June 14, 2024

Freedom festivities – Independence Day and senior spirit

It’s Thursday and the seniors from the Filipino Social Support Group are arriving at the Riverside Community Centre in South Morang. Two minibuses have brought the 21 participants from suburbs such as Broadmeadows, Watergardens, Reservoir and Brunswick.

The women are a vision in their colourful ‘Maria Clara’ shawls and ‘terno’ gowns with distinctive bell sleeves. The Filipino flag is proudly displayed alongside the Australian flag, and on the table, a bowl of fragrant ‘calamansi’ (cumquats) sits by a bowl of flowers and leaves which will later be used as props while the women dance.

Collage of four photos: a basket of flowers and a basket of cumquats; four Filipino women standing in national costume; a display depicting the symbolism of the Filipino flag; and Filipino seniors sitting at lunch

It is a special day for the group who have come together to celebrate Philippines Independence Day; a national holiday in the Philippines to commemorate the Declaration of Independence from Spanish rule in 1898.

Generosa Prado is one of the Group Facilitators and a Filipino herself. She has taken great care to decorate the hall with the flags, balloons, and even a small display with information about the symbolism of the national flag.

“Celebrating Philippines Independence Day with our seniors is an important part of acknowledging our culture,” said Generosa. “It gives us an opportunity to demonstrate pride in our country of birth and to express gratitude for our freedom.”

Carmelita, one of the group participants agrees. “It’s very important to celebrate Independence Day. Because of Independence Day, the Philippines became a Republic, meaning we are free from being under another country’s rule. For me, Independence Day means freedom.”

A collage of four photos: Filipino seniors celebrating Philippines Independence Day

Encouraging independence in seniors is a key element of Spectrum’s Social Support Groups for seniors. The weekly sessions provide an opportunity to maintain social connections with others, reducing isolation and loneliness. Organised activities such as Zumba, games and outings promote health and wellbeing. And celebrating significant cultural events helps the seniors feel valued and respected in all parts of their lives.

“For the Filipino seniors, independence means living with dignity, making their own choices, and staying active in the community,” said Generosa. “The seniors who come to our groups are all exercising their independence when they come together each week.”

Aida is another of the participants who expressed gratitude for the freedoms now available to her as a senior. “I have freedom here in Australia,” said Aida. “We worked, we paid taxes, and now I’m a full pensioner and as we get older, we can get services. Like here at Spectrum – we can have a get-together; we can stay independent.”

As the seniors join in a parade around the room, marching proudly behind the flag-bearers carrying the Philippine and Australian flags, we witness the true spirit of independence. Active seniors celebrating their strength and joy together.

Filipino seniors celebrating Philippines Independence Day