LOOKING BACK: Early Years in Adelaide

by DR. R. DANTE G.
Philippine Honorary
Consul General
Adelaide, South Australia

p30-insight-dj-Fred Calabio  I with Pres Fidel Ramos June 1998 Adelaide Hyatt Intl Hotel 386

With Wilfredo (Fred) Calabio (Col. AFP ret.) and PHL President Fidel V. Ramos

during the latter’s visit in Adelaide, Jan. 1998 Hyatt Intl Hotel

p30-insight-dj-CHRISTENING Leticia Luchie Watson Sep 1975 ST MATTHEW CATH Chrch Bridgewater Sep 1975388

Leticia Watson’s Christening September 1975. St. Matthew’s Catholic Church, Bridgewater, S.A.

(l-r) Father Michael Doherty, Leticia’s parents Keith and Erlinda Watson, godparents Corazon R. Juanta and Dr. Rene Penaloza.


Part 5
Linda Watson, Fred Calabio and I developed and maintained close family friendship through the years and so did our children. The children have all grown up and raised their own families.

Linda Regis married Keith Watson in Cebu and joined her husband in Adelaide in 1970. Fred Calabio was from Occidental Mindoro, while his wife Linda, was from Pasay City. They migrated to Australia in 1971 with their 8 children. Meanwhile, my wife Cora, a Batanguena and I, a Kapampangan, left the Philippines in 1973 with our four young children in 1973 following the declaration of Martial Law by the dictator President Ferdinand Marcos. We all started a fresh new life in South Australia.

We exchanged visits on the weekends whenever possible. Linda would serve freshly cooked crabs caught by Keith at St. Kilda. Cora, on the other hand, would bring baked pan de sal and a dish or two for lunch. The children played games in the backyard, while the adults spent time in lively conversation.


The meeting at Fred’s place or in our house presented different mood and tone. There was dynamic and spirited exchange of views on several topics and issues. Discussion would stop only when it was time for meal. After coffee, Linda would play the piano, Fred his violin. Moved by their music, Cora and I would sing the songs, sometimes a bracket of old tunes, such as, Ramona, Around the World, No Other Love, Pregunta a las Estrellas, Bakya Mo Neneng and Maalaala Mo Kaya.

Fred and I shared common interests including politics, philosophy, history and psychology. We indulged ourselves with talks about community leadership and service. He and I believed and agreed to harness for the common good the resources of Filipinos around Adelaide numbering about 50 in 1975. We believed that the number would rise as soon as Australian immigration policies were liberalized.

As predicted, the number of Filipinos in South Australia was recorded at 597 in the 1981 Census. In the 1986 Census, the number jumped; 1,450 residents claimed that they were of Filipino descent. The 1991 Census recorded 3,096 Filipinos in South Australia.


Commitment, consistency and right communication helped in realizing the plan to engage Filipinos in building up the community. Many of the 50 like-minded old timers and some newcomers willingly gave time to the cause. Some took up the challenge with “wait and see” attitude at first, but finally joined and helped in community projects and programs. Volunteerism thus became the by-word among friends and community workers. More importantly, Filipinos ingenuously utilized the resources brought in from the Philippines and topped that up with training and education, skills and experience gained in Australia. Altogether, they contributed their talent, industry, education, culture and service to the development of South Australia.


Values and practices
Families gladly took also the challenge of maintaining in Filipino homes and in the wider community their precious heritage. They worked for the preservation, growth, development and promotion of Filipino values, traditions, culture, art, language and the best of Filipino practices. Family celebrations, picnics in parks, large social and religious events were held with spirited enthusiasm and commitment. Cultural productions were carefully researched and were choreographed with meticulous care. They gained rave reviews from government and non-government officials and the public that attended the presentations at civic town halls and university campus auditoriums.


Some of the early cultural productions included: the Qantas Cultural Show of 11 Nations, 7 October 1979 at SA Festival Amphitheatre, City; Social-Cultural-Practical Considerations in Ethnic Radio Programme Productions Workshops, 6-7 October 1979 at West Torrens Auditorium, Hilton; the Filipino Association of SA Pamana ng Lahi (Filipino Heritage) 2-hour presentation, 23 & 30 June 1985 at Adelaide University Union Hall; Filipino Association of SA Inc. Handog sa Kalayaan (Tribute to Freedom, 4 July 1987; Pasko Pilipino (Philippine Christmas) and the Araw ng Lolo at Lola (Grandparents Day), December 1989 - at Glandore Community Centre, Glandore.

To digress, in one large community meeting, I jokingly addressed my good friend Fred Calabio, calling him “General Calabio”. Everyone in the hall looked towards him surprised by what I said! Fred was a professional soldier by training, a graduate of Philippine Military Academy Class 1951. He spent years as Mathematics and Logistics Instructor in the Academy. He was commanding officer tasked to capture the legendary resistance leader during Japanese occupation, Huk Supremo Luis Taruc, in the vast fields and hills of Pampanga and Nueva Ecija. Fred saw action in Korea with former President Fidel V. Ramos (both started as PMA cadet but President Ramos went on to finish studies at US West Point). On retirement, Fred was given the rank of Colonel in the Reserve Army of the Philippines. The endearing title I gave him, “General Calabio”, stuck in the community since then. ©rdgjuantaFeb2014

To be continued

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