United We Stand…Really? (Part 1)

November 6th, 2017 · No Comments

By Deanna Tamayan

Unity!  There goes that word again.  Like a broken record, it keeps rearing its head up every now and again just to rattle us, and then it goes on hibernation again.  Unity has ever been so elusive for the Filipino community.

Since the late seventies and early eighties, attempts to unite various community groups under one umbrella organization had been attempted but foiled.  The Philippine Community Council of NSW  (PCC-NSW) has at least survived 27 years.  Perhaps it lived because it was started with the urging and blessing of the Philippine Embassy and Philippine Consulate at a time when it was needed most.

But the history of the PCC-NSW is dotted with coup attempts.  From day one, the very founders of PCC-NSW to include Sennie Masian, Evelyn Zaragoza and Dux Maniquiz revolted against their own creation and started their own organization immediately after failing to get elected in the first PCC board of directors.  Only Linda Swords, also one of the founders, broke away and remained with the original PCC group with its first President, Jess Diaz, and remained until 1996.

Even Diaz detached from PCC-NSW from 1996 to 2004. He only reappeared when he expressed his interest to run for Council elections.

Then, there was Manny Castillo of Philippine Australian Sports Council (PASC) with Ver Bernardo (Filcos Parramatta) who decided to start their own “Presidents’ League”.  They were there to stop PCC at every turn.  Then Consul General Abadilla tried to mediate between the two groups but alas, Castillo was firm on his stand.  It was only when Lolita Farmer became President of PCC in 2000 that Castillo mellowed.

Villon’s group with Luz Tiqui of the Multi-Purpose Centre fame also left the confines of PCC and a fierce battle in 1995.  The Ramos visit in 1995 saw the community not divided by splintered,  And it would seem that we’re back in that form again.

Oh, and who could forget the battle for the global conference which almost turned into the battle of Hawaii.  At least this time, with the intervention of the USA Filipino group, NAFAA, Lolita Farmer’s Global, Malyn Chun’s FILCCA and Jimmy Lopez ‘PCC collaborated.  But it did have with two co-chairs.

Evelyn Zaragoza’s initiative to unite the community is commendable, if nothing else.  No arguments there!  However, it is rather ironic, that Evelyn Zaragoza initiates the “let’s unite” campaign now – that is to unite and PCC and APCO. It makes me think, why now? How long did it take her to get back into the PCC fold?

While the visible community clamors for unity, I wonder for what purpose?  Is it to simply economise for one independence day ball expense? While both groups scramble for the same people, the reality is that  both groups fail to attract the untapped silent majority who remain indifferent, unmoved and unfeterred.

It was in 2010 when the Amores group (to include Jimmy Lopez, Jhun Salazar and company) walked away from PCC in a fit of rage and decided to form their own group – Alliance of Pilipino Community Organisations (APCO). Since no one asked them to leave, I am sure that they are most welcome to return – but without any conditions.

These facts remain:  Despite its warts and all, PCC-NSW was first;  both organizations are no way near representing the Filipino community in NSW; and lastly, there will be NO merging – NO change of name for PCC-NSW!

Knowing the community history, unification does not guarantee that it will not happen again.  It is the nature of the beast.  We have a tribal mentality and everyone wants to be the king and/or queen of their territory. (Just look at those tiaras?)  There lies the intrinsic desire in Filipinos to be seen – to be heard – to rise above and be the best of the best and the battle to be the “first” ensues.  Even photo sessions are a scramble for who gets to seat or stand next to the title holder. Discussions are not even seen as possible, as logic is simply beyond comprehension.  There are a hundred examples of leaders professing their love and devotion for the community but really are just wanting to establish their own legacy. We can’t even march to the same beat at a Blacktown parade as everyone wants to be the first – and everyone wants to carry their own banner.  It is as if everyone would be remembered – and I hate to tell you this – we are not memorable nor do we create an impact as a people.

The Osmond’s song “It Takes Two” describes the community best. The doctors tried for two; the University of the Philippines Alumni Association (UPAA) was split into two; there are two processions and feasts for the same Virgin Mary; and even the Seniors have made it to three. And just how many Visayan organizations do we have in New South Wales alone?  Look at the other states and you’ll find two of each too – two in Melbourne; two in Queensland (and two fiestas too); two in Adelaide and yes, two in Perth.

Despite our very nature, somehow the politicians need to carry a little of the blame.  They are instrumental in contributing  to the divisiveness of the community and need to be more discriminating in their hand outs. They prey on the individuals for votes in exchange for awards and grants – the latter being ever so attractive.  Stop the grants! The drought will lessen divisions and force people to join in.

And what PCC-NSW needs to do is to think and act, responsibly and professionally as the peak body.  Stop the “pick a buddy”; stop the kakilala system. Evaluate – recharge! Stop the blah, blah, blah.  Act! Stop resurrecting the dead. Let them rest in peace.  Press the reset button. Lead with integrity!  And make sure the Pied Piper leads!


Part 2     –     Tea For Two

Zaragoza continues to plod along for her unification of the Philippine Community Council of NSW (PCC-NSW) and the Alliance of Philippine Community Organizations (APCO).  The last meeting held at Sizzling Fillo in October saw the attendance of only the “chosen” few. In fact, only 57 attended – those guaranteed to be in agreement and newbies who were still in their naïve and idealistic states.   If you were seen as not in favour of the unification you were simply not advised.  Some were even disinvited.  Title holders were of course present, including Consul Marford Angeles who acted as the moderator.

It would seem that there were more APCO-siders than PCC-ians.  And glaringly absent were Ruben and Cen Amores the founders of the break-away group in 2010. Some attendees simply exclaimed it was “such a waste of time.”  Some expressed frustration and disenchantment. I could have told them that!

Amusingly, the talkfest came up with a few suggestions: 1) Have a third group above PCC-NSW and APCO to include members of both organizations; 2) a merger; 3) a name change.  None of which applies.

However, in all air released, a few noteworthy ideas sprouted:  as per Ed Alcordo, President of Australian Philippine Business Council, only PCC’s constitution claims to represent and speak for the Filipino community. APCO does not!  And PCC-NSW started in 1990 while APCO started in 2010 – that’s 20 years after. Shouldn’t it be a first come, first served!

It was obvious that those present were unanimous in wanting one Philippine Independence Day Celebration and to have a committee to oversee the Ball preparations. That does not even make sense! Surely one makes a choice depending on which one is the best.  Obviously, some want to go to both and are worried of the expense.  Oops, but they forgot that there is a third Independence Day party – that of Chris Pilao held at Rooty Hill under the auspices of Rooty Hill RSL.  I wonder, if the group ever thought of asking if Pilao if he was ready to give up his event?  I doubt it!

One sensible resolution was offered by Jhun Salazar. He wanted a “reconciliation” before a “unification” could be had.  The Consulate will host the reconciliation between the two parties at the Consulate. With the new officials at the Consulate who are totally unfamiliar with the characters, that is likely to even be more difficult. Then again, it could be their job initiation. For a reconciliation to be had, one party would have to admit wrong and apologize.  Now that would be a thing to watch!  Let’s not hold our breaths for that!

The meeting also unraveled a plan for a new Filipino community centre. Surprise!!  A “Bahay Kubo” special, to be situated somewhere in Woodcroft. This dream project was subject to the unification of the community.  However, it only focused on the two groups of PCC-NSW and APCO.  Obviously, whoever came up with the idea was banking on Blacktown Council providing a piece of property and was either naïve or not aware that one already exists.  It seems that this person was neither aware that others too have had the same idea. The Multi-purpose Centre is still a waiting game; Plaza Filipino also promised to come up with one.  Would the community really jump in and trust again after all the failed promises?

One wonders too what gave this group of 57 the legitimacy to decide what to do for the rest of the community. They were not representative of the community groups.  How could they be when they did not even represent 1% of the Filipino community.  What made them knowledgeable?  What qualified them to be in “pick and chosen” group? Their thinking can’t even reach out to the rest of the community.

Furthermore, why should this thing called ‘Unity’ be only applicable to PCC and APCO. If people are serious about unity, it should apply to all.  Therefore, in the name of unity all groups should now be one, i.e. the three Senior groups, the two Bicol Peñafrancia events – after all it’s the same novena and the same Virgin Mary; the two Alpha Phi Omega groups; the two Bathurst groups; the three Newcastle groups; and will the five Visayan associations please merge into one (especially those without members). Maybe too, we should have one good newspaper and one radio station; one fiesta, one flag raising event in June; and then we can all rejoice in one Philippine Independence Day Ball.

In the meantime, we, the community will simply have to stand on the sidelines and watch. I am reminded of the poem:  “We the willing, led by the unknowing; are doing so much for so little.  We are now capable of doing anything with nothing.”




Tags: Grey Matter · Lead Story