Filipinos in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, now have a site where they can gather to celebrate and spread the Filipino culture to younger generations.
The Filipino Community Centre (FCC) was officially opened last September 26 after what Bulwagan Foundation Trust chairperson Flora Nogoy described as 19 years of “planning, fundraising and praying.”
Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand Virginia H. Benavidez, who attended the opening, described the 460-square-meter center as a haven "for promoting and sharing among Filipinos, New Zealanders and the wider communities the richness and artistry of Filipino culture and history."
"It’s a mile-marker; it’s history; it adds to the wonderful growth story of the Filipino community here in the Wellington region and all over New Zealand," Benavidez said of the center, located at 92-94 Cuba Street Petone, Lower Hutt.
Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace also praised the site for its role in providing young people with opportunities and helping them learn about their heritage.
In a video by Bulwagan Trust, Nogoy said the project began in 1996 when Filipino youth leader Bing Iguna approached them to help found a center that Filipinos can use for gatherings and other functions.
"A lot of Filipinos by that stage were just about to come in, and we were paying so much for all the other sports people to pay for the youths, so why don't we have a place of our own?" she said.
The development of the project was a hard-fought battle due to lack of funding that was resolved through years of donations from families and groups interested in making the center a reality.
"It is hard. Nothing comes easy. Like any vision that you need to achieve is never easy," Nogoy said. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News