Angeles highlighted the gathering of many talented and skilled people in the meeting, saying that the combination of these needs to be harnessed so we can move forward as a community. He acknowledged the presence of incoming Consul Manny De Guzman who he says would be able to witness the level of achievement that the community can attain. He also acknowledged Ms. Evelyn Zaragoza for organising the meeting, and Mr. Manny Roux for hosting.
Manny Roux, said, among others, that “we are all salt of the earth…relevance has brought us all here.”
Serna Ladia, reckoned that this gathering is an indication “that we have the same objective” and as (current) PCC-NSW President, she would like “to have peace and harmony in the community. Saying that each of us has a responsibility, she called on everyone to rally with one another, to support, to have harmony and to “seek the help of God.”
Michelle Baltazar, representing the youth shared 3 observations about the community stating that (a) “We are Filipinos first.”(b)“We don’t have the financial muscle.” (c) We have the social muscle and we are unstoppable if we want to do something. She further stressed: “You are the trailblazers and I am proud of the success you have made.” Noting the importance of unity, she encouraged everyone to reflect on where we want our community to be in 10 years.
Ed Alcordo, representing the business sector as President of Australia Philippines Business Council affirmed that “Communities from third-world countries are characterised by disunity and the Filipino community is no exception, however there is unity within the Japanese and Korean communities. He added that “From an outsider’s perspective, there doesn’t appear to be a cause bigger than us.” Comparing and contrasting its CBL’s (constitution and by-laws), he commented that PCC-NSW’s constitution seeks to speak for the Filipino community whilst APCO’s is focused to those individuals and groups who are not represented. He noted that “we should concentrate on things that unite us, not divide us” and mentioned the following great opportunities to shows unity: President Duterte’s state visit to Australia in 2018, Philippine Independence Day celebration, Fiesta Kultura and Philippine Christmas Festival.
Pet Storey, current President of APCO was meant to send Vice-President Charles Chan to read her speech but begged off last minute.
Emailed messages from people who were not able to attend were read out to the body including commentaries from Jun Relunia, Raymond Policarpio, Robert Bock, Marilyn Chun, Lani Larsen, Benjie De Ubago, Manny Diel, Jasper Diaz, and Prof. Mina Roces.
The group agreed that something has to be done. Consul Angeles mentioned three options:
• maintenance of the status quo – Let things be.
• merging of the two organisations (PCC-NSW and APCO)
• dissolution of PCC-NSW and APCO or leave them as is then establish a new body
Mr. Bob Alipalo asked what the problem is. Prof. Ed Escultura replied that one of the problems is that there are two separate bodies, PCC-NSW and APCO. He then suggested that these two should unite, at least regarding the Philippine Independence Day (PID) celebration.
Dr. Raul Amor postulated that the strength of the Filipinos – becoming successful individually – is also our weakness and that “we need to find a reason to be united.”
Ms. Daisy Cummings cited that one of our weaknesses is that “we don’t know community leadership” and without knowledge on how to run a community, we’ll be self-centred. She underpinned the importance of “service above self” and that we need a “transformation of intention.”
Ms. Cora Paras pinpointed the lack of humility friendship, acceptance, harmony and bayanihan spirit as a problem. She said that we should consider our young generations and our newer Filipino migrants. She then brought up the idea of starting a “friendship day”, having only one PIDC, and supporting the Philippine Christmas festival next month.
Ms. Solina Lapalma predicated the following points:
• What is it that we really want as a community?
• No group, big or small, can exist if its members are individualistic.
• We need to develop humility, why we want it and how do we get it?
Consul Angeles opted for practical solutions and sure fire projects.
At this point Ms. Fe Hayward of Hayward Real Estate took the floor and presented her proposal to Blacktown Mayor Stephen Bali re: building a “Philippine Bahay Kubo” at Narrating Reserve which will serve as a gathering/meeting place for members of the community. She asked help from the attendees to come up with a plan which can be submitted to Blacktown Council. Councillor Linda Santos said that she wants to support this project but asked Ms. Hayward to have the compliances ready.
Mr. File Santos, in response to Ms. Hayward, reported that the Knights of Rizal has a project of having a bust of Jose Rizal and a surrounding garden at the Rizal Park in Rooty Hill which will cost $7,500. He said that KOR is proposing this to the local council.
Ms. Ladia highlighted the 27-year existence of PCC and the break-away group (APCO) that was formed only in 2010. She proposed that PCC remains as is and that other groups are welcome to join it.
Ms. Evelyn Opals professed that she supports PCC-NSW due to its history, longevity and track record of organising the PID Ball. However, she lamented PCC’s lack of focus and envisions that it must establish a common ground, encapsulating her thoughts in what she calls SWOT analysis:
• Strength – Filipinos are skilled.
• Weaknesses – crab mentality, fear of speaking up
• Opportunities – recognition of political power
• Threat – negative attitudes
Moreover, she defined the importance of volunteerism (commitment and sacrifice), leadership (have a selection criteria and training), and potential contributions to the mainstream community (e.g. participation in Australian of the Year).
OTHER VIEWS & HOLDING A JOINT/ONE PID
Mr. Richard Ford underscored the “biggest thing that happened to the Philippines” which is its independence. Underlining the importance of looking back at history, he suggested that PCC and APCO should still co-exist but have one group on top which will oversee the two, liaise with the government (e.g. councils), and to which we can submit proposals and the like.
Mr. Ed Alcordo delineated the merits of running one PID celebration and called for a vote seconded by Ms. Lapalma.
Mr. Jimmy Lopez spoke for APCO and clarified that they need to go back to their members before they can decide.
Consul Angeles suggested that if Mr. Alcorcon’s proposal could at least be agreed upon in principle (unbinding), then representatives of various organisations may take this up with their respective constituencies.
The body then voted on Mr. Alcorcon’s proposal through raising of hands: in favour – 39, not in favour – 0, abstained – 2 = 41 votes. Consuls Angeles and De Guzman, for obvious reasons, did not vote. There were others amongst the almost perfect attendance of 57 out of 60 RSVP’d cross=section of leaders who were present but did not vote at all.
Mr. Alcordo then offered a second proposal to come up with a committee of 5 members who shall organise the PID celebration.
Ms. Lapalma echoed the common sentiment of people pointing out that the need to bring the matter first to their respective organisations. which prompted Mr. Alcordo to respectfully withdraw this proposal.
WHAT ABOUT PPC & APCO
Mr. Cesar Bartolome streamlined that the final decision on what to do with PCC and APCO lies on their members. He admonished that if ever these organisations are abolished, instead of having an election of leaders, we should follow a “corporate governance” model wherein the officers would be chosen by an independent selection panel that will set the selection criteria and points system.
Ms. Kate Andres agreed with this suggestion and added that “the government can’t respect us if we are not united.”
Councillor Jess Diaz related the experience of having two groups of the Knights of Rizal in the Philippines but these groups were able to work together. He said that we have no legacy that we can leave to the community, citing that we still have no multi-purpose centre. Whilst he agreed that it is good to have the fiesta and PID celebration, he asked in the same breath, “what is the point?” He argued that the community’s lack of political power is precisely what makes it difficult for project proposals to get approved by councils. He pushed instead for PCC and APCO to toy with the notion of one or two-year plan of having “co-presidents”, and, eventually, resolve other intrinsic problems (e.g. clean up the elections).
FINALLY “RECONCILIATION” COMES TO THE FORE
Mr. Jhun Salazar, past APCO President, confirmed that it is true that APCO’s Constitution seeks to nurture its membership. He then called for humility and reconciliation in order for us to unite which was cheered and welcomed by everybody.
Consul Angeles, quick to take the cue, offered for the Consulate to host a historic reconciliation meeting amongst PCC and APCO officials.
Mr. Alipalo suggested that the meeting should include a third body comprised of people who are non-aligned or not affiliated with either of these two lead organisations.
Consul Angeles added that the PID celebration may also be discussed in a different meeting after the said reconciliation meeting.
Having covered all matters with a fine tooth comb, Ms. Zaragoza thanked everyone who attended the meeting and contributed their views as well as acknowledged the following:
• Manny Roux and the Leon Aguila Association for hosting the event
• Consul Marford Angeles for moderating the meeting
• Pamela Ventura for being the acting secretary
• Rise Roux for recording the meeting
• Sergeants-at-Arms: Jojo Laquian, Ronald Cortez, George Torres
• Photographer: Richard Ford
• People who sent their messages/comments
The closing prayer was led by Fr. Ed Orilla.
SUMMARY OF MAIN POINTS RAISED
1. Issue: Two main bodies (PCC-NSW and APCO) which have different objectives. They also have separate Philippine Independence Day celebrations (ball, get-together).
2. Attitudinal problems: disunity; individualistic attitude; lack of humility, harmony, acceptance, bayanihan spirit
3. Lack of proper community leadership – E.g. Importance of knowledge and training in properly running a community; need for selection criteria in choosing the leaders/officers
4. Lack of political power and “financial muscle”
5. Strengths: Skills, education, “social muscle”
6. Opportunities to show unity: Events such as the Philippine Independence Day celebration, Fiesta Kultura, Christmas Festival, President Duterte’s state visit
SUMMARY OF PROPOSALS:
1. From Richard Ford: PCC-NSW and APCO to continue co-existing but have one group at the top which will oversee the two, and will also liaise with the government (e.g. councils) and to which we can submit proposals, etc.
2. From Ed Alcordo: Have one Philippine Independence Day celebration – CARRIED. He further suggested that there should be an organising committee for this event.
3. From Cesar Bartolome: In case PCC-NSW and APCO are abolished, establish a new organisation but instead of electing officers, there should be a selection panel that will choose the officers from among qualified applicants. This panel will set a selection criteria and a points system.
4. From Jess Diaz: PCC-NSW and APCO come up with a one or two-year plan to have co-presidents, identify the problems and have resolutions.
5. From Serna Ladia: PCC-NSW to remain as is and the other organisations (APCO, etc.) are welcome to join.
NEXT IMMEDIATE ACTION
Reconciliation meeting among officers of PCC-NSW, APCO and non-aligned organisations to be hosted by the Consulate. Meeting to merge PID celebration in one event to follow separately.
TASK FORCE UNIFICATION
As of press time, we received reports that a TASK FORCE UNIFICATION has been created and will be meeting soonest to pick up from where the second meeting left off continue the aims and purposes for which the Unification Movement was kick-started. (All Rights Reserved/MC).