It took a long time coming.
The clamorous and vigorous attempt to unify the Filipino community in NSW instigated by Evelyn Zaragoza, publisher of this newspaper finally came to a not-so-dramatic ending with the much-awaited RECONCILIATION meeting between the break-away groups of APCO with the mother organisation PCC-NSW over and done with, as dutifully engineered by the Philippine Consulate during the last remaining days of outgoing Consul General Marford Angeles in January 16, 2017.
It should be recalled that since June 2017, a series of exploratory consultative and educative public forums were orchestrated by PCHN publisher Evelyn Zaragoza and duly documented by this writer-editor in banner headlines tracing the development of the UNIFICATION MOVEMENT in its monthly issues beginning June-July 2017 through to the present , generating a massive information campaign of underlying issues and concerns and publishing as well the consensus of opinions from various respected leaders and so-called movers and shapers of the Filipino-Australian society.
Needless to say, it’s been in the works since perhaps the earliest recorded history of Filipino migration in Australia. As our population rose to become one of the top ten sources of overseas migrants, it is but natural that more and more intrinsic, internal, and germane conflicts floated along.
It has been said that where there are Filipinos, there will always be disunity so much so that the issue of unification has grown whiskers. The longest surviving confederation of Filipino organizations is in itself fraught with political strife and coup attempts but nothing as major major as the famous walk-out of the Amoreses almost a decade ago and the consequent formation of the APCO has put PCC-NSW on tenterhooks enough to reinvestigate its reason for being.
IS IT REALLY CLOSURE OR IT REMAINS TO BE SEEN
When all is said and done, the final verdicts as to the issue of reconciliations are simply NO RECONCILIATION!
But, on a more positive note, a joint statement struck between PCC-NSW and APCO which turned out to be more like a tripartite agreement between the previously opposing parties with the Philippine Consulate thrown in as peaceful negotiator achieved some kind of an amicable agreement best left for our readers to decipher closely and reflect on what the following statement shall mean to them now and in the long run. Here goes...
On 16 January 2018, the Philippine Consulate General in Sydney hosted a meeting between the leaders of the Philippine Community Council of New South Wales Inc. (PCC-NSW) and the Alliance of Philippine Community Organizations Inc. (APCO).
The leaders affirmed their groups’ commitment to effectively serve their respective constituents and the Filipino community at large. They likewise both pledged to continue working with the Consulate in promoting and protecting the interests of all Filipinos in NSW.
PCC-NSW and APCO will continue to carry out their respective projects and mandates, and work with the Consulate towards harmonizing their respective programs to maximize efficiency, resources and output. The Consulate will assist both organizations in exploring joint activities and other possible areas of cooperation, with concurrence of their respective memberships.
PCC-NSW was represented at the meeting by its President, Ms. Serna Ladia, and Board Members Mr. Alric Bulseco, Ms. Mercy Jones, Ms. Angie Jenkins, and Ms. Rowena Gonzaga Turnbull, and APCO by its President, Ms. Pet Storey, and Founding President and Adviser Dr. Cen Amores, Immediate Past President and Adviser Mr. Ruben Amores, Adviser Mr. Jimmy Lopez and Asst. Secretary Linda Price. Acting Head of Post Consul Marford Angeles represented the Consulate, joined by Consuls Melanie Diano and Emmanuel Guzman.
The parties plan to meet again in the next months, as well as maintain open communication and effective coordination into the future.
PCHN conducted a quick random survey amongst the very same people who actively participated in the series of Unification Movement Public Discussions and culled the following initial feedbacks.
Jhun Salazar, who for the record was the first ever who stood up and advanced the notion of “reconciliation” between APCO and PCC, has this o say: (EVELYN NASAAN ANG COMMENT NI JHUN. PASULATIN MO SIYA NG SINASABI NIYA SA IYO PARA SA KANYA MAGSIMULA PLEASE).
Who does not know Blacktown Councillor Jess Diaz, the first Filipino political face NSW has ever encountered. He said “Good dialogue, warm relationship, motherhood statements! Unification? No. Focus on goals and forget and bury unification for another day.
Perhaps one of the most outspoken and creative younger generation of leaders we have who unfortunately is also a disillusioned fall-out from PCC_NSW is Mark Selorio who thinks: “This is not a merger, isn't it? If both organisations continue to do their job and serve the greater community, it's fine. No need to merge, but perhaps if they can do a bigger collaborative project together (Independence Day Ball or President's visit) instead of tree planting projects, the Filipino community could appreciate it more. They have good leaders, they just need to think bigger picture.”
Worse, we get an honest, in-the-face reaction of an adopted Filipino supporter Robert B. D. Bock, who dismisses the whole shebang thus: “I’m sorry but it looks like same old, same old (faces.) Where is the new blood?
As always there are two sides to a coin such that there are likewise more welcoming, positive comments to lend some balance.
Atty. Tom Baena is perhaps the first Filipino elected director of a huge RSL club who is quick to gush: “One small step taken by a few leading to a giant leap of community harmony and prosperity.
Still, some of our concerned citizens wants to admonish everyone of their obligations:
“It is wonderful to know that both parties have agreed to work together for the good of the Filipino people. The people around us are fully aware of the great contributions that we have as part of the community. Filipinos are full of enthusiasm and charisma. Wherever we are, we excel. Our goal is to encourage and lift each other up. And be there for the good of all not for personal gain. Having a humble heart will make it happen. This is what both parties are doing. Well done! As we continue with our desires to move on and focus more on the positive, with the help of God, we all can do what needs to be done. Let us be a blessing in the lives of others. With many willing hands to do the work, we can accomplish much.Thank you everyone.
