LOOKING BACK: Early Years in Adelaide



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


Part 4
Early to bed early to rise, the Adelaide way.
I arrived in Adelaide on July 16, 1973 three weeks ahead of Cora and our children Cortesse (Zette), Randy (Dyke), Ranel and Cielo. I met them at Melbourne airport on August 10, 1973. We flew to Adelaide immediately and proceeded home at 127 Peachey Road, Elizabeth Field, now called Davoren Park.

I had the house ready week earlier. It was a rental property owned by the South Australian Housing Trust. It was handsome and was located strategically to meet our needs while settling down in the new country. Across the house was Elizabeth Field Primary School, my new school assignment next year. Zette, Dyke and Ranel would be attending the junior school A Catholic church was also nearby, but was quite a distance away to walk for the children.

It took us time to get used to new life and styles in Australia.

Adelaide seemed like a ghost town at first to us in the early months. Most shops were closed by 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Nobody stayed on school grounds once classes were dismissed at 3:00 PM, except for the school cleaner and maintenance person. We hardly saw anybody on the street at sundown, and houses had their front windows and curtains drawn down too. Families generally had dinner before 6 o’clock; children were tucked in bed early.

We found no Filipinos around in the area nor in the city. So anxious to meet Kabayan, Cora and I greeted Filipino-looking individuals whom we saw shopping at Central Market in the city. Our greetings in Tagalog was met with polite, pleasant smiles. They were Asians, alright, but to our embarrassment, they were international students from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Others were visitors touring Australia. We shared very good hearty laughs. There was truth indeed in Philippine Airlines’ slogan “Where Asia wears a smile”.

Big surprises

On one sunny weekend, a car parked in front of the house. A woman with dark hair came out of the car, approached our front door and knocked. She introduced herself in Tagalog. She was Erlinda Regis from Cebu, married to Keith Watson. They lived in Elizabeth North a short drive from our place. That was my family’s first encounter with a Kabayan in Adelaide!

Erlinda had a young son Edgar. He soon became friend and playmate of our sons Randy and Ranel. When Linda gave birth to a daughter, Cora was requested to be Leticia’s godmother.

Then came a letter in December 1973. It was an invitation for the family to attend a Filipino Christmas gathering, not on the day of Christmas, though. Other Filipinos in Adelaide? On the day, a man came on a taxi, picked me up and drove to a house in Felixtow northeast of Adelaide. Cora and the children stayed home.

I met the letter-sender face to face. He was friendly and courtly. It was Mr. Wilfredo Tajonera. Calabio, a retired Colonel in the Philippine Army, PMA Class 1951, native of Occidental Mindoro and personal friend of General Fidel V. Ramos who both served during the Korean War; their wives were classmates and friends too in U.P. Fred Calabio was married to Erlinda Balmaceda, the eldest daughter of former Commerce and Industry Secretary Cornelio Balmaceda who served two Philippine Presidents Elpidio Quirino and Diosdado P. Macapagal. With their eight children, Wilfredo and Erlinda migrated to Australia in 1971, two years ahead my family.

Our two families developed close friendship over the years. Fred and I were like as peas in a pod sharing combined interests in education, history, politics, psychology, religion, leadership and service, among others. We were “two great minds running parallel”, as he would always remark jokingly and repeatedly when he and I discussed a range of topics, for we never ran out of topics to talk about.

Shared strong passion, commitment and energy had driven me and Fred and other like-minded community volunteers to start-develop-promote ethnic Filipino-based organizations in Adelaide, first, The Filipino Association of South Australia or FILASA 9 April 1975, followed by Ethnic Radyo Pilipino Incorporated or RADYO PILIPINO 18 June 1978 as pioneering Filipino radio program ever broadcast in Australia, then The Filipino Ethnic School of South Australia, Inc. or FESSA Adelaide 9 February 1987 as the earliest language and maintenance school in S.A. and later, The Filipino Community Council of South Australia (FILCCOSA) 18 October 1990 being the first in S.A. as coordinating body for 15 existing groups.

Other special interest groups also came up in the course of time; some were dissolved after some years. The rest is history. ©rdgjuanta December2013

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