PHL Embassy holds first ever Filipino Language and Culture Enrichment Programme (FILCEP): Mag-aral tayo ng Filipino in Wellington, New Zealand
As the Philippine Embassy embarks on its priority programme of promoting the history, language, beauty and greatness of the Philippines and inculcating the time honoured values, deep rooted traditions and richness and variety of culture of the Filipino people especially among the children and youth of the Filipino community in Wellington, Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez initiated the holding of the “Filipino Language and Culture Enrichment Programme (FILCEP): Mag-Aral Tayo ng Filipino” at the Philippine Embassy Chancery during the school break on 22 April-3 May 2013. For the first time ever, thirty-six children of migrant Filipinos and those with mixed parentage and the Philippine Embassy personnel joined the first run of the ten-day programme that focused on singing of the Philippine national anthem, reciting the pledge of allegiance to the Philippine flag and learning the Filipino language, culture, symbols, values, geography, games, music and dancing. They were grouped into Juniors (6-11 years old) belonging to the “Sampaguita” (national flower) section and Seniors (12-17 years old) placed in the “Gumamela” (hibiscus) section. Volunteer teachers from the Filipino community, namely, Ms. Aurea Weatherall, Ms. Zenaida Savill, Ms. Shirin Zonoobi, Ms. Josephine Garcia Jowett, Ms. Ruth Abenojar-Yee and Mr. Jun Samblaceño were joined by Consul Arlene Gonzales-Macaisa as Coordinator, Vice-Consul Glenn Obach and Finance Officer Rosalyn Del Valle-Fajardo as Assistant Coordinators, Mrs. Dorothy Obach, Ms. Doreen Maglasang and Communications Officer Mauro Fajardo III as Assistants. The children and youth enthusiastically and excitedly participated in a creative and fun filled learning environment where they proudly sang the “Lupang Hinirang” and recited the “Panunumpa sa Watawat” before the start of classes, were taught about the history and meanings of the Philippine flag, the location, islands, regions and map of the Philippines, made drawings of the Philippine flag and map, identified the national symbols, flowers, attire, tree, bird and others, memorized and read the Philippine alphabet, imbibed the different Filipino ways of courtesy, greetings, introducing one’s self and showing respect for elders, good manners and right conduct, playing traditional games, practicing the Filipino dances, getting involved in various art forms and graphics and other activities. Ambassador Benavidez read the story of the “Malakas at Maganda” and instilled in them the pride of being Filipino and the beauty of the Philippines. The students and teachers always looked forward to enjoying the typical Filipino snacks served during the tea break which also became part of the learning process.
During the Graduation Ceremony held at “Ang Bahay” (Philippine Ambassador’s Residence) on 4 May 2013, students Raeann Illana and James Encarnado were the emcees and ably steered the programme. The opening prayer was done by Ryan Cueto and Miguel Herrera, everybody sang the Philippine National Anthem accompanied by Sam Non on the violin and Ryan Cueto and Gino Cabrera Tapia on the guitars and Guilia Coralde led the pledge of allegiance to the flag. In her remarks, Ambassador Benavidez thanked GOD, the wonderful children and youth, supportive parents, talented and creative teachers, selfless coordinators, assistant coordinators and assistants for making it possible to hold FILCEP for the first time in Wellington. Gratitude and inspiration were very much evident in the art works of the students displayed in various parts of “Ang Bahay” and the feedback from teachers, parents and grandparents that the children are now making “mano” (showing respect by bringing the elder’s hand to the forehead), singing the “Lupang Hinirang” and Filipino songs from the heart and greeting them with respect. She shared with them similar programmes being implemented by the Philippine Foreign Service Posts in Brunei Darussalam and other countries as a very good pathway for promoting Filipino language and culture and instilling in the hearts and minds of Filipino children and youth the love and pride for the Philippines, our beloved country and the birthplace of our race. “Now that the seeds have been sown among the children and youth, they are the shining stars that will tell their friends about the beauty of the Philippines and the greatness of the Filipino people. To the Parents and Grandparents, Guardians and Relatives, please continue passing on to your children the positive traits of our people and the significant developments in the Philippines, earning the respect of people in New Zealand and other countries by your story, by your child’s story, by your story of excellence in work, by our strong faith in GOD and the talent and creativity we Filipinos are known for. The FILCEP promises to be something that will touch and remain in our hearts and be a vital part of the growing up years of our beloved students,” Ambassador Benavidez stated.
Jennifer Connolly from the Juniors group and Jin Kato from the Seniors group spoke about how much they learned and appreciated their Filipino roots and heritage, how important for them to know more about their parent’s homeland, the Filipino values and traditions and to be able to greet, speak, sing and dance the Filipino way and how they enjoyed being together with their classmates and friends. They thanked their parents, teachers and the Philippine Embassy for the highly useful and enjoyable programme. In behalf of the parents, families and relatives, Mr. Peter Mulqueen and Mrs. Minnie Connolly reiterated their deep appreciation to the Philippine Embassy, the teachers, coordinators and assistants and all those who worked hard to ensure that their children and the other students learn much from FILCEP. They conveyed the unanimous feedback from parents that the programme provided the much needed and long awaited opportunity for their children to know and appreciate Filipino language and culture. For their part, Ms. Zenaida Savill and Ms. Ruth Abenojar-Yee reiterated the gratitude of the teachers to the Philippine Embassy officers and staff, parents and all those who assisted them in successfully implementing FILCEP for the benefit and enjoyment of the students. They all said that the students who participated in the first run of FILCEP are truly remarkable, wonderful and eager to learn about the Philippines and the Filipino people and to make good friends and close bonding among themselves. Just like the parents and the relatives, they all look forward to holding the second and subsequent runs of FILCEP. There were presentation of the Philippine alphabet, songs, dances by the entire class, recitation of the Dr. Jose P. Rizal’s poem entitled “Sa Aking Mga Kababata” and awarding of certificates of attendance to the students and certificates of appreciation to the volunteer teachers, coordinators and assistants. Certificates for the Most Diligent were given to Isabella Samaniego and Samantha Samaniego, Most Creative to Micole Marquez and Angelo Torino and Most Energetic/Most Enthusiastic to Miguel Herrera and Mia Abenojar-Yee. Consul Macaisa delivered the closing remarks and said that the FILCEP constitutes a vital component of the Philippine Embassy’s cultural diplomacy thrusts and its partnership with the Filipino community in implementing the programme will go a long way in instilling love for country, family values and knowledge and understanding of Philippine history, language, culture and the arts, especially among the younger generation of Filipinos in New Zealand.