One of the areas and activities that had been impacted by COVID 19 restrictions is travel.  In 2020, we experienced border lockdowns in order to contain the spread of the virus.   It was only towards the end of the year that limited inter-state travel was allowed.  

The Northern Territory was one of the places that first opened its borders to travellers from New South Wales. My husband John and I took the first opportunity to go there as we have been planning to visit there before we had the pandemic.  We went there on the third week of October.  The whole trip was amazing - from Darwin through to Kakadu, Litchfield and Katherine.       . 

Darwin provided an interesting start of our trip, with its metropolitan delights, historical sites and parks.  In our walk through the city's Bicentennial Park's Damoe-ra Pathway, I was glad to note posters of names of Woman of the Year awardees.  One of these showed "Fele Mann  - Woman of the Year 2004".  After the trip I tracked down Fele through the social media, but our interview had to be postponed twice as she had heart operation and other health issues to attend to.

I came across recent postings on social media that on June 19, 2021  Fele received another award.  She was presented the Tala Excellence Award by the Filipino Australian Association of the Northern Territory ("FAANT") during its joint celebration of the Philippines 123rd  Independence Day and the 75th Philippine Australian Bilateral Relations.  The certificate she received stated "in recognition  of outstanding dedication and commitment."  It is really time that we finalise our Q&A interview with her. 

We are glad to share Fele's responses which show an insight into this gem of a Pinay that our enjoyable  trip uncovered.

What does winning the Women of the Year and the Tala Excellence awards mean to you.?

Winning the “TRIBUTE TO NORTHERN TERRITORY WOMEN” or “Women of the Year Award “ sponsored by the N.T. Government is the greatest highlight of my life. I was ecstatic when I delivered my acceptance speech at N.T. Parliament House at the request of the former chief minister Clare Martin, MLA. The Parliament House at the second floor of the building where the award was held was packed by a big crowd attended by members of The Legislative Assembly and other dignitaries and many 'Territorians'.  After my brief acceptance speech it was followed by loud long applauses. My heart was full of joy so indescribable.

The recent award of Tala Excellence was equally very uplifting for me.  The Grand celebration was a success and the President of FAANT, Ms Em Wills who congratulated me after giving me the Award. I delivered my acceptance speech which was loudly applauded by the big crowd.  I felt emotional at that moment realising that I may achieved a lot for humanity.

The awards mean a lot to me. Actually they are the greatest highlights of my life because they reflect that my fondest goals and dreams to be a great asset to humanity were amazingly fulfilled. God has blessed me so tenderly!

What do you think contributed largely in winning these awards?

I spent many years of serving the community through my work and volunteer positions in various community organisations which I enjoyed and did without the expectation of being given an award for them.  If I have to cite them, I am pleased to share the following information which may have contributed largely to my winning the award: 

I was a public service officer in the Records and Xray Departments at the Royal Darwin Hospital for 23 years; Interpreter Translator for 23 years.  I was President of the Fillipino Club Darwin Incorporated ( FCD INC ) where for 23 years in charge of charity fundraising through then Yearly Super Gala Nights and Beauty Pageants.  These raised funds for those in dire needs, indigents especially the orphans in the Philippines monitored by the Commission of Filipinos Overseas, Office of the President of the Republic of the PHILLIPPINES and the Bantay Bata 163. NT Correspondent to the Filipino Community Herald Newspapers for the many years about news from the N.T.

I was also Knighted as Grand commander of the “MOST NOBLE ORDER OF RIZAL” held in Sydney years ago for “Outstanding in Community Services"; Radio announcer on TOP FM radio for 6 years to broadcast all the important activities of the Filipino community in Darwin N.T. ; President of Global Australia for years and NT global Correspondent of the TIMPUYOG JOURNAL,  Magazine of Ilocano writers worldwide; Finalist of the PRIDE OF AUSTRALIA medal FAIR GO sponsored by the Northern Territory News; included in the list of WOMEN WORLD Achievers in the PHOTO BIO WORLD ALBUM for Exemplary Community Services.


What challenges have you faced and overcome?

Being President of an Incorporated Club like the Filipino Club Darwin or FCD Inc., I had to face so many difficult challenges like organizing big functions yearly by conducting Super Gala Night and Beauty Pageants.  This was a gigantic job which included recruiting beauty contestants and sponsors for the Beauty Pageant; soliciting public donations; selling tickets for the functions, organising participants for the program; arranging entertainers and Master of Ceremonies like the famous Lillian de Las Reyes and Rod Dingle.  Although they agreed to donate their services, the Gala nights to put them in the hotel for their accommodation and pay for their air fares back and forth, and many more too long to mention. I had done all these with the solid support of officers and members of FCD Inc.

