The Filipino community in Wellington celebrates "Pasko: The Filipino Christmas Festival"
The sights and sounds of a festive Filipino Christmas season filled the halls of the Sacred Heart College Performing Arts Centre in Lower Hutt when the annual Pasko: The Filipino Christmas Festival was celebrated by the Embassy of the Philippines and the Filipino Community in the Greater Wellington Area on 30 November 2013. The event featured Filipino food and holiday treats and traditional Christmas carols, music and dance.
Christmas is traditionally a joyous occasion shared with family and friends in the Philippines. However, in these trying times after the devastation left behind by Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan, the Filipino Community’s Christmas was a day of remembrance highlighting the richness and strength of the Filipino people and culture in the face of adversity. “Pasko” showcased Filipino talent and creativity. Food stalls filled with Philippine native delicacies were in a delicious array for everyone enjoy along with a lantern making contest, carolling-busking contest, photo of the event contest, a cultural show, and dancing with live band music were all part of the celebration. A Mass, ever a traditional affair in a Filipino Christmas festivity, was also celebrated by Father Elmer Ibarra.
Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez delivered the event’s welcome remarks. She stated that in this season of hope, the Philippine Government and the Filipino people are grateful for the kindness and generosity of New Zealand, the international community and fellow Filipinos in New Zealand, back home and overseas for coming to the aid of our motherland in its time of need after the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan. “We are deeply moved by their kindness, care, concern and support to bring aid, comfort and relief to our countrymen affected by recent calamity and, indeed, these are the times when the true meaning and spirit of Christmas reign in the hearts of people standing in solidarity with one another and extending a helping hand to each other”, she stated.
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown graced the significant occasion and delivered a Christmas message. Mayor Wade-Brown highlighted the close friendship and vital partnership that so happily exist among the Philippine Embassy, the Filipino community and the Wellington City Council.
Ms. Flora Muriel-Nogoy, Chairperson of the Bulwagan Foundation Charitable Trust, spoke on the aspirations of the Filipino community in Wellington to establish a Filipino Community Centre in New Zealand. She called on the Filipino community and the leaders of various Filipino community organizations in Greater Wellington area to come together to move the project forward in order to “Promote and preserve our heritage so that our children, and our children’s children will be able to celebrate what makes us unique as a people in this city that we now call home”.
Cultural presentations by various organizations showcased Filipino talents through song and dance. Filifest New Zealand Inc, a cultural dance group, performed traditional dances, Munting Tinig, a group of young Filipino children played the ukulele and sang Christmas carols, Ms. Tina Guieb performed a jazz dance interpretation, St. Patrick’s College The Barbershop sang songs, Munting Bayanihan rendered a modern tinikling number and danced the singkil, and the Wellington Filipino Community Choir performed the Philippine and New Zealand National Anthems as well as inspirational Christmas songs. Also a highlight of the day-long celebration is the Pinoy Shoots with Mr. Tab Baldwin, one of New Zealand’s most successful basketball coach, who conducted a basketball skills training session as well as a shooting contest.
Christmas will always be especially meaningful for 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 as the world shares the universal message of hope, peace, love, joy and salvation in celebration of the birth of our LORD and SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST.