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Singer Pete Cruzado’s Enduring Marriage

Filipino-Australian mixed marriages, more often than not, we refer to a Filipino woman marrying an Australian man and the usual discourse is that this kind of union is doomed to fail.

Studies have proven that this is not so; many of them are living as happy and contented couples, with happy and healthy children, exemplified by the awarded outstanding Filipino-Australian sportsman, Craig Wing, the progeny of a successful marriage between a Filipina mother and an Australian father.

What we fail to look into is the case of mixed marriages involving Filipino men and Australian women. Brief information on this kind of union, although small in number, also shows successful partnerships.

Evidence of this is the everlasting union between Lorenzo Gamboa and his wife, Joyce Cain then followed by music man Pete Cruzado and his wife, Noelene Diane Race. Many years before that was the marriage between Heriverto Zarcal and his wife Esther Beach.

Today, we are now seeing more successful marriages between Filipino men and Australian women in the Filipino community and they are fully integrated as epitomised by the Torres couple, with wife Carol Torres of Sydney who is becoming known as the Australian lady who sings kundiman very well.

Then there is the couple of Brisbane-based fiction writer Erwin Cabucos, whose accountant wife Deborah Brooks is helping raises their two children while the budding Filipino writer pursues his literary career. In Queensland, the union between Jo Plastina and Debbie D. Gassick is another example of an enduring couple of mixed marriage in 1995.

In Dubbo lives the surviving family of Pete Cruzado, an early entertainer in Sydney who married an Australian woman. Like Sgt. Gamboa, Pedro Patricio Cruzado—‘Pete Cruzado’ to his fans, friends, and admirers—was a self-made man. He worked hard to acquire tertiary education as a sport scholar, but his music interest was more fulfilling.

It brought him fame, travel, and a beautiful Australian wife. In his biography written by his youngest daughter, Patricia Cruzado, he admitted that ‘much water has passed beneath the bridge of his life, with lots of ups and downs and everything in between.’ But he admitted that he had a wonderful wife, family and many life-long friendships made along the way.

His singing career started with the Homemaker’s Club on Air DZBB radio. This stint was followed by other radio schedule such as the Melody Club of DZPI, another radio station in Manila.

It was at this stage that he stopped his college study and concentrated on performing on radio programs and in band engagements, and finally was given his biggest break, a fifteen-minute radio program called A Sentimental Date with Pete Cruzado on DZPI radio.

By1952 he was already composing songs and recordings and had his first record with Bataan Records entitled I’ll Keep Asking You. This was followed by many compositions with the help of musical arranger Danny Holmsen.

Soon he was being regarded as the Andy Russell and later Vic Damone of the Philippines. In 1956, he won a FAMAS award for singing the movie title of Pandora, produced by Premier and which starred Leila Morena playing the lead role. Cruzado’s chance to sing overseas came in 1956 when he got a ten-week contract for the Federal Hotel in Melbourne.

It was in time, for the Melbourne Olympic Games and Melbourne cup. With a couple of Filipino musicians he arrived in Australia and became part of the mainstream Australian night entertainment world. He was one of the pioneers in the field of entertainment in Australia featuring Filipino performers. He was also featured in some shows in Adelaide and Sydney, particularly at the famous Tivoli Theatre.

After the Australian schedule, Pete Cruzado was back in the Philippines, and he became the headline singer and bandleader at the Alba’s Supper Club along Dewey Boulevard, now Roxas Boulevard strip.

In 1963, he was invited to be the guest performer at the opening of the plush $14M, 26 storey, 867 room Hong Kong Hilton. His success in the British Crown colony brought him gigs in Cairo Hilton, Teheran Hilton, and in Italy’s Rome Hilton. But it was his stint at the Alba’s Supper Club that was memorable in his life. It was there that he met his future wife. She was one of the dancers of the Lido Lovelies from Australia.

Noelene Diane Race was born in 1942 in Sydney to Irene and Sydney Race. She has a brother and a sister. She started dancing at the age of two, at which time the family members enjoyed her impromptu performances. Her parents enrolled her in a dancing school, where she learned tap dancing and ballet. She was also into singing and her first appearance was also on a radio program.

As a growing up young lady, she attended a modelling school with the Rudas dancers at the June Daly-Watkins finishing school. Soon after, she became a member of the Oriental Cavalcade dancers. Aside from performing in Australia, the group was also contracted to perform overseas such as in San Paulo, Rio de Janiero and Buenos Aires. Her group also performed on the Ed Sullivan Show in the United States and travelled across Europe, the Middle East, Egypt, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, London and Israel.

It was in Hong Kong, when both of them were performing that they decided to get married at the Lady of the Rosary Church, Kowloon in June 1964. The couple returned to Manila and started a family. Their first child was born in Manila. The entertainment couple moved back to Australia in 1966 and finally settled in the suburb of Earlwood.

Back in Australia, Pete Cruzado’s first singing engagement was at the Chevron Hotel in Kings Cross, Sydney: then followed other engagements in Brisbane and Adelaide. Singing enabled him to provide comfort to his growing family. He was also a guest on TV shows like the Don Lane Show and the Rex Mossop Show.

His singing career took him to faraway places like New Zealand and small country towns of Australia. Pete Cruzado was accepted by mainstream Australians, unlike the sad experience of Sgt. Gamboa, who is prominently embedded in the history of White Australia Policy of Australia.

Pete Cruzado even landed small parts in Australian films. It was during his time that he had a nervous breakdown which did irreparable damage to his singing career. It was a result of doing too much studying, novCruzadoweddingColour[25879]writing hymns, worry about supporting his big family and his desire to excel in his new found role as a movie actor.

His health condition was so serious that he went to a rehabilitation clinic in 1972. His singing stopped and he joined the workforce. His first job was at the Tip Top Bakery shovelling breadcrumbs. It was a difficult job for an experienced singer. He also worked as a salesman for the Electrolux. His wife was also helping by driving a taxi to support a big family of four girls and three boys.

It was a difficult task for his wife who woke up at four in the morning and arrived back home at six, five days a week. Hardship in life, however, never affected their relationship. Noelene was his support all along. She was a wife who loved him unconditionally, particularly when things became very difficult. There was even a time when somebody asked her why she did not leave such a marriage situation, which she replied: ‘Because I remembered our marriage vows, in sickness and health till death do us part.’

The couple retired in Dubbo and their seven children have their own respective families. But the Cruzados are still active in the senior group activities. He is still being invited to sing while, from time to time, Noelene would contribute with her tap dancing skills.

Excerpts from book Connecting Two Cultrues: Australia and the Philippines which was based on The Song of Pete Cruzado by Patricia Cruzado, daughter and a former teacher, journalist and community worker.