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Tony and Roseanne

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Photograph, Kris Reichl.

Tony: I was born on the island of Hamtik Antique in the Philippines but I grew up in Manila. It was only by chance that I ended up migrating to Australia because in the early 1970s Gough Whitlam went to the Philippines looking for tradespeople and passed some legislation which allowed skilled workers to migrate here. We were given what was called Ďassisted passageí by the Australian Government, who paid our fares and relocation expenses.

Initially, my wife did not want to come to Australia. We had two young children and she was pregnant with our third child. She cried and said that we had no relatives or friends in Australia. I told the Australian embassy that I wanted to come by myself but they wouldnít allow people to come without their families.

We came here in October 1975, after our youngest daughter Roseanne was born. I had a two-year contract and we decided that if we didnít like living in Australia we would return to the Philippines after two years and pay back the Australian Government.

When we arrived at Melbourne airport we were feeling very low, homesick and a bit scared because we were wondering what was going to happen to us. The immigration people at the airport called a taxi to take us to the hostel in Nunawading but the airport is a long way from Nunawading and I sat in the front seat watching the meter tick, tick, ticking. I was getting very scared because I had only a small amount of money in my pocket. When we arrived I asked the hostel manager what I was going to do about paying the taxi fare and fortunately he told me it had already been paid by the Government.

The hostel was a comfortable place to live. There was an employment officer, health care services and other government agencies. Our linen was changed every week, the laundry was collected and there was even a nurse to help my wife with the baby, Roseanne. My wife didnít like the hostel because she couldnít cook for herself but I told her that I thought things would get better.

The employment officer arranged work for me and my first job here was in a furniture factory. Later, I found other work that better suited my skills.

In 1980, after renting houses in other parts of Melbourne, we built a home in Clayton South. We eventually built another house, also in Clayton South, in 1992. For us, this suburb was an ideal place to live because it is close to everything.

At first we found the Australian way of life very different. In Manila the streets were always full of people and everybody knew everybody else but in Melbourne the streets were very quiet and it was difficult to get to know your neighbours. But it only took five or ten years until I felt I belonged here. My home is in Melbourne now and even my wife and kids are happy here.

Under the family reunion program I brought out my parents, two sisters, a brother and my mother-in-law from the Philippines. The only problem we have now is that at Christmas and New Year my mother is always crying because she misses my brothers back in the Philippines.

I was actively involved in organising the Filipino Tradesman Association of Victoria, which initiated many of the functions and events which other Filipino groups are continuing today. I am also a member of the management committee of South Eastern Ethnic and Advocacy Council of Victoria which has 75 members from different nationalities.

Later, with my sister and a friend, we looked at problems facing older Filipino people in the area who are often at home all day minding their grandchildren. So we thought it was a good idea to form an association for Filipino elderly citizens. This association is not only for the elderly but for the whole family. We go dancing, have excursions and organise many other activities.

Roseanne: I came to Australia from the Philippines with my family in 1975 when I was five months old. I didnít really think about being Filipino when I was growing up. I just thought my parents were a bit stricter than other parents with a strong Catholic belief and that our food was a little different.

I started school at St Andrews Primary School in Clarinda in 1980 and at the time there werenít many migrant children at the school - just a handful of kids from Asian backgrounds. Overall, I didnít feel discriminated against but I remember a couple of incidents when I was teased because I was brown. There were also occasions were other kids would make Asian jokes, and while they weren't directed at me, they still made me feel uncomfortable.

At high school there were many migrants and I made friends with people from different cultures. I learnt a lot about other cultures and discovered how similar we all really are. I didnít always connect with other Filipinos. I probably connected a lot easier with other migrants who came to Australia at a similar time or were a similar age to me because they too had experienced growing up in Australia with dual cultural influences.

I didnít know many Filipinos when I was growing up, except my cousins and a few family friends. I remember going through phases where Iíd be anti-Filipino, then pro-Filipino, trying to find myself. It wasnít until I went to university that I met quite a lot of Filipinos who were my own age.

When I went to university I joined the Filipino Youth and Students Association of Victoria. Many of us shared similar experiences as a lot of the members spent most of their youth here in Australia. Weíd sit down and talk about what it meant to be Filipino. Are we Filipino or are we Australian? What stereotypes do people have of Filipinos? Now these things are less of an issue for me because Iíve realised that I donít have to be completely one thing or the other.

If I had to label myself I would say I am an Australian with a Filipino background. To me, the place that you call home is where you live and grow up and where the people you love are. Everyone that I love is in Australia so I consider myself Australian first and foremost. But I am very proud of my Filipino background. My experiences growing up in Australia as a Filipino migrant, have helped shape the person that I am today.

I went back to the Philippines for the first time last year. It was really exciting and, surprisingly, I didnít find it a culture shock at all. The country felt really familiar, probably because I have heard so many stories and seen so many photographs. It was wonderful to meet all my relatives and to see where my parents grew up.

I would like to be able to speak the Filipino language better. I can understand it but I canít speak it very well. People laugh when I try to speak Filipino because my grammar is terrible. Mostly I speak to my parents in English and they speak what they call Taglish, which is a mixture of Tagalog (the main Filipino dialect) and English.

Both my parents have always worked hard and given everything to myself and my sister and brother. My dad has always worked a lot of overtime and my mum has worked night shift for 11 years. Dad is very much involved in the community but mum has always centred her life on her children. She is a bit of a super-mum. There isn't anything that my parents wouldn't do for the three of us.

Christmas is a great time in our family. We have friends and relatives and piles of food. It's not a real Filipino party if there isn't a lot of food. I like the strong unity in our family. We are very close and see our relatives regularly. The down side is that everyone gets involved with any decision and voices their opinion. There is pressure not to dishonour the family name.

My parents grew up in a different country with strict Catholic beliefs and we have different ideas about things such as marriage, boyfriends, careers, money, travel and independence. The first time I went to the movies with a boy my mother was shocked. Back in my parents day the movies were the place where everyone got up to mischief. For us it is different. If we pay $8 for a movie, we just want to watch the movie!

I think it was hard on my parents when my sister and I recently decided to move out of home because in the Filipino culture children donít leave home until they are married and sometimes they continue to live at home after they are married. My sister and I are now in our mid-20s. It was hard leaving - mum was quite upset - but it is not a good idea to have adults with differing views about life living in the same household. Iíve learnt a lot and my relationship with my parents keeps getting better and better.

Article Cat. Blended Voices
Article Ref. 159

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