Filipino and ethnic communities strengthen ties in Multicultural gathering in Wellington, New Zealand
Closer people-to-people ties among the Filipino and ethnic communities took center stage during the multicultural fellowship gathering in conjunction with Race Relations Day hosted by Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez at “Ang Bahay” (Philippine Ambassador’s residence) on 16 April 2014. Mr. Ravindran Annamalai, President and members of the Multicultural Council of Wellington (MCCW) from different countries, ethnic groups and cultural organizations interacted with Ambassador Benavidez, Ms. Ann Dysart, National Manager, Family and Community Services, Ministry of Social Development, Councillor David Lee, Wellington City Council, Inspector Rakesh Naidoo, Strategic Ethnic Advisor, New Zealand Police, Dr. Andrew Matthews and Ms. Wendy Matthews, Interfaith Council, Mr. Peter Jackson, Wellington City Council Kaumatua, Ms. Designi Thulkaman, Human Rights Commission, Ms. Yasmin Bryden, Office of Ethnic Affairs, Ms. Annette Woods, Settlement Support Porirua, Ms. Ana Marie Miller, Settlement Support Wellington, Ms. Agnes Espineda, President, Zonta Club of Wellington and Director, New Zealand Philippines Business Council, Mr. Bill Hamilton, Human Rights Commission, Ms. Lonie Martin, Hiyas Wellington Cultural Group and the Kapa Haka performers of the Wellington Maori Cultural Group.
Minister and Consul General Arlene Macaisa started the programme and called on Mr. Peter Jackson, Kaumatua, a Maori elder of the Taranaki Whanui, from the Wellington City Council who conveyed the “Ngā Mihi”, Maori greetings and respect. This was followed by the Kapa Haka, a Maori traditional performance conveying powerful messages and reflecting the depth and profoundness of Maori culture by the Maori Cultural and Art Group, Wellington. The Kapa Haka performance can be viewed by clicking this: https://docs.google.com/a/philembassy.org.nz/file/d/0BzT1t0kLdmhJUngxSzhjY2ZJSG8/edit. Ambassador Benavidez warmly welcomed all the guests in Filipino and Maori languages and pointed out the significance of a multicultural fellowship in conjunction with Race Relations day, pursuing the collective goal of contributing to an inclusive and multicultural society. She shared with them the multicultural tapestry of the Philippines and the Southeast Asian region arising from waves of migration across centuries, coming of different religions, arrival of populations from various countries, legacy of colonial influences and influx of modern day migration and movement of people across boundaries. “A representative sampling of the creativity, artistry and variety of Filipino culture, traditions and way of life can be seen from the 40, 352 Filipinos who compose 1% of New Zealand’s population and continue to be acknowledged and appreciated for their positive work ethic, vital contributions to national development both in the Philippines and New Zealand and ability to connect and integrate with local communities. They continue to animate churches, enliven festivals, be active participant in multicultural and women development and empowerment activities and key contributors to the people-based close relationship we enjoy with New Zealand. I really hope that as you experience Filipino hospitality tonight, you will take up our invitation to come and visit our country and experience what it means when Filipinos, New Zealanders and visitors from other countries say that “It’s More Fun in the Philippines,” Ambassador Benavidez stated. She commended the Multicultural Council of Wellington which is well positioned to be at the forefront of supporting the capital city’s programmes and projects to develop unity, inclusiveness, openness and tolerance among its diverse communities, celebrate, learn, respect and encourage each other’s uniqueness, religious beliefs, traditions, cultures, festivals and languages. These are where everyone is interconnected. Underlying the MCCW’s mandate and mission would be its caring and sharing community spirit which must continue to be translated in practical measures in close collaboration with relevant agencies, institutions and organizations in New Zealand.
Ms. Ann Dysart, National Manager, Family and Community Services, Ministry of Social Development and Mr. Ravindran Annamalai, President of MCCW spoke on Maori culture, importance of the youth, ethnic groups, local communities that make up the multicultural fabric of New Zealand society and development. The importance of the MCCW and the invited guests coming together was acknowledged as the fellowship gathering has certainly raised the spirits of everyone and fostered a great sense of unity. Subsequent activities to be spearheaded by MCCW and mobilize and engage the different communities and culture were highlighted.
The lively fellowship and interaction among the Philippine Embassy Team, MCCW members and guests continued during the dinner featuring a special Filipino cuisine prepared by the “Ang Bahay” staff for this occasion. They thanked Ambassador Benavidez for “the fabulous function”, “lovely food served” and the gracious hospitality of the Embassy staff and the distinctive Filipiniana experience. “We at the Philippine Embassy are enriched and heartened by the wonderful opportunity to connect and engage with one another as we acknowledge the vital contributions of different migrants and ethnic groups capturing the true essence of New Zealand’s story of an independent, small and diverse country with a shared future among its culturally rich, unique and diverse people,” Ambassador Benavidez stated.