What’s Been Up In
The evolving status of commerce and use of currencies relates directly to the global movement of people’s diaspora in which the Filipino diaspora of migrant labor ranks as one of the largest – next to Mexico. Acting on the people’s inherent cultural tradition of carrying irrevocable filial connection anywhere, the business and finance sector was quick to map out a strategy and create a business construct of ferrying, converting and delivering currencies from any point A on earth to any point B regardless of distance and whereabouts. It could perhaps be said that the OFWs created the demand for this type of service. When banks fell short in responding to the need for easy, immediate transfers due to rigid rules and policies, OFWs trooped to money transfer agents. These days, one can wander off anywhere in the Philippines and find money transfer agency handlers everywhere, with Western Union leading the popularity contest. If there ever has to be one.
During the launch of a new service variant made available by Reggie and Celso Iglesias with their Manila Trading outfit on August 8, 2015, I had a chance to get curious. Use of money transfer agents, it turned out, is not a new.
Western Union, for instance has been on operation for 135 years and has its head office in Denver Colorado. It currently operates in 200+ countries. According to Simon Millard, Australia is a major area of focus of its Philippine operation. It also operates a foundation that provides charity outreach and promulgates education in places of its operation. During the calamity wrought by typhoon Hayan, Simon said that the company donated approx. 2.5 M to the victims. As further proof of the company’s growing expansion of its operations in the Philippines, it will soon be in tie up with BPI to speed up remittance releases in matters of minutes.
Direct Flights is a travel booking agent on line which operates in tie up with Western Union. CEO Nay Tran has strong connections with the Philippines. He arrived with his family in Mindanao as refugee when he was 11 years old. After a year in Mindanao, the family moved to Palawan and lived there for two years before they moved to Australia on refugee visa. He has since strove to become the successful entrepreneur that he is today.
Security is a primary consideration and for people wanting to send money by remittance, legally proof of identification is required. A passport for non Australians or Drivers License for Australian citizens are usually the favoured proofs of IDs.
The WU operations launch at Manila Trading was a nicely presented event. Three executives flew from Sydney to launch the operation: Simon Millard, Sydney based Western Union Country Director for Philippine operations; Danny Hoang - Business Operations Manager for Direct Flights and Direct Flights CEO Nay Tran. It was a community-friendly affair that perfectly suited the psyche of the Filipinos in Adelaide. The news of the Western Union Pinoy operation at Manila Trading has been very well received, with many enthusing their positive endorsements. And as it happens in the community, before the day ended, the news has already began to spread.
At her grand age of 90, she exudes that priceless gem of peaceful radiance that life bestows to those who have given their all to life and have become one with its essence.
She is a highly respected member of the Filipino community in South Australia, the matriarch of the Calabio family. Mrs Calabio, author, professor, educator, mother, grandmother and great-mother was one of the earliest Filipnos to arrive in Australia in the 70s. Known as Manang Linda to a few, and Mrs. Calabio to most, this enduring and most cherished Filipino-South Australian grande dame celebrated her 90th on August 15, Saturday.
A celebratory ecumenical service was offered in her honour at St. Bernadette’s Church, St. Mary’s, Metro Adelaide. The mass was followed by an evening dinner and a grand celebration hosted by her family at The Junction along Anzac Highway.
It’s the 18th year of the South Australian Living Artists Festival and this year’s artists participation is a whopping 5,205 in 610 exhibitions and events.
The Foyer Gallery of the City of Mitcham participated in this year’s event with its APS (Australia-Philippines-Scotland) Art Selection event. The art exhibition which was put up on August 21 and went on until 7th September, is a selection of works of three artists of different styles, backgrounds and heritage. “These are reflected in the subject matter, style and colour schemes of their art which uniquely carry indications of varying cultural influences. The brilliant choice of tropical colours as the equatorial east, melds with the sombre sobriety of themes from the highland west and joined by bold exuberant technique in the Australian perspective. APS aesthetically blends these three art outlooks.” (Mitcham Council website)
The artists’s works are of contrasting genres that are reflected in their styles and subjects. Kerry Wagner (Australia) is an intense artist whose robust works this year were inspired by her recent travel to Asia (Nepal). Norma Hennessy (Philippines) focused on art-deco subjects in both her ceramic works and on her more recent paintings. Jim Hay (Scotland) is a seasoned artist who has exhibited in many high-end art shows in various art capitals and cities in the world. This joint exhibition is the second time that the trio, all award-winning on their own, presented a selection of works under the same title.
