Philippine participation in the 2nd anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake
A touching and meaningful Civic Memorial Service was held in Latimer Square, Christchurch on 22 February 2013 to commemorate the second anniversary of the 2011 Canterbury earthquake. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker, together with the diplomatic corps, the bereaved family members of the earthquake, seriously injured survivors and other distinguished guests, attended the commemorative event hosted by the Anglican Christchurch Cathedral. The Philippines was represented by Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez.
The service which commenced at 12 noon was multi-faith and included one-minute silence at 12:51 PM, the actual time the earthquake hit Christchurch and claimed 185 lives, including 11 Filipinos.
After the ceremony, Ambassador Benavidez, accompanied by Philippine Honorary Consul Peter Wait, Third Secretary Glenn Joseph Obach, and a Filipino based in Christchurch, Mr. Godofredo Bernadas, Jr., visited the area where the CTV Building used to stand and the site where the Filipinos died. They also offered a moment of silence at the location of Oxford Terrace Baptist Church, where 185 Empty Chairs painted by Pete Majendie as an act of remembrance, were on display.
Ambassador Benavidez, together with some Filipinos led by Delia Richards of the Christchurch Migrant Center, then proceeded to Avonhead Park Cemetery to offer special prayers and flowers. The Avonhead Park Cemetery is a special interment site for unidentified remains of the earthquake victims. Filipino priests, Rev. Fr. Rodello Rempillo and Rev. Fr. Joselito Quinones, led the memorial service at the Cemetery.
In the late afternoon, a mass was celebrated at the Sacred Heart Church, followed by a reception at the Sacred Heart Hall where a short program was held in honor of the 11 Filipino victims. Organized by the Philippine Culture and Sports in Christchurch (chaired by Ms. Richards), these two events were well-attended by Filipinos as well as guests including Members of Parliament Nicky Wagner and Lianne Dalziel, and Christchurch City Councilors Jimmy Chen and Yani Johanson. The night ended in a hopeful note. In his speech to the community gathered, Mr. Obach acknowledged everyone present who shared precious time to be with one another in remembering the lives lost in the February 22, 2011 earthquake. “Two years on, as we look forward to the rebuilding and reconstruction of Christchurch, we thank the New Zealand government and Christchurch City Council for being right behind us, for walking this journey with us,” expressed Mr. Obach.