Sinulog Festival in Auckland, New Zealand showcases the Filipinos' vibrant cultural and spiritual heritage
As the Philippine Embassy continues to reach out and be one with the Filipino community especially in celebrating and showcasing Filipino traditions and culture, Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez attended the Sinulog Festival in Auckland on 21 January 2015. As the 21st annual celebration of the Feast of Señor Sto. Niño, the Sinulog Festival put the spotlight on the Filipino people’s deeply rooted Christian beliefs and the richness and vibrancy of the country’s spiritual and cultural heritage. More than 10,000 Filipino devotees of the Sto. Niño, families and friends from New Zealand and other countries joined in the 21st anniversary of the Sinulog celebration in Auckland, the largest city and home to more than 20,000Filipinos. Organized by the the New Zealand Filipino Devotees of Señor Sto Niño Trust headed by Chairpersons Mr. Oscar and Mrs. Miriam Batucan with support from the Trustees, Area coordinators, Committee Members and the outgoing and incoming Hermanos and Hermanas, the Sinulog 2015 consisted of the 9-days Novena at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Rosary, Novena and Mass each night and the Fiesta celebration highlighting the Procession, People’s Sinulog Dance offering, Mass, Lunch Fellowship and a Cultural programme at the North Shore Events Centre. His Grace Bishop Patrick Dunn, Bishop of Auckland together with Filipino priests Fr. Larry Rustia, Fr. Gilbert Ramos, Fr. Sam Pulanco and Rev Carlos Guleng concelebrated the Mass. Philippine Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez, Hon. Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, Member of Parliament for Maungakiekie, Minister for Ethnic Communities, Minister for Corrections, Minister for Pacific Peoples and Associate Minister for Health, Mrs. Jules Lotu-Iiga, Honorary Consul General Paulo Garcia, Honorary Vice-Consul Virginia Russell and leaders and members of the Filipino community, families and friends from other countries participated in the Sinulog celebrations. The cultural theme for 2015 was “Sinulog Festival of Dances, An Offering to Señor Sto Niño.
In her message, Ambassador Benavidez conveyed the heartiest congratulations of the Philippine Embassy Team and the Filipino community to the NZ-Filipino Devotees of Señor Sto. Niño Trust for holding the 21st annual celebration of the Feast of Señor Sto. Niño on 9-18 January 2014 - a much awaited and faith filled occasion that continues to grow from strength to strength over the years. “Today, the celebration and atmosphere of the Sinulog signifying the strength of our Christian beliefs and richness of our spiritual and cultural heritage serve as the anchor that sustains and inspires Filipinos in New Zealand, back home in the Philippines and other countries all over the world. The Sinulog sounds and sights, rhythm and dance will be rendered by the devotees of Señor Sto. Niño from the Archdiocese of Cebu before the start of the grand Eucharistic celebration on 18 January 2015 to be led by His Holiness Pope Francis whose Papal Visit to the Philippines on 15-19 January 2015 carries the theme of ‘Mercy and Compassion’ embodying the humility, simplicity, service, care and love of our LORD and SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST,” Ambassador Benavidez stated. She cited the steadfast dedication and wholehearted commitment of Oscar and Miriam Batucan, the first ever Filipino-New Zealand Couple to be awarded the Benemerenti Medal given by Pope Benedict XVI on 20 July 2009 and the Queen’s Service Medal in the 2015 New Year’s Honours List for their services to the Filipino community in New Zealand and the faithfulness of the members of the NZ-Filipino Devotees of the Señor Sto. Niño Trust to organize the yearly Sinulog Festival and to mount community based activities for the benefit of Filipino migrants, youth and families are exemplary. “The Philippine Embassy is blessed to have them as our vital partners in promoting a strong sense of community and connectivity among Filipinos, showcasing the vibrancy of Filipino cultural and spiritual heritage, enhancing our people based relationship with New Zealand and contributing to the multicultural enrichment and ethnic diversity of Aotearoa. May this Sinulog festival be our way of strengthening our unity and solidarity with each other, thanking Señor Sto. Niño for instilling in the Filipinos child-like faith, wonder and affection and all-embracing trust in GOD and heightening our sense of nationalism and pride on the continuing significant economic growth and record breaking economic gains and unprecedented credit upgrades of the Philippines. I reiterate the Embassy’s continuing support and services to all of you, keeping in mind the directive of President Benigno S. Aquino III to restore the culture of honesty, integrity, transparency, accountability and hard work in all frontline services of the Philippine government and the call of Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert F. Del Rosario for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Philippine Foreign Service personnel in any time zone to serve with a smile, go the extra mile and reach beyond our grasp,” Ambassador Benavidez said.
The Sinulog fiesta celebrations in Auckland were filled by joyful cheers and resounding applause for the basketball teams awarding ceremony, cultural performances from the Ati-Atihan, Pintados, Dinagyang and Sinulog tribes, Sinulog Festival Queen presentations, music and dance productions, raffle draws, food stalls, organization and business booths and mardi gras atmosphere.