December 8, 2018 marked another milestone in the life of MABIKAs Foundation, the Philippine Cordillera Connection in the Netherlands. Held in De Bron in Alphen aan den Rijn, the day highlighted not only the annual celebration of Christmas but also the official launching of the Foundation, following its registration at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce on October 17, 2018 and the courtesy visit at the Philippine Embassy in The Hague on November 9, 2018.

The officers or members of the first MABIKAs Board being inducted by Ms. Myrla Danao: (left to right) Myra Zymelka-Colis (Chairperson), Renijune Abaya (Treasurer), Yvonne Belen (Secretary), Tessie Gayao (Board Member), Romelita Heitlager-Gumatic (Board Member), and Cesar Tomilas Taguba (Board Member).

This remarkable day highlighted the formal ceremonies with the induction of the officers or members of the MABIKAs Board and the minute of silence and prayers in memory of the victims of the catastrophic Typhoon Ompong that hit the Philippine Cordillera region in September 2018 (which was then followed by Typhoon Rosita). On her Christmas message, MABIKAs Founding Chairperson Myra Zymelka-Colis started by showing videos of completed community outreaches to typhoon victims in the Cordillera and neighbouring provinces. She concluded her message on giving as key to prosperity with heartfelt words of thanks to all the donors, volunteers and coordinators who made all the completed and upcoming community outreaches possible.

The activity wouldn’t also be complete without the traditional community dancing, gong playing, singing, and parlor games, which both children and adults alike had fun experiencing it all in one night.

With the theme, ‘Giving is key to prosperity’, the event was all the more graced by the presence of three special guests with their words of encouragement and inspiration. It was an honor and privilege to have multi-awardee Diana Oosterbeek-Latoza as guest speaker of the day, Myrla Danao as inducting officer, and Philippine Consul General Lolita Capco as our surprise guest.

Diana Oosterbeek-Latoza

Diana is a recipient of prestigious awards such as the 2012 Presidential Banaag Award from the Philippine government and the 2018 Global Pinoy Idol as well as the 2007 ZAMI award and the Oranje Nassau Knighthood Award from Dutch institutions for her work as social cultural worker and founding chairperson of Stichting Bayanihan (the Philippine Women Centre in the Netherlands).

Myrla Danao

Just like Diana, Myrla is also an awardee of The Order of Orange-Nassau (Orde van Oranje-Nassau)- a recognition given to individuals who have earned special merits for the society here in the Netherlands.

Philippine Consul General Lolita Capco

Philippine Consul General Capco arrived in the Netherlands just few weeks before the MABIKAs Christmas and launching day, so it was a great pleasure to welcome her in the Netherlands with this one special occasion.


We’re All In This Together

MABIKAs Foundation pride itself not only for getting through each step one at a time, but also for having committed people working together to get things done, which was evident through what was seen and experienced that day.

Opening Ceremonies: An Overview

MABIKAs Founding Chairperson Myra Colis made a Christmas tree from the branches of a dead tree. She decorated it with multi-colored lights and letterings hanging on the branches. There were also displays of Cordillera weaves and wall decor. Myra made posters with images and text showing the values that MABIKAs stand for.

The STAGE with Philippine Consul General Lolita Capco giving her words of encouragement.

MABIKAs Treasurer June Abaya and active pioneer Leticia de Jong did their very best in hosting the activity, which lasted from 13.00 to 18.00.

The EMCEES: Leticia de Jong holding the Christmas cake made with love by Sophie Lonogan and Renijune Abaya holding the mic.

There’s nothing more fulfilling than seeing families and friends of MABIKAs constituents coming together to celebrate, have fun, enjoy, learn or try new things, play games, connect and yes reconnect! More or less 60 people from all over the Netherlands and beyond came for the celebration. Those coming from the Netherlands are Igorots and friends from Almere, Alphen a/d Rijn, Amersfoort, Amsterdam, Den Bosch, Den Haag, Groningen, Roosendaal, Rotterdam, Voorburg and Zeist. It was indeed a delight to also have families and friends coming all the way from Brazil, Germany, Poland, and the United Kingdom to join us on this day.

MABIKAs constituents with family and friends at De Bron in Alphen aan den Rijn

The program also showcased local talents as MABIKAs pioneers Leticia de Jong and Mercedes Dewalan both rendered the participants a solo. Christine Moncado, Aurora Pascual, Luniza Taoil, and Janet Barcena also came out with their colourful attires from the province of Abra and surprised the audience with their unique performance of an Abra dance with the tune of a bamboo-made instrument called in the local dialect, ‘kulisteng’.

Janet Baya leading the Abra dance to the tune of kulisteng with Luniza Taoil, Aurora Pascual and Christine Moncado accompanying.

Another young talent, 8yr old Ilian Taguba, entertained both the young and old with his skill in break dancing. Also big thanks to our main gong player, Andrei Jim Angnged, who led the men in playing the gongs with Chico Taguba, Ben Batad, Sam Saad and Janet Barcena accompanying.

Finally, we have men and gong players in house! (Left to right: Ben Batad, Andrei Angnged, Chico Taguba)

Among the parlor games played during the second part of the program were Trip to Jerusalem for both children and adults, Tug of War for both men and women, stop dancing for everyone, and the quiz game on knowledge of Cordillera people and culture led by MABIKAs Board Member Cesar Tomilas Taguba. Apart from the laughters and fun experience, winners received head caps, which were donated by MABIKAs pioneer and photographer Sophie Lonogan, as prizes.

Thank you LVM for your all-time support and sponsorship of our raffle draw fund- and fun-raising!

To further the fun with a cause, there was also the ‘funraising’ raffle draw. For only €1 per raffle ticket, participants can buy one or more and get a chance to win a Balikbayan box and padala from LVM Cargo (grand prize), a Senseo coffeemaker donated by MABIKAs constituent Michiel Heitlager (second prize), and about 15 wrapped gifts as consolation prizes.

As always, any Filipino affair won’t be called a success without the community eating. MABIKAs Board Member Romelita Gumatic-Heitlager, together with her sister and MABIKAs constituent Michelle Gumatic, played a major role in ensuring that food is served well and good; they did all the hard work of purchasing, preparing, cooking and serving for five menus of the evening.  There were cakes and cookies, donated by Leticia de Jong, Rachel de Weerd, Tessie Gayao and Yvonne Belen, for lunch and mid-afternoon snacks. Karen op’t Hof donated a lechon (roasted suckling pig) and most wanted to have a share of the crunchy skin.

Thanks to our food coordinators and sisters, Romelita & Michelle Gumatic with the full support of Michiel Heitlager.

Overall, it was an enjoyable activity for all where many have made new friends and connected with old ones. As MABIKAs Elder and Board Member Cesar Taguba, who also gave the opening remarks, commented by the end of the activity, ‘this Christmas and MABIKAs launching celebration indeed marks our unity for the reign of justice and peace.’

Proost! Cheers! Congratulations one and all!

Article contributors: Yvonne Belen & Myra Colis  | Photo credits: Ben Batad of TrippleB Photography & Sophie Lonogan