[ Note : Awesome kudos the participants at the Typhoon Haiyan Philippine Appeal Concert last Saturday , particularly Meia Lopez and the Wellington Filipino Community Choir; congrats to the Typhoon Haiyan fundraising efforts of the Society for Southeast Asian Communities led in part by Didith Tayawa-Figuracion! Legends all! ]
WE CAN’T remember who said it, but more than a few times we have heard that culture is the soul of a collective people. Language, the arts and music are the most visible indicators, but anything that expresses the spirit of a tribe or group of people is part of a culture which history preserves and the community promotes.
Because of this reality, a conquering nation or race, many times in history, after the physical subjugation of its enemies, sought shortly afterwards to suppress the latter’s culture and language with impunity, usually for political and emotional ends but all the better to wipe out the remnants of future dissent from the vanquished.
The burning of books and execution of scholars by the Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang, and the infamous Nazi book burnings before World War II are just two extreme examples of suppression against culture. In more recent times, prohibition against speaking the languages of natives in favor of the colonizers’ tongues are scenarios that strike closer to home.
Thankfully in our present day these things no longer happen. In fact, even in host countries like New Zealand, migrant communities like ours from the Philippines are allowed and even encouraged to promote and preserve aspects of our Pinoy culture so that our youth may appreciate and continue what our forebears fought hard to preserve.
Basic things like the Filipino language, history and symbolisms behind the Philippine flag, the geography, ethnicities and various regions of the Philippine archipelago, the national symbols, flowers, attire, tree, bird and others were taught to a group of Pinoy children and young adults a few months ago by a select group of Kiwi-Pinoy volunteer teachers, namely Aurea Weatherall, Zenaida Savill, Shirin Zonoobi, Josephine Garcia Jowett, Ruth Abenojar-Yee and Jun Samblaceno under the Filipino Language and Culture Enrichment Programme (FILCEP) sponsored by H.E. Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez and her hardworking staff at the Philippine Embassy in New Zealand.
The ten-day programme was to focus on the more basic aspects of Filipino language and culture, but its success has prompted the Embassy to plan more sessions in the near future, particularly in civics and the performing arts.
Last November 13, it was the turn of our FILCEP volunteer teachers to be honored as the Embassy and the Pinoy community held its first FILCEP Fun and Educational Day at Ang Bahay, the official residence of the Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand.
After the singing of the Lupang Hinirang (the Philippine National Anthem) by Mia Abenojar Yee and Samantha Samaniego and the recitation of the Panunumpa sa Watawat by Paulo Raphael Obach, festivities were immediately commenced, with focus on Filipiniana.
Tinikling, the native Filipino dance was taught and performed, palitaw and halo-halo preparation was demonstrated and the results enjoyed, storytelling about alamat and other Pinoy legends, Jose Rizal’s poems and stories and puppet making was eagerly absorbed, and various native games like luksong lubid, sungka and hampas sa palayok were demonstrated to other youths.
The Filifest Dance Group led by Queens Service Medal awardee Anita Mansell, with their performances both educated and entertained everyone present, particularly the freestyle dance of Stephanie Jowett, the saxophone piece by Gino Tapia, a violin performance by Sam Non, and Panaglangin sung by Kiwi-Pinoy couple Hazel and Mark Fryer. Other awesome performances were Kathy Lopez (Next in Line) and Jodie Marquez (Torete).
The children’s group Munting Tinig stole the show with their heartwarming rendition of Ang Pipit and Tutira Mai.
The Philippine Embassy hit two birds with one stone, sharpening the prongs of their cultural diplomacy thrust and partnering with the Pinoy migrant community in New Zealand with their FILCEP family day. If the most basic aspects of our culture, like love for country, family values and a fundamental knowledge of Filipino history language and culture served to inspire the youths present, then FILCEP would have been a smashing success.
Mabuhay po tayong lahat!
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