PCC History – As I Saw It, As I Lived It

February 6th, 2021 · No Comments

By Benjie de Ubago

The birth of a child comes with a mother’s piercing scream.  From the pain, comes the joy. Such was the case with the birth of the Philippine Community Council of NSW (PCC-NSW) on September 1990 at Earlwood, NSW.  Only this time, tensions were running high, and the mothers, the fathers and attendees were trying to outdo each other with their screams.  More bewildering was why the parents abandoned the child immediately after the first ever PCC Annual General Meeting and elections.  Although there were good times and notable achievements, those screams became routinely part of the PCC nightmares that kept recurring through the years.

The raging problem of mail order brides in the late eighties was the impetus for the formation of PCC. With the prodding of the Philippine Ambassador, Rora Navarro Tolentino, and with the encouragement of Marina Ruivivar of Melbourne, Sennie Masian along with Evelyn Zaragoza, Linda Swords and Dux Maniquiz took the cudgels of forming the first umbrella organization which has come to be known as the Philippine Community Council of NSW.  Although there were other attempts made in the past to form peak organizations, they were short-lived and simply faded away. With the growing number of Filipinos in Australia, perhaps it was just the right time and the community was more accepting. Surprisingly, PCC has endured and survived the screams, schemes, whims and battles through the years. And yet today, as it enters its 31st year, once again, it teeters on the brink of irrelevance.

Elected to the first PCC Board in September 1990 were:  Jess Diaz (who was subsequently voted as President), Manny Diel (VP external), Dom Pangilinan (VP internal), Linda Swords (Secretary), Ric de Vera (Treasurer), Oliver Molina (PRO) and Directors included:  Manny Castillo, Lou-Lou Moonen, Lucy Saladar, Marilou Villanueva and myself, Benjie de Ubago.  I sneaked into the ranks when Sennie Masian after being voted in, stepped down. Unhappy with the election results, Masian and company walked out and started their own, Filipino Coordinating Council (FCC) but it was short-lived.

There have been 18 presidents since Jess Diaz and over 100 volunteers have walked though PCC and gave of themselves.   Of the 18 presidents, I found only two were visionary –  Jess Diaz and Atoy Sayas who looked at PCC from a wide angle lens. Kate Andres has been most passionate about PCC and has remained constant in her support for PCC whether from the helm or from the sidelines. She fought diplomatic officials tooth and nails and warded off opposition to maintain PCC’s status as the peak body organization. But then, we acted like one too! Credit to Jess Diaz and Linda Swords for steering PCC in the right direction in those  early days. To lift and project PCC on a professional level, the corporate image for PCC was create and designed by Ideas for Sale.

Jess Diaz was re-elected for a second term but moved on to lead the national body, the Filipino Communities Council of Australia (FILCCA).  Manny Diel, Vice President External  took over the reins of PCC.  The rest of the presidents have been activity driven, some more than others, but definitely not purpose driven.  Some had absolutely no clue and were there to simply parade.  As one Consul General described PCC in the last decade, “If FILCCA is on the Federal level, PCC should think State, not Barangay mentality.” 


PCC was started with the best intentions and for a while it gave the illusion that the community was united. It was marked by reaching out, building relations until towards the end of the decade. There was mutual respect, fellowship, and a kind of fraternal sharing especially with regional associations. Attending club functions meant seeing different faces, unlike now wherein club names and venue locations may vary,  but the faces remain the same. Some ghost clubs have entered the twilight zone.

In the early days, there were dialogues with Philippine and Australian government officials (Labor and Liberal) on issues of concern for the benefit of the whole community. PCC’s most notable achievement was helping eliminate the stigma of the mail order bride, and for this, Linda Swords gets credit for her work.  Then, there was the inclusion of the Filipino language in the school curriculum. Dr. Pat Ceballos, a former principal of De La Salle took the initiative to start the Filipino Language School at St. Claire under the auspices of Samahan Kawayan and Emily Repinsky, a social worker.  And this is where an umbrella body proved necessary. Kate Andres lobbied the government along with Jess Diaz and Linda Swords who were part of the government’s education committees. Lastly, Filipina teacher, Erlinda Gillies helped produce the syllabus for the subject.  Another worthwhile accomplishment was the recognition of the educational qualifications of other Philippine schools. Besides University of the Philippines and Ateneo University, qualifications from University of Santo Tomas, De La Salle, Mapua, Centro Escolar and others were finally recognized.      

