Danny Peralta: A Patriot for the Language

Danny-PeraltaHe comes from a distinguished line of patriots, of freedom fighters who fought against colonisers and foreign invaders. His birthplace is historic Bataan, coastline of the Katagalogan region, where one of the most important battles in Philippine history was fought.

Danilo Peralta may not be a soldier but neither did he digress from the deep nationalist blood that runs in his veins.   He remains a tireless advocate of Filipino culture: his battle – the preservation of the rich Tagalog dialect and the art of the Balagtasan.

“My Lolo was a Katipunero, my father was a bemedalled USAFFE officer who fought in Bataan,” relates Mr Peralta as he shows photos of his late father.

“I was born in Limay, Bataan and since 6th grade until highschool, I was always the makata in the family,” he says.

Danny is the founding president of the Tagalog Association of Australia formed in 2012 and is currently the chapter commander of the Knights of Rizal in Sydney.

A wide reader and a self-confessed lover of books with an amazing collection at his Mt Druitt home (anything from Shakespeare to Tolstoy, history and geography and a lot!), Danny remains a busy man dedicating his time to the community; that’s apart from planting trees in their front and backyard.

Since his retirement a few years ago, he had helped gather fellow Tagalogs to work towards promoting the Filipino language.

“I think we are diminishing our knowledge of learning the Filipino language and culture especially our children who are born in Australia,” he says.

“This needs to be re-enforced with the promotion through the Filipino organisation like TAA in collaboration with our Consulate office and governmental bodies by way of language courses (in Filipino), performing traditional dances and songs and presenting our costumes especially during the mult- cultural celebration. We should show our strong presence as Filipinos so our young generations would be enticed to participate in these Fiilipino events.

The Balagtasan has become an annual event in the Fil-Aussie calendar particularly within the Sydney west region.

“The Tagalog Association of Australia was formed in 2012 after years of planning. The Tagalogs are always associated with our know culture of Balagtasan and we have decided that this is the way we will promote the association.”

A lover of history, Danny is proud of his own ancestry. Tracing their family tree is like taking a trip around the Philippines with family episodes intertwined with the country’s history. His father was once named by Marcos the dictator as the soldier who saved him in one battle in Bataan.   Danny had an uncle who served as defense secretary during the Macapagal administration.

Ang inyong Lakandiwa ay kilala sa katapangan
Wala sa aking Tala-Salitaan ang mag-alangan
Itong dako ng Balagtasan mahirap hanapin
Mali yata ang panuntunan na ibinigay sa akin
Ang alinlangan ko, ayaw kong makarating dito.

Oo sige na nga, ang sa ngayong Balagtasan
ano ba ang paksa?
Aha … eto na Payat ba o Mataba.
Hala nga simulan na at pagbutihin sana
Upang hindi masayang ang pagod ng Lakandiwa**

** Danny Peralta as the Lakandiwa. Excertp from a script at a Balagtasan 'Payat o Mataba', Mt. Druitt, 2015. Written by D. Peralta and Aida Morden.

“The Peraltas have a long line of ancestry – there are Ilocanos, there Ilonggos, and there are Tagalogs. I was in the Tagalog line when my ancestors settled in Bataan.”

Danny is a CPA by profession. His early years in the profession included being a college professor at the Technological Institute of the Philippines. But history took a twist and like his migrant Peralta ancestors, Danny left the Philippines in 1974 at the height of Martial Law.

“I am a victim of Martial law regime when there was a massive brain drain of prefessionals who wanted to get out of Philippines to seek better opportunity overseas. I was one of the lucky ones to get out.”

In 1974, he was a doorstep away from Australia. He took a job as an accountant at a company in Papua New Guinea. In 1980, he moved to Launceston, Tasmania to work as a mill accountant. It was a time when Filipinos where hardly seen in Launceston. Unofficially his family there could be the first Filipino family to settle in Launceston – “The people there were always telling me that I was the first Filipino to settle there. They were very friendly, we were new settlers, I remember the charity nuns there providing us with our needs and helping us to settle, they provided everything from ref to beds.”

After a year in Tasmania, the Peraltas moved to Bondi in Sydney. Danny and wife Josie have three children (now all successful professionals) – Christopher, Chad, and Jeng. Chad is actually popular in the Philippines being a recording artist, actor, and was once part of the ABS CBN Pinoy Dream Academy.

Danny has always been civic-minded. Beyond Pinoy groups, he had been active in many community organisations including Jaycees and the Lions Club. Within the Filipino-Australian circle, he has been a maverick and an outspoken reformist.

In 2015, he gave a shot to run as president of the Philippine Community Council of New South Wales on a platform of radical change and reforming the entire council.

“PCC needs a massive reconstruction, both organisationally and socio-culturally. Organisationally, PCC needs to clearly define itself, its roles, functions, aims and objectives and then its programs and plans. PCC currently have settled comfortably on two major functions: the Philippine Independence Ball and Calamity Fund Raising, two major events that are also major events of almost all Filipino organisations,” he says in what could be one unforgettable campaign letter.

“The current PCC competes rather than assist its members. It tails rather than leads,” he said in what could be one unforgettable open letter to the council.”

He could be feisty. But, well, he went the way where some fiery revolutionaries went – lose an election.

Did he go to the extreme? Was he being too patriotic? Only he could say. Danny took it in stride and remained the cheerful Pinoy. But he lives by a strong credo that he said he always told his children:

“There are always three things I tell my children: Firstly, you must have a spiritual belief, life is anchored on faith. Secondly, respect others and people will respect you. And lastly, life is all about integrity and honesty. Be honest to people and you’ll live well and happy.”

Balagtasan is a Filipino form of debate done in verse and named after Francisco Balagtas (Francisco Baltazar), a prominent Filipino poet, and is widely considered one of the greatest Filipino literary laureates.  He authored the famous epic, Florante at Laura.  Balagtasan is participated by two or more protagonists who engaged in a debate on a selected subject. Each protagonist are to express their views in verse and with rhyming.  The early public ‘Balagtasan’ was held during the years of American rule in the Philippines.

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