On Saturday, 28th May 2011, my beloved City of Blacktown – west of the cities of Sydney and Parramatta – celebrated its annual City Festival.
I set out at around 8.30 am as I was a participant in the annual festival parade. It felt great to walk out of my unit block to see a fantastic day outside. As I looked around, there were others like me, walking on foot towards the assembly point for the parade.
On my way there I saw rows and rows of stalls selling all sorts of items. There were ancient dolls, decorative items and artifacts. And as Blacktown is the centre of Filipinos in Australia, there were lots of turo-turo (eateries) with the strong aroma of delicious Filipino food wafting in the air. Most prevalent of all was the ever-present
smell of traditional Filipino barbeque. But there were also lots of other ethnic groups now who have made Blacktown City their home, such as the Chinese, Indians and Africans, and they, too, showcased their food and wares.
I dropped by the carinderia (eatery) of one of my friends and bought freshly cooked lumpiang prito (fried spring rolls). This was just my entrée as I knew I would need the energy for the parade.
Chinese participants of the parade
At the assembly area, I looked around and noticed there were some 40 or so group placards. Most noticeable were the Chinese groups, including the Falun Gong in their bright yellow outfits; Indians, especially the Sikh Group who brought along their golden tabernacle which was guarded by Sikh Guards in their golden garb and the Dutch Folk group in their traditional Dutch costumes.
Of course the Filipino Community of Blacktown came in droves. Headed by the Philippine Community Council of NSW banner, other organisations followed, including Senior Citizens’ groups who also had their own float and their members dressed in beautiful and colourful ternos and other Filipino costumes.
The Blacktown City Council Band, made up mainly of Filipino-Australian members were there as well as the very colourful and vibrant Ati-Atihan group, complete with drums and their ever-present whistle. Members of FAME, the Filipino Australian Movement for Empowerment group that is based in Blacktown City, were all waving their banderetas (mini-Philippine flags) and were dressed in colourful costumes of red and blue outfits.
My most memorable moment was when I was holding this bandereta while on the parade and then I saw this young kid, who must have been around two years old, waving and cheering us on so I went to him and handed him the Philippine flag and he gave me this big warm beautiful smile and said “Thank you!”. I felt really good seeing him look so happy. Then he started waving the flag joyfully and excitedly - that was very memorable.
Also, seeing all the youngsters in their exotic costumes marching proudly was a moment I cannot forget
as they are the future of the community that we all now enjoy being a part of.
I would love to see more participation by the Filipino community next year, complete with banners, colourful costumes and a big float. I also hope to see more Filipino participation in the stage programmes.
I have lived in Blacktown for the last14 years and a few years back in the ‘80s. Previously there was always that stigma attached to being a ‘westie’ and that you are classed as a rough neck. Now, the west is the new ‘in’ place to be. Sydney's west, including Blacktown, has magically been transformed and is one of the fastest growing and
emerging suburban cities outside of Sydney. To an outsider, I say ‘come and enjoy our next festival and you can all see what transformation we've had all these years.’
Rodney Dingle is a long-time Blacktown City resident and a very proud "westie".
More photos of the events below, all photos courtesy of the writer: