Republic of the Philippines

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Philippine Ambassador visits the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in Bay of Islands, New Zealand

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In line with the Philippine Embassy’s continuing efforts to promote closer ties with New Zealand’s local governments, Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez, accompanied by Minister and Consul Arlene Gonzales-Macaisa, visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds on 09 January 2014 in Bay of Islands. Deputy Mayor Tania McInnes of the Far North District Council and Mr. Greg McManus, Chief Executive Officer of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, warmly welcomed Ambassador Benavidez and Minister Gonzales-Macaisa and graciously led them on a guided tour of the Treaty Grounds.

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds is New Zealand’s premier historic site where in 1840 New Zealand’s most significant document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed by the British Crown and Maori Chiefs. The Treaty of Waitangi or Te Tiriti of Waitangi is considered as New Zealand’s founding document.

During the visit to the Treaty Grounds, Deputy Mayor McInnes and Mr. McManus showcased the historic Treaty House, a magnificently carved meeting house and the world’s largest ceremonial war canoe as well as an authentic Maori cultural performance including the traditional Pōwhiri or the Māori welcome of singing and chanting along with the the taki or wero, an aggressive challenge of the visitor at the beginning of a Maori ceremony, where three Maori warriors advances cautiously towards the guests with ceremonial weapons, and performs the customary threatening gestures and grimaces, calling out battle screams, and generally giving an impression of being ready to explode into violence against the visitors at any moment. A warrior then places a rautapu, a symbolic offering of a leaf placed on the ground in front of the leader of the visitors. Once the leader of the visitors accepts the rautapu in peace, the ceremony ends and the visitors are invited inside the meeting house where the waiata (singing), poi dance, and the hongi or the tradition of sharing the breath of life by touching noses, are performed by the Treaty Ground’s resident performance group, Te Pitowhenua.

Ambassador Benavidez thanked Deputy Mayor McInnes and Mr. MacManus for the special and wonderful introduction to New Zealand’s unique and meaningful indigenous culture in Te Whare Runanga. She stated that she is an avid student of Maori language and culture and that she truly appreciated the visit to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. “I look forward to seeing you again when the Heads of Diplomatic Missions attend the ceremonies and activities celebrating the 174th Anniversary of the Signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on 4-6 February 2014,” Ambassador Benavidez stated.

A visit to the town of Russel, the first capital of New Zealand in the Bay of Islands, was made by Ambassador Benavidez and the Embassy Mobile Consular Team on 08 January 2014.Historic Russel is known as the first permanent European settlement and sea port in New Zealand. The town boasts of many “firsts” in New Zealand, such as the Pompallier Mission, which is a printer, tannery, and storehouse of the early Roman Catholic missionaries, and the oldest industrial building in New Zealand. Also located in Russel is Christ Church, the oldest church in New Zealand. Christ Church still serves its original purpose with a Local Shared Ministry team that encourages the ministry of all. Picturesque and quaint, Russel is home to many cafes, gift shops and Bed and Breakfasts and many of the beautiful holiday homes in New Zealand which accommodate droves of tourists during the summer months.

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