That was a message from Luz Osbourne. Of equal resonance is former PCC-NSW President Jun Relunia’s thoughts:
“The key message of the tripartite statement issued by the Philippine Consulate, APCO and PCC - NSW ( to me an agreement that will bind the three parties) is that each can continue their own projects and activities and work with the Philippine consulate to harmonise these activities. Also by this statement both APCO and PCC - NSW can explore and undertake joint projects with the concurrence of their respective memberships.
For me there is one important ingredient that is missing on this agreement and that is an agreement to meet regularly ( say quarterly) to explore joint projects that will help the Filipino Australian community. The Statement only states that the parties will meet again in the next months. The statement / agreement for APCO and PCC - NSW to meet regularly with or without the presence of the Philippine Consulate will enhance the prospect of both parties exploring joint projects and advocacy beneficial to the entire Filipino Australian community in NSW.
One such project is a functional Filipino Australian community centre. We have already the MPC in Blacktown and what APCO and PCC - NSW is to explore on ways of improving the community centre to become a truly functional centre thru the support of Federal and NSW state governments and Blacktown City Council and the support of Filipino Australian community.
This is a project that is achievable with joint commitment of APCO and PCC - NSW in coordination with the present management of MPC.
Despite his proximity Ishko Lopez delivers what is expected of him as a leader. His general comments:
“Many thanks for sharing this email/letter from the Honourable Ambassador Cruz to our good friend Mars. In regards to the contents of the article between PCC-NSW and APCO. I personally feel that genuine reconciliation between these 2 groups will ot succeed this year or perhaps another year or years (who knows). As a former OFW community leader in Saudi Arabia for 22 years, I had this kind of experience before and it took years to resolve and not even the Philippine Embassy and Phil Overseas Labor Office/OWWA intervention worked. As always, the problem of factionalization and tribo-tribo system is always at the center stage. There was an absolutely ethnic divide syndrome in terms of running a a pinoy community organization aroudn the globe and there's a number game approach which plays an important role to gain leverage on every issue whether an Ambassador or Consul is present to mediate between warring factions. Perhaps our crab mentality will never wane wherever we are and wherever we maybe. It was a exhausting and draining experience to be a part of any group meeting involving pinoy association/organization and based on my experience, every elected leader does not want to give even an inch to every argument/deliberation whether it's a planned community event or cultural celebration and for me, it's just a waste of precious time of every attendee as it was a never ending story of proving who is the best among the rest on every issue the protagonist deliberate. Right now, I believe that unless PCC-NSW and APCO back down from their recriminating ways of dealing with any concerned issue(s), genuine and lasting reconciliation between these 2 groups will never be attained. At this point in time, we can feel and see total disenchantment from the pinoy community in general as they await the result of this reconciliation process. I believe it will be a long and tedious work in process for all the involved parties to come up with an effective formula to bring and achieve peace and harmony in NSW that we clamor for so long and after many years of failed expectations. For now, I am not losing hope and I continue to pray that one day, everybody will say - 'We are ready to unite and work for the common good of all of us pinoys in NSW. Unless this happens, we have to live by the day and as we pinoys say - Pagpapasa- Diyos na lang natin ang kahihinatnan ng walang katapusang pagsubok at pakikibaka sa ating buhay kahit saan man tayo naroroon"
NOT THE LAST WORD
“I have read through the statements, and I have attended at least one your 'unification' meetings. In response to your request for comment, I have this to say: Personally, this issue of 'unification' or 'reconciliation' does not affect me. Further, I believe that the issue has no real impact on the larger number of Filipinos in Sydney or across Australia. The organisations involved with PCC-NSW, APCO - or the FILCAA for that matter - comprise only a very small section of the total number of members of Filipino-Australian community. They do not represent the rest of the Filipino community who are not members of these organisations. In effect, they do not represent every member or a great majority of the Filipino-Australian community.
That said, I would like to see these organisations on friendly terms, working alongside each other on occasions. Whichever was founded first is of no great importance to me, especially considering that the truly first Filipino-Australian organisation in Sydney - and in Australia - was founded back in the mid-1960s - as was the first Filipino 'Federation' - both of which, as far as I know, have been defunct for decades.
What I know is that conflicts among Filipino-Australian organisations reflect badly on all of us, and not just on the organisations. This is another reason why many members of the Filipino community do not join existing Filipino organisations. I am a member of the Ateneo Alumni Australia, but I have always resisted this organisation's joining the PCC-NSW precisely because I could see it being dragged into the conflicts of a larger organisation with agenda that do not represent the true spirit of my old school in the Philippines.
A sticky point of conflict has been the idea of holding only one Independence Day Ball, organised by only one organisation in collaboration with the Philippine Consulate in Sydney. This seems unreasonable to me, even ridiculous. How could one fit in every member of the Filipino community - and friend - who wanted to celebrate Philippine Independence Day in single ballroom? The idea behind being able to accomplish this has been to price admission tickets beyond the affordability of the Filipino-Australian majority. The idea of democracy gives way to an elitist minority. My view is that the Philippine Consulate or the Embassy holds a Philippine Independence Day Ball on their own. After all, it's a 'Philippine' celebration ~ but open to any member of the Filipino-Australian community on a first come, first served arrangement. The Filipino-Australian community should then be able to hold their own Independence Day celebrations wherever and whenever.
That's my own take.
I wish your efforts in bringing 'peace' among the existing Filipino community organisations in Australia. And I wish these organisations would swallow their pride and co-exist without trying to outdo each other.
As we go to the press, there are last minute messages which we could no longer include in this issue. Watch out or more feedbacks. (Mars Cavestany/All Rights Reserved))