A Dose of Enlightenment and Bewilderment

UNTIL LAST Saturday’s (February 11) Annual General Meeting and Election of the Philippine Communities Council of NSW, it has been awhile since I attended its meetings.

In fact I could not even remember the year that I attended to represent our association, the North Shore Filipino-Australian Association [NSFA]. And in the years that followed my last attendance, the election fell on the dates I was away.

No, I could hardly recall now how PCC-NSW general meetings such as those attended by representatives of affiliate organisations were like in the past.

Congenial and Dramatic

If I am asked to give two words to describe last weekend’s PCC-NSW AGM and election, I would submit “congenial” and “dramatic”.

Except for the people on the registration desk who went about their task seriously, there was a lively atmosphere in the Imperial Hall at the Blacktown Showground. It was like a social event as people were smiling, chatting, and enjoying catch-up with peers they have not seen for a while.

The socialising kept on going even way past the scheduled start of the AGM which required outgoing President Marivic Manalo to request not only two times for everyone to take their seats in order for the meeting and election to proceed.

Marivic then presented her President’s Report which listed the various projects and activities undertaken by the PCC-NSW, as well as those conducted by its affiliate organisations up to the February 11 AGM.

Highlights of her report included PCC-NSW winning the “Harmony Award” from the NSW State Premier’s office which recognised the achievements of 2010 officers and board members; raising $18,928.98 from the Independence Ball and allocating $5,000 to the Philippine Australia Disaster and Emergency Response [PADER] program and various charities and activities.

After Marivic’s Powerpoint-supported report and just when the meeting was about to be adjourned with a short coffee/cuppa break before proceeding to the Election, a bewildering and unannounced drama unfolded.

Jules Sanchez, 2011 President of Sydney Australian Filipino Seniors Inc. [SAFSI], took the floor and distributed a document mastheaded ‘OPEN LETTER & MANIFESTO’.

The flyer contained strongly-worded nine statements.

Visibly emotional, Jules with microphone in hand expressed some of his dissatisfaction on matters which were not clear to the audience (to me anyway, despite after reading the manifesto).

The other bewildering part was that the chair did not ask him to stop. If that is “freedom of speech”, I thought such freedom as a concept was mis-used.

Jules’ behaviour was definitely out of order. Most of the people looked agitated and not very happy with what was happening too.

Jules also declared SAFSI’s withdrawal from PCC-NSW and, perhaps to emphasise his point, tore up a cheque which I assumed was for SAFSI’s membership dues.

Additional bewilderment was a motion being passed from the floor to strike Jules’ performance from the minutes of the meeting.

Moving Forward

The results of the election had been covered in at least three publications, immediately after or a day after.

Atoy Sayas garnered 30 votes which won him the position of President while Serna Ladia who showed strong support at the start of the counting of votes ended up with only 20 votes. Two votes were declared null and void as they did not match the candidates’ names.

In my view, Atoy should hold a dialogue with the new officers of SAFSI to ascertain what issues they had which led to Jules’ public outcry. Although Jules’ lost in his re-election bid during the SAFSI AGM/Election held the following day, still whatever declarations he made during the PCC-NSW meeting may be considered sanctioned by SAFSI members since Jules was still their representative.

Atoy would benefit more from talking to Jules and to other parties including those in the PCC-NSW than simply ignoring that incident. It is an indication of something which if not corrected may re-surface if not in the future.

I also think that we have to face the fact that, for the present and maybe the immediate future, the Filipino-Australian community in NSW has two “umbrella organisations”, PCC-NSW and APCO – Alliance of Philippine Community Organisations.

To suggest a “merger” is pre-mature if that ever happens, and that is a very tricky exercise at this stage. Fro the sake of the general community, perhaps the two groups could work towards some kind of collaboration. As a starter, they could join hands in holding one major Independence Ball and one Christmas celebration, at least in Metro Sydney. If they require a third and independent party, then let it be.

Both organisations have a mission of serving the community. I like to believe that their respective heads can rise above petty politics and intrigues. With this belief, I do not think that it is impossible for them to work together rationally for at least the two important events which we ought to celebrate as one community.

It would be a sad day, indeed, if organisations like PCC and APCO take the stance to give a popular saying a new meaning.

Should we continue to adopt: “United We Stand, Divided We Must”?

Other post/s by Violi Calvert

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  1. avatarRobert Bock says

    Ms. Calvert, these are is my private comments re your blog, and I think your blog on the PCC election and other matters is very fair, accurate and productive, however one can only ponder as to why the atmosphere was so congenial. Sadly, there other issues re Mr. Sanchz, but I do agree fully with your sentiments re Jules and APCO /PCC this is a work in progress, but required for the good of the Philippine Community in the long run. Robert Bock APCCII Pres. 2012 and Director, PCC 2012

  2. avatarVioli says

    Mr Bock, thanks for your kind words.

    Your comment re why I thought the atmosphere was congenial made me look up the definition of the word ‘congenial’ and was relieved when it said “the quality of being pleasant and friendly”. That was how it felt for me as I was comparing that day to the meeting I attended a few years ago where there were designated ‘security men’ or ‘marshals’ patrolling up and down the side of the venue, and small groups of people huddled up in discussion – the tone of voices and waiving arms indicated it was not exactly a happy discussion.

    As I said in the blog, it was great to see people interacting in a relaxed and friendly way. Even the two candidates shook hands and had a little hug after their short talks before the actual election. After the election, people also stayed and continued socialising. Although the noise of loud but happy conversation spilled outside the hall and interfered with our attempt to record an interview of both Atoy and Serna, it was good to see such interaction.

    We look forward to seeing the progress on the item of ‘collaboration’ of the two head organisations. Cheers.

  3. avatarTom Baena says

    Violy, congratulations for a well written and comprehensive report of the days event on the occassion of the PCC Election. I also would like to congratulate Mr. Atoy Sayas on his election as the PCC President and look up for him to be the person who will be able to unite the community in having a One Flag Raising and Independence Day Celebration for Filipinos in Sydney for 2012, with the battle cry “Isang Bansa, Isang Bandila, Isang Diwa.” Kudos for you Violy and Mabuhay ka Atoy.

    • avatarVioli says

      Thanks Major for your kind comments.

      I agree that it would be great if we could have one flag raising for at least in the Sydney metro area. Having said that, I recognise that there could be other flag raising ceremonies in ‘regional’ areas such as Bathurst, Campbelltown, Penrith, Gosford, etc. But certainly we could hope that instead of having two Independence Day Ball events and Christmas celebrations in the Sydney metro area, we could celebrate as one community.

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