A Historic Occasion

Sydney had rains for most days in June; but on the 18th, the sun was out in its splendour and the wind was still.  This day indeed was not just an ordinary day but offered a historic event to be etched in the annals of the history of the Filipino-Australian community.  The occasion was the unveiling of a bronze statue of our national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal. The statue was a project undertaken by Invocare and is located at the now Rizal Gardens in Pinegrove Memorial Park in Minchinbury in the western area of Sydney.

It was only fitting that before the ceremonies started that a brief courtesy call to the to the Invocare Management T/A Pinegrove Memorial Parks and Gardens was undertaken.  Those who were involved included

  • The Members of the Council of Elders and Supreme Council to be led by Past Supreme Commander, Sir Elihu A. Ybanez, KGCR
  • Members of the Regional Council to be led by Regional Commander, Sir Bob Alipalo, KCR

    The formalities started by the march of the following flag bearers into the West Chapel where the program was held.
  • Sir Tom Baena, KCR – Lead Flag Bearer and Deputy Regional Commander
  • Sir Jhun Morales, KCR – ANZO Regional Exchequer (Philippine Flag Bearer)
  • Sir Jeffrey Mendoza, KCR – ANZO Regional Auditor (Australian Flag Bearer)

Lady Jinky Marsh, Assistant Secretary-KRI Sydney Chapter led the singing of the Philippine National Anthem and Mr. Marcus Rivera as guest singer led the singing of the Australian National Anthem.

Invocation was carried out by Ferdinand Villanueva, Pinegrove Memorial Consultant

This was followed by the Welcome and Acknowledgment of Country by Lady Marideth Laquian; Auditor, Kababaihang Rizalista Inc., Sydney Chapter; Dedication/Handing Mutual Understanding Agreement by  Sir Danny Peralta, KGOR, Former Supreme Auditor, Knights of Rizal; Lady Aileen Labiga, CPA Client Service Manager-Invocare; Sir Elihu A. Ybanez, KGCR-Former Supreme Commander, Knights of Rizal Hqs.

The program was kept running smoothly and on time by the talented Master of Ceremonies, Lady Michelle Baltazar President, Kababaihang Rizalista Inc., Sydney Chapter.  Those of us in the audience who were avid fans of The Marcus & Michelle Show, a popular variety show series a few years back, showcasing Filipino traits, beliefs and practices can be forgiven for the rapturous welcome when Marcus Rivera, stage actor and professional opera singer was announced to render cultural songs in the intermission.  For the duration that Marcus sang “Ugoy ng Duyan” and “Somewhere (West Side Story), there was a hush in the audience as everyone listened appreciatively.

After the intermission, the following talks were undertaken. The first one was a Tribute to Rizal by Sir Lambert Tagayuna, KCR, Legal Officer and Member – NARRA Chapter, Knights of Rizal, Manila Philippines. Sir Lambert shared details of the noteworthy deeds of our national hero. The Message by Lady Josephine Quintero, Great Grandniece of Dr Rizal and Adviser of KRI Melbourne Chapter, started with her jest that she had a ‘Maritess’ sharing.  Far from being a story passed on from unreliable sources which ‘Maritess’ accounts are, she shared an authentic and touching insight into the difficult and heart-rending search by the family for Dr Rizal’s body after his execution.    

Next in the program was the message by Lady Aileen Labiga, Client Services Manager Multicultural Unit of Invocare.  She thanked her team, Edward Chui State Manager Multicultural Unit, Simone Ravenscroft General Manager Major Metropolitan Parks, Multi Cultural Unit and Community, Mark Dubock Executive General Manager Cemeteries and Crematoria.

The Consul General, Philippine Consulate Sydney, Honorable Charmaine Rowena Aviquivil gave the  Inspirational Message.   ConGen acknowledged visiting officers of KOR from the Philippines, KRIs from interstate and in Sydney, and Blacktown City Councillor Carol Israel.

