Qatar- Filipinos mark Independence Day

(MENAFN- The Peninsula) Filipinos in Qatar yesterday marked the 117th anniversary of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence with events replete with a sense of patriotism, unity and national pride.

The celebration stated with a flag hoisting-ceremony attended by representatives of Filipino organisations, at the Philippine embassy.

Ambassador Wilfredo C Santos read out the message of President Benigno S Aquino III in which he exhorted Filipinos "to exercise the rights and freedom borne from the toil of our ancestors and contribute to shaping a more proactive and mature discourse, perpetuating positive change to the broader spectrum of society, and emancipating our citizenry from the shackles of poverty, corruption and greed."

It was followed by a motorcade to Sheraton Doha, the venue of a programme featuring cultural dances, patriotic songs and historical presentations.

Benguet, Ifugao, Mountain Province, Apayao, Abra, Kalinga (BIMAK), an organisation of Igorots in Qatar, presented Pattong, a war dance from the Mountain Province while students of Philippine International School Qatar performed Tiklos, a Visayan folk dance.

On this year's theme 'Independence 2015: Triumphs through reforms, within nation's reach', Santos praised the role Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) have played "in the economic triumph the Philippines enjoys today" through remittances.

He also praised "the estimated 200,000-strong overseas Filipinos in Qatar who have consistently shown hard work and professionalism.

"However, contributions of overseas Filipinos to the Philippine economy should not be based on remittances alone. We believe that overseas Filipinos could still contribute more to the nation's progress, while at the same time ensure their long-term security when they go back home to their families for good.

"Being an OFW should not be a long-term arrangement for Filipinos. Being away from your home country, your family, friends and other loved ones has created social implications and problems that threaten bonds within the family. While the Philippine government values the role of the Filipino family as the foundation of our nation, we look forward to the day when every Filipino will no longer have to go overseas to look for greener pastures and part with their families.

"More than just recognising their strength, it is imperative that the embassy continues to empower the Filipino workforce to better prepare them for whatever lies ahead," he stressed.

A choral competition and the annual 'Kantahan sa Doha' singing contest finals were held in the afternoon.

The day's events concluded with a gala dinner highlighted by cultural dances from various regions of the Philippines rendered by the Kaloob Philippine Music and Dance Ministry, and a fashion show of latest creations by Filipino designers in Qatar.

A live band showdown, photography competition, chess and dart tournament, trade fair, food exhibition and car show were among others events. A medical mission and services by POLO-OWWA were also available at the venue.

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