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Sharing the Celebration of Independence Day

We feel we belong – thank you! It was exciting to be in the Whitianga Town Hall last Saturday evening, 8 June. The large community of Filipinos invited people they had come to know through their living and working here in New Zealand, to join their Independence Day celebrations.
 |  Pauline Stewart  |  ,

They are a people very proud of their country and their independence and they share this pride unashamedly on Independence Day.

Now, the Whitianga Town Hall is from a past era. Although a solid building and quite serviceable, it is very basic in terms of a civic centre, without a single lavish touch.

However, the hall was turned into a feast of colour in every aspect of décor, a feast of hospitality, dance, music – a total celebration of goodwill to make memorable for everyone, the day that local Filipinos celebrated their Independence from Spanish rule, 12 June, 1898, in Whitianga!

About 200 people gathered in the hall; at least half were local Filipinos and the rest their hosts, their employers, their employees, their sponsors, their extended family; all of whom, regarded the Filipinos as good friends and neighbours. Some travelled from Tauranga and Hamilton to be there. Mayor Len Salt, his wife Svargo, and our local MP Scott Simpson, were official, honoured guests who travelled from Thames to be there to bring a greeting and enjoy the hospitality and programme.

Actually, everyone was treated as an honoured guest. The word that comes to mind to describe the experience of the evening, is ‘happiness’. It was tangible. A well-prepared welcome for everyone and a programme that was inclusive, colourful, entertaining and informative, spread that happiness.

The speeches, costumes, dances, songs, and bountiful array of food were an expression of it. But the happiness people experienced was about more than that.

It lies in the spirit of the Filipino people. Their whole approach and attitude to celebrating is in their values of thankfulness, working hard and sharing what they have, plus a deep sense that spiritual values imbue the whole of life.

Even the struggles, disappointments and hardship they experience cannot hold back celebrating. This did not discount, the serious way they honoured the long, past journey to independence, the meaning of their flag, the different peoples that make up their Philippines; but the overriding commitment is a thankfulness for freedom and a commitment to better themselves, their family and their country for the future.

Filipino Indendence Day celebrated

It is clear the Filipino people bring that spirit to their new country, New Zealand, their second home.  What a gift they are to this region and there is more to come from them. Their music, their industriousness, their creativity, their playfulness, are needed here in our future.

Editor’s note: There is a sizeable community of Filipino people in Whitianga. Some are business owners, some are married to kiwis and others have taken up work opportunities in the hospitality, seafood and entertainment industries.

They come from many different parts of the archipelago that comprises the Philippines, but they work together and help one another to become a part of New Zealand society. There is also a Filipino community on the Hauraki Plains.