i’ve always been ranting about the essentialization of asian experiences in australia. most of the time, representations of asians and asian-australians here would have to be dominated by chinese and chinese-australian identities. filipinos tend to be subsumed at the bottom of the ethnic ladder. oftentimes, filipinos in australia would have to contend with various forms of ignorance and insensitivity vis-a-vis certain hostile sectors within the larger society.
so it thrills me to hear that my friend alfred ("alf") nicdao is finally appearing on neighbours, australia’s longrunning soap. i remember catching a few episodes of neighbours when i lived in england during the mid-1990s. it still is a toprating program on british television. but from my perspective, the show is particularly notorious for being too “white”. i guess tv viewers here are not yet ready to accommodate asians, africans, aborigines and pacific islanders within their systems. so i ended up not being too fond of neighbours. but if only for the reason that there’s going to be an asian character next week, i will certainly have to catch alf’s holiday with characters from ramsay street.
alf’s episode will be screened on australia’s tv channel 10 on 18 august (friday) and 21 august (monday). alf will be appearing as a surfie who settles in byron bay. it is going to be a fleeting role. but a landmark achievement for primetime viewing in australia. that's one glimmer of hope for the subaltern!
now the great thing about alf is that he keeps on getting what filipinos refer to as “markado” roles as a part-time actor. he is actually a full-time workplace trainer. he delivers hospitality and retail traineeship as part of a government-funded incentive to australian employers. alf has also developed a program for secondary school students called job skills workshop. job skills aims to assist kids with little or no previous work experience in marketing themselves to prospective employers. alf dreams of bringing this unique program to the philippines one day. indeed, there are changes taking place in the workplace. but oftentimes, academia is failing to address problems that have come out of these changes. frequently, young people have been duped and exploited for being totally unprepared when they join the workforce for the first time.
to this very day, alf downplays his stint with neighbours. he insists that he just got lucky. but i remind him that he was handpicked by jan russ, one of the show’s producers. jan russ was the key figure behind the discovery of kylie minogue, jason donovan, guy pearce and many other famous australian actors and performers. so alf couldn’t just be plain lucky. certainly, he has heaps of remarkable talent.
very few people here would actually know that alf is a filipino. most of the time, he gets to play chinese or vietnamese character roles on aussie tv, commercials and films. since 1979, he has worked with mel gibson, russell crowe, hugo weaving, geoffrey rush, peter phelps, john wood, rebecca gibney, marcus graham, jane turner (star of abc tv’s awardwinning comedy kath and kim), david roberts (one of the stars of the matrix), jason donovan, kylie minogue and many others.
he also co-starred with benjamin bratt, joseph fiennes and cesar montano in john dahl’s the great raid (2005). he has appeared in british and australian tv productions like state coroner, mercury, stinger, round the twist, loot, scooter: private detective and blue heelers. he has done commercials and videos for telstra, herald sun, wiggles, victoria police, the new south wales department of education and the national australia bank. he has done the bite (1995) and bootleg (2003) for the british broadcasting corporation (bbc). early this week, he played the role of a malaysian drug lord in forensic investigators starring lisa mccune (channel 7, weekdays, 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.).
and yet, throughout these experiences, alf remains connected to his filipino heritage. he hasn’t forgotten his sampaloc (manila) roots. he always reminds himself that he grew up along governor forbes, dimasalang and maria clara. alf earned his basic education at juan sumulong and ramon magsaysay before his adoptive parents took him to australia. since he left manila at age 14, sampaloc remains the key to alf nicdao's accomplishments as an actor, workplace trainer and family man.
along with hi-5’'s kathleen de leon (now married to savage garden's daniel jones), lina cruz (one of the stars of the stage production of priscilla, queen of the dessert in sydney), actress natalie mendoza (star of toprated uk tv series hotel babylon), and singer kate ceberano, filipinos and filipino-australians have every reason to be proud of alf nicdao. the next generation here should easily follow suit.
filipino-australian actor alfred nicdao
alfred nicdao appears in the september 2004 issue of tv week
alfred nicdao with martin jarvis and gemma jones on the set of bootleg, a bbc drama series (2003). gemma jones has played many other important roles: emma thompson and kate winslet's mother in sense and sensibility (1995), lady queensbury in (oscar) wilde (1997), renee zellweger's mum in bridget jones's diary (2001) and bridget jones: the edge of reason (2004), poppy pomfrey in harry potter and the chamber of secrets (2002) and jackie chan's queen victoria in shanghai knights (2003).
alfred nicdao with cocoy laurel (engineer), joanna ampil (kim) and two other friends during the australian production of miss saigon
alfred nicdao visits top filipino film director mario o hara at broadcast plaza (abs cbn) on bohol avenue during the early 1980s; in 1973, alf attended a philippine educational theater association (peta) summer theatre workshop in paco park. even as a high school student, alf took a small role in estrella alfon's kuko ng hanging habagat with veterans bernardo bernardo, mars cavestany, dante balois, mitch valdes, national artist lino brocka and o hara. brocka was then busy with the principal photography of tinimbang ka ngunit kulang. o hara was alf's first acting mentor.
alfred nicdao with the cast of blue heelers
a scene from neighbours: alfred nicdao with dichen lachman (katya) and stephen lovatt (max)