5 June 2023

Wagga's Pinoy community is offering a taste of the Philippines to celebrate their national day

| Chris Roe
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woman sitting on park bench

Annabelle Borja wants to share Filipino culture with Wagga. Photo: Chris Roe.

Wagga’s Filipino community is throwing open the doors and inviting the city to join them as they celebrate the 125th Philippine Independence Day.

Annabelle Borja is the president of the Filipino community in Wagga Wagga and is excited to share the landmark occasion with her adopted home town.

“We want this not just to be our celebration, we want our fellow mates in the Riverina to experience the Philippines through our music, through our food, through our culture and through us as Filipino people,” she said.

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“We will have a Pinoy Food Festival, so we’ll showcase different foods like adobo (marinade) pork and beef stew, pork barbecue skewers and lechon, which is a whole pig roasted with different herbs inside it.

“But there will be a lot of regional food too because the Philippines has 7100 islands and very different traditions that we want others to taste.”

group of people holding newspapers

Wagga Wagga Filipino community members with the May issue of Australia’s The Philippine Times. Photo: Supplied.

Annabelle explained that the national holiday on 12 June marks the Philippine independence from Spain in 1898.

“We were colonised by the Spaniards for 300 years, so that’s the reason why it’s so significant to us,” she said.

“Filipinos were free from the colonisation of the Spaniards but then there were also the Americans and the Japanese that came later. A lot of different races colonised our country!”

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Before the main event at the Wagga Showground on Saturday, 17 June, the day will begin with a Thanksgiving Mass.

“Maybe that’s something good that came from colonisations because the Spanish are very religious and Filipinos are known to be Catholics,” Annabelle said.

“Based on our survey of the community in Wagga last year, we found that around 80 per cent are Catholics, so that’s why we are starting with a Mass.”

women with Mary statue

Annabelle (centre) said Catholicism was an important part of modern Filipino culture. Photo: Supplied.

From there, Annabelle said, Filipino groups from across the region would converge on Kyeamba Smith Hall for a full day of events including traditional games (larong Pinoy) a fashion parade, competitions, a traditional ”Jeepni” and plenty of live performances.

“We’ve got cultural dancers coming from Albury and groups from Griffith, Shepparton and Sydney all travelling here,” she said.

“We’ve got this Wagga Filo Band, which is a group of local teenagers, and I will be performing along with my students from my E-Talent Musikademy, who are all of different nationalities – Egyptians, African, Australian, Filipino and Indian – but they will sing in Filipino and English.

“We also have a special guest from Melbourne, our Australian X Factor finalist from 2014, Mary Ann Van Der Horst, who is coming to perform.”

With plenty on offer, Annabelle hopes the Wagga community will accept the invitation to join the party.

“This is open to everyone. We want them to just experience the Philippines in a day and be part of our celebration.”

Experience Philippines celebrations kick off on Saturday, 17 June, 2023, with the Thanksgiving Mass at 9 am before the event at the Wagga Showground from 10 am to 4 pm.

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