Republic of the Philippines

50 Hobson Street, Thorndon, Wellington, New Zealand 6011

Oath taking and Christmas celebration of the North Island Filipino Farmers Association highlight Variety and Vibrancy of Philippine Culture

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As the Philippine Embassy continues to reach out and be one with the Filipino community especially in celebrating special occasions, Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez, Cultural Officer Ma. Victoria Reyes and Administrative Staff Hilario Reyes joined the oath taking ceremony and Christmas gathering of the newly formed North Island Filipino Farmers Association (NIFFA) on 18 December 2014 at the South Waikato Sports and Events Centre in Tokoroa. The NIFFA officers and members headed by its President Mr. Harvey Cabug organized a celebratory gathering highlighting their formal induction into their respective positions and showcasing Filipino music, dances and traditions. It was attended by His Worship Neil Sinclair, Mayor of South Waikato District, Mr. Chris Lewis, Provincial President, Federated Farmers Waikato, Mr. Craig Littin, Chairperson, Federated Farmers Waikato Sharemilkers, Mr. Robert Mindoro, President, South Waikato Filipino Community, Mr. Jhun Valencia, President, Waikato Filipino Association, Hamilton, several Filipinos in the dairy sector and their families, employers of the Filipino dairy farmers and guests from the New Zealand and other communities. Different and delightful Filipino dances, music, gift giving to children and a bountiful table of Filipino cuisine enlivened the Christmas celebration.

Pastor Roger Alcantara, NIFFA Adviser, led the opening prayer followed by the welcome remarks of Mr. Cabug, NIFFA President. He acknowledged the presence of all of the guests and thanked NIFFA officers, members and families for their support and cooperation. Ambassador Benavidez congratulated the NIFFA officers and administered the oath of office to the President, Mr. Harvey Cabug, Vice-President, Mr. Ireneo Molina, Secretary, Mr. George Ticar, Treasurer, Mr. Cris Marinas, Auditor, Mr. Julius Caoing, Advisers, Mr. Patt Obillo, Pastor Roger Alcantara and Mr. Jhun Valencia, Area Coordinators, Mr. Marcelino Cabigat, Mr. James Gandeza, Mr. Manuling Simeon, Mr. Jojo Cinas, Mr. Randy Francisco and Mr. Jun Suyat and Sports Coordinator, Mr. Nilo Lubit. She commended them for their collaborative efforts to harness the skills and talents of Filipinos in the dairy and farming sectors and promote their interests, welfare and well-being. In these times of celebration, appreciation and recognition, “Christmas has been and will always be especially meaningful for us 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 become even more significant.Christmas resonates with the universal and uplifting message of hope, peace, love, joy and salvation as we celebrate the birth of our LORD and SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST,” Ambassador Benavidez stated. She cited the vital contributions of the increasing number of Filipinos now estimated at 40,350 and comprising 1% of New Zealand’s total population with 32,793 Filipinos living in the North Island. They highlight the vital contributions of Filipinos to the multicultural fabric, ethnic diversity and strong sense of community of New Zealand. She also cited the 5 Cs of Christian faith, cultural heritage, community spirit and compassionate attitude, care and commitment and cuisine and cameras that make Filipinos well oved, wonderfully known for and widely acknowledged. Mayor Sinclair spoke of the vital contributions of the Filipinos in the dairy sector in his district and Mr. Lewis likewise listed 5 Cs of importance to Filipino dairy farmers, namely, cows, calves, cow shed, cheers for the boss and community. Greetings were made by Mr. Mindoro and Mr. Valencia in behalf of their respective organizations.

All the guests enjoyed the sumptuous buffet dinner and the joy filled evening which captured and cherished the Filipinos’ heart-warming traditions. “In this season of commitment, the Philippine Embassy renews our determination to do our best in serving our beloved country and people in New Zealand and strengthening the close friendship and mutually beneficial partnership between Filipinos and New Zealanders. Our jobs are our mission. Uppermost in our hearts and minds are the words and example of President Benigno S. Aquino III who directed that all frontline services of the Government must be marked by honesty, integrity and hard work and of Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert F. Del Rosario who stated that the men and women of the Department, in any time zone, must always serve with a smile, go the extra mile and reach beyond our grasp. May the CHRIST of Christmas continue to rule in our hearts and reign in our lives and may our hearts and homes be filled with many blessings and overflowing gratitude.” stated Ambassador Benavidez.

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