The biggest challenge I had and overcame was to take people to court for defamation of character.  I believed they were jealous of the continuous success of our Fillipino Club Darwin Inc. and so they tried to put us down by defaming our reputation. We won the court case and the Special General Election mandated by the court on the bases the all receipts of donations sent to the orphans, were presented to the court with Letters of Thanks from the Commissions of Filipino Overseas. None of the other parties appeared in the court. The Certificate of Recognition and Appreciation awarded to the Filipino Club Darwin Inc. for Outstanding Community Services was the strongest evidence,  in addition to the receipt of donations sent to them by FCD Inc. with me as the President.

What other achievements do you hold fondly in your heart?

The other achievements I successfully accomplished that I hold finally in my heart include being able to assist Filipinos stop their deportation by asking the help of big time politicians to help on their behalf.  This involved writing letters of Appeal to Prime Minister and his wife explaining their genuine situation that they shouldn’t be deported because they did not violate any law.

I wrote a heart moving letter of appeal to Mrs Tammy Fraser wife of Prime Minister Frazer to help an innocent mother and son from being deported and to stay in Darwin. She contacted Minister of Immigration Mr. McKellar and the mother and son were able to stay when Immigraton Minister Mr MCkellar approved their stay in Darwin NT. There were few other Fillipinos who were able to stay through my intercession as President of FCD Inc.

What else you do you wish to accomplish in life?

Modesty aside, I feel I had successfully accomplished my dreams, goal and aspirations in life by being able to help the needy, the destitute and the orphans in the Philippines for 23 solid years. It is great that I contributed for their bright future, education, food, and other needs.

The greatest thing that I wish to accomplish in my life is to be a role model in serving humanity which is the essence of our existence. Once I succeed as a role model with the help of our Almighty God, I couldn’t ask for more!

What are your overall comments of your time in the NT and your observations of the Filipino Australian organisations there in terms of projects and activities?

Flipinos are hardworking and persevering in making their projects succeeded. They are all do their best efforts, work together as one and ensure that their projects bear fruits like the Filipino club Darwin Inc, officers and members.

Our stay in the NT is a great blessings by GOD because it is in Darwin that we fully achieved the realisation of our goals and dreams to serve humanity and make our lives worth living.

If you are able to change anything you have done or experienced in the past, what would that be?

This is a very good question and a catching one too!! My experiences are varied and replete with challenges. I used to be very trusting person till I found out that trusting anyone you don’t know can present problems. There are people you trust but found out to be backbiters and put you down. I would like to say that, for a change, I would only trust those who are loyal, honest and trustworthy but unfortunately there are only few of them.

On another topic important to us, what is your personal view of the COVID 19 vaccination?

My personal view is that COVID 19 vaccination has more good effects than the risks of having it.  I believe to be vaccinated is much safer than not being vaccinated at all. I haven’t been vaccinated but when my appointment comes, I will gladly go. I highly recommend everyone to be vaccinated to be safe and have peace of mind.

I noticed that Territorians including the Filipino Community have conflicting views on vaccination; some are in agreement and others are not. This is probably due to seeing some videos which show that the vaccines are not completely safe as there are no guarantees. So their resistance cannot be criticised for its their life. In the final analysis however, I personally recommend the vaccination for the simple reason that there are more advantages than the risks.

What is your advice to our kababayans to avoid contracting the virus?

My advice is to be very careful and not to be complacent at all as this can affect our lives. Wear mask, comply with social distancing and avoid going to parties and big gatherings.  Let us continue to pray to God to save us from contracting the virus and for the virus to not longer be a threat to our health.

Lastly, how do you define success?

Success is the sweetest feeling of all! It’s the full realisation of once life goals and dreams. It’s a lasting Legacy of a lifetime. I have a additional definition of success. It is the sweetest revenge to wicked people who put you down and destroy you good reputation through false accusations and jealousy. They dismally will lost and you will win a responding victory. To God Be All the Glory!!

 

ABOUT FELE MANN

 Fele Mann was born in Barrio Cili, Binalonan, Pangasinan, Philippines. Her parents Marcelo Javier and Dionisia Esposo Javier who were both from Binalonan, have passed on many years ago. Fele is the youngest of their five children of one son and four daughters.

After finishing with high honours her primary and high school education, she studied at the Northwestern University in Dagupan City Philippines.  She completed Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education (BSEEed) with high honour. She had a contract with the N.U as a scholar, so that after graduation, she taught as a critic teacher in grade 5 for 2 years.  After that she transferred to teach in the public school when she successfully passed the public school exam.

She taught in the public school in charge of grade 5 pupils for 12 years at the Sta. Maria Elementary School.  Then went to England to study as a Student Nurse at the Guildford School of Nursing.  She was not able to finish 4 years of nursing for she got married to King Roman, formerly Ron Mann, who was then at the Air Force and on holiday to England.

"He is a perfect gentleman and marriage to him was hard to resist. I discerned that my marriage to him was a great blessing from God."

Fele and Roman decided to migrate to Darwin Australia in 1975.  They have been blessed with three daughters and one son, and eight grandchildren. They are still in Darwin and happily settled there.   

(Photos supplied)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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