Goodbye Lina Cabaero

Goodbye Lina Cabaero

Mr Peter Murphy of the organisation Philippine Australian Union Link (PAUL) issued public a letter to associates and friends regarding the recent passing of well known Filipino Australian NGO worker and woman activist Mrs Lina Cabaero Ponnambalam of Western Sydney, as follows:Many of you will have heard that Lina died late last night at St Vincent’s Hospital. Her death was peaceful, as she was asleep. She had been able to meet her children, Miko and Natasha, and Jega the previous evening, sharing jokes, songs and stories, and her siblings overseas were able to join online. Jega was with her all day yesterday, when she was mostly sleeping. While Lina knew her life was ending because the treatment for her cancers was stopped last week, we did not expect this to be so immediate, and so we have seen our last FB posts or text messages from Lina last week. She was fighting to the end, but her body just could not do it any more. Our heart goes out to Jega, Miko and Natasha, and all Lina’s family at this time of loss and grief.

For us in PAUL, Lina was constantly engaged in our work to reach out to Filipino workers in Australia, especially those on temporary work visas, and to engage the trade union movement, the Labor Party and the Greens in the solidarity work with the Filipino union movement and the broader democratic struggles of all sectors in Philippine society.  Here in Sydney Lina was always at the protests at the Philippine Consulate, always ready with a song, always making banners and placards for us to display.

Lina worked as the Coordinator of Asian Women at Work, aiming to empower migrant women works from the Asian region through a community organising strategy, and working with the relevant unions. These were the Textile Clothing & Footwear Union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and United Workers Union, and Unions NSW. She was a speaker at several Sydney May Day rallies, and organised One Billion Rising dance events at International Women’s Days as well as on Valentine’s Day.  Lina also worked with Philippine Australian Community Services Inc in Blacktown and with Immigrant Women’s Speakout in Parramatta. For all this, she received an Edna Ryan Award in 2016.

In the Filipino national democratic movement, Lina is known far and wide because of her commitment and hard work and joyful comradeship starting in the last few years of the Marcos Dictatorship. Then she was active in the League of Filipino Students as a student at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. She went on to work with the Asian Students Association in Hong Kong for 7 years, met Jega there, and eventually came back to live in Sydney. Alongside her paid work, Lina also helped to expand and organise Migrante Australia, part of Migrante International, the organisation for overseas Filipino workers.

Because of the pandemic lockdown in Sydney, Lina’s funeral will be very small, for her immediate family. However, at the earliest opportunity there will be a celebration of her life which we can all attend. In the meantime, Mel Baltazar, Chairperson of Migrante Australia, is collating photos of Lina for an online salute to her life. If you have an image, please email it to Mel at baltazar@westnet.com.au by Wednesday, with a short note about the time of the photo and what is happening.

Let’s salute Lina Cabaero-Ponnambalam, celebrate her wonderful life, and be inspired by her to persist with the struggle for a better world!

Peter Murphy

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