With over 7,000 islands, the Philippines is rich in culture and heritage and this diversity has made the country a year-long party place with festivals happening almost every month in different destinations.
Due to the pandemic, these revelries were set aside for the greater good and to protect lives but now that the Covid19 threat has been mitigated in Oman, kababayans in the Sultanate had taken the opportunity to bring the revelry here as the about 40,000 strong Filipino community in Oman celebrated the Philippine's 124th Independence Day.
Women empowerment, the perennial love for singing and the celebration of diversity had been the key topics highlighted during the closing event of the community's celebration.
Hundreds of kabayans gathered at the ballroom of the Golden Tulip Headington Ruwi on June 25, 2022, many dressed to the nines, to show support for the participants of two competitions which had become key attraction and engagement for the community — the 2022 Miss OFW Beauty Competition and the Pinoy Idol Singing Competition.
Officially taking oath as the new Chairperson of the Filipino Community Social Club (Filcosoc), Dr Annie Bangtegan said that the gathering was a way to "showcase the Filipino talent, to entertain, to inspire and to bring the community closer together."
She also thanked the Omani government since "through the Ministry of Social Development, the Filipino Community is recognized and is allowed to gather together to celebrate occasions" like the Philippine Independence Day.
Graced by the presence of the Philippine Ambassador to Oman, Imelda M. Panolong, she reiterated this year's theme of "Taking On the Challenge of the New Tomorrow."
"We are a happy people. No matter what crisis we go through, no matter what calamities hit us, we always have that smile... and after two years of isolation [due to the pandemic], it is now time to give ourselves a break by coming together today... to enjoy the performances of our community [members]," she said.
The ambassador also paid tribute to the men and women who sacrificed their lives and times so Filipinos can have their freedom, not just to vote but also the right to speech and to pursue decent work not just in the Philippines but also in a country like Oman.
In attendance were guests from the Nepali Social Club, Sri Lankan Social Club and the Karnataka Wing of the Indian Social Club.
A showcase of talent, beauty and intelligence
As one of the highlights of the closing event, 10 Filipina ladies working in different fields vied for the 2022 Ms Overseas Filipina Worker title.
The programme opened with the candidates donning festival costumes from the different major celebrations in the Philippines including Masskara, Pintados, Panagbenga, Moriones, and Higantes festivals among others. It was a vibrant display of spectacular costumes and putting 10 unique celebrations in one place.
While pre-pageant events already narrowed down the search, the women then competed for the long gown and the question and answer portions.
In the end, Catherin Abante was crowned the grand winner besting the 4 other girls who qualified for the final round.
"I will be an example not only to the overseas Filipino workers in Oman but also for other Filipino workers all over the world. OFWs are not only those who work as domestic helpers. We work in different fields and we can do so much. Women are usually deprived of their rights. I hope that one day, everyone will be able to tell the difference and uphold equality for men and women all over the world," Abante responded when asked how she will use her title to be of service to her community.
Raising their voices
After a meticulous three weeks, six contestants made it to the final night of the Pinoy Idol (Singing) Championship.
The contestants were allowed to select the songs that worked well with their voices and can do justice to their interpretation.
Selecting different genres of music, the night had seen English and Filipino covers of songs from ballad, Pinoy Pop, and R&B.
While the points were very close, Philippine School student Austin Shpyz Romero's rendition of Bruno Mar's Talking to the Moon edged out the other competitors to be declared the Pinoy Idol 2022.
The new set of directors
The success of the event was all thanks to the collective effort of Filcosoc and the different subcommittees and the heads that handled them respectively including the support of the different sponsors who donated in cash or in-kind to make the event possible.
The 2022 Board of Directors:
Chairperson - Dr Annie Bangtegan Domede; Vice-Chairperson - Engr. Jimmy C. Santos; Treasurer - Mr. Jerry Josue; Auditor - Mr. Reynald A. Funtinilia; Program Director 1 - Ms. Dulce N. Mercado; Program Director 2 - Mr. Ernesto Suarez, Jr; PRO - Ms. Aisha C. Ballena and for Peace & Order Director - Mr. Mhonet Valian.
Bangtegan said that they had several more programmes in the pipeline to keep the community engaged and ask the kabayans to follow the clubs' social media account for updates.