A Celebration of Culture : Our Experiences

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By Mariah Alyssa Medel

Photo caption: Some of the contestants of MAB 2016

AUCKLAND – On the 18th June 2016 some young Filipinos decided to give back to their culture by sharing the essence of it with their kapwa Pinoys through the art of fashion. The Maginoo at Binibining Migrant News Cultural Fashion Show 2016 took place at Westlake Boys High School on a Saturday afternoon, with sixteen young participants from Auckland and Hamilton.

The show had three portions: casual, Kiwiana, and Filipiniana.

The first part of the show enabled the participants to show the judges and the audience aspects of their personalities. They were given the task of choosing indigenous accessories to liven up their plain white t-shirt and black jeans outfits. Through this they also showed the influences of their own regional cultures. It was also the portion in the show where the participants had to introduce themselves and to talk about the cultural journey they had embarked on upon competing in MAB.

“We all managed to say what we meant to say. Even though some of us made mistakes in delivering our speeches it was still our best as it came from the heart with the utmost sincerity.” Xena Lasam says about the spiel: “it gave me the time to actually look at the reasons why I love being a Filipino.”

Ericson Dela Cruz Pascua, Maginoo 2016:

“Kia ora, good afternoon to you all. Ako po si Ericson Pascua from Hamilton and I am an Ilocano. I am a professional chef that is passionate about discovering the taste of Filipino cuisine. This opportunity allows me to immerse myself into my cultural heritage and also to reconnect with the Filipino community and my family. I humbly want to thank God, also Tita Sheila and Mel for this experience and for using me as an instrument to show you what a pure Filipino really is in New Zealand. Mabuhay tayo lahat. Kia Kaha.”

Sheena Meryl, Binibining 2016:

“Maayong hapon sa inyong tanan! Living here in NZ for over 20 years has kept me out of touch with the Filipino ways of life. That’s why I am honoured to be able to participate in this event where I can reconnect with the Filipino culture, refresh my memory of old traditions and of course, meet new friends.”

Macy Dado:

“Magandang hapon sa inyong lahat. I’m Macy Dado. I’m 19 years old and I’m currently in my second year at Uni, studying a Bachelor of Nursing. Originally I’m from Makati, but my family and I moved to New Zealand when I was only 10 years of age. Although I’ve surrounded myself with fellow Filipinos I’ve always felt as if I’ve lost touch with my culture throughout these 9 years.

“This cultural show has given me the opportunity to meet other Filipinos and although we’ve only known each other as a group for a couple of weeks we’ve already shared countless moments of laughter.

“We were also given the opportunity to wear beautiful traditional clothing from different parts of the Philippines and to dance the janggay (which we’ll be performing later tonight).

“All in all this experience has helped me appreciate not only the beauty, diversity and richness of our culture, but it has also opened my eyes to see that all Filipinos, no matter how different we may be, have one thing in common, which is to be proud of our culture. Joining Maginoo at Binibining has made me feel proud of being Filipino and also made me feel more connected to my Filipino roots as well. Thank you and mabuhay.”

Arnel Mapalo Agor Jr.:

“Naimbag nya maleum, Kia ora and Good afternoon to you all. My name is Arnel Mapalo Agor Jr., from Baguio City, Philippines. I am 17 years old and I aspire to become a civil engineer in the near future.

“Growing up, I was raised in a foreign country completely away from my roots where I never got to experience Filipino culture very much. Although, while I was overseas the heart of the nation followed me wherever I went and through that I was able to see how hard working and dedicated Filipinos are.

“What I love about the Philippines is the people; globally we are known to be hardworking, resilient, dedicated and also hospitable.

“So, ladies and gentlemen, what I learned from this cultural fashion show is that I finally know where I came from and the history of my nation. I couldn’t be prouder to be a Filipino than I am today. I believe that the people make the country and that God is the centre of it.

“Lastly, as a proud citizen of the Philippines I aspire to become an example, a role model, to the younger generation of the Philippines, where success comes through hard work and especially from the Almighty.

Cianell Navarro:

“Kapamilya, kapatid, kaibigan, aking mga kababayan. Magandang hapon mga hurado, mga Maginoo at magandang binibini. Ako nga pala si Cianell Anne Mer S. Navarro, labing siyam na taong gulang at nagmula sa Espana, Manila. Taos puso kong ikinagagalak na maging parte sa patimpalak na ito na siyang nagbibigay buhay sa natatanging sining at kultura ng Pilipinas dito sa Aoteroa. Dahil dito, nagkaroon ako ng mga bagong kaibigan at mas napatunayan ko ang aking pagmamahal sa ating inang bayan at kapwa Pilipino. Ito rin ang naging daan para sakin hindi lang para maka suot ng mga marilag na damit at tanggapin ang mga palakpak ninyo, kundi pati na rin ang patunayan sa sarili ko, na walang imposible dahil ako ay isang Pilipino!”

Mary Jesl Xena Rae Lasam:

“Magandang hapon sa inyong lahat! My name is Mary Jesl Xena Rae Lasam, 18 years old, from Manila. Tonight Maginoo at Binibining has given me the opportunity to showcase Filipino talent and beauty. Through it I have been given the chance to dwell on the essence of being a Filipino and what makes us distinct in the global community.

“After spending 17 years of my life in the Philippines I realised that there are two things that make us different from the rest; our resiliency and our hospitality. It is only in the Philippines that you can find people who continue to fight, hope and smile regardless of their difficulties. And despite the challenges Filipinos face we never forget to care about others.

“Our astonishing beauty, amazing talents and strong resilience are the best reasons why I love to be called … A FILIPINA.”

Mariah Alyssa Medel:

“Maayong hapon kaninyong tanan! I am Alyssa Medel, 18 years of age, from the pearl of the south, Davao City! Through participating in this fashion show I embarked on a cultural journey that strengthened my sense of patriotism and Filipino pride.

“I connected with my culture, touched up on my roots and learnt to embrace the gift my ancestors gave me. I am Bisaya, Tagalog, Chavacano and so much more; so many origins within one country. This is what Filipino culture is; a blend of different cultures and influences combined into one. That is what my ancestors gave me; a colourful, diverse and complex culture, the essence of which we are all sharing with you today through this fashion show. Mabuhay!”

The Kiwiana section of the show allowed us to connect our native culture with the present one we live in today, Aotearoa. The participants were given the opportunity to wear beautifully made and designed Kiwiana costumes provided by Sewtec Fashion Academy. This portion of the show truly proved how multi-cultural the Filipino community is; not only consisting of the culture within our country, but also of cultures around the world. “A blend of different cultures and influences combined into one.”

The last part of the show was the Filipiniana portion, which showed off beautiful traditional clothing made by Frances Martinez, Ginno Gomez and other designers. This part of the show was a favourite of the participants as the Filipiniana was symbolic of our national pride.

When asked what she felt when wearing her Filipiniana gown, Macy Dado said. “I can see through the eyes of the wearers of the dress, what they might have felt . . . like their pride towards their culture. I felt like a modern day Cinderella.”

Cianell Navarro also said that it was the “main highlight of the MAB”. Wearing the Maria Clara also made Xena Lasam feel like a “legit Filipina”.

The opportunity to wear such beautiful gowns is rare, so the rare feeling that came with it made the experience truly special. A great culmination of all the hard work we had done preparing for the show.

Throughout the whole process of MAB, from the preparation to the final show, the participants will always keep the rehearsals close to their hearts. The most valuable thing Xena Lasam took from the process was the friendships she made, which we all hope will be long-lasting.

We gathered together as a group of young Filipinos who were a bit out of touch with our native culture. The experience has bonded us together, as we all came out of it with more knowledge of, love for and pride in the Philippines. After the event we all felt like winners of the show, because it gave back more to us than we put into it.

The Binibining Filipino Migrant News of 2016, Sheena Meryl, said of the process. “Rehearsing and meeting everyone would probably be some of the most memorable experiences. The candidates make the show. Without everyone’s warmth and friendliness the show would not have been as enjoyable.”

Of winning she said. “I feel fantastic! I have never had that many photos taken of me before, so it felt very overwhelming. Each and every candidate in the show were all beautiful and unique; we all deserved a prize! I am grateful to represent the NZ Philippines Binibining in the year 2016. It is definitely one of my best moments of honour and joy.”

We, the participants in MAB 2016, would like to thank all of the organisers, Tita Sheila and Mel Fernandez, the judges, Kuya Alyx and the designers for giving us the opportunity of a lifetime. It is an experience we will never forget because of what we learnt from it and because of the bonds we have made with our kapwa Filipinos. The gift of connecting with our culture on our long journeys of finding our own identities is truly one that we will treasure for a long time.

Editor – Mariah Alyssa Medel, a columnist for Filipino Migrant News, was a contestant in the MAB Cultural Show 2016.

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