Today, April 24, 2021, Filipinos in New Zealand congregate in Hamilton City to mark the quincentennial of Christianity in the Philippines. This follows the launching mass in Hamilton on March 13 with Bishop Steve Lowe and the masses on April 4 in Auckland and Wellington to mark the first mass in Limasawa. All these activities were featured in articles written by Rowena Orejana and published in NZ Catholic, the Catholic newspaper of New Zealand. With the Covid-19 virus effectively contained in New Zealand, Filipinos have come in full force in events organized to commemorate the quincentennial.
In today’s celebration, the Waikato Filipino Association and the Filipino Chaplaincy of the Catholic Diocese of Hamilton have joined hands hoping to make a memorable program guided by the theme “Gifted to Give.” I’ve attended most of the preparations and am amazed by the commitment and dedication of people who have volunteered to various tasks.
Filipino choirs from different parishes have bonded to create a Filipino Chaplaincy Grand Choir led by Maestro Ruel Sanchez. They’ve included in the hymns for the Holy Mass the following songs: “Batobalani sa Gugma,” “Maria Reyna sa Pilipinas” and “We Give Our Yes.” The harmony created by the ensemble is heavenly and infectious. For several weeks, the cast for the cultural program have been rehearsing reenactments of the First Baptism, the Battle of Mactan and the return of Sebastian Elcano to Spain. What makes these presentations remarkable are the participation of members of the Waikato Latino Hispano Cultural Trust.
Two of the main actors — Luis Izquierdo (as Magellan) and Javier Zaya (as Elcano) — have taken their roles seriously and I’ve learned a lot about what is happening in Spain through conversations with them. Humabon and Humamay are played by Lapu-Lapu couple Jomar and Christine Timog, while Lapulapu has actor Darwin Brazil. I’m playing the role of Fr. Pedro Valderamma, the priest who celebrated the first mass and baptized the Sugbuanons. The WFA Dance Troupe, FILI NZ Dance Group and the Waikato Latino Hispano Cultural Trust have numbers in the program.
Two unique activities have also been lined up: the 500-Human Formation and the Grand Sinulog Dance. Two hundred or more individuals will form a cross and the number 500 in the playground of the Marian Catholic School to symbolize unity among Filipinos in celebrating the quincentennial of Christianity. The Grand Sinulog Dance hopes to have the biggest number of people in New Zealand dancing to “Pit Senor!” a song I composed and recorded by Manny Lapingcao. If we are able, the whole event may be streamed online on FB Live. May the Lord bless us!