BY RICHARD FORD –
A festival of cultures dubbed the Philippine Express Gala was held on 11th of June 2022 by the Alliance of Philippine Community Organisations (APCO) Inc headed by Mr. Jhun Salazar to celebrate 124th remembrance of Philippine Independence Day.
It coincided with the re-opening of the international borders allowing travelers, ‘Balikbayans’, the freedom to fly back home. Designed to create a welcoming ambience for would be travelers the guests were ushered by flight attendants to their seats akin to coming aboard the airplane.
The event was held at St. Johns Park Bowling Club, 93 Edensor Road, St. Johns Park NSW. It showcased the colorful world of Filipino Festivals, Culture and Tradition in celebration of the 124th Anniversary of the Proclamation of the Philippine Independence.
President Jhun Salazar opened with invitation encouraging guests to become a member of APCO.. Mrs Anne Stanley, Federal Member for Werriwa and Acting Consul General Emmanuel Donato K Guzman delivered their special messages, respectively.
The first part of the program features the APCO Honour List Citation for various categories and awards the Mars Cavestany Artista Ng Bayan – Lifetime Achievement Awards together with the Gawad Ng Pangulo and Pamana Ng Lahi Award conferred by the incumbent President.
Recipients of the award were: Benjie de Ubago for Watchdog Journalism, Graphic Design & Promotional Campaigns; Louisa (Loi) Tagudin of Sonata Singers, for Outstanding Solo Performances & Continuing Music Education;
Fe Corazon Limjap for Outstanding Performances, Music Education and Cultural Preservation;Claudio Javellana, for Theatrical Costume Design and Promotion of Filipino Fashion and Haute Couture; Benito Chan for Artistic Direction, Production Management & Creative Marketing;
Catherine ‘Kate’ Andres for Arts & Cultural Promotion, Planning & Development; and Nanette Ursua- Frohriep for Music Entertainment and Education.
The Gawad Ng Pangulo Award went to Cora Paras, Immediate Past President, and Violeta Miguel for their outstanding leadership and community service.
Mrs Dian Ford received the Pamana Ng Lahi award for her untiring efforts to synergize and energize the APCO Dance Group.
Mr Rado Gatchalian paid tribute to Philippine nationhood in two special poems entitled ‘Desiderata Para Sa Pilipino’ and ‘Isang Kawalang Hanggang Pag-Ibig’ a very motivating piece for the love of the motherland. Visayan singer Fe Limjap paid tribute to the Philippines with solo performances.
A cultural parade which joined by various community groups, the APCO Board of Management featured and the Sydney Sonata Singers leading the singing of the national anthems of Australia and the Philippines.
The pageant beauties Sagalas displayed exquisite traditional costumes and mesmerizing beauty of the festival celebration complete with arches and flowers, queens and princesses.
There were over 280 guests hobnobbed in decorated tables in festive atmosphere, mostly dressed in Philippine national attires. The best and appropriately dressed guest were recognized.
Among the special entertainers were Dakilang Artista Ng Bayan awardee, Ms Lilian de los Reyes, andTher newbie Riley Bacon followed by performances from Lahaina Dancers, Sinulog VAA Dancers, APCO Dance Group, PASA Dance Group, Banduria Ensemble, Sydney Festival Dancers Featuring the Sinulog Fluvial, and Kuracha Dance by various participants.
Many enjoyed the Disco Dancing, the competition for show of traditional and modern costume competition, the competition for best decorated tables, and the raffles with special prize of return airfare ticket to the Philippines donated by the Philippine Airlines which was won by Bernadette Malvizo.
Speicla sponsors were the Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria represented by Mr John Dickinson with wife Deborah Dickinson, the Philippine Airlines, represented by Ms Krystle Mae Ramirez, Area Manager-Australia and the Department of Tourism, represented by Ms Eleanor Palima, AO with Karla Muller, Vince Morales and Janet Nicholls.
Speicial thanks to Mrs Jennifer McPhail, Function Manager of St Johns Park Bowling Club. The night was capped with the presentation of the 22 new APCO members from various professional fields who received gifts courtesy from the Department of Tourism and ended with non-stop disco dancing