Sinulog Festival in New Zealand highlights richness of Filipino Culture and Spiritual Heritage
As the Philippine Embassy continues to reach out and be one with the Filipino community especially in celebrating and showcasing Filipino traditions, Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez attended the Sinulog Festival in Auckland on 19 January 2014.As always, the Sinulog Festival put the spotlight on the strength of the Filipino people’s Christian beliefs and the richness of the country’s spiritual and cultural heritage. Thousands of Filipino devotees of the Sto. Niño, families and friends from New Zealand and other countries joined in the 20th anniversary of the Sinulog celebration in Auckland, the largest city and home to more than 30,000Filipinos. Organized by the the New Zealand Filipino Devotees of Señor Sto Niño Trust headed by Chairpersons Mr. Oscar and Mrs. Miriam Batucan with support from the Trustees, Area coordinators, Committee Members and the outgoing and incoming Hermanos and Hermanas, the Sinulog 2014 consisted of the 9-days Novena at St. Benedict’s Church, Rosary and Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Fiesta celebration highlighting the Procession, People’s Sinulog Dance offering, Mass, Lunch Fellowship and a Cultural programme at the North Shore Events Centre. His Grace Bishop Patrick Dunn, Bishop of Auckland together with Filipino priests Fr. Larry, Fr. Gilbert and Fr. Elrick concelebrated the Mass. Philippine Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez together with Honorary Consul General Paulo Garcia, Member of Parliament and Minister of Pacific Island Affairs Peseta Sam Lotu-liga, Parliamentary Secretary for Ethnic Affairs and Member of Parliament Melissa Lee, and leaders and members of the Filipino community, families and friends participated in the Sinulog celebrations.
In her speech, Ambassador Benavidez highlighted the significance of the Feast of the Sto Niño as deeply rooted in Philippine history and culture and a valuable part of Philippine spiritual heritage. “Our continuing celebrations here in Auckland and simultaneously in Wellington, alongside with similar festivities in Cebu and other parts of the Philippines and other countries highlight the Filipino’s unshakeable faith and provide a wonderful opportunity to share the strength and the richness of our culture and traditions with people from New Zealand and other communities. The yearly Sinulog Festivals contribute to the multicultural enrichment that makes New Zealand a hospitable haven for migrants and Auckland as a premiere city taking pride in its being multi ethnic and most liveable for everyone. It is home to about 70% of 40, 350 Filipinos in Aotearoa. The Sinulog Festival is truly and proudly PINOY,” Ambassador Benavidez stated. She took the opportunity to reiterate gratitude as the Filipino people witnessed first hand humanity’s great outpouring of local, national and global support and New Zealand’s solidarity, care and compassion, giving and generosity to recover and rebuild what Typhoon Haiyan’s deadly wrath and dreadful fury had laid to waste in Central Philippines on 8 November 2013. She highlighted the time tested and proven spirit of “BAYANIHAN” (volunteerism, coming together to help), the Filipino’s unshakeable faith in GOD, remarkable resiliency and steadfast hope amidst the rubble and the ruins which proved far stronger than the biggest storm ever recorded and one of the worst tragedies that the world has ever seen. The Filipino community in New Zealand continue to endear themselves with the people of New Zealand and this has contributed immensely to the outpouring of empathy, generosity and kindness springing forth among New Zealanders. Indeed, these are the times when the true meaning and spirit of the Sto. Niño reign in the hearts of people standing in solidarity with one another and extending a helping hand to each other. “May this Sinulog festival be our way of strengthening our unity and solidarity with each other, thanking Señor Sto. Niño for instilling in the Filipinos child-like faith, wonder and affection and all-embracing trust in GOD and heightening our sense of nationalism and pride on the continuing significant economic growth and record breaking economic gains and unprecedented credit upgrades of the Philippines. I reiterate the Embassy’s continuing support and services to all of you, keeping in mind the directive of President Benigno S. Aquino III and Secretary of Foreign Affairs to restore the culture of honesty, integrity, transparency, accountability and hard work in all frontline services of the Philippine government and to serve with a smile, go the extra mile and reach beyond our grasp,” Ambassador Benavidez said.