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6 May 2014


Photograph by James Braund


"I was born in the Philippines, in Manila. I came to Australia in 2002 for eight months, then went back to the Philippines for a year, then I came back here and stayed. The first time I came, I missed my friends. In the Philippines everybody knew me. In Australia, nobody knew me. Nobody talked to me.

But now I like it here and I don’t want to go back. I live here with my mother, my stepdad and my younger brother. I still have family in the Philippines – one sister and one brother. I talk to them all the time on Skype.

One day about eight years ago – when I came with my mum and my brother into the city – I saw someone busking and I thought, I could do that. The next week, I asked people to help me get a permit and I started busking. I sing; sometimes I dance, too. Lots of different songs – love songs, Christmas songs, anything… And that’s how people here started to get to know me.

A few years ago I started selling The Big Issue, too. It was Christmas time and I was singing in the Bourke Street Mall near the Myer department store. [Big Issue] vendor Tim saw me singing and he came up to me and told me, “You’ll make more money selling these [magazines] – it’s good.” He gave me the number of the office and I called them and, soon after, I started selling. It’s a good magazine. I like the digital edition; you can read it on the iPad, on the computer, on your phone.

I’m always singing, singing, singing. When I have a break from selling The Big Issue – I sing. After three hours, I do some singing, then I go back to my pitch. People are happy to see me singing in the street, and sometimes people scream and ask me for an autograph! I listen to music all the time, too. I listen to love songs, but also rap – I like Eminem and Akon – and I listen to Filipino songs.

I’ve been to CAE [Centre for Adult Education]. I’ve studied computers, science, English and grammar. I knew a little bit of English when I came here, from school and from music. But not very much. I am still studying. I want to keep studying all my life.

The second week of each [Big Issue edition] is difficult. The first week I sell a lot, the second week I sell slowly. Sometimes there are hours between sales. You get bored, but I have music! Some people are nasty; they pinch my money. I get upset if that happens, but then I listen to music – listen to my iPod – and five minutes later I’m happy again. I’m going to say thank you to The Big Issue, to [Melbourne vendor support staff] Gemma, Kirstie and Tiffany, for letting me work here. I love the job, I’m never gonna move."

Interview by by Sophie Quick/photograph by James Braund
Jeffrey sells The Big Issue in Prahran and St Kilda, Melbourne.