Con Gen Charmaine Aviquivil and Vice Consul Frances Cleofas
ConGen Charmaine Aviquivil and Vice Consul Frances Cleofas flank  the new statue of Dr. Jose Rizal at the Rizal Garden in Pinegrove Memorial Park in Michinbury. 

Excerpts from ConGen’s talk: “….In establishing the Rizal statue in  wish to warmly congratulate the management and staff of Invocare. I commend the Filipino staff of Invocare led by Aileen Labiga, Treasurer of Kababaihang Rizalista,  for their dedicated efforts in pursuing this laudable initiative which honours the legacy and preserves the memory of Dr Rizal for our Filipino-Australian community in New South Wales.  We also deeply appreciate the wholehearted support of the Knights of Rizal and the Kababaihang Rizalista Inc  for the success of this meaningful unveiling…..” 

“….As we celebrate the birth and martyrdom of our national hero, I am always filled with admiration see the hard work and enthusiasm of all the officers and members of the Knights of Rizal and the Kababaihang Rizalista during all the events that commemorate  honouring the times and life of our national hero.  The newly installed statue is a welcome addition to the existing four representation of Dr Rizal….”

This was followed by a Message / Re-dedication and Rizalian Pledge, by Sir Elihu A. Ybañez, KGCR Past Supreme Commander and Member of the Council Elders, Knights of Rizal Hqs

The Closing Remarks were given by Cecilia Patton, Memorial Consultant of Pinegrove Memorial Park and Gardens.

Unveiling and Flower Offering Ceremonies

There was much excitement as everyone walked from the chapel  to the actual site of the statue of Dr Rizal.  The historic unveiling was led by Sir Elihu A. Ybanez, KGCR, Past Supreme Commander, Knights of Rizal Hqs; Honorable Charmaine Aviquivil, Consul General, Phillipine Consulate Office; Mr. Mark Dubock, Executive General Manager – Cemeteries & Crematoria, Invocare Pty Ltd, Lady Aileen Labiga, CPA Client Service Manager, Invocare Pty Ltd.   

There were some of us who were tearing up listening to the heartwarming rendition of the song “Bayan Ko” by Marcus Rivera after the statue was unveiled for all to behold.

Officers and Members of the Knights of Rizal

This was followed by Floral Offering:

  • Sir Elihu A. Ybanez, KGCR – Past Supreme Commander Knights of Rizal Hqs
  • Honorable Charmaine Aviquivil, Consul General, Phillipine Consulate Office
  • Councillor Carol Israel, Blacktown Councillor NSW
  • Members of the Supreme Council and Overseas Visitors
  • ANZO Regional Council and KGOR’s
  • Ms. Josephine Quintero, Great grand-daughter of Soledad-Rizal Family
  • Area Commander, Chapter Commanders, members and respective ladies of Rizal
  • Kababaihang Rizalista Inc., Officers and Members
  • Community Leaders and Other Guests

Also, a presentation of Token of Appreciation was undertaken by Lady Aileen Labiga.

Officers and members of Kababaihang Rizalista.

The Statue

The impressive statue of Dr Rizal is made of bronze of 1.61m in height, with 100mm bronze base plus 900mm solid granite base, with the total height of 2.61m. The statue depicts Dr Rizal holding his novels in his left hand.

The statue can be viewed by members of the public when they visit the Rizal Gardens in Pinegrove Memorial and Gardens in Minchinbury.  There is also an opportunity for people to purchase plots in the Rizal Gardens.

Fellowship and Networking

Typical of a Filipino celebration, a sumptuous lunch of native dishes was shared by all courtesy of Invocare.  This was also the time for catching up and networking with old and new friends, as well as with new contacts.  It was great to have the newest member of the Fil-Aus Media to join us - Atty. Jesil Cajes, broadcaster of Culture Connection Australia of SWR 99.9 FM and introduce her with KOR and KRI officers and members.  Everyone also enjoyed the usual taking of photos to record the memorable occasion. 

The Australian Filipina congratulates Invocare, officers and members of the Knights of Rizal, the Kababaihang Rizal Inc, and all who were invoved in this initiative and memorable occassion.

Photos by:  Charlie of Flare Creative

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