MY wife and I have been enjoying our holidays in Sydney, Australia, since we arrived here last week. It is great to be back here after five years since our last visit with our children in 2010. The bonding with my older brother and younger sister, who have lived here since the late 1970s and mid-1990s, has been most enriching among us three youngest siblings in the family.
It is really refreshing to see a country where the government works – from Federal, State and to the Council (local) levels – and takes care of its people. Fantastic public infrastructure (roads, bridges and tunnels) and transport systems from the buses to the mass-rail transport system (MRT).
Up in the air before the plane landed at the airport, I could appreciate the planning and zoning of Sydney with its network of highways and public parks composed open spaces and wooded areas. Master-planning of the metropolis, the state capital of New South Wales (NSW), is comparable to the big cities (conurbations) in North America, as well as in old Europe.
On land, it is hard to miss the preponderance of public parks (and public golf courses, too) with the open spaces and trees. Then, there are the impressive public schools with their simple, functional buildings and wide campuses. Other than education, there are the public hospitals that provide free medical services. There are also other social services for the people.
All of the above simply shows the competence in governance and the virtual absence of corruption. It is obvious here that public funds – the taxpayers money ! – are not wasted and stolen as practiced in the government back home even now under the so-called Tuwid na Daan (Straight Path) of the sanctimonious administration of President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd.
Having had the benefit of travelling to many developed nations around the world, Australia is my country of choice if I had migrated or if I were to migrate. In fact, my older brother had wanted to petition me more than 20 years ago. Today, I still have the application form signed by my dear brother as a “souvenir.”
Our youngest sister, a registered nurse (RN), availed herself of the same opportunity and has lived here Down Under since the 1990s. She has been most happy living here with a conducive environment for the past decades and I am very happy for her.
Even if I don’t reside in Australia, I call it my “home” outside the Philippines. There is the feeling of being welcomed by the Aussies without them saying so. They are naturally friendly and polite, too. The beauty of Australia could easily make it as “God’s Own Country” so blessed with stunning sceneries. However, what makes this country great are its charming and caring people, who are “cool” and courteous.
The best part with the Australians or Aussies is captured by what Australian Ambassador Bill Tweddell told me when we first met last year during the Israeli Film Festival. With his charismatic personality, AmbassadorTweddell remarked: “We, Australians, don’t take ourselves seriously.” How true! They are fun-loving and they take it easy, but they get the work done.
Aussies are known to love sports from rugby and cricket to tennis, swimming and sailing. Australia has produced outstanding athletes who have excelled and won many medals in the Olympics. I recall my visit in 1996 when I caught the excitement of the parade in downtown Sydney of the victorious Aussie athletes who just came from the Atlanta Olympics.
Speaking of the Olympics, Sydney hosted the 2000 Olympics that the late president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Juan Antonio Samaranch declared as “The BEST Olympics” ever. The Sydney Olympics showed the world the “Spirit of Volunteerism” wherein thousands of young Sydneysiders trained and gave their services for free.
Other than sports, there are world-famous bands and singers with their roots from Australia. The Gibbs brothers of the Bee Gees, Olivia Newton-John and even Rod Steward have lived Down Under. It is typical of the British connection with Australia that is part of the Commonwealth.
In the fascinating world of movies or theater, Mel Gibson, Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman are famous Aussie actors who are renowned around the world. Russel Crowe, originally from New Zealand, migrated with his family to Australia before he became a world-famous actor.
It is amazing how a country of only over 20 million can produce so many talents in sports, music, science and arts & culture. Australia also reminds me of Israel that has produced 12 Nobel Prize laureates with only a population of eight million people.
I recall my first visit to Australia in 1988 in time for its Bicentennial celebration. From the airport, my brother and sister-in-law took my wife and me to the Centennial Park to see the awesome view of the iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Sydney is probably the most beautiful harbour-city in the world and I agree. Perhaps one of a kind.
There was also the 1988 World Expo celebration in Brisbane, Queensland, which was a fantastic event with the pavilions of so many countries, including our very own Philippines. We drove in a hired van from Sydney to Brisbane for about 10 – 12 hours! What an adventure it was during winter time in June.
From Brisbane, we went up to the Gold Coast. I remember going to the SeaWorld theme park and enjoyed the rides and shows. I doubt if I can still manage to take the thrilling fun-rides, which may now cause me anxiety and panic attacks after 27 years.
Australia, which is located in the southern hemisphere like New Zealand, is the Legacy of the British system, which started with the great British Empire that lasted for centuries where “the sun never sets.” Like Canada in the northern hemisphere, it is well-governed with benefits in education, health and other social services.
Like the title of the famous song written by Peter Allen in the early 1990s, “I call Australia Home.”