Deep roots in Western Visayas

LETTER FROM AUSTRALIA - HK Yu, PSM - The Philippine Star

Dear Friends,

May is a very special month for us here in the Australian embassy. Through a Presidential Proclamation in 2016, May 22 of each year is officially declared Philippines-Australia Friendship Day. We celebrate a friendship that has endured in times of adversity and prosperity. From trade and investment to maritime security, defence and development, both Australia and the Philippines recognize we are stronger the more we work together.

Uniquely, the epicenter of our Friendship Day activities is outside the National Capital Region. We choose to celebrate in the provinces to show our commitment to deepening links with the Philippines in its diverse totality. In the past, we have marked Friendship Day in Davao and in Cebu. In 2023, our festivities are being generously hosted by historic Iloilo City from May 19 to 22.

Together with the Iloilo City Government and the National Museum Western Visayas, we will honor the longstanding connections between Filipinos and Aussies in a photographic exhibition – Manila Men: Retracting the journey of the First Filipinos in Australia. This exhibition, open to the public from May 22 to June 24, 2023, draws on the work of Filipino-Australian researcher Dr. Deborah Ruiz-Walls to tell the extraordinary story of the first Filipino migrants to Australia (many of whom were Visayan). It is a remarkable and touching tribute to the Filipino spirit and the diaspora’s contribution to modern Australian society.

Apart from this landmark exhibition, we will be hosting a number of key events that I warmly encourage anyone who can to attend. On Friday, May 19, we will hold a series of talks on heritage conservation and sustainability, headlined by famous Filipino landscape architect, Paulo Alcazaren. This series will highlight best practice urban architecture in both Australia and the Philippines and will showcase Alcazaren’s personal sketches of Australian landmarks that have influenced his design philosophy.

Then on Saturday, May 20, there will be a Friendship Run along Iloilo’s famous river Esplanade (itself an Alcazaren design). Runners – or walkers! – can choose from 3km, 5km or 10km routes, all of which take in some of the city’s most picturesque historical sites: Casa Real de Iloilo, the Customs House and the Bahay Kalakal ng Ynchausti y Compañía.

Lastly on Sunday, May 21, in partnership with SM Supermalls, we will host the Philippines-Australia Day Festival at SM Iloilo City – here, Ilonggos can experience Australia’s vibrant lifestyle through a pop up ‘Come and Say G’day’ exhibit; a mini football clinic; live entertainment and typical Australian food. This festival is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Australia and is an ideal family day out.

Today Australia and the Western Visayas are more intimately connected than ever before. Thousands of Western Visayans are alumni of Australian universities and have brought their new skills and training back to their hometowns. You will find our alumni working and excelling in government, hospitals, civil society organisations, schools and universities throughout Region VI. Their presence at our Friendship Day festival is very important to me: each one of them is an ambassador for Australia-Philippines relations and a testament to the spirit of dagyaw between our two peoples. I am especially proud many of these alumni were supported by the embassy’s Australia Awards scholarships, which provide financial assistance to high-achieving Filipino students.

Conversely, an ever-greater number of Australian tourists are travelling to the Western Visayas, attracted by the region’s inimitable mix of UNESCO World Heritage sites, outstanding natural beauty, hospitality and delicious food. I only expect these numbers to further grow as travellers seek out authentic local experiences, away from the hubbub of congested tourist destinations.

For those of you who are unable to join us in Iloilo, please follow the fun on our Instagram account: ausembph. More information on the Friendship Day schedule can also be found on our Facebook page: Australia in The Philippines.

Malipayon nga Adlaw sang Pag-Abyanay!

Yours truly,


*      *      *

HK Yu is the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines. You can follow Ambassador Yu on Twitter @AusAmbPH.

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