1) Loboc children’s choir and Canberra hosts with the  Philippine Ambassador Belen Anota before departing for Sydney. 2)Nino Guidaben, Bishop, Matthew Carolan and Father  Ulysses Cabayao at faarewell for Loboc singers. 3) Rondanihan ensemble and choir with Professor Ric Calubayan and Philippine Ambassador Belen F Anota after the concert at the Wesleyan Music Centre in Canberra. 4)  Luz Manalo, AImee Villaver, Judith Vaughn, Volet  Carolan, Rory Espiritu, Jack Vaighn, Melinda Gutierrez and Mae Cruz at the Australian Embassy Manila reunion in Canberra. 5) Front: Mark Barber, Mae Cruz, Luz, Evie and Sophie Manalo, AImee Villaver.  Back row: Mae Cruz, Jack Vaugh, Volet Carolan, Keith Hardy, Rory Espiritu, Mimi Newton, Juidth Vaughn, John Newton. 1) Loboc children’s choir and Canberra hosts with the Philippine Ambassador Belen Anota before departing for Sydney. 2)Nino Guidaben, Bishop, Matthew Carolan and Father Ulysses Cabayao at faarewell for Loboc singers. 3) Rondanihan ensemble and choir with Professor Ric Calubayan and Philippine Ambassador Belen F Anota after the concert at the Wesleyan Music Centre in Canberra. 4) Luz Manalo, AImee Villaver, Judith Vaughn, Volet Carolan, Rory Espiritu, Jack Vaighn, Melinda Gutierrez and Mae Cruz at the Australian Embassy Manila reunion in Canberra. 5) Front: Mark Barber, Mae Cruz, Luz, Evie and Sophie Manalo, AImee Villaver. Back row: Mae Cruz, Jack Vaugh, Volet Carolan, Keith Hardy, Rory Espiritu, Mimi Newton, Juidth Vaughn, John Newton.

Canberra Corner by Volet Carolan

It is 7pm on Thursday 13 August at 7 degrees Celsius. It’s been a very long and cold winter here in Canberra. It even snowed yesterday. I think I just feel the cold now and feel longer as I am now home most of the time and also 30 years older than when I first arrived in Australia. The gas bill is another story. I hear more people talking about moving somewhere warmer but where???? Maybe Darwin will only be the only alternative…having snowed also in other places a few weeks ago. Let us see what winter brings next year.
It’s been quiet here in Canberra after the busy months of June and July with visiting musicians and singers. The visiting Loboc singers wowed everyone especially with the rendition of ‘Rosas Pandan’ with the Woden Valley Youth Choir. Thank you to everyone who contributed a fair amount to this cause.

PROFESSOR RIC CALUBAYAN IN CANBERRA
We were also privileged to have Professor Ric Calubayan of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila mentor the Rondanihan rondalla and both kid and adult choirs who performed on 29 June 2015 at the Wesleyan Music Centre. Prof Ric was a strict headmaster holding practices every night at Ian Bull’s residence. I was really impressed by the dedication of all the Rondanihan and choir members, which culminated in the successful concert. The choir songs were the National Anthems, Our Father, You Raise Me Up, Gaano Kita Kamahal and Alaala. Prof Ric is an accomplished pianist and voice trainer. We had a farewell lunch for him at home when we just all relaxed and expressed our gratitude to Prof Ric. I wish he could comeback again soon. He was also here more than ten years ago.

LOBOC CHOIR CAPTURED CANBERRA
AUDIENCE – they sing with their eyes and heart
Before Coming to Canberra, the Loboc Children’s Choir performed in New Zealand and Melbourne; raising funds to rebuild the devastated area of Bohol affected by two major natural disasters: a 7.8 magnitude earthquake and Typhoon Haiyan, in October 2013 and November 2013, respectively.
The Philippine Embassy together with several Canberra-based Filipino organisations coordinated a joint musical night on 1 July 2015 at the Hughes Baptist Church with the Woden Valley Youth Choir (WVYC) and Loboc Children’s Choir. The WVYC Musical Director, Alpha Gregory, arranged for twenty-three of the Loboc Children’s Choir to be billeted by WVYC families whilst in Canberra.
The night was a great success! Over 350 people came and it was a night to remember. We raised over $5,000 for a one hour performance. (Sally Barber)

Australian Embassy Staff Reunion
I got busy with visitors from Canada. My former assistant accountant at the Australian Embassy in the late 1970s was attending a Serra convention in Melbourne so Luz Manalo and her sisters Sophie and Evie had stopovers in Sydney and Canberra. We took the opportunity to organise a reunion of former Australia based and locally engaged staff of the Embassy in Manila. We sent the invitations through Facebook ad emails. Our former Ambassador Richard Woolcott intended to attend but family commitments prevented him from doing but he was so gracious to call us on the day of the reunion. My BFFs from Sydney, Aimee Villaver (she served as assistant to the Consular officer), Aurora Espiritu (assistant to the Political Officer), Melinda Orbon Gutierrez (assistant to the Information Officer), Melinda’s husband Edgar and Mae Cruz (Immigration officer) and several A-based officers and their spouses came including Jack and Judith Vaughn from Newcastle, Keith and Aree Hardy, John and Mimi Newton, John and Iris Patrick, Adam and Michelle Jones. What is a Filipino party without karaoke…of course we did until late into the evening and some exchange reminiscing the good old days in Manila.
As planned, we had photo opportunities at the Big Merino, Parliament House, War Memorial and a number of kangaroos at the Gold Creek golf course. After 2 nights in Canberra, we took the bus to Sydney. We went on the Sydney Harbour seafood lunch cruise…I’ve never been on one and it was really exciting. This is the best way to show Sydney to the tourists and take photos of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. The next day we went on the hop-on and hop-off bus around the city. This is another convenient way to see several sights around the city without worrying about parking and walking long distances or getting lost. Bondi Beach was of course a popular stop for photo. The last places we visited were the Queen Victoria Building and the Star Casino. All in all it was a successful few days in Canberra and Sydney. They were very excited to buy a few pairs of Ugg Boots, which will come in very handy in the cold Toronto winter days and nights.
FCCACT Preparations for ‘Windows to the World’
Windows to the World is an initiative of Canberra Tourism, which is going to take place on Saturday, 26 September 2015. Several buses will be going around the different participating Embassies ferrying tourists who will be dropped off every hour. Each Embassy will be preparing different exhibits and shows which will depict each countries products, dances, music, festivals and food. The Philippine Embassy asked the cooperation of the different FCCACT associations to perform and assist on this day. This is going to be a hectic day, as all the groups will have to perform once every hour for 3 hours. We will publish pictures and tell you how each group survived the day. The Philippine Embassy ground will be transformed and even the jeepney is getting a makeover.

PASKO SA CANBERRA ON SUNDAY 6TH DECEMBER 2015
Time flies when we are having fun…only 4 months to go and it is Christmas time again. For FCCACT and the Philippine Embassy, it is Pasko sa Canberra again. Preparations are already underway. So anyone wishing to participate as stallholders (food, Christmas decorations, businesses) and entertainers, please send me an email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as soon as possible so you can fill out the necessary forms. The event opens at 10 am at the Philippine Embassy grounds in 1 Moonah Place, Canberra. As usual there will be entertainment all day and visit from Santa Claus at 2 pm. Entry is by gold coin donation. See you all there to experience Filipino Christmas in Canberra.

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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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