Culture and camaraderie on display as Filipinos in UAE celebrate their Independence Day

Around 20,000 people showed up for the celebrations at Dubai International Convention Centre on Sunday
Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

Dubai: As many as 20,000 Filipino expats in the UAE celebrated the 126th Independence Day of the Philippines at an event in Dubai on Sunday with a display of colours, culture and camaraderie.

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‘Valued friends’

Sheikh Nahyan praised the solid relations between the UAE and the Philippines and the strategic cooperation that unites them in various fields. He emphasised the eagerness of both countries to explore new avenues of collaboration and elevate their relations to higher levels, achieving a strategic economic partnership.

The indoor event attracted families, friends and people from all walks of life
Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

Sheikh Nahyan also commended the significant efforts of the Filipino community and their contributions to the developmental journey of the UAE.

Addressing them as the UAE’s ‘valued friends,’ Sheikh Nahyan said his interactions with the Filipino community members have always been both enjoyable and constructive. “In my mind, those positive interactions reflect this special relationship between our two countries,” he said.

The minister praised their efforts in cultural, healthcare, and technology sectors that have greatly strengthened the UAE’s development and progress.

He noted that the UAE has established itself as a unique global model for embracing and celebrating cultural diversity, where various nationalities coexist in harmony, tolerance, and respect for everyone’s rights.

Sheikh Nahyan added that the celebration reflects the UAE’s approach to honouring different cultures and building bridges that bring countries and peoples closer together, fostering stability, prosperity, and development efforts worldwide.

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Ties before the Union

The UAE and the Republic of the Philippines share strong relations, even prior to the formal establishment of diplomatic relations on August 19, 1974, followed by the opening of the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi on June 17, 1980 and the UAE Embassy in Manila in 1989.

The Philippine Ambassador to the UAE, Alfonso Ferdinand A. Ver, said this year’s Independence Day celebration also celebrates the 50 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Ambassador Ferdinand paid tribute to the expat community, praising them as heroes
Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

“But our relationship is founded in the robust people-to-people relationships that have been nurtured even before the birth of this country in 1971. Filipinos were already here, and that relationship continues to flourish,” he pointed out.

In a tribute to the estimated 1 million Filipinos in the UAE, the envoy said: “Like our heroes who fought for independence 126 years ago, we have heroes now fighting for the best for their families and our country’s prosperity.”

‘Emirates Loves Philippines’

Ahmed Mohammed Al Marzooqi, the project manager for Emirates Loves Facebook pages said the Emirates Loves Philippines page is one the most active groups among the 14 such pages dedicated to various expat communities in the UAE.

“The Filipino community in the UAE is one of the largest expat communities. In this celebration today, we are showcasing their art and food and various other aspects of their culture and our friendly relations,” he added.

Another organiser and Filipino community leader, Josie Conlu, said free bus transportation was arranged from various emirates to help bring in the Filipino community to join the celebrations in Dubai held under the theme ‘Celebrating talent, unity and diversity’.

“The event’s highlight includes performances by four artists flown in from the Philippines… We’ve also added a new Korean corner, recognising the Filipinos’ love for K-dramas and K-pop. The event will also feature Indian Bhangra dance performances to showcase diversity. Our goal is to engage the crowd and celebrate the rich culture and community…. with several activities including a fashion show.”

The vibrant colours of the Philippine flag – red, blue, yellow, and white – adorned the venue, creating a kaleidoscope of national pride. The young and the old expressed their pride and patriotism through several programmes, including musical performances and folkloric dances representing various aspects of the Filipino culture, as well as showcases of Filipino crafts and arts. The event also featured entertainment segments for children and cultural competitions mirroring the rich cultural heritage and the strong sense of community among Filipino expats.

Why it is special

Ten-year-old Chiara Angheline Panzo was among dozens of women and girls who dressed up as queens and princesses in couture gowns to take part in a colourful parade. “She was born here and I am happy to bring her to this event every year to take part in this grand celebration and represent our country in Dubai. This is a great opportunity for children like her to experience our culture,” said her mother Mischelle Panzo.

Ren Dalde, a Filipino accountant in Dubai, said he was fascinated to see how big the Independence Day celebrations in Dubai were when he landed here last year.

“Back home, we have different programmes, scattered in different places. Here, all the Filipino community members come together in large numbers. So, we have a bigger and grander celebration here. Since I don’t have my family here, I am thrilled to join the celebrations of my large community with my friends,” he said.

The Filipino Social Club also organised various programmes to mark the Independence Day over the weekend including a yacht parade, sports festival, music and dance competitions, fashion show and painting contest among others.