27 February 2023

Wagga's Filipino community called to stand up and be counted

| Chris Roe
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Annabelle Borja

Annabelle Borja wants the Riverina’s Filipino community to connect. Photo: Chris Roe.

Annabelle Borja moved to Wagga Wagga from Manila in 2015 and loves the laid-back Aussie lifestyle of her adopted home town.

An Australian citizen since 2021, the former broadcaster and musician also proudly celebrates her Filipino heritage and wants to help her compatriots connect across the Riverina.

“It can be a devastating experience if you have no family and no network to help you,” she says, explaining that her husband struggled to connect with Filipinos locally after arriving in 2012.

“He experienced depression and he wanted to go home, which he did for a year.

“But when he was there he then realised, I think Wagga is for me and Wagga is for the family.”

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Despite never having heard of Wagga Wagga before they decided to emigrate, Annabelle says they picked the city from a rack of brochures at the airport.

A 2010 pop song may have also influenced the decision.

“At that time there was that Shakira song Waka Waka,” she says with a laugh.

“We were just looking at those infographics and thought, Wagga seems good and so we tried it without knowing anyone here.”

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Annabelle says the family eventually began to connect with other Filipinos in the region through the Catholic Church and a local Filipino store.

“‘Bayanihan’ is a term we use in the Philippines when we help each other,” she explains.

“Even if we don’t know them, even if we belong to different religions or from different regions, it doesn’t matter.”

As president of the Filipino community of Wagga, Annabelle wants to foster that spirit in the Riverina and wants to start with a headcount.

Brochure about Filipino Australians

Filipino Australians in the Riverina are encouraged to stand up and be counted. Photo: Supplied.

Working with the Multicultural Council of Wagga Wagga, they are looking to update the database and create more connections.

“The number is around 630, but we think it’s more and there are people in Temora and Junee and other villages that we have seen,” she says.

“Don’t be afraid to be counted!”

Annabelle is hoping to bring the whole community together in June to celebrate 125 years of independence from Spain.

“June 12 is the date of our Independence Day and here it’s also the Queen’s birthday so it’s a holiday for us too,” she says.

“We are celebrating it on the 17th at the new PCYC and we are excited to showcase our food and culture and Filipino music, not just for us but it’s open for everybody.”

If you are a Filipino Australian and want to connect and be counted, get in touch with the Filipino community of Wagga here.

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