It’s been a wrap for BridgeAustralia’s migration and education expo  in Iloilo last May 18, 2019. It was an event that initially had everyone on the team in doubt. With barely six months to prepare and a whole lot of things to do on the ground, the results far exceeded everyone’s expectation.  The guests, local and Australian, couldn’t have been only cheeky.   They showed up  and sat through  the seminars.

The team expected some 300 people and the numbers came near the target.  The participants were a curious bunch, notwithstanding the young Iloilo vloggers.  There were fresh college graduates, the employed and unemployed, nurses,  IT professionals, couples, and those who wanted to study in Australia.  They went up to the exhibitors’ booth and had their queries answered right then and there.

The BridgeAus team poses for posterity after the event at Richmonde Hotel,  Iloilo City

The exhibitors, who wasted no time in confirming their attendance barely a week after receiving the invitation,   flew in with little expectations but ended up swearing to come back: Crown Institute of Higher Education (represented by chairman of the board Deepak Khadka,  Prof. Grant Jones, and Ariz Ortanez); Education Training and Employment Australia (ETEA), represented by Angeline Taruc; Victorian Institute of Technology and Rhodes College, represented  by Ann Razon;  Southern Cross Education Institute, represented  by Debbie Aquino; and Deakin University Melbourne , represented by Max Oliver.

On other hand, there were guests who came from Iloilo colleges and universities as well as from the province’s Department of Information and Communication and Technology (DICT).  The city and provincial  tourism offices sent in an  envoy in the form of  a costumed performer who welcomed participants together with BridgeAus’s mascot, Bridgit.

The expo provides  exhibitors and participants  time and space to discuss options and possibilities for living in Australia

In her speech Bridge Australia CEO Johanna Bertumen Nonato  explained the many ways Filipinos could take to be able to work and live in Australia.   She cleared a number of intricacies in the process particularly those that are taken advantage of by illegal agents and fly-by-night consultants.  She stressed the fact that, Iloilo ranks  high in the Philippines’ skills and education density index.  The migration and education event was conceived not only to open up opportunities for Ilonggos in Australia but as well as to forge ties between Iloilo and Australian education institutions.  Deepak Khadka and Professor  Grant Jones are very optimistic there will be one in the near future. “I sense a lot of potential partnerships with the universities in this city,” observes  Khadka.

BridgeAus CEO Johanna Bertumen Nonato seals it  with Southern Cross’s Debbie Aquino  over dinner

Indeed the series of talks enlightened participants on the many options they can take to be able to work  and live in Australia: mental health practice,  nursing in Australia, careers in ICT in Australia,  Australian food health and safety, leadership and management, and project management.   

And what a way to cap off the affair: during the raffle one lucky lady (Angelica San Bermudo) from Iloilo City Community college won a free trip to Melbourne, Australia and back, good for two.   

Next day, the team took the guests to an island across the city. But that’s another story.