PCC welcomed dignitaries like former President Corazon Aquino (1993), Senators Raul Daza, Leticia Shahani, Ralph Rector with his wife Vilma Santos, and other politicians from the Calabarzon Group for community forums (1994 & 1995), and then Vice President Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada (1996).  History was made with the State Visits of President Fidel Ramos (1995), President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (2007), and President Benigno Aquino III (2012).  The State Visit of Fidel Ramos also included the Trade and Arts exhibit at the NSW Contemporary Museum, and the fiesta type celebration at Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour. As a prelude to the Centennial Celebrations in 1998, Philippine flag raising ceremonies was started in Parramatta in 1996 being the sister city of Cebu.

Together with our affiliates we promoted our culture, singing and dancing in the streets and  participating in Australia’s multicultural events such as: at the Royal Easter Show (1991), Philippine Independence at the Rocks (1994) and  Darling Harbour (1996); Sydney Olympics (2000) and Pasko sa Parramatta in 2002. 

When nature created havoc, fundraising appeals were conducted for the victims – Mt. Pinatubo (1991), Bushfire Appeal (1994), Payatas (2000), , Ondoy (2009), Cordilleras (2009), Shine for Queensland Floods (2011), Sendong Appeal (2012), Bopha/Bushfire (2013). Humanitarian contributions were also made to the Gawad Kalinga Village (2004-2005), Juriel Amora, the boy with prosthetic limbs (2004-2019), and the ABS-CBN educational assistance to a school in the Philippines. 

The early days also saw PCC collaborating with Manny Villon’s Multi Purpose Centre and Manny Castillo’s fiesta albeit each one was independent from the other.  Most of the early PCC officers were present in both groups and contributed much to their causes, including assisting to obtain grants for the MPC.  Unable to make PCC president, Manny Castillo left PCC and started his own group, ‘All The Presidents League.’

 In 1995, for the State Visit of President Fidel Ramos at Darling Harbour, all came to a head. In partnership with the Philippine Embassy and the Consulate, PCC took the lead for the planning of the event, but everyone fought for attention in the most ridiculous way. At a planning meeting, someone went on a screaming frenzy yelling “ang babastos ninyo.” Right there and then,  the community was not only divided but splintered. 

Manny Villon clung tightly to his MPC as if it was his and Luz Tique’s very own. . Villon’s statement “Dito sa MPC, ang Diyos ay Kayumanggi” perhaps was revealing and perhaps meant excluding those off colour . They asked for donations but excluded everyone in the plans.  Although Villon boasts of the premises at Blacktown being mortgage free, it has remained a useless piece of property as it can only accommodate less than 100 people and it still awaits a Council rezoning .  Despite the government grants and donations that have been generously poured into MPC, the community has never been able to fully utilize it.

At the 1996 elections, the battle was between Linda Swords and a second term for Kate Andres. Two ties and Andres won in the end. Diaz stormed out of the elections screaming “PCC is dead, PCC is dead!”  He then disappeared from PCC and reappeared in 2003 when he was running for Council position. Then he disappeared and reappeared again in 2007 for the Global Conference.  Still, PCC survived.

Philippine Independence Day Balls were previously organized by Philippine Australian Country Club with Jess Diaz with Adolfo & Marietta Cruzado. In 1996, 1997, 1998, the Consulate and the Centennial committee (majority of who were PCC directors) had taken over organizing Philippine Independence Day Ball as a lead up to the Philippine Centennial Celebrations.  The flag raising ceremony was started at Parramatta, the sister city of Cebu and special guests – a politician and an entertainer – were brought in from the Philippines. The Centennial celebrations culminated with the Kalayaan Concert at Sydney Town Hall and Philippine Independence Day at Star City with Basil Valdez as special guest.

Ric De Vera took over the PCC reins  in 1998 and participated in the Centennial celebrations organized by the Consulate. Membership to the Centennial committee was by screams only and included non- PCC members.  It was only in 1999 that PCC took over the Philippine Independence Day Ball. De Vera had his own meltdown too over the positioning of his photo on the bottom right hand side of the page.  “Malalaglag ako!” he yelled.

Lolita Farmer clinched the 2000 Olympics participation and Consul General Cabactulan introduced the Rigodon at the Philippine Independence Day Ball and PCC’s 10th Anniversary.  It was meant to replace the long-winding roll call of members. It served its purpose for a while, but as the years went by, the true essence of the Rigodon was lost to simply – “what is that!” – and yet, the roll call still continued.  The Payatas Appeal featured Pilita Corrales and proceeds were diverted to Fil-Aust Trust banks in Quezon City and Nueva Ecija to assist small business entrepreneurs.


Rigodon de Honor in 2005 with the participants in tiaras and sashes. The Rigodon was introduced by Consul General Cabactulan in 2000.

By the second decade, PCC was faltering.  Farmer was re-elected for one more year, then  Malyn Andres-Chun took over in 2002.  With the initiative of then Consul General Collinson, “PASKO Sa Parramatta “ (Parramatta being the sister city of Cebu) was staged. The event was not a duplication of the fiesta and it had the Filipino Christmas feel.  There were carolers, Christmas décor from the Philippines, our parols hang on the trees around Parramatta Town Hall and passerbys danced with us at the plaza..  Pasko at Parramatta lasted a few years, until Amores in 2007 moved the event to Blacktown and then it died a natural death.  

Pasko sa Parramatta in 2002 had the feel of a Filipino Christmas.

In 2003-2004 concerts were conducted and proceeds were donated to the MPC. A fundraising appeal was also conducted for the victims of the the tsunami and Central Luzon typhoon in the Philippines.

Farmer and Andres-Chun jointly hosted the Global conference in 2007 which coincided with the State visit of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.”  They called it Global but really most members were imported from  PCC.  Even Diaz reappeared!  One wondered who would win the screaming matches for the town-crier title. Andres-Chun was a school teacher and perhaps it was an occupational hazard but Farmer was easily triggered at any time.  As one senior citizen put it, “Bakit sila sumisigaw. Akala ba nila bingi kami.” (Why are they screaming? Do they think we are deaf?)

Soliman’s Independence Day in 2005 was marked with a Rigodon that had the men wearing sashes and medals, and the women in white gowns and tiaras. Who could forget?! Despite the oddity of the medals, it was visually and aesthetically pleasant. But those tiaras had a stomping, screaming Cen Amores complaining that her tiara was smaller than those of others.  The Gawad Kalinga Village in Quezon was a project carried over from Andres’ previous term and completed in Soliman’s term. But it was a term of screaming matches too, even culminating with an AVO.  The end part of Neria’s term was also the time when Lopez dissected the Ilocandia region to include small unregistered clubs and when the Saints in heaven were called upon to form their own clubs. By the time Jimmy Lopez stepped into the role, membership had risen from 40 plus to over 60. The more clubs, the more votes, and  thus securing his presidential seat in 2006.

Not to be outdone by Lopez, Ruben Amores raised the number of members to 98, including ghost clubs (Presidents without members). But there was one problem.  Only 88 registered and yet 98 voted!  Cen Amores yelled that there was “no anomaly” and someone replied back “ Yes, ano mali?” It was at this election that Alric Bulseco made his grand entrance as the flying voter, representing Ateneo when he was not even a member.  The blatant cheating was simply brushed under the carpet .  It was a band-aid solution that kept  PCC on life support.

Manoto’s 2008 term was relatively without incidence but by then fewer people wanted to get involved. He was lucky to have had the support of Consul General Lazaro and it was she who suggested the creation of Philippine Australian Disaster Emergency Response (PADER), a humanitarian program based on the United Nations’ White Helmet program.  The name was thought of jointly by Jhun Salazar and Mao de Vera.  Although donations were made to various charities, it was not until Mao de Vera and Atoy Sayas took over chairmanship and built PADER as a separate entity. Sadly, what was built for years came crashing down in 2013.

Villaver was eager to take over in 2009 but Cen Amores who was on his Board was eager to usurp him. The well meaning clean up of ghost and non registered clubs led to the Amores/Lopez walkout at the 2010 elections. This subsequently led to the breakaway group, Alliance of Pilipino Community Organisations (APCO). APCO has since been split into two. Without opposition, Elsa Collado claimed victory by default.


