Reminiscing Philippine Independence Day Celebrations

June 11th, 2020 · No Comments

By Benjie de Ubago

5The dancers of the Philippine Folk Arts Group of the 70s.

In the time, I have lived in Australia, all 50 years of it, I cannot remember a time when Philippine Independence Day had not been celebrated – until now, 2020.

Gone are those days of endless dance practices; the rush to find the evening gown to wear; the panic to get that Barong Tagalog all pressed are all but distant memories. And beso-besos are definitely, simply a thing of the past. Unable to celebrate fully, let’s reminisce the good times. 

The dancers of the Philippine Folk Arts Group.

The excitement would slowly build up prior to June 12 and burst into a crescendo.

Filipinos were still few in numbers in the late sixties and early seventies, and it seemed like everyone who was anyone was there at the Consul General’s hosted breakfast at the Philippine House.   We were dancing either at the Consulate or at Embassy in Canberra. Shivering in our native costumes, we would step on the front lawn grass moist with the morning dew and proudly danced the tinikling until our toes were blue.  Then, we would go home for a siesta and get ready for the ball. 

The first one we ever attended was somewhere in a hall in Mascot with the sophisticated Junie Morosi hosting the event as her brother, Rico Morosi was the club president.  Junie Morosi went on to work at the Parliament House. The Independence Day balls then moved to Chevron Hotel in Kings Cross with officers of the Philippine Australian Friendship Association and the Federation like Eduardo Campos, Chiqui Aldeguer, Salve Martinez Gil and Tony Dedal in action. Others who took on the organizing roles were Arcenio de la Vega, Dr. Severino, Larry Rivera, Nita Christian and Ampy Natividad.

Hosting of the event in the late 80s then shifted to the Phil-Aust Country Club with Adolfo and Marietta Cruzado and Jess Diaz taking the lead. It was complete with a Miss Philippines beauty pageant. The event lasted until 1996 when the Philippine Consulate headed by Consul General Ariel Abadilla took over the event to pave the way for the Philippine Centennial celebrations. The celebrations included a parade and flag raising ceremonies in Parramatta, a sister city of Cebu.  The ball was held at Parra-Villa in Parramatta with Leo Valdez as the special guest. In 1997, the Ball was held at the Sydney Hilton with Raul Manglapus as the guest of honour.

The Centennial Celebration in 1998 sparkled at the Star City with Basil Valdez and the presence of the entire diplomatic mission.

The Philippine Community Council of NSW (PCC-NSW) took over hosting of the Ball in 1999 which was held at Sheraton on the Park and has been celebrated for the last 21 years despite the mushrooming of inconsequential events in the latter years.  The community did the rounds of Sydney’s classy hotels, from Chevron to the Boulevarde, the Sydney Hilton, the Regent, Westin, Four Seasons, Sheraton in the Park, Rosehill Function Centre, and the Waterview at Olympic Park.  Also notable in the earlier days was the presence of prominent Filipino government officials like Raul Manglapus, Senator Ralph Recto, Ramon Magsaysay Jr., and top Filipino artists like Leo Valdez, Basil Valdez, Geraldine Mackay, RJ Rosales, Marco Sison, Dexter Villahermosa, Jerson Trinidad and the Bayanihan dancers.  Such caliber of Filipino guests has not been visible for a time especially in the last few years.  Sadly, some have lost the essence of the celebration and it has become simply for show. Once we stood so proud, the events of late has slowly slipped to knee-jerkers and eye poppers.  While we used to say wow, we now say “what are they doing?” or better yet, “what were they thinking?”

The traditional Rigodon was initiated by Consul General Libran Cabactulan in 2000 as he led the dance as an introduction of the PCC-NSW affiliates.  It was Consul General Theresa Lazaro who rolled out the flag raising events at various councils as a way of establishing good relations with the local councils. It continued on where the Centennial left off but expanded to other councils and regional towns that stretched Independence Day to a month long celebration.

The corona virus may have wiped out the crowns but the spirit of patriotism and/or nationalism has not waned. The Filipino spirit lives on. With Covid restrictions are a little more relaxed, a few will be celebrating still however way they can. “

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