The Philippine Embassy and the Filipino community celebrate the 116th Anniversary of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence in New Zealand
Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand Virginia H. Benavidez led the Flag-Hoisting Ceremony at the Embassy Chancery in Wellington in the morning of 12 June 2014. A traditional ceremony held on Philippine Independence Day, the Philippine Embassy Team in New Zealand joined all Filipinos around the world in commemorating the Proclamation of Philippine Independence in Kawit, Cavite 116 years ago. Ambassador Benavidez read the Independence Day Message of President Benigno S. Aquino III. Minister and Consul General Arlene Gonzales-Macaisa read the message of Vice President Jejomar C. Binay and Third Secretary and Vice Consul Glenn Joseph Q. Obach shared the message of Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert F. del Rosario.
On the evening of 12 June 2014, Ambassador Benavidez and the Philippine Embassy Team celebrated the 116th Commemoration of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence with a get together with Filipino Community at Elim International Church in Wellington. The well-attended event drew 400 guests from the Filipino community, their families and friends. Ambassador Benavidez and Vice Consul Obach joined the Entrance of Colours by the KASAGIP Charitable Trust Honour Guards. Ms. Melody Pagalilawan, a member of the Wellington Filipino Choir, led the singing of the Philippines and New Zealand National Anthems. Interfaith prayers were delivered by Ms Myrna Umali of the Filipino Chaplaincy, Mr. Ariel Manota of the Tawa New Life and Bro. Delmar Rebanio, Resident Minister, of the Iglesia ni Cristo’s Local Congregation of Wellington.
Ambassador Benavidez gave her Independence Day Address on this significant day, with this year’s theme, “Kalayaan 2014: Pagsunod sa Yapak ng mga Dakilang Pilipino, tungo sa Malawakan at Permanenteng Pagbabago,” or “Independence Day 2014: Following the Footsteps of Great Filipinos Toward Permanent and Widespread Change” reflecting on the Filipino society built upon a profound love of GOD, unshakeable faith, deep sense of pride for freedom, exemplary spirit of “bayanihan” (volunteerism and togetherness) and remarkable resilience. She reiterated the gratitude of the Philippine Government and People to the Filipinos all over New Zealand for the outpouring of empathy, generosity and kindness in the aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan which devastated parts of Central Philippines on 8 November 2013 and the continuing help in the on-going reconstruction, rehabilitation and building back better and safer communities. Ambassador Benavidez highlighted the economic success and positive gains of the Philippine economy arising from the good governance and transformative leadership of President Benigno S. Aquino III and his administration’s promotion of a culture of integrity, honesty, accountability and transparency and the continuing fight against corruption and poverty instituted across all levels of government. She proudly referred to the members of the Filipino community as an integral part of the deep and abiding people-to-people links with New Zealand, a testament to the strength of Philippines-New Zealand relationship and the living showcases on the endearing characteristics of the Filipino people. “The Philippine Embassy Team will continue to serve you with a smile, go the extra mile and reach beyond our grasp in delivering consular services throughout the North and South Islands, overseas voting registration, dual citizenship, assistance to nationals, among others. We are giving to you tourism brochures on ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines’, information materials on dual citizenship and overseas voting registration. Please avail of our services and exercise your sacred right to suffrage come 2016,” Ambassador Benavidez stated. She thanked the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts and New Zealand Filifest Cultural Group led by its President, Ms. Anita Mansell, for partnering with the Philippine Embassy for making the first ever performances of the Philippine Barangay Folk Dance Troupe shine in New Zealand, the Kasagip Trust officers and members led by Mr. Mar Esparas for their faithfulness and commitment in carrying out their vital and impressive roles as Honour Guards, Ms. Melody Pagalilawan for the inspiring rendition of the Philippines and New Zealand National Anthems, prayer leaders, Ms. Myrna Umali, Bro. Ariel Manota and Bro. Delmar Rebanio for the touching inter-faith prayers, Ms. Gina Reid and the Philippine Barangay Folk Dance Troupe headed by Mr. Roldan P. Lozano for showcasing Filipino world class talents in the performing arts, the Philippine Embassy Team and families, “Ang Bahay” kitchen staff, the Elim International Church and all those who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to make the June 12 gathering in Wellington a highly successful, heart-warming and meaningful one.
The messages of President Benigno S. Aquino III, Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert F. Del Rosario, were read by Consul General Arlene Gonzales-Macaisa, Third Secretary and Vice Consul Glenn Joseph Q. Obach, and Cultural Officer Ms. Ma. Victoria Reyes, respectively.
As a special treat for this year’s Independence Day celebration, the Philippine Barangay Folk Dance Troupe (PBFDT), the longest running folk dance troupe in the Philippines, performed a heart-warming and nostalgic repertoire of Philippine cultural dances. For the first time, the PBFDT was brought to New Zealand by the Embassy of the Philippines in cooperation with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and New Zealand Filifest Cultural Group Inc.
Ms. Gina Reid of Filifest New Zealand Inc. provided the description of the dances which accurately and beautifully presented the story of Philippine culture through a panorama of songs, dance and music. The PBFDT performed dances from the Philippine Highland Ethnic Groups of the Cordilleras depicting Kalinga maidens balancing layers of clay pots on their heads as they fetch water from the lowlands. They also showcased the dances of the Philippines during the country’s colonization by Spain in the 16th Century with La Simpatika – a dance showing the prettiest maiden entertaining four of her suitors before making her choice known at the end of the dance- and La Jota Moncadeña – a dance in the style of the Spanish Jota which was adopted by dance lovers in the town of Moncada, Tarlac, where bamboo castanets were used as accompaniment. The PBFDT also dance a Muslim dance from Mindanao, the Tahing Baila, a Tausug dance imitating the movement of fish playing in the water. The finale showcased the Tagalog Region with Buhay sa Bukid or “Life in the Fields” where the dances and music express the people’s joy in work and gratitude for nature’s bounty as depicted in the Maglalatik, an occupational dance using coconut shells done by coconut plantation workers as they rest after a hard day’s work from the province of Laguna, as well as the Tinikling, the most famous of all the Philippine dances, inspired by the long legged Tikling bird where the dancers imitate the birds movements, skipping and hopping between two bamboo poles which represent the farmer’s traps to snare them.
Many of the Filipinos in the audience were moved to tears as they joined the resounding rounds of applause and shouts of “bravo” and “well-done” for the excellent and heartwarming performance of the Philippine Barangay Folk Dance Troupe. They reiterated their gratitude to the Philippine Embassy, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the New Zealand Filifest Cultural Group Inc. for organizing “the best, most enjoyable and culturally enriching” Philippine Independence Day celebration in New Zealand. “We are proud, very touched and much inspired in showcasing our being Filipino and our rich heritage and history,” many Filipinos stated.
A lively fellowship and interaction with the Filipino community as they enjoyed the Filipino dishes prepared by the “Ang Bahay” (Official Residence of the Ambassador) staff, capped a meaningful and memorable June 12 celebration of the Philippines’ National Day in New Zealand this year.