Love, service, and life… after politics

He is a familiar face to many Pinoys in Blacktown as the friendly city councilor.  Charlie Lowles leaves politics this month but still looks forward to a stronger connection to Filipinos.  With wife Alma, he is keen to dedicate more time to help poor communities in the Philippines…

In their Blackett residence that’s adorned with paintings depicting Filipino scenes, outgoing Councilor Charlie Lowles and wife Alma welcomed the Kalatas team for a midday chat on anything from politics to wartime memories, about the City Council and barrios in the Philippines.

One of local politicians who have closely worked with the Filipino-Australian community in Blacktown, Cr. Lowles takes exit from the City Council and says he will surely miss it.  But he believes there will be more meaningful things to do in the years to come.

Much of this will be focused towards Cebu and Negros, the hometown of Alma.  The couple has been together for the past 14 years.

“I have adopted the Filipino community as my own and I hope the community adopts me as its own son too,” says the Councilor who served as city mayor six times throughout his years at the council.

“The Filipino community here is a great community, it’s so diverse, people come from very different backgrounds and it’s easy to relate with them, perhaps it’s because of my faith and background,” he says referring to his Irish Catholic upbringing.

A politician who has been a Labor stalwart in Blacktown – “always Labor all my life because I am committed to social justice”, he says – Charlie has been to the Philippines on many occasions in the past.

One notable early visit was, of course, taking an adventure to Alma’s hometown where he deepened his appreciation of Filipino culture and experienced barrio life.  In recent years, the couple has embarked on their own quiet mission to help the disadvantaged like fishermen and underprivileged schoolchildren.

Every Christmas, they donate hampers of goodies for ‘noche buena’ to poor families in the Visayas.

Charlie and Alma tied the knot 14 years ago.  The couple met when Charlie became a widower after his first wife passed away, a sad episode that in some way inspired the Councilor to value community life.

“When my first wife died, people came by the thousands, the community knew I was hurting inside but they all came out to comfort me.”

Sharing a new life with Alma strengthened the councilor’s ideals of multiculturalism.  He has after all been exposed to so many cultures.  An army sergeant in his younger years, he has been to different places including Japan, Korea and Islamic Middle East.

As a politician in a city that has become a microcosm of multicultural Australia, Charlie has been undaunted by its many challenges including learning another language. He could speak a Tagalog or Visayan phrase but not without a struggle.  Well, Alma has always been there to help.

“Sometimes, she actually helps me in my speeches when I talk to the (Filipino) community, it’s difficult although I could understand what it means,” he says in jest.

Pinoy food?  He isn’t yet much into Filipino cuisine but he says he loves “the crackling” – crispy lechon.

Charlie, 84, has decided not to join the contest in the local government elections this month.

After three decades serving Ward 5 in Blacktown – where his name has become “synonymous” with the community of Mt Druitt, according to a Telegraph report – Charlie is getting ready for retirement.  That means “a lot of walking, a lot of reading,” and yes visiting the Philippines where he and Alma have built a bamboo house – “bamboo on the outside, European on the inside”.

“It’s a lovely house, we built a shrine there,” he says.

The changing of the guards are already taking place at the Blacktown City Council.  Charlie is positive that the new generation taking over will be there to get the job done.

Still he admits, he will miss politics.

“Politics, yes I will miss it,” he says.

“Politics is great for what it can achieve.  But it is all about service – don’t be afraid of going forward, but don’t leave anyone behind.”

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