Family, friends and food tie Eric Cruz to his treasured Filipino heritage.

Born in Calamba, south of Manila, Eric was just a baby when his family migrated from the Philippines to South Australia in search of opportunity.

“We’re all about the three fs,’’ he says.

“The Philippines is such a beautiful country; the people are beautiful and the food is amazing.

“In the village where I come from, family is everything. For my parents to leave that and come here was a huge sacrifice, and I’ve done my best to honour that.’’

In the early days in Adelaide, the family lived with Eric’s uncle and Dutch wife near Unley Oval. They immersed themselves in the Australian way of life, latched onto football and became avid Sturt fans.

“I’m an Australian with huge ties to my heritage”

“Back in the day, we’d pack our family plus my auntie and uncle and two cousins into a Cortina and we’d go off to the footy,’’ says Eric, a foster care support worker at Centacare.

“I’ve been brought up an Aussie. I have the Aussie twang, I’m a huge Aussie Rules fan and I love a barbie. I’ve totally immersed myself in the Australian culture but I feel privileged that I’ve got my Filipino heritage as well.’’

As a child, Eric’s connection to culture was forged every Saturday at Filipino school, in Holden Hill, where he learnt the language, folk dancing and how to cook traditional cuisine including his favourite, chicken adobo.

Now he says the connection comes naturally and he shares it as often as he can.

“It was quite challenging for my parents in the beginning so having connection to their culture was really important for them, and they wanted me to have that too.

“`The Philippines isn’t one of the most well-known nations in Asia but I’m so proud of it.

“I readily talk about it to my friends and totally promote it!’’

The same goes for Adelaide which Eric now spruiks through his men’s lifestyle website, MANABOUTADL.

Tired of forever defending his home town’s reputation to others interstate – most of whom had never visited Adelaide – Eric set out to create a digital platform to boost civic pride while also helping men tackle stigma around mental health and wellbeing.

“One of the biggest contributors to men’s mental health is social isolation. There’s also the stigma that guys shouldn’t talk about their emotions. We are trying to change that.’’

In his foster care role at Centacare, Eric joins others from around the world in one of our most culturally diverse teams.

“We are like the United Nations of Centacare,’’ he jokes. “We’ve got Africa, Asia, the sub-continent, Europe, and the UK.

“We are all sharing our different life experiences and I think that makes our relationships richer; we are in the same team but we’ve had different journeys to get here.

“Our aim is to put children living in out-of-home care into the sorts of families that I was privileged to be a part of – full of love, care and support.’’

*Harmony Week celebrates Australia’s cultural diversity. It’s about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone.