Laying the Foundation
The University of the Philippines Alumni Association of Australia – New South Wales Chapter (UPAAA-NSW) is not only one of the early Filipino organizations established in New South Wales but also one of the oldest UP alumni chapters recognized outside the Philippines.
Founded on 1 March 1980 in Sydney, UPAAA-NSW aims to (1) assist its Alma Mater in the fulfillment of its mission as an academic institution, (2) assist in the development and welfare of alumni in Australia and in the Philippines, and (3) foster socio-cultural development and interaction between the Association and the Australian community.
The founding members were: Victor Pulmano (President), Elizabeth Leroux (Vice President), Evelyn Liquete (Secretary), Engr. Benjamin Liquete, Engr. Deo Reyes, Linda Duque-Swords, Robert Sugcang, and Baldomero Villanueva.
The first six years of UPAAA-NSW were devoted to promoting fellowship, community service, and Filipino culture through socio-cultural activities as well as supporting UP graduates studying in Australian universities.
Thirty-five years after its foundation, UPAAA-NSW has remained an active Filipino community organization in Australia, surviving amidst the changing times and new challenges.
Guided by the motto “Unity, Community and Loyalty”, it continues to be of service to UP, fellow alumni and the greater Filipino and Australian communities.
UPAAA-NSW has pursued its goals with great vigor and determination. Membership has increased over the years, and several fund-raising activities have provided the means to pursue its objectives. Thanks to the invaluable contributions of its members and supporters.
To support its Alma Mater, the Association has been giving donations, both monetary and in- kind. The recipients of funds, books and equipment include the UP Foundation and the UP Modernization project.
Musical concerts were held not only to raise funds but also to promote Filipino culture. Such cultural performances include those by the UP Madrigal Singers (1996), UP Singing Ambassadors (2001), Hiraya Men’s Chorus (2002), and Kontemporaryong Gamelan Pilipino or Kontra-Gapi (2003). In 2002, members from the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) conducted seminars on Philippine music and dance, featuring UP Professor Edru Abraham – the founder and director of Kontra-Gapi.
Recognition of Academic Institutions and Professional Qualifications in Australia
The recognition of overseas academic and professional qualifications of UP alumni as well as other Filipino and non-Filipino migrants in Australia is considered one of Association’s most significant achievements.
In pursuing this objective, UPAAA-NSW lobbied for a decade and persuaded both the Federal and NSW governments to evaluate the academic qualifications of Philippine universities and their graduates. UPAAA-NSW participated actively in meetings and symposia of various organizations/agencies, such as the Council of Overseas Professional Qualifications, Ethnic Affairs Communities Council of NSW, National Office for Overseas Skills Recognition, and the Department of Immigration.
The persistent efforts of UPAAA-NSW resulted in the standardization of skills assessment in all categories and the recognition of several academic institutions as being on par with Australian and other international universities. The outcome of this collective effort has been helping overseas-trained doctors to get medical registration and license to practice in Australia. The Association aims to continue its effort to address other issues relating to overseas qualifications and standardization of other professions, including employment.
In support of the Alma Mater’s Iskolar ng Bayan progam, UPAAA-NSW established a Scholarship Grant by sponsoring the education of academically deserving but indigent Filipino students enrolled in the University of the Philippines.
The very first grant was awarded in 1982 to a Mass Communication student. The Scholarship Grant Project, chaired by educator Dr. Corazon Catibog-Sinha, was revived and strengthened in 2006, and since then it has become the Association’s flagship project. The scholarship grant covers school fees, monthly stipend as well as book and transportation allowance. The awardees are selected in accordance with the rules and conditions set by the UP Scholarship Office (Diliman, QC.) and the formal agreement between UPAAA-NSW and the Office of the UP President.
The financial contributions of many members and friends of UPAAA-NSW have been indispensable in pursuing the scholarship project. The main fundraiser for this project is the Oblation Cup Golf Tournament under the constant support and strong leadership of Engr. Ferdinand Francisco and Dr. Corazon Alvarez-Francisco. The tournament is held every Easter Monday. Since its inception during the 2008 UP Centennial celebration, the tournament has raised the much-needed funds that have, so far, supported seven UP scholars, five of whom have already completed their undergraduate degrees.
