Cielo Franklin: A Tagalog teacher in Perth

‘Teaching Tagalog is very personal.’

By Vicky Potenciano-Vitug

Japan, where she met her future husband, will always occupy an endearing spot in Cielo Franklin’s heart. But it was in Australia where she discovered she could be anything she wanted to be.

A computer programmer, she founded the Tagalog School of Perth in 2013, the first cultural school of its kind in Western Australia. Cielo belongs to the demographics of more than 310,000 Filipinos Down Under. Many Filipinos in Australia live in the big cities of Sydney and Melbourne, but she found her husband’s birthplace of Perth a wonderful paradise to raise a family. More than 28.5K Filipinos live in Perth, according to 2016 data.

“It’s like I found a home where I truly belong,” she said.

The school is open to individuals of all ages and offers beginner and private classes. The students are mostly children of Filipinos and Australian nationals. Other students include foreigners planning a trip to the Philippines. They learn “basic vocabulary, sentence construction, commonly used phrases and some Filipino culture,” according to the website. The school also offers interpreting and translation services for doctors,  lawyers appointments to make sure Filipinos “do not get disadvantaged.”

As the school’s founder, Cielo handles everything from curriculum to marketing. “It’s a small endeavor for a big cause,” she quipped. “I just wanted to help our kababayan who are non-Tagalog speakers to be able to communicate with each other.”

Cielo (far left) with the ladies of Kababaihang Maka-Rizal.  

She is proud to be a Tagalog educator, the only one in Western Australia.

“Teaching Tagalog is very personal. I am touched by it,” she said, “I feel happy when my students are able to communicate well with loved ones and others. Learning doesn’t only mean knowing what the words mean, but more importantly,  understanding their loved ones and knowing why they do or say certain things.  And when they understand, they love them more,” she said. “Also, I feel that I am keeping our birth country’s language alive for future generations.  I am promoting  Filipino culture.  And this is what makes me proud of what I do.”

It started in Japan

Cielo speaks four languages fluently: Tagalog, English, Spanish, and Japanese.

A young dreamer, she traveled to Japan determined to explore the world with her diploma from the University of Santo Tomas and her charisma. She was quickly hired as a software engineer after she passed the tough training program for Japanese language and culture. 

She interviewed singer-songwriter Rey Valera, who visited Perth in 2015, for SBS Radio.

“Japan is a great country with nice, courteous people. The company that hired us took good care of us,” she said.

Unfortunately, in less than 2 years, recession hit the Japanese economy. Cielo’s company downsized letting go of many employees; she was one of them. It didn’t take long for her to find a new employer. To her surprise, this new company had diverse staffing which included Japanese, Malaysian, Chinese, American, Australian, and Filipino engineers. Cielo made her mark as the only Filipino and the only female in their department.  Here, she met Karl, her future husband. Their friendship blossomed into a beautiful romance. They got engaged and finally tied the knot in the Philippines. After three and a half years in Japan, she and her husband decided to move to his hometown in Perth. He is now semi-retired after being in the synthetic grass business for many years.  They have two children:  Kiara, 25; and Alek, 22.

Cielo did not dive into the language school business right away.  She spent 14 years as a computer programmer at the same time that she was studying her market and her audience. She has immersed herself in the Perth Filipino community, holding leadership positions in organizations.  She was recently voted president of a new group,  Kababaihang Maka-Rizal.  

She became a news contributor at SBS Radio in Perth where she interviews Filipino celebrities or local members of the community on current issues.

It all happened in the charming city of Perth she now calls home.

© The FilAm 2021

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