Bicolanos from Wellington, New Zealand get together for launching of scholarship programmes for Filipino students from Bicol Region
In line with the Philippine Embassy’s priority to continue reaching out to all Filipinos in New Zealand, convey its appreciation for their sustained support and kind cooperation, strengthen friendship and fellowship between the Filipino community and the Embassy team and be one with them in launching laudable projects for the benefit of poor students in the Philippines, Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez hosted a get together for the “Bicolano Ako” group from the Greater Wellington region at the “Ang Bahay” (Ambassador’s residence) on 31 January 2015. Nearly one-hundred members of the “Bicolano Ako” and their families attended the event aimed at making a positive difference in the lives of children from the Bicol region through scholarship programmes. The “Bicolano Ako” in Wellington was formed as a community oriented and support group to assist fellow Bicolanos who have made New Zealand their second home, promote and share the richness of Bicolano spiritual heritage highlighted by the annual Peñafrancia devotions and cultural traditions, reach out to and relate with the wider community and serve as a channel for humanitarian and charitable projects for the benefit of those in need in various parts of the Bicol region. The group is composed of Filipinos in different government agencies, offices, private companies, businesses and other professions and involved in various civic, church activities and Filipino community functions.
Ambassador Benavidez warmly welcomed each and every guest and thanked them for their presence, cooperation and support given to the Philippine Embassy all through the years. She commended the “Bicolano Ako” Group for their continuing love for their homeland and their hearts’ desire to help the children and students in the Bicol region to pursue their education and avail of scholarship programmes that they will be implementing this year. “The Philippine Embassy is blessed to have them as vital and vibrant partners in projecting the favourable image and positive reputation of the Philippines and the Filipino people through their excellent work ethics, sacrificial service, recognized talents and skills and ability to relate well with people and integrate themselves easily with the local communities. You do our country and people proud as you carry out your respective roles and responsibilities, participate in several activities promoting Filipino cultural heritage and contribute to the multi-cultural enrichment of New Zealand. It is so heartwarming to know that your generosity and kindness extend to providing young students in the Bicol region with the much needed support for their schooling and assistance towards a better future for them through education,” Ambassador Benavidez stated. In behalf of the “Bicolano Ako” group, Mr. Fil Ranga expressed their deep gratitude for the support and open doors given to them in launching the scholarship programmes for poor students in Bicol and the warm reception, hospitality and graciousness of the Philippine Embassy Team and the “Ang Bahay” staff. “We will always treasure in our hearts the importance shown to us as we take part in our collective mission to be one and move together for the benefit of our beloved country and people,” Mr. Ranga said.
In her interaction with the Filipino community, Ambassador Benavidez highlighted the preciousness of keeping the Filipino traditions alive such as the Peñafrancia Festival and to avail of the dual citizenship and overseas voting registration being extended to the Filipinos throughout the North and South Islands of New Zealand. She also shared with them the continuing mobile consular services which have benefitted more than 14,000 Filipinos and their families, the acknowledgement and appreciation of Government and people of New Zealand for the Filipinos’ roles and contributions to the country’s development and the strong economic position and unprecedented economic gains of the Philippines arising from the good governance and reform agenda of President Benigno S. Aquino III. His administration continues to give impetus to more extensive health care, education and social services for Filipinos who need them the most. In reiterating her assurance of the Embassy’s care, concern and commitment for their welfare and interests, Ambassador Benavidez stated “Uppermost in our hearts and minds are the words and example of Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert F. Del Rosario who aptly stated that the men and women of the Department of Foreign Affairs, in any time zone, must always serve with a smile, go the extra mile and reach beyond our grasp.”
Several members of the Bicolano Ako” group spoke on the various ways to raise funds and demonstrate their firm and concrete commitment to support the scholarship programmes. It was a wonderful evening of fellowship and interaction for a good and charitable cause that made the Filipinos feel closer to each other. Amidst the Filipiniana ambience and hospitality of “Ang Bahay”, the guests and the Philippine Embassy Team enjoyed each other’s company, camaraderie and goodwill while partaking of the “Ang Bahay” cuisine of minestroni soup, pan de coco, “Ang Bahay” caesar’s salad, paksiw na lechon, baked chicken, tofu sisig, potato noodles with vegetables, carrot cake, ice cream tort, New Zealand white and red wines, special iced tea and fruit juices.