Filipino Australia: My Pinoy Life in Sydney

 

ROBERT  MONICO GUALBERTO JR

Since when have you been living there?

I arrived here in October 2011. It’s been more than half a year now, but for me, it already feels like forever.

Can you briefly recount briefly why you moved there?

The primary reason why I moved to Sydney is to study Culinary Arts at Le Cordon Bleu (LCB). I chose Australia because this is the only branch of LCB that offers industry placement, which is similar to what they call in the Philippines as OJT or on-the-job-training. Once we are finished, we will be LCB graduates, who are renowned globally. We will also be recognized as Australian Qualified chefs.

Tell us something about Sydney.

Sydney is just like any other metropolitan city. Big, crowded, busy and fast-paced. So if you are used to that kind of place, then you will definitely love Sydney. There are a lot of places to visit here such as the Sydney Aquarium, Wild Life, Taronga Zoo, Blue Mountains and Three Sisters, the Opera House, Bondi Beach, Manly Beach, Harbour Bridge, Royal Botanical Garden, Hunter Valley, Darling Harbour and many more. Furthermore, if you want to party, Sydney, from what I’ve heard, is the best place to party here in Australia.

On the other hand, if you want a more quiet life, Sydney has its suburbs that you may also want to explore.

Sydney is also very multicultural so you’ll see different races. Actually, I find Sydney dominated by Oriental people. When I arrived here, I thought I was in Singapore, China or Taiwan because there are so many Asians.


Just like every big city in first world countries, Sydney’s infrastructure is so impressive. I can’t complain about the railways, roads, freeways, toll, etc. Everything seems perfect.

There’s only one thing, though, that I didn’t like about Sydney. Since it is a very big city, moving around is quite challenging especially for commuters like me. A car is certainly a necessity. The buses here have schedules so if I miss my bus then I have to wait for 30 minutes to an hour for the next one. Although trains here are amazing, I still have to catch a bus to get to the nearest station near my place. Not to mention, bus tickets are not cheap at all. It ranges from AUD$2.50-4.50. But I buy a weekly ticket for only AUD$51 that you can use on trains, ferries and buses.

Sydney is also considered as one of the most expensive cities in the world. Although the salary here is pretty good compared to other first world countries, you won’t be able to save that much because the cost of living is very high.

I am currently renting a very small room but this is just about 600 meters away from my school. I pay AUD$160/week and bills are not yet included. It is also close to a mall and near to bus stops.

What do you do for a living?

I am a full time Pastry student in Le Cordon Bleu, and I’m currently working as a Commis Chef in two different hotels owned by one company. As a student, I am only allowed to work 40 hours every two weeks while still in school. But I can work for unlimited hours during school holidays and during my industry placement.


Working in the kitchen is really challenging. You really have to have a passion for cooking and food, because this job has so many demands. Salary is low, workload is heavy, working hours are long. You’re lucky if you get to take a break, and the heat is terrible.

I also had my trials and was on the brink of giving up. I wasn’t expecting that this job would be that stressful. After cooking, I still have to wash the dishes and clean the kitchen. Sometimes, I also feel kind of lost and don’t know what to do especially during lunch or dinner service.   But then I realized, I wouldn’t leave my country if not for this dream. I have just started in this industry and all I need is patience and hard work to get to where I want to be.

Is there a Filipino community there?

Yes, there is. When I stayed with my relatives, they brought me to some Filipino gatherings or parties. I also met groups they have joined like their church choir and dance group. I met a group of Filipinos once when I played badminton in Sydney Olympic Park. They invite me every time they play but due to my busy schedule I have not been able to play with them again. I heard there was also a Filipino festival held last year wherein Filipino celebrities performed but I was still new here that time.

Tell us about your life there

When I first arrived, I was like a “probinsyano” coming to a big city. I was checking the big buildings and appreciating the infrastructure. Without even noticing it, I was already at my homestay and my Australian host mother greeted me. She was lovely and so was her house. I lived in that house with my host mom and her family for one month. She let me work in her café as a kitchen assistant, which then eventually helped me get experience and job offers afterwards.

I started with Basic Cuisine and they taught us the fundamentals about meats, vegetables, stocks, sauces, and fish. I was used to cooking in my own time and enjoy preparing dishes. So the first few days in the kitchen came like a big shock to me that cooking is not at all easy. Every day became a challenge as the recipes get harder and harder.

Now, I am studying Intermediate Patissiere and love being a Pastry Chef. I have shifted from being a Cuisine Chef because I believe that I work well as a Pastry Chef. My passion for cooking was intensified by this part of the culinary world. The end products always give me satisfaction especially if people appreciate not just the taste but also the art and effort you put in it. The plate is my canvass and my ingredients are my colors/palette. It never fails to put a smile on my face when I share the pastries I make in school with my friends and housemates and they all greet it with, “Woooohs” and then “MMMmmmmms” when they start eating it.

I believe that LCB is giving me the best training in the world and this is preparing me to become competitive and world-class professional. I have just started my journey in becoming an excellent pastry chef. It might be a long journey but I hope it will be really sweet in the end.

What cultural practices/behaviors have you acquired from your host country?

In terms of cultural practices, there are a few small things like eating pies with tomato sauce, walking a lot because they don’t have tricycles here, leaving the house early and being on the bus stop 5-10 minutes before the bus arrives.

I’ve also learned to speak the Australian way, pronouncing tomato as “to-mah-to”, asking “how you doing?” or “how you goin’?” instead of the usual “how are you?”.

Australian culture, I think, is all about having fun. I’ve always wanted to go surfing in Bondi Beach or Manly Beach but there were numerous shark alarms. My friends have invited me to go skydiving but I am too much of a wuss. Whenever we hang out, I always try different Aussie beers as they have such a wide variety of beers. Australia is also considered as one of the top 10 wine producing countries in the world so I have also started to appreciate wine here. I was never really a wine drinker back home, because I was more of a rum, brandy, or whisky kind of  a guy.

Your to Filipino across the globe

As wonderful as it seems, living in another country can be really hard at the beginning. You will miss everything about home. It doesn’t mean that you’ll be miserable or unhappy but you will be aware of what it is like being on your own. You will miss the good life you left behind and start to do things you have never done before. You have to be more open-minded about other societies and cultures and their different points of view. Sometimes it will change or break your principles, but the best thing to do about it is to keep your most important values and traditions and change those that you think can be improved on.

Give it time and you will eventually get used to your life and start enjoying being independent. You will then develop a sense of responsibility because you have no one to depend on. All you really have is yourself. It is not at all easy, but these changes are necessary to make us stronger and better individuals.

But, at the end of it all, there’s really no place like home.

Saludo ako sa mga Pilipinong nakikipagsapalaran sa ibang bansa. Mabuhay po kayong lahat!  

 

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