Charitable Assistance and Support
Whilst UPAAA-NSW is not a charitable organization, it has, nonetheless, provided financial aid and goods to various provincial schools and charity organizations in the Philippines. Among which are the Elsie Gaches Orphanage, Negros Headstart School, and Marian Housing Foundation. The Association also provided financial assistance towards the construction of a house in the Fil-Oz Sydney Village in Quezon Province, a project of Gawad Kalinga and the Philippine Community Council NSW.
In response to the heart-breaking natural disasters that hit the Philippines in 2013, UPAAA-NSW donated to Timak Iti La Union for the victims of the Bohol earthquake, and to Bohol Local Development Foundation and Habitat for Humanity’s Housing Project for the earthquake victims. UPAAA-NSW also gave donations to UP Foundation for the victims of typhoon Yolanda and provided financial aid to support the reconstruction of UP Tacloban College and UP School of Health Sciences in Palo, Leyte as both campuses were badly damaged by the typhoon.
Linkages and Cultural Exchange
UPAAA-NSW’s profile within the greater community is enhanced through its interactions and linkages with various groups/institutions in Australia and in the Philippines.
In 1990, an Agreement of Cooperation was initiated between UP and the University of New South Wales for the exchange of faculty, visiting research fellowships, and cooperative research.
In 2012, UPAAA-NSW became a Community Engagement partner of the University of Western Sydney.
Other projects which UPAAA-NSW has had collaborations with include, the Overseas Trained Doctors Association, Greening Australia, NSW Health Department, St. Vincent de Paul Society Planet Ark, and Philippine Australian Community Services, Inc.
Seminars and Lectures
Public seminars and lectures, presented by the members themselves, have been hosted by UPAAA-NSW. Topics include health care, Philippine wildlife conservation, and Australian immigration laws. Collaborative partnerships with other organizations have also been organized, such as the Taking Care of the Elderly information session-workshop with PACSI, focusing on issues and concerns of the elderly in NSW.
Awards and Recognition
UPAAA-NSW bested many other UP alumni chapters in a competition hosted by the main UP Alumni Association by winning one of the most coveted recognition awards – the Distinguish Service Award. The trophy, which represents the exemplary achievements of UPAAA-NSW over the years, was accepted by President Marie Balce in behalf of the Association in a ceremony held in the Philippines in June 2011.
No stranger to milestones, UPAAA-NSW marked its 25th year in 2005 with the publication of its Silver Anniversary Souvenir Yearbook which chronicles its rich and vibrant history including a list of members from NSW and ACT. A souvenir program, highlighting the major activities and achievements of UPAAA-NSW, was published in 2010 to commemorate the 30th Anniversary.
In celebration of the UP Centennial in 2008, UPAAA-NSW launched the UPAAA-NSW Outstanding Alumni Achievement Awards to recognize the exceptional contributions of its members to their profession and/or community as well as their dedication in actively promoting the Association’s objectives. The recipients of the achievement awards were Dr. Corazon Alvarez- Francisco (Medicine), Atty. Imelda Argel (Law), Heidi Portugal (Education & Training), Lolita Lewis (Business and Finance), Dr. Corazon Catibog-Sinha (Environment), and Atty. Imelda Argel (Community Service) .
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE 2016-2018
President: Corazon Catibog-Sinha
Internal Vice President: Alice Bergonia
External Vice President: Tiffi Ramos
Secretary: Cresmar Yparraguirre
Treasurer: Mica Arellano
Internal Auditor: Christine Paul
Board of Directors
Chairs of Committees
Community Engagement: Lina Cabaero
Constitutional Committee: Pamela Ventura
Fundraising Committee: Tiffi Ramos
Scholarship Committee: Corazon Catibog-Sinha
Public Officer: Pamela Ventura