Republic of the Philippines

50 Hobson Street, Thorndon, Wellington, New Zealand 6011

The Filipino community Centre Project (FCC) launch in Wellington, New Zealand

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As the Philippine Embassy continues to promote and recognize the positive and vital contributions of the Filipino community in showcasing and preserving the richness of Filipino cultural heritage and traditions and to reach out to Filipinos in New Zealand and thank them for their sustained support and cooperation, Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez and the Philippine Embassy officers and staff joined the launching of the Filipino Community Centre project on 14 September 2013 at the Petone Working Men’s Club with the Bulwagan Foundation Trust. According to Bulwagan Foundation Trust, the idea of the creation of a Filipino Community Centre (FCC) came from a Filipino youth group leader who believed that the Centre would help “Promote and preserve our heritage so that our children, and our children’s children will be able to celebrate what makes us unique as a people in this city that we now call home.” Such a resounding call, brought the leaders of various Filipino community organizations in Greater Wellington area together to move the project forward.

Ms. Flora Muriel Nogoy, Chairperson of the Bulwagan Foundation Charitable Trust, and Ms. Dina O’Meara were co-emcees for the launch. Ms Nogoy explained the project’s aims and goals and provided a detailed the budgetary scenario for the funding required to establish the FCC. She stated that the 120 “alkansiya” or native Filipino piggy-bank made of polished coconut shells donated by Mr. Pio J. Benavidez, spouse of Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez, were first distributed during among the Filipino community leaders who attended the discussion meeting regarding the FCC at the Sentro Rizal of the Embassy of the Philippines on 05 July 2013 have all found homes in the community and will be gathered and opened in due time. Ms. Nogoy and Ms. O’Meara also thanked those who so generously donated goods, cash and services such as the Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez, the Philippine Embassy Officers and Staff, Mr. Ed Ocampo as well other members of the Filipino community and friends of the Filipino community.

Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez as the key speaker for the event encouraged the Filipino community to steadily pursue their GOD-given dream of having a centre that will serve as a home, haven, headquarters and hive for Filipino community activities and programs. She stated that the FCC would serve as a proud testimony of the sacrifices, support and spirit, individually and collectively, of Filipinos who are in New Zealand to promote, project and maintain the uniqueness and richness of Filipino culture, identity and creativity. Ambassador Benavidez reiterated the Philippine Embassy’s support for the Filipino community and the FCC project. She also stressed the importance of integrity, accountability and transparency in every stage of the planning, fund raising and conduct of activities for the FCC. She exhorted the Bulwagan Foundation Trust to have a laser focused determination to carry out each phase of the project, no matter how small it may be, to think big but to start small and not to be discouraged, disappointed and dismayed by naysayers, critics, negativity and detours along the way. She gave Biblical references to inspire the people behind their laudable project to keep on going under GOD’s direction, guidance, providence and provisions. The FCC would be an outstanding legacy for the younger generation of Filipinos, a shining example of the Filipino community spirit of “bayanihan”, volunteerism and solidarity and a concrete manifestation of the close cooperation and support among the Filipino community, the host country, supporters and various stakeholders.

Consul Arlene Gonzales-Macaisa who served at the Philippine Consulate-General in Hawaii shared the experiences and extensive efforts of Filipinos from all walks of life and their families to build the largest ever Filipino Community Centre in Hawaii. She called on the Filipino community to take heart and take hold of their collective dream for only they find the pathways into making the FCC a reality.

Cultural presentations by various organizations showcased Filipino talents through song and dance. Munting Tinig, a group of young Filipino children played the ukelele, sang the Philippine and New Zealand National anthems and other songs, Ms. Tina Guieb performed a ballet dance interpretation, Ms. May Young and Mr. Jun Samblaceño rendered Latin dance numbers, Mr. Sam Non played the violin, and the Wellington Filipino Community Choir, Ms. Irene Bower, and Mr. Pedro Delmiguez performed a variety of musical numbers.

A rousing and profitable auction steered by the evening’s auctioneer, Mr. Paul O’Reilly, was held as an initial form of fundraising for the FCC utilizing donated articles and services in kind from various individuals and companies from the Filipino community, such as Pinoy Central, Hair Liz Salon, Pizzeria Napoli, Organo Gold, and AA Central Wellington. The Philippine Embassy donated two personally signed basketballs and t-shirts by the renowned Smart Gilas Pilipinas Basketball Team, the Philippine National Team, which visited New Zealand in July 2013 and played against New Zealand’s national teams. The rest of the evening saw the Filipino community sharing light refreshments and enjoyable dancing to the music provided by Mr. Mon Illana.

Ms. Nogoy and the Bulwagan Foundation Trust reiterated their gratitude to Ambassador Benavidez and the Philippine Embassy Team, the performers, sponsors, organizers, supporters, friends and all those who worked tirelessly to make the FCC launch in 2013 a highly successful, meaningful and memorable one.

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