The first few years of the 3rd decade (2010-2012)  were the “R” years – rejuvenating and revitalizing of PCC.  Sanity and respectability was restored. Elsa Collado a newby held the fort in 2010, Marivic  Manalo in 2011, and Sayas in 2012. Sayas had the honor of hosting the State Visit of Benigno Aquino III which coincided with the installation of the Rizal statue in Campbelltown.  He also obtained an office for PCC with  a meeting room to be shared with  affiliates at the Quakers Hill precinct. Sadly, with a one year term nothing more could be done. Collado won by default in 2013 when Sayas withdrew his candidacy and closed the offices.  Then there was the PADER drama with fake affidavits and PCC was fast slipping downhill.

Jun Relunia was a rookie in PCC who had not gone through the PCC ranks, beat Elsa Collado and Danny Peralta for the presidency in 2014.  Soft-spoken Jun however was no match for the raging Alric Bulseco who had established a record of picking fights with presidents and anyone disagreeing with him. Evelyn Beed followed in 2015, celebrated the 25th anniversary with the “Burlesque Queen” that left everyone gasping and Jun’s idea of a PASKO event at Darling Harbour was staged until 2019. Kate Andres returned in 2016. From 2017 to today, PCC has slipped further away during the terms of Serna Ladia (2017-2018) and Alric Bulseco (2019-2020) with the departure of clubs looking more like the running of the bulls in Pamplona.  Even the PCC logo had been desecrated. Bulseco has screamed his way through the years and raised the blood pressure of most presidents and supporters. Like a little petulant kid it had to be his way or the highway. To his credit he was good at manufacturing clubs, engineering election problems, setting up tables and chairs and hanging flags. Ah, yes…”Fakery! Fakery!”  

PCC-NSW has been honoured with the Philippine President’s Banaag Award in 2008 and the NSW Harmony Award in 2011. But one wonders, if they can honestly admit to living up to these awards.

Today, PCC stands at the brink of disaster. Although the Filipino population grew by ten-fold, PCC represents only less than 1% of the Filipino population in NSW. It is obvious that there are those who wish to keep it going, but it is in a comatose state. Affiliates have had it with the politicking and unskilled leaders who bask in  their self perceived glory and arrogance.  Empathy and logic have simply eroded.  Gone too are the fun days of camaraderie, fellowship and respect. Gone are the days of those rare healthy discussions.  Gone are the days when people were welcome.  You either agree or you’re out. To date, clubs continue to exist with presidents but no members. As in the case of Emma de Vera’s Australian Consumer who despite having  no members has continually voted for years.  Yet, at every AGM, wide-eyed recruits walk through only to get shell-shocked when the screaming starts.

I have worked with 14 out of the 18 presidents and  I have gotten to know the characters well.  What’s worst is some cannot be trusted! After observing the antics of the people in PCC for years, the problem is not PCC but the people.  Included are the conniving supporters on the sidelines who rather than help have caused PCC more trouble. Wrong is turned into right by simply a number of votes.  As Manoto claims “the rule of the majority” wins every time even when it’s wrong.  Also there is no check and balance and the power hungry dictate to their advantage.

The lure of grants and the desire for attention is a deadly combination. It has brought out the worst in our kababayans.  And only those who agree to look the other way are allowed in the exclusive cover up club. The biggest problem is the absence of a justice system of some sort. There are no solutions to problems on offer, nor are they even aware of the problems.  All there are band-aid solutions, delaying tactics and alternative facts.  Sensible discussions are out of the question.  No one is held accountable.  Sadly, some quietly exit for the sake of peace, but some are burnt so badly that they no longer want to even go near the organisation.  But it’s the ones that got away who would have been good for PCC.

The even bigger problem is the general community’s apathy. Individuals take a neutral stance and tolerate bad behavior for fear of recrimination. Filipino culture contributes to it as most Filipinos are non confrontational and prefer peaceful coexistence even when they are disadvantaged. There is none as blind as those who refuse to see. Even when problem stares them in the face, they still refuse to see.

If PCC is to survive for the sake of the community, there needs to be a complete overhaul of characters. Resuscitation is urgently needed. People need to speak up now – and act NOW!  Go on, scream – but look, there’s an elephant is in the room!

6 February 2021 

Tags: News