As the Philippine Embassy endeavours to reach out and be one with the Filipino community in celebrating milestone events in New Zealand, Philippine Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez, together with the Philippine Embassy personnel and their spouses, joined the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church of Christ) Congregation of the Greater Wellington Region in the Iglesia ni Cristo Worldwide Walk for Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) on February 15 at the Petone Esplanade, Lower Hutt, New Zealand. The charity walk was organised to raise money to help survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) rebuild their lives. Proceeds will go directly to the rehabilitation project funds for Typhoon Yolanda survivors through the Iglesia Ni Cristo’s Felix Y. Manalo (FYM) Foundation. The Worldwide Walk was simultaneously organized in multiple venues totalling 129 sites in 16 countries around the world.
The event was formally opened by Bro. Gregguil Besa, Head Deacon of Wellington, with an acknowledgement of the presence of Ambassador Benavidez and the Mayor of Hutt City, His Worship Ray Wallace. He also gave details on the route the 3 kilometers charity walk would take and other related arrangements. Bro. Uziel Bongares, Resident Minister of North Shore and Wellington, also welcomed and thanked Ambassador Benavidez and Mayor Wallace as well as the members of Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC), families and friends of INC, for their participation in the worthwhile event. Bro. Uziel also read a letter of encouragement and thanks from Bro. Eduardo V. Manalo, Executive Minister of Iglesia Ni Cristo.
Ambassador Benavidez, in her remarks, congratulated Bro. Uziel Bongares and Bro. Gregguil Besa, officers and members of the Iglesia ni Cristo Congregation of Wellington for the “wonderful occasion and much welcome opportunity to demonstrate the bayanihan spirit of the Filipino people”. The Worldwide Walk is a concrete manifestation of the caring, giving and sharing spirit of the Iglesia Ni Cristo. She also stated that “the incredible response by the public throughout the North and South Islands of New Zealand to the fund raising drives for the people affected by Typhoon Ylanda is due to the fact that Filipino communities here continue to endear themselves with the people of New Zealand and this has contributed immensely to the outpouring of empathy, generosity and kindness springing forth among New Zealanders”.
In his speech, Mayor Wallace expressed his appreciation to Filipinos who continue to contribute to the multiculturalism of his city and of New Zealand. He reiterated his solidarity and his sympathy for Filipinos who were affected by Typhoon Haiyan and he commended the efforts of Filipinos in New Zealand for undertaking fundraising events such as the Worldwide Walk to help their fellow Filipinos back home.
A fellowship luncheon hosted by the Congregation of Greater Wellington Region followed the successful charity walk. The guests enjoyed a Filipino song and dance presentation by members of the INC as well as the delicious homemade Filipino dishes prepared by the INC congregation members. As of 18 February 2014, the Inglesia Ni Cristo Worldwide Walk holds the title of the Largest Charity Walk in 24 Hours (multiple venues) and another for Largest Charity Walk in the Guinness World Records (GWR). “The largest charity walk consists of 175,509 people and was achieved by Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church of Christ), at Quirino Grandstand, Manila, Philippines, on 15 February 2014,” stated GWR adjudicator Kirstie Bennett.
Photos and article courtesy of DFA press release, 25 February 2014.