Prof Joseleo Logdat and Dr Raul Navarro (in red barongs) at the Philippine Independence Day Ball in Canberra.with the Filipino-Australian community leaders and guests.  (left) Catching up with former workmates Lyn Nadeska, Mai Ann Lim, Diane Thomson, Rachell Angeles, Fe Buchman and Evy Cummins.  Ms Ellen Regalado, Cultural Officer of the Philippine Embassy 2009-2015 with her family at the farewell party in Canberra. Prof Joseleo Logdat and Dr Raul Navarro (in red barongs) at the Philippine Independence Day Ball in Canberra.with the Filipino-Australian community leaders and guests. (left) Catching up with former workmates Lyn Nadeska, Mai Ann Lim, Diane Thomson, Rachell Angeles, Fe Buchman and Evy Cummins. Ms Ellen Regalado, Cultural Officer of the Philippine Embassy 2009-2015 with her family at the farewell party in Canberra.

Canberra Corner by Volet Carolan

Belated Happy 117th Philippine independence Day to all. Canberra was busy with musical concerts, welcome and farewell parties and everything else to celebrate the National Day.
On 28 May 2015 the Filipino Community Council of the ACT Inc (FCCACT) welcomed the newly appointed Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency Archbishop Tito Yllana in a potluck lunch after a concelebrated Mass at the St Peter’s Cathedral in Manuka in Canberra. I have never seen the cathedral so packed…standing room only at the back. His Excellency hails from Naga City so a couple of Bicolano dishes were featured: laing and Bicol Express. As usual the guests welcomed the traditional photo opportunity and His Excellency kindly obliged and so did Ambassador Belen Anota.
A week later, I attended another potluck lunch for the Filipino baritone and pianist who were in their Australian tour who gave us a mini concert singing Some Enchanted Evening, If I Loved You and Aking Inay (this made me sad thinking of my mother who passed away recently). Professor Joseleo Logdat (Baritone) and Dr Raul Navarro (pianist) endeared themselves to the Canberrans with their friendliness and down to earth manners in spite of their hectic schedule which included a concert at the Australian High Court, Australian National University and the Vin d’ honneur attended by diplomats to celebrate Kalayaan 2015. Thanks Leo and Raul. Please come back soon.
We were also honoured by the performance of Leo and Raul in the Philippine Independence Day Ball on 16 June 2015. 250 guests in their formal and others in traditional Filipino ternos and barong attended the Ball. It was a fun evening, which included performance from Miss Cleo Diana who wowed the audience, Uptown Funk for the FCCACT officers and the traditional Cordillera Dance suite performed by ACT-SCA, Philippine Cultural Society and the Filipino Language School of Canberra. The FCCACT President’s awards for community service were awarded to Mr Alistair Coe, MLA and Jesus Is Lord and Norman Kalagayan. The popular Heuristic Band provided the music for the dance enthusiasts which included a dance competition won by Rani and Leo Asuncion. The trophies for best contemporary and traditional gowns were awarded to Nicole Collins and Grace Szabo respectively. Thanks to all the committees including our graphic designer Jem Natividad and emcees James Fullerton and Mikko Calagos.
I also attended the flag raising ceremony at the Philippine Embassy at 8am on 12 June 2015. I almost did not recognize the Embassy officers and staff in their elegant Filipino dresses and barongs. Thinking the ceremony would be held outside, I wore warm clothes and I apologized to the Ambassador who said ‘Patriotism is not in the dress…it is in the heart.” His Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio Tito Yllana also came in spite of the very cold weather that morning. The messages of the Philippine President Benigno Aquino, Defence Secretary and Foreign Affairs Secretary were read after the flag raising ceremony. The Filipino students for the Australian Defence Force Academy were also present. We were served sotanghon sopas, puto and ube macapuno for breakfast. And need I say that everyone was eager to show off his or her dresses at the photo session.
We are currently busy preparing for the Rondanihan concert on 28 June 2015 featuring the Canberra musical ensemble and choir under the tutelage of Prof Ric Calubayan and another fundraising concert for Bohol by the Loboc Children’s Choir and the Woden Valley Children’s Choir on 1 July 2015. I will report on this in the July 2015 issue.
Last but not the least, my friends, Rory Espiritu, Aimee Villaver, Melinda Gutierrez and our better halves and I had a great time at the 60th birthday party of Ike Concha , a very good friend (sweetheart) of my comadreng Mae Cruz. Thanks Ike and Mae for the great Italian food at Lily’s Restaurant and great music by Horizon Band.
We also would like to wish Ms Ellen Regalado, the Cultural Officer the Philippine Embassy from 2009 to the present all the best when she and her family returns to Manila in early July. The Filipino community gave her at a farewell dinner party at Pride of Siam. She was awarded the FCCACT award in recognition of her exemplary service to the Filipino community during her 6 years posting.

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  • Are we already living the apocalypse? 

    Eric C. Maliwat talks to contemporary multi-awarded poet-novelist performer Merlinda Bobis

    Literally, apocalypse is from the Greek word "apokalypsis" which means "uncovering" or revelation. But since the Judaeo-Christian narrative from the Bible contains symbolisms that are interpreted to be "signs of the end of the world", people now see the term as referring to the complete final destruction of the world. There is a rise of interest for this genre of literature and film. To prove my point, we can just check out the latest flix which include my favourite film series - Hollywood's XMEN and its latest offering XMEN: Apocalypse. But its creator Stan Lee and even Star Wars' George Lucas may have to share the limelight soon with someone born in Bicol, Philippines and who is now living in Canberra, Australia.

    Multi-awarded Filipino-Australian contemporary novelist poet and performer Professor Merlinda Bobis uses the power of imagery in apocalyptic writings, harnessing allegory's capability to challenge real-life issues in her book "Locust Girl. A Lovesong, 2016 NSW Premier's Literary Awards Christina Stead Prize for Fiction awardee. I had the privilege to interview her which I am sharing here. You may be able to answer the question above yourself, after considering the profound insights below from our very own Merlinda Bobis.

    ERIC: How does literary art engage this techno-generation with what has now become a 'flat and borderless' world yet still facing numerous challenges in protecting its environment? addressing inclusion and crossing borders?

    MERLINDA : In this social media era when, through technology, we claim to 'friend' anyone anywhere in what we think is a 'borderless' world, sadly borders are becoming more entrenched especially around issues of race, culture, class, ideology, including the varied positions regarding protecting the environment. It seems so easy to 'friend' anyone and everyone in the abstracted, distanced sense—and yet, how do care about our own neighbours across the road who are different from us? How do we care about the creek in our backyard? I miss the intimacy and honesty, and the presence of care, in the word 'friend' or 'love,' for that matter. I believe literature—telling stories—is one way of saving these human needs and aspirations from becoming mere concepts that are glibly bandied around. Through story, we are able to look deep into the human heart, into human relationships, and into the relationship between the human and non-human, which of course includes our environment. These are what I attempt to do in my novel 'Locust Girl. A Lovesong'—and, in fact, in most of my writings. 'Locust Girl' is about the friendship between two girls who walk the desert to find safe haven beyond the border. It is also about the bond between a girl and a locust that enables them to reach that last green haven at a time when the earth has become a vast dry because of climate change. Through this fantastical fable, I raise the question on the ethics of care: how do we care for those unlike us, really? And who are we saving the planet for—only for the elite, or is this redemption for all of humanity and our shared home? Through storytelling, I hope we are able to return the missed intimacy and honesty, the flesh and blood, to the words 'friend' and 'care'—and to actually live them in the story and, hopefully, even in our daily lives.

    ERIC : What do you think about apocalyptic writings regarded as literature of the oppressed, a device using allegories addressing real-life issues? What place does this genre have today that may impact geopolitics and specific challenges societies face? How can they remain relevant and effective?

    MERLINDA : Allegory is a potent tool for storytelling and critiquing real-life issues, and apocalyptic writings may harness allegory for the same reasons. In story, we are able to live reality but at the same time examine it with fresh eyes. It seems there is a trend in apocalyptic stories in literature and also in film, probably because we are, in a way, already living the apocalypse. Most of these stories are, in fact, already happening. They unfold like fables giving a warning or 'a lesson' about the most urgent challenges of our times, like geopolitical conflict, climate change, or the movement of peoples locally and globally. All of these realities are in 'Locust Girl.' But don't get me wrong about the word 'lesson.' While writing about the big political issues, the writer cannot be didactic. Remember, storytelling is also about pleasure, about creating a sense of wonder in a space where your listeners/readers can join and live the journey of your characters. It is only when this happens that your allegory, your critique, or your 'warning'—and also your hope or alternative vision—can be relevant to the reader. Story has to be affective to be effective. Moreover, as a writer who engages politics, I cannot just do an interrogation or critique or examination of social realities. I have to dream up the possibility of redemption, of hope, or of a better way of engaging what it means to be human and interconnected with each other and the environment.

    ERIC : Would you share us your vision of the years ahead in your sphere of influence? What are you happy to have brought to further enhance multicultural Australia from Philippines?

    MERLINDA : I'm keen to adapt 'Locust Girl' and some of my earlier novels into film. 'Locust girl' is a story (and can be a film) about different peoples, races, cultures trying to find some redemption together in an environmentally compromised world. I believe a film about this, which can be enjoyed by young and old, will be relevant in multicultural Australia and also in the Philippines. The Philippines is an archipelago with waters bordering different islands, and with diverse regional cultures and languages, thus daily we deal with differences. More importantly 'Locust Girl', hopefully made popular through film, might be able to inspire us to look beyond our differences and reconnect through a common cause: saving our planet before it's too late. And this salvation cannot just be for the elite or for the chosen few but for all human beings and creatures, and for the water, air, earth. These are our friends too, and we have to care for them as much we do for our closest beloved. If we are to survive, we have to respect and preserve this interconnection among the different beings in our universe. Remember, we are just one of these beings.

    A quick look at her website gives us a glimpse of her earlier years. Award-winning writer Merlinda Bobis grew up in Albay, Philippines at the foot of an active volcano, which figures prominently in her writing and performance. As a child her main interest was painting, but at age ten she began writing poetry because ‘painting with words’ was cheaper. She has published novels, short stories, dramas and poems. Her plays have been produced/performed on stage and radio in Australia, the Philippines, Spain, USA, Canada, Singapore, France, China, Thailand and the Slovak Republic. She has performed some of her works as theatre, dance and music.
    Merlinda has a Bachelor of Arts (Summa cum Laude) from Aquinas University of Legazpi and a Master of Arts in Literature (Meritissimus) from the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. For ten years she taught Literature and English at Philippine universities before coming to Australia in 1991 on a study grant. She completed a Doctorate of Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong where she taught creative writing for more than twenty years. She continues to dream new stories in Canberra.

    'Locust Girl. A Lovesong' was published in Australia by Spinifex Press, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary of publishing this year. The Philippine edition was published by Anvil Publishing Inc. Copies can be bought in both countries by ordering through local bookstores, or directly in Australia from the Spinifex Press website: http://www.spinifexpress.com.au/Bookstore/
    Merlinda will be doing a Reading with other Spinifex authors at Collected Works bookstore in Melbourne on 9 July and a Conversation on 'Locust Girl' with her publisher Susan Hawthorne at the Readings Carlton bookshop on 11 July. She will also be participating at the 2016 Canberra Writers Festival on 26-28 August.

    For more of Merlinda Bobis, visit her website : www.merlindabobis.com.au

  • Canberra March Review 2016 by Bimbi Flor

    (visit: fabulist.wordpress.com)
    (Check: B’s Home Space Solutions on Facebook)

    As you can imagine, Canberra was abuzz with non-stop events and activities to celebrate her 103rd birthday. With Enlighten 2016, Balloon Spectacular, Skyfire, Night Noodle Market, locals and visitors alike were in a spin to choose which ones to join. All this in commemoration of the capital’s naming day.

    I always think the Summer to Autumn transition is the best time to visit Canberra. The days are longer which gives you ample time to fit in everything in your diary. And that’s exactly what an old family friend Roberto ‘Bobby’ Alano did during his month’s stay in the country. A quick hop on a train for a 3 day stopover, his visit to the ACT was hosted by Jo and Dennis Smith of Bruce who made sure he had a chance to explore Canberra at its finest! Bobby, considered almost family brought on from both our fathers’ days in the Philippine Navy, is a hobby photographer. It certainly was a busy short stay to catch up and take snaps to add to daily chronicle of amazing shots from all over the east coast.

    Also in the mix was Seniors Week 2016, a Council on the Aging (COTA) ACT initiative, supported by the ACT Government. COTA compiled a program of around 200 activities that ran from Saturday 12 March to Sunday 20 March. Activities included The Seniors Expo with free bus service for attendees, Walks to the Arboretum, various talks, exhibits and screenings for the target age group. The calendar of events was easily accessible by the launch of their new website, http://cotaact.org.au/news/seniors-week/. While searching for activities, my sister discovered the ‘one night only’ performance by the Blamey St Big Band, featuring Leisa Keen and Tony Haley, at the Canberra Labor Club, Belconnen last Thursday 17 March. The band, named after the street were they began, also featured other musicians like John Black (keyboard), John Mackey (Sax) and Derek (Noddy) Bassington (Band Leader/Conductor) who all live other lives as University/College professors and lecturers! Everyone on the night enjoyed dancing to Swing music and other classics like ‘Mack the Knife,’ ‘Teach me Tonight’ and ‘Moonlight Serenade.’ With its popularity, this event will undoubtedly be part of next year’s calendar.

    Lastly I want to congratulate newlyweds, Mai Ann Lim and Kenneth Sanchez who tied the knot on Saturday 19 March. Blessed by a glorious day of sunshine, the couple were surrounded by the bride’s cousins and close friends as they exchanged vows in Giralang. Fe Buchman and Evy Cummins, were their official witnesses for their special day. A wonderful lunch followed at The Deck at Regatta Point. (http://www.thedeckatregattapoint.com.au/). It was an amazing day and the photos say it all!

    Until next time, Happy Easter, happy reading and be inspired.

  • Canberra March Review 2016 by Bimbi Flor

    (visit: fabulist.wordpress.com)
    (Check: B’s Home Space Solutions on Facebook)

    As you can imagine, Canberra was abuzz with non-stop events and activities to celebrate her 103rd birthday. With Enlighten 2016, Balloon Spectacular, Skyfire, Night Noodle Market, locals and visitors alike were in a spin to choose which ones to join. All this in commemoration of the capital’s naming day.

    I always think the Summer to Autumn transition is the best time to visit Canberra. The days are longer which gives you ample time to fit in everything in your diary. And that’s exactly what an old family friend Roberto ‘Bobby’ Alano did during his month’s stay in the country. A quick hop on a train for a 3 day stopover, his visit to the ACT was hosted by Jo and Dennis Smith of Bruce who made sure he had a chance to explore Canberra at its finest! Bobby, considered almost family brought on from both our fathers’ days in the Philippine Navy, is a hobby photographer. It certainly was a busy short stay to catch up and take snaps to add to daily chronicle of amazing shots from all over the east coast.

    Also in the mix was Seniors Week 2016, a Council on the Aging (COTA) ACT initiative, supported by the ACT Government. COTA compiled a program of around 200 activities that ran from Saturday 12 March to Sunday 20 March. Activities included The Seniors Expo with free bus service for attendees, Walks to the Arboretum, various talks, exhibits and screenings for the target age group. The calendar of events was easily accessible by the launch of their new website, http://cotaact.org.au/news/seniors-week/. While searching for activities, my sister discovered the ‘one night only’ performance by the Blamey St Big Band, featuring Leisa Keen and Tony Haley, at the Canberra Labor Club, Belconnen last Thursday 17 March. The band, named after the street were they began, also featured other musicians like John Black (keyboard), John Mackey (Sax) and Derek (Noddy) Bassington (Band Leader/Conductor) who all live other lives as University/College professors and lecturers! Everyone on the night enjoyed dancing to Swing music and other classics like ‘Mack the Knife,’ ‘Teach me Tonight’ and ‘Moonlight Serenade.’ With its popularity, this event will undoubtedly be part of next year’s calendar.

    Lastly I want to congratulate newlyweds, Mai Ann Lim and Kenneth Sanchez who tied the knot on Saturday 19 March. Blessed by a glorious day of sunshine, the couple were surrounded by the bride’s cousins and close friends as they exchanged vows in Giralang. Fe Buchman and Evy Cummins, were their official witnesses for their special day. A wonderful lunch followed at The Deck at Regatta Point. (http://www.thedeckatregattapoint.com.au/). It was an amazing day and the photos say it all!

    Until next time, Happy Easter, happy reading and be inspired.

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