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Sherwin Malenab: Igorot is a Hero in Australia

Sherwin Malenab, an Igorot from Kalinga, was honored for his heroic act in saving their community hospital from a massive bushfire in Australia.

 |  3 min read

Sherwin Malenab (center), an Igorot from Kalinga, is a hero in Australia SBS/Abby Dinham, edited

Sherwin Malenab, an Igorot from Tabuk City, Kalinga, was recognized by town officials for his heroism in helping protect their community hospital from a massive bushfire in Corryong, Victoria, Australia.

The 43-year-old Sherwin was among the first Filipino households to settle in the regional town on the Victoria-New South Wales border in 2015.

The Malenab family: Symone, Sherwin, Fritzie, and Seancai outside their home in Corryong. SBS/Abby Dinham

Malenab became an Australian citizen in February and now plans to build a dream home in town where he says there is safety, fresh air, and friends around every corner.

"I love my family, that's why I pursue my dream [to come here] to give them a good future," he told SBS News.

Malenab started a course in aged care, working nights at the supermarkets and picking vegetables in the mornings. His wife, Fritzie, is a registered nurse in the Philippines and needs to undergo a course to transfer her qualifications to a recognized degree in Australia.

The couple raised enough money to establish a home in Corryong, bring the children, and start life again in a small town.

But on New Year's eve, their new home was under threat as Corryong was surrounded by several massive bushfires.

Fires burning just 300 meters from Corryong's hospital SBS/Abby Dinham

Springing into action, the couple gathered members of the local Filipino community at their house and took it in turns to watch the fire as it spread down Mount Mittamatite towards the town.

Many were preparing to evacuate, but as the second firefront went to the hospital, Corryong Health, Sherwin decided to act.

Malenab's friends advised him not to go because it was too dangerous and that he could die, but the hero in Malenab nonetheless chose to help despite the warning from friends.

"I need to do something, because if no one does anything, what will happen to this hospital and this community?," Malenab said.

The ground-keeper at the hospital, Brian Smith, an experienced CFA firefighter, was looking for volunteers to help him extinguish the fire so it wouldn't reach the hospital.

That's when Malenab comes in, he volunteered and jumped into action along with the hospital staff.

The pair drove into a neighboring property to where the fire was burning through grasslands towards the hospital.

Sherwin Malenab and the vehicle used in putting out the fires that closed in on Corryong Health SBS/Abby Dinham

From 4 am until around 7 am, the pair drove along the firefront, extinguishing the blaze that was being reignited by winds blowing in every direction.

Thirty-seven residents of the facility's aged care unit were later evacuated.

Sherwin Malenab and Brian Smith who together kept the fire front from reaching the hospital SBS/Abby Dinham

Mayor David Wortmann commended Malenab's act of bravery that night.

"There were many heroes on that night, but to help save such a key piece of infrastructure in the town, I can't thank Sherwin enough," Mayor Wortmann said.

Dominic Sandilands, CEO of Corryong Health, also praised the heroic actions of Malenab and Smith.

"Sherwin put his hand upright when Brian was looking around for a helper, and it was really wonderful... He is a tremendous asset and now he's taking a real lead role in the Filipino community," Sandilands said.

The Igorot's action has been one of Australia's inspiring stories of bravery during the deadly summer bushfire. The experience has since inspired Malenab to join the CFA.

"I love to deal with the community. I want to help people everywhere." Malebnab said.

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