The SALA event, Gallery M at the Cultural Centre of Marion also exhibited works of Red House Group artists under the title ‘Transition’. The exhibition is from August 7 to August 30.
Sunday: I jogged the 10 k distance from home to the city to meet up with Ging Tadiar and Nita Lacar-Portman at the South Australia State Art Gallery at 10 AM. The current exhibition was “Treasure Ships: Art in the Age of Spices”. It was an exhibition meant to present the complex artistic and cultural interactions between Europe and Asia from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries - a period known as the Age of Spices.
The thought brought back memories of elementary and high school history – when we would memorize dates, names and events without quite appreciating what we read in a deeper context. Perhaps at the time, we just presumed on the basis of what we might have read and imagined. For how can someone like me, born and reared in the mountains, be enchanted by the essence of not being on land or draw keen appreciation about an odyssey at sea when the only experience I had of the sea was viewing the blue waters from a distance? Those were during the times when my family would travel from Baguio down to Naguilian and the sea in the distance would fuse with the blue of the sky, flashing by in the wind between peaks of mountains as the bus we were on navigated along the winding Kennon Road. The sea would become more real along the coastal road in Narvacan, Ilocos Sur where I came to associate the sight of splashing surfs onto the stretch of a sandy shore with palm trees casting long shadows on balmy summer afternoons. That was then when Moluccas meant more to me like grains of mung beans grouped together to represent islands on an earthen globe. And I don’t even remember anymore how I came to associate Moluccas with mongo beans. I might have learned a lot more from then. Experienced a bit more of the sea beyond dipping my toes on the sand where the surf has just splashed.
It was a full-on day. The ancient maps used by the ancient navigators were browned with age. I gazed at them with my millennium spectator’s eyes and wondered how the eyes of the 16th century spectator would have perceived them. They were ornate. The artisans and cartographers of yore were amazing with their intricate detailing of their drawings. It was humbling to see such splendid artistry.
After lunch at the gallery, we walked the 5 k distance between the Art Gallery and Nita’s home in Prospect, passing by a North Adelaide cafe for coffee and dessert. Dinner at Nita’s, consisted of Bacarra-style pinakbet topped with grilled fish “sagpaw” (topping), sliced roast beef in goulash gravy, shrimps sautéed in butter with mushrooms and peas, Ilocano tomato side dish of sliced tomatoes, patis, diced spring onion leaves and bulb, ginger and steamed rice.
It was thus that this Sunday went by and in the process, it sloughed off the mungo bean association that my brain habitually attached to the name “Moluccas”.
I was intrigued by an alleged observation stated by one respected leader of a nation about the Philippines:
“The Philippines needs more of discipline than democracy” – Lee Kuan Yew 1991:
My first reaction was, ‘Duh!’ Perhaps it was my nationalistic, patriotic, sentimentalist pride that made me frown on such observation. Recovering from that momentary ‘cloudy-mind’-moment, I confronted my own thoughts. I was not going to be a goose burying its head in the sand. Afterall, haven’t I just posted in my social media account a sour-graping recall?
“When in Oz and musin’ over a barbie, you feel very Ozzie. Whether you’re in dry South or in sunny North. And all the more you hug your ‘Ozziness’ when you find yourself effed-over by your original own. And oh... the very own you’ve been bleeding your heart for, advocated for, reached out to and made sacrifices for! Why is it that it is usually from your own kind who turns to skewer you: put the dagger in, twists it around and still want to make meat out of your carcass and even when you’re dead, would still rob you of your memories?”
But I guess, that’s beside the point.
Getting back to Lee Kuan Yew’s alleged statement, I realized how straightforward it was. It was an analytical statement of someone who did not have anything to gain by stating the truth. And it dawned on me that I was squinting. I was squinting with both my eyes and my heart.
Indeed! Nothing works, nothing changes, nothing happens in any place where rules, policies and laws are meaningless because the discipline to make them work is a fallacy!
I’d go back to pre-Hispanic status because deep in our psyche is rooted to our parochial and tribal sense of belonging. The forging of our tribes into a ‘national’ identity that our people did not have any inkling of what it was by the conquerors became an external role that was dressed up with western influences. But our core never changed. We are tribal. Parochial. We need a strong and firm hand to lead and yes dictate us. Today, with over 100 million Filipinos needing a patriarch or an ‘Apo’ or a ‘Big Manong’, the government system needs to change.
“SAMUT-SAMOT-SIMUT-SIMOT” (Gossamers and Flying Ants) by Norma Hennessy
What’s Been Up In