IT’S time to bend the knee and take the sword for Traralgon local Nicholas Tam, who recently received a knighthood honour from the Philippines government at a ceremony in Manila.

Growing up in Traralgon, Mr Tam spent his years at St Michael’s, Traralgon and Gippsland Grammar. He then moved to the Royal Commonwealth Society many years later. The Royal Commonwealth Society is a not-for-profit, national organisation that promotes ties between Commonwealth countries.

“Just by chance, I was introduced to some of the contacts in the foreign ministry in the Philippines. They are not a Commonwealth country, but they are very interested in joining it because they think it would be useful for their country and to build some ties between them and the other member states,” Mr Tam said.

Mr Tam was appointed as a Knight Commander of the Order of Rizal for his services to international peacemaking through advocacy for the Commonwealth of Nations and as Vice Chairman of the Royal Commonwealth Society.

Honour: Nicholas Tam after the ceremony. Photograph supplied

“They decided to recognise me with that award, which was also a very nice and unexpected honour,” he said.

“I went to Manila in February and saw the award, which was a fun experience, and I met many influential people in the Philippines.”

The Order of Rizal was founded in 1911 to uphold the legacy of Dr Jose Rizal, a Filipino doctor, intellectual, and author revered as a national hero in the Philippines. He is considered the father of Philippine independence and was influential in ending Spanish colonial rule.

“It was a pretty surreal experience because there were a number of other people who have received this some form of offer at the same time,” Mr Tam said.

“In the ceremony, about a dozen or so people got knighted. It was administrated by the chancellor of the order, the Mayor of one of the major ministries in Manila. You have to wear a Barong. When it is your turn, you have to go onto the stage and kneel; they dub you with the sword. Then, officially under the Philippines law, that makes you a knight in their award system. It was a lot of fun.”

Being something you wouldn’t expect to happen, especially in current times, Mr Tam enjoyed meeting people such as the President of Croatia, members of the Royal Family of Portugal, Luxembourg and several other international visitors.

Other things that he was able to experience included visits to the Malacanang Palace (the official residence Bongbong Marcos, the President of Philippines), and a wreath-laying ceremony at the Rizal Monument in Rizal Park, which is dedicated to the Philippines national hero/founding father, and he learned much more about Dr Jose Rizal.

“I feel very fortunate to be put into that position and to have that experience,” Mr Tam said.