Community associations Plaza Filipino and NARRA Co-op have joined forces to identify 20 outstanding Filipino-Australians who are passionate about promoting and enriching Philippine arts and culture in Australia. 

Early last month, the honourees were feted at a special gathering in Burwood RSL Club in Sydney.

Cardiologist Dr. Raul Amor, chair of the Filipino Doctors Association of Australia, and successful businesswoman Carmenchu Montilla-Gresham were named this year's recipients of the 2016 Philippine Australian Ambassador for Culture and the Arts.

While both Dr. Amor and Montilla-Gresham are busy with their demanding and successful careers, they are very active in the community. 

Dr. Amor is regularly involved in fundraising activities supporting arts and entertainment (as well as his medical outreach programs) while Montilla-Gresham raises awareness in traditional Philippine costumes through her fashion design.

"I have often talked about migrant Filipinos being ambassadors for the Philippines, as they present an image of our country and people overseas," said the Hon. Consul General Anne Jalando-on Louis in the event's souvenir programme.

"In this regard, they are resource persons and best examples of the Filipinos' rich heritage and culture," she said. 

The Consul General was present as 18 other individuals were acknowledged for their cultural advocacy, community service and excellence in their chosen fields. They were, in alphabetical order:

Linda Rose Bishop (Education)

Fredisinda Padilla Buchlak (Community Service)

Marcelo Cabillo (Community Service)

Violi Calvert (Media)

Marx Canoy (Culinary Arts)

Marilyn Andres Chun (Education)

Dr. Edgar Escultura (Science and Mathematics)

Oliver Gadista (Music)

Josephine Montemayor Henry (Community Service)

Serna Gregorio Ladia (Accounting)

Claudio Lisao (Fashion Design)

Manny Medel (Community Service)

Violeta Nones Miguel (Education and Creative Writing)

Armando Reyes (Theatre Arts)

Bob Reyes (Visual Arts)

George Torres (Public Safety and Security)

Josephine Guevarra Weatherly (Community Service)

Evelyn Zaragoza (Media and Community Service)

The proceedings were followed by a special concert co-headlined by New York-based Roanne Monte (who played 'Kim' in Miss Saigon London) and Dexter Villa (who played 'Jesus' in Jesus Christ Superstar). They were joined onstage by fellow performing artists Tina Bangel and Marcus Rivera.

The result was an unforgettable night where guests enjoyed great performances from musicals such as Miss Saigon, Jesus Christ Superstar and Les Miserables. 

But even as Monte received a resounding applause from the crowd for her reprisal of her 'Miss Saigon' performances, she wrote in her blog that it's the ambassadors who deserve the praise.

"I stand on the shoulders of giants when I say that I am inspired by the tireless work of ambassadors, diplomats, community leaders and volunteers who grace the show by their presence," she said.

"They are the ones who make sacrifices to serve the community and, as a result, make a difference in people's lives."

The recognition night is also a fundraising initiative with the proceeds going towards establishing a cultural centre in Australia.

NARRA Co-op president Dr. Jimmy Lopez and former Plaza Filipino president Daisy Ann Gonzalez Cumming thanked all the honorees and guests for their support, with more than 250 guests (full house) attending the event.

Photos: Bob Reyes, Marilie Bomediano for Ang Kalatas

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