Response of Filipino Scholars delivered by Carmela Arcena

To His excellency Mr Steven Robinson, Senior Embassy officials present, esteemed officers from the Philippine-Australia Alumni Association (PA3i) and Australia Alumni Community of Practice Philippines (AACPh) and my fellow scholars, Maayong buntag sa tanan! A great morning to you all.

Please allow me to start by thanking Mr Robinson for his kind congratulatory words. We are honoured and thrilled to be able to finish this prestigious scholarship.

I would like to believe that Australia Awards scholars across all batches would agree that it is truly difficult to capture in few words how grateful we are and how much this scholarship has given us.

Australia Awards has not only provided us with the opportunity for further studies in some of the best universities, but has given us irreplaceable memories and unimaginable growth, both academically and personally.

Despite being in an unfamiliar environment thrust into the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic, the support from the Australian government and our chosen schools have given us the security and assurance we needed to overcome hurdles, continue with our schooling, even finishing our degrees with high honours.

This also has enabled us to collaborate, spearhead, and participate in various initiatives for Filipino communities in Australia and the Philippines. With the education's diverse environment, conversations were started, mindsets and cultures were shared, giving us the chance to explore different perspectives and lenses that allowed for deeper introspection and reflection towards our learning, current views, and abilities.

It has aided in reigniting and strengthening our passion, equipping us with the knowledge and skills to efficiently and adequately fulfil our role in assisting the development of our country in our respective industries and areas of influence.

Our Re-entry action plan (REAP) would become our launchpad towards concretizing steps towards the change we have envisioned for our country. The encompassing range of expertise we have across disciplines and areas in the Philippines would make a positive shift in our localities that could later develop further and branch out across the nation.

Aside from this, whenever chance allowed us, we explored a beautiful country rich in history, character, and natural beauty. We have discovered and gained relations and friends from all parts of the Philippines and the globe. People who we have cherished and valued even more throughout this pandemic.

We created and gained incredible moments through our stay that will forever be remembered and solidified in many, many, many photos and videos. Hopefully, never to be erased, so let's back up those files guys! And, of course, in multiple stories, tales that would definitely resurface in get-togethers and fond recollections with others.

On behalf of Batch Sinag, we sincerely thank the Australian government for this generous initiative. It truly is a chance of a lifetime. Thank you.