By Pauline Stewart.
Saturday afternoon and evening, 10 June had St Andrews by the Sea awash with red, blue yellow and white balloons, colourful decorations, brightly adorned costumes, and an array of delicious Asian/European food, plus 140 people, many from the Philippines.
St Andrew’s was the chosen venue for the very first celebration of Philippine’s independence organised here in Whitianga by the residents who have come from this amazing archipelago of over 7,500 islands to make their home in the islands of New Zealand, more particularly, Mercury Bay. This colourful and happy community event ran from 3.00pm to about 7.00pm. The Filipino people had invited some of their relatives all the way from the Philippines to be present with them for this auspicious occasion. Others had travelled from Auckland and places in between.
As with every culture celebrating an historic milestone, there was a mix of peoples present. Some of the Filipino residents descend from Spanish origins; others have married here, and their children are kiwis. So many races were present. They had invited their employers, their employees, their sponsors, and the friends they have made in their time in Mercury Bay. What was evident was a happiness and a sense of pride in who they were, which they wanted to share with all their friends and visitors. The Informer was included in that circle.
This event was a dream in the making for Marissa McLachlan who is Chair of the committee representing about 70 Filipinos who reside in Mercury Bay. She hoped that for this 125-year celebration, she could bring every one of her people and their families together to celebrate Independence Day. That day is Monday, 12 June, so the Saturday two days before seemed like a possibility. To raise funds to have their celebration, the committee organised a Garage Sale at the Crossroad Encounter Fellowship and from these funds raised, they would bring together a programme including amazing food, decorations, and generous hampers for the raffle prizes. Added to that help were the donations of their sponsors who also attended Saturday’s celebration - The Lost Spring, Paper Plus, OPC, Espy Café, A J Motors, Countdown, New World, which meant they now had the resources to run their longed-for event.
No amount of fund raising could have produced the spirit of the occasion. It was marked by happiness, playfulness, and a sense of pride and strong community. They had come together to remember the sacrifice of those who had fought so bravely for independence from the Spanish after 300 years of colonial rule. One of the committee members, Rosie Boraro spoke of a little of that history, 12 June 1898, and explained the meaning of the Filipino flag. In addition, they were there to celebrate their unity as a people no matter where they lived and to take pride in their achievements in whatever land they resided.
It was a great mix of cultures and races. Some Filipino are descendants of the Spanish; others have married here in New Zealand and they and their children are Kiwi.
When Marissa gave her speech of welcome to everyone, she concluded, “When we come together, that is a beginning; when we meet together, that is progress; when we work together, that is success.”
Mabel Murie, a member of the organising committee and who, with Derek, is the owner of Paper Plus and a major sponsor of this event, said, “We all love Whitianga, and we are united by our shared heritage. Everyone has worked so hard for today.”
The Master of Ceremonies, Paul Babida, spoke very graciously of the pride he had in helping lead the programme for this significant day. He thanked all their sponsors and expressed his desire to live a life that – “honours the sacrifice his forefathers and foremothers had made, embraces the present and that empowers the future.”
He was also a star folk dancer and joined with Molly Pineda in what was a very skilful and agile hopscotch style dance, hopping between two decorated, rhythmically moving, lengths of bamboo. Other folk dances, an hilarious rendition of the egg and spoon race; bountiful trays of delicious food, Filipino delicacies and desserts, brief, meaningful speeches, beautiful vocal presentations by Jai Pragnell (from The Lost Spring) and her team, made a memorable day and one to be repeated in the future.
Caption: Locals Celebrate 125 years of Philippines Independence.