Australia and India Days

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By Danilo P. Padua, PhD

Maybe it’s a coincidence, maybe it was designed to be so. Am referring to Jan 26 as both Australia Day and Republic day of India. Both mentioned countries had been under the tutelage of Great Britain and both of them are now leading and influential countries in the world – economically, technologically, scientifically and in many other aspects.
In terms of Gross Domestic Product, India ranks 10th and Australia, 12th. The two countries have very interesting and arresting historical backgrounds.
Australia started to consistently celebrate January 26 as public holiday only in 1994 but is now celebrated worldwide where there are Australians. It was in commemoration of the exact day in 1788 when the First Fleet of 11 convict ships from Great Britain commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip landed at Sydney cove. From that day on, the Union Jack was proudly waved in the eastern part of Australia which was claimed by Captain James Cook for Great Britain about twenty years earlier. They called the landing “First Landing Day” or “Foundation Day.”
Yes, the first white settlers in Australia were convicts. This possibly explains why they speak a peculiar English twang Down Under. Fact is, Great Britain had thought of converting the sub-continent of Australia as one large penal colony due to overcrowding in their jails! But the convicts and their families had other plans. They started to transform eastern Australia from a non-entity into a modern, progressive state which would become an independent nation, and the envy of the world in about a hundred years.
What happened among the shipped convicts in that country is a classical exhibition of the innate goodness of a person, that whatever wrong an individual might have done is not actually an indication of what he really is deep inside him.
There was a time when Filipinos and other colored people were barred from entering Australia. Now, Australia is a melting pot of people coming from about 200 countries worldwide. Because of this, people are asking what is native to Australia aside from the original inhabitants, the Maoris. Well, the macadamia nut, touted to be the most expensive nut in the world, is certainly native to the eastern part of Australia. There is a famous chocolate biscuit called Tim Tam made up of two layers of chocolate-malted biscuit that is made only in Australia.
A 1901 census counted around 700 Filipinos in Australia. Now there are more than 160,000 of Filipino roots there, making them the 3rd largest Asian Australian group, next to Vietnamese and Chinese. They are mostly staying in New South Wales. The Pinoys there are sometimes colloquially called Filos, short for Filipinos.
There are now a number of prominent Filipino-Australians that include sportsmen, singers, actors, writers, comedians. Among the better known are Migs Ayesa, Anne and Jasmine Curtis. The most prominent at the moment is Jason Day, one of the top golfers in the world today who proudly acknowledges that he inherited his fierce competitiveness from his Pinay mom who hails from Tacloban City. Incidentally, he lost at least 8 of his relatives including his maternal grandma, to typhoon Yolanda. The world golf community knows that he was grieving when he participated in the World Cup of golf in which he won the very prestigious individual honors, and the cup for Australia together with his partner, Adam Scott. He organized a relief and reconstruction mission for Tacloban.
Another notable Pinoy-Aussie is Ms Arianne Caoili, formerly a member of the Philippine team but is now the board one player of Australia’s women chess team. Two Baguio-born boys easily come to mind as Pinoy-Aussies, one is a football player by the name of Jimmy Eslao who reportedly did well as a player in Australia. The other is Sef Gonzales, who unfortunately did not live up to the lofty ideals of good behavior in which Baguio guys are generally known for.
In a speech delivered during the Australia Day reception in Makati, the Aussie ambassador to the Philippines, His Excellency Mr. Bill Tweddell, paid tribute to the excellent partnership of the Philippines and Australia. Australia was one of the earliest countries to send relief help and ground teams to the areas devastated by Yolanda. They sent not only medical teams but even soldiers for humanitarian purposes. The ambassador said, “in times of need, friends help out friends”. It is so unlike a big bully neighbor who sent help only when it drew a lot of international flak of not showing concern to a nation in dire need
The ambassador acknowledges and thanked the Filipinos for their substantial contributions in their adopted homeland, Australia. He similarly appreciated the great contributions of the local community of Aussies.
Australia had been pouring development assistance in the Philippines, mostly in Mindanao but not much in Luzon, almost nothing in the Cordillera. When can we partner with that great country for our own development here in CAR?
India? We will talk about it later.**


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