Christmas celebration of the Southland Filipino Society highlights the bond of cultural heritage in South Island of New Zealand
As the Philippine Embassy endeavours to reach out and be one with the Filipino community especially in celebrating the Christmas season, Ambassador Virginia H.Benavidez attended the Christmas Party 2014 of the Southland Filipino Society, Inc. (SFSI) on 6 December 2014 at the Sacred Heart Hall, Waikiwi, Invercargill. The SFSI officers and members headed by its President, Mrs. Dorothy Hawkins organized a Christmas celebration attended by several Filipinos in the dairy, manufacturing and other work sectors and their families, guests from the New Zealand and other communities. Colourful Filipino dances, different musical presentations, games and gift giving to children and an array of Filipino dishes highlighted the distinctive traditions which brought so much joy to all the guests.
Fr. Freddy Permentilla, a Filipino priest, led the opening prayer followed by the welcome remarks of Ms. Hawkins and Christmas chorus of the SFSI Committee. In her remarks, Ms. Hawkins reiterated her deep appreciation to Ambassador Benavidez, Mr. Brian Bellett, former President, Multicultural Council of Southland, Ms. Nalini Varghese, English Language Partner, Ms. Anne McCracker, Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Mr. Bob and Edith Carpenter, Planet Earth, Ms. Angela Pardo, President, Multicultural Council of Southland, Ms. Sue Morrison-Bailey, Venture Southland, Labour Force Coordinator, Lindsay and Janice Munro, GWD Holden, Filipinos and all the guests and the SFSI officers and members for their sustained support and cooperation through the years. Ambassador Benavidez commended Ms. Hawkins for her dynamism, dedication and determination to lead the SFSI which is the very first Filipino organization to set up a Filipino Community Centre in New Zealand and for SFSI’s continuing efforts to harness the talents and energies of the Filipinos in dairy farms and other employment areas for their welfare and advancement. In these times of celebration, appreciation and recognition, “Christmas has been and will always be especially meaningful for us Filipinos. It is the time of the year when sharing and giving, not only of gifts and material things, but more importantly, of one’s heart and self become even more significant. Christmas resonates with the universal and uplifting message of hope, peace, love, joy and salvation as we celebrate the birth of our LORD and SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST,” Ambassador Benavidez stated. She cited the vital contributions of the increasing number of Filipinos now estimated at 40,350 and comprising 1% of New Zealand’s total population with 7,551 Filipinos living in the South Island. They highlight the vital contributions of Filipinos to the multicultural fabric, ethnic diversity and strong sense of community of New Zealand.
Recognition certificates for Filipinos who continue to excel in the dairy industry were presented to Marco Angelo and Boogie De La Concepcion, Farm Owner, Dan and Lor Orlaza, Share Milker, Don and Marie Khristine Mananes, Share Milkers, Guillermo and Christina Tolentino, LO Share Milker, Albino and Anna Guien Dakila, LO Share Milker, Robert and Eunice Sotto, Variable Share Milker. Special awards were given to Alvi Nanat, DUX Central Southland College 2014 and Christian Sindro who is the top student in engineering at the Southland Institute of Technology. Special awards and tributes were presented to Mr. John Terrence Hawkins for his incomparable support and dedication for the Southland Filipino Society, Inc. and to Ms. Dorothea Hawkins for her unsurpassed dedication and exemplary leadership for the Southland Filipino Society, Inc. and the Filipino community.
All the guests enjoyed the sumptuous buffet dinner and the celebratory evening which captured and cherished the heart-warming traditions and shared the Filipinos’ rich cultural heritage in the joyous season of hope, thanksgiving and togetherness. “In this season of commitment, the Philippine Embassy renews our determination to do our best in serving our beloved country and people in New Zealand and strengthening the close friendship and mutually beneficial partnership between Filipinos and New Zealanders. Our jobs are our mission. Uppermost in our hearts and minds are the words and example of President Benigno S.Aquino III who directed all frontline services of the Government to be marked by honesty, integrity and hard work and of Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert F.Del Rosario who stated that the men and women of the Department, in any time zone, must always serve with a smile, go the extra mile and reach beyond our grasp,” stated Ambassador Benavidez.