Dubai: Filipinos’ patriotic fervour filled Zabeel Hall 1 of the Dubai World Trade Centre on Friday morning as the community marked their country’s 120th Independence Day.
The Philippines’ blood-bought independence was declared on June 12, 1898 after 333 years of Spanish colonial rule. With it, the Philippines became the first republic in Asia.
More than 10,000 Filipinos attended the daylong event reserved for the community. A colourful parade of Filipino organisations and schools in the country kicked off the event. The drum and lyre bands of three Philippine schools — The Philippine School, the New Filipino Private School and the Far Eastern Private School.
Attendees proudly donned their traditional attire — baro’t saya and Balintawak for the ladies and barong Tagalog for the men. Others donned the colours of the Philippine flag — red, white, blue and yellow.
This year’s theme, ‘Change We Fought For, An Offering To An Abundant Future’, is but fitting as the country remembered their forefathers’ sacrifice to gain freedom that Filipinos continue to enjoy more than a century later.
“But what does freedom mean? Freedom from what?” Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes asked the crowd during his speech.
“The freedom to be free to determine for ourselves what it means to be a Filipino, to accomplish what we aspire for our country. And this is what we’re celebrating now — 120 years of showing the world what the Filipino culture, heritage, and people are all about,” Cortes said.
“Let’s show the fervour that we have for loving and serving our country and our people. Let’s continue being a positive force and being competitive especially as we see rest of the world gearing up for the challenges of an increasingly mobile, competitive and innovative 21st century,” he added.
Vice-governor Jeremias Singson, special guest speaker during the event, told Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) often referred to as the country’s Modern Day heroes, to be model residents and represent the Philippines well to the host country.
He also urged them to follow the steps of Jose Rizal, the Philippine national hero who fought and died for the country’s freedom from colonialism.
A number of events were held simultaneously to serve the community.
A job fair offered jobseekers a chance to get spotted by employers and hired on the day. A medical mission was held to give residents a quick check-up and important medical advice. Several competitions were also held such as the battle of the bands, fruit, vegetable and chocolate carving competition, on-the-spot painting contest, beauty pageant, and many more.
Filipino celebrities Martin Nievera and Arci Munoz entertained the crowd as well.
What does freedom mean to you? As a modern day hero, what are you fighting for?
Allan Calpotura, 28, marketing associate
“My family. I’m here to find a job to be able to provide enough for my two kids. I never thought that I’d become an OFW. Now that I am one, I realise how challenging it is to battle homesickness and loneliness just to give your family a better future.”
Athena Nicole Tivi, 13, Grade 7 student
“Freedom for me is to do anything you want without stepping on anyone’s toes. I am very happy that we can express ourselves, celebrate our independence and culture in a foreign land.”
Benjielyn Capidtoan, Philippine Business School
“Freedom for me is a right that we can share and pass on to the next generation. As OFWs, we’re fighting for our family’s future and our dream in a foreign nation.”
Anna Faye Cabiseulas, teacher
“Freedom for me is to be able to express something and explore our potential with no one holding us back. As an OFW and “modern day hero”, we make sacrifices now for a better tomorrow for our families.”