PHL Ambassador joins the commemoration of the third anniversary of the canterbury earthquake in ChristChurch
The third anniversary of the 22 February 2011 Canterbury earthquake was commemorated by meaningful, solemn and touching ceremonies organized by the Christchurch City Council on 22 February 2014. Philippine Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez, accompanied by Honorary Consul Peter Wait attended the Family Memorial Service at the earthquake internment site at Avonhead Park Cemetery at 9 o’clock in the morning. They joined bereaved family members, the Ambassadors of Israel and Japan, members of the diplomatic corps, local officials, dignitaries from other countries, members of religious groups and other guests. Ambassador Benavidez and Consul Wait lighted significant candles, hung angel messages of remembrance and offered prayers for the Filipino victims of the earthquake. The Welcome was led by the Christchurch Interfaith Society, the Procession of Remembrance Candle by a representative of the Salvation Army, the opening prayer by Father Valentine Basyuk from the Serbian Orthodox Church, Words for the Families by Elder Michael Roberts from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Memorial Chant by Monks from Wat Buddha Samakhee, Buddhist Community of Christchurch, Address by Honourable Norio Mitsuya, Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, Song number “My Heart Will Go On” by soloist Jasmine Webster and Closing Prayer by The Reverend Rick Loughnan,Catholic Vicar General of Christchurch.
This was followed by the Civic Memorial at the Archery Lawn, Christchurch Botanic Gardens at 12 o’clock noon. Ngāi Tūāhuriri. Ngāt Tahu’s principal hapū (sub-tribe) in the Canterbury region opened the service with prayers of thanksgiving and words of welcome, a process called a Mihi Whakatau. Henare Rakiihia Tau, Upoko Rūnanga, Ngāi Tūāhuriri officiated the Mihi Whakatau. The playing of New Zealand’s National Anthem was led by the Salvation Army Band, followed by the Welcome and Introduction by the Very Reverend Lynda Patterson, Dean of Christchurch Cathedral, Address by Her Worship Lianne Dalziel, Mayor of Christchurch, Honourable Gerry Brownlee, Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, Act of Remembrance performed by representatives of other faiths, Official Wreath Laying by Hon, Gerry Brownlee on behalf of the Government and People of New Zealand, Hon. Ruth Dyson, Member of Parliament, on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition, Her Worship Lianne Dalziel, on behalf of the community of Christchurch, Mr. David Perenara-O’Connell, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, on behalf of the Tangata Whenua (People of the Land), Hon. Norio Mitsuya, on behalf of the international community, Superintendent Garry Knowles, New Zealand Police, Mr. David Stackhouse, New Zealand Fire Service, Graham Gillespie and Laura McConchie, St. John Ambulance, Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Baker, RNZALR, New Zealand Defence Force, Mr. Murray Sinclair, Civil Defence on behalf of all emergency services and first responders, Mr. Tony Paine and Ms. Yvonne Morgan on behalf of the New Zealand Red Cross and Major Robert Cope and Major Julie Cope from the Salvation Army. In the reading of the names of 185 persons who perished in the earthquake, Mr. Edward Palad, a representative of the Filipino community in Christchurch, read the names of the eleven Filipino victims of the earthquake. A Musical Interlude was performed by the Salvation Army and the Very Reverend Lynda Patterson, Dean of Christchurch Cathedral, led the minutes silence beginning at 12:51 pm, the actual time the earthquake hit Christchurch and claimed 185 lives on 22 February 2011. At the end of the minute of silence, the Peace Bell tolled three times and a piper’s lament was played by Mr. Ray Harper. When the ceremony concluded, Ambassador Benavidez placed a floral tribute on the temporary memorial.
In the evening, Ambassador Benavidez was invited by Mr. Phil Cooper, CEO of Buildtech, one of the leading companies in the rebuild and reconstruction of Christchurch, to attend the fellowship and celebration of milestone events three years on at the Buildtech premises. She interacted with the Filipino staff and skilled workers of the company, Ms. Crystal Cooper, Ms. Junalyn Algarme and Ms. Claudine Martin, Operations Manager, Philippine Administrator and Manager, respectively of World Changing Ltd., the members of the Filipino community and other guests. She told the Filipino workers how much they and the rest of the Filipinos engaged in the rebuild and reconstruction of Christchurch are deeply acknowledged and greatly appreciated for their hard work, positive work ethics and important contributions, encouraged them to continue doing their best and assured them of the Philippine Embassy’s assistance and support for their welfare and well-being. Ambassador Benavidez thanked Mr. Cooper for the opportunities, trust and confidence and pastoral care being given to the Filipinos in the company and Ms. Algarme for her dedication, commitment and continuing work to help the families of the Filipino workers back home and the poor communities in the Philippines. Traditional Maori welcome and Hakka, multicultural performances, mini basketball and dunking competitions with Canterbury Rams National Basketball team, Filipino Jeepney’s band performances, dancing and music provided fun and entertainment for the Filipino workers and guests.