First Pinoy Member of New Zealand Parliament Honors Heritage in Maiden Speech

MANILA (UPDATE) – Former diplomat Paulo Garcia has made his debut at the New Zealand Parliament, honoring his heritage as the first Filipino-born member of the Kiwi legislature. 

Garcia, an immigrant who served as Philippine Honorary Consul General in Auckland in 2012, was elected on May 16 following the resignation of National Party MP Nuk Korako.

In his maiden speech delivered Wednesday, Garcia showed his Filipino roots by speaking in Filipino in the early part of his remarks. 

“Nagmamahal na Panginoon, kami ay buong pusong nagpapasalamat na minarapat mong mabigyan ng pagkakataon ang inyong mga anak na makapaglingkod sa bayang New Zealand, hindi lamang sa mga nursing homes at ospital, sa mga dairy farms at mga construction sites, sa I.T., engineering at hospitality, at ngayon pati na rin sa larangan ng pambabatas,” he said.

(We thank our loving God that he has given his children the opportunity to serve New Zealand not just in nursing homes and hospitals, in dairy farms and construction sites, in I.T., engineering and hospitality, but now also in the New Zealand parliament.)

“Pagkalooban niyo po kami ng puso, isip at katawan na may tatag upang maisakatupad namin ang inyong layunin para sa amin sa bansang New