Screams, Whims and a Prayer

October 22nd, 2015 · No Comments

Twenty-five years ago, on a sunny, Sunday afternoon in September, an estimated 30 Filipino organizations had gathered at Lee Meekan’s encyclopedia offices at Earlwood, with much anticipation and hope. The first ever general meeting of the Philippine Community Council of NSW (PCC-NSW) was being held and it was an attempt to unite the community under one umbrella organization.

Mail order brides were the hot issue of the times, and Ambassador Tolentino and Consul Santos had been prodding community leaders to join forces to have a stronger voice in the government.  Sennie Masian had taken up the cudgels along with Dux Maniquiz, Evelyn Zaragoza, Linda Swords and Tess McMillan. Together , they set out to define the parameters and the constitution of the Council with meetings held at the Molina and Pangilinan residences.

Months prior, community groups were already being rallied and encouraged to register their clubs and  join. (Note, I said clubs had to be registered.) I was a newbie on the scene; a hopeless idealist as I was then, I was quick to register the Pilipino Australian Artists Association (PAAA), for proper representation.

On that fateful spring day, tensions were running high, passions were raging, and it seemed that people were trying to out-scream one another. I was half-amused and half shocked.  Maybe, I thought,  that was how they thought their voices would be heard. “They’ve taken it too literal! “  But those screams and whims, and a few spits in between for effect, were to haunt PCC through the years. At the meeting, fights ensued as to who was to be the moderator. First it was Maniquiz, then Diaz took over, but eventually, Councilor Ian Swords, husband of Linda Swords, presided over the proceedings and the first election.

Elected to the first Board were: Jess Diaz, Dom Pangilinan, Manny Diel, Linda Swords, Ric de Vera,  Manny Castillo, Lou-Lou Moonen, Lucy Saladar, Marilou Villanueva, Oliver Molina , and yours truly.  My name managed to slip in after Masian declined to accept the post.   The Board of Directors then voted for Jess Diaz as the first president of PCC-NSW.

Of the four initiators of the group, only Linda Swords remained with PCC.  Masian opted to turn her her back on the very group she founded and attempted to start another group, which failed.  She re-appeared in PCC in 2000, when she was elected as the Secretary during Lolit Farmer’s term.

That was 25 years ago.  I remember enjoying getting acquainted  with the different regional groups and other associations, and camaraderie thrived at meetings. Although that was short lived, there was some semblance of unity in the early days, of being together, of working for a cause and the genuine desire to lift the image of the Filipino.   Perhaps, I was too naïve and the sense of patriotism rushing through my veins that made me want to make the Filipino look good, and  I went to work on getting a logo and the promotional items for branding.  And soon, I got into the ‘beso-beso’ rhythm too.

I recall those fleeting moments of bliss tainted with sentiments, as I also remember the sheer exhaustion from being sleep deprived prior to the big events – the Easter show, the Ramos visit, the Erap visit, the Filcca conferences of 1994 and 2000, the Centennial celebrations, the many Independence day events, Pasko sa Parramatta 1 & 2, Christmas at the Rocks and many others. By 1995, my office seemed like a PCC annex, and during  the Ramos visit, it sure felt like it was the unofficial secretariat.  Although I left PCC in 1997, I remained behind the scenes, on demand, until 2013, propping up presidents.  I abstained by choice during the Lopez and Amores’ terms due to the “hakot system” and rampant cheating that was going on at elections,  I have no doubt, and I dare say, I would have done more than some of those who simply warmed their seats for a year or two.  Although Diaz was around until 1996, he only served for 3 years and was not seen or felt after the Ramos visit.  He resurfaces in 2004 when he declared his intentions to run for political office.

Twenty-five years on, over a hundred volunteers, a handful of genuine givers, and 15 presidents have passed through PCC.  But like a magnet, it seems to have attracted twice as much odd ball characters, name droppers, “I specialists” and papellators.  Likewise, it suffered from the Ramosgate of 1995; the AVO of 2005; the Amorezeimer ghost club apparitions which resulted to the controversial 88-98 win of Amores (88 came-98 voted – and the time when Bulseco first appeared on the scene as a flying voter); the 2007 constitution bungle; the Colladingitis and OLGRhythms of PADER; and of course the Bulsecofication of PCC , the fusion of ignorance and arrogance which has made PCC a runaway train headed for ‘la-la’ land.

Since I have been a PCC supporter since day one, it is sad to see its current state. Where once there was camaraderie and friendship, now there is anger and hate.  While once there were genuine member groups, now ghost clubs have been resurrected again, even after the 2010 clean up of the Amores group which resulted to their dramatic walkout.  Where once clubs were represented by the Presidents, now it is anyone’s guess who is representing what. People seem to be playing musical chairs.  The interpretation of the constitution has been given more twists and turns than Chubby Checker can.  Where once there was inclusivity, now  alienation and exclusivity prevails. Only the “barkada” and the “kakilala” exist. Dare to ask or comment and you’re dubbed “unwanted”. While once there was free expression and exchange of ideas, now it is martial law and the “silence of the lambs”.  Amusingly, they seem to have more guarded secrets than the KGB but the reality is, everybody knows! While once there was an instinctive desire to do right, now all that is wrong is condoned and tolerated.  Words like respect, gratitude, apology and goodwill are almost extinct.  Hey, even the word history is an unknown concept!

Ouch, their feeble hearts will cry!  And all  the former Presidents seem to be watching from the sidelines, commenting from a distance or in whispers, too afraid to speak out in case they might be stripped off their title and omitted from the grand parade.  One former resident keeps saying “Bulseco has to go.”  Another states that “the attitude and behavior” needs to change or else.  Beed keeps circling around issues and reiterating, “But I have to work with these people.”  Sure, she has to work with them, but it doesn’t mean condoning and tolerating the wrong . And it sure is a far cry from harmony!  Past band-aid solutions and turning a blind eye has only amplified the problem.  Worst, they’re in complete denial that there is something wrong and they simply don’t get it!  Are these the leaders, the community deserve?

Yes, 25 years of Pee-cee-cee, and it seems that the screams and whims are still ongoing.  But we sure need more than a prayer.  Amen!

Tags: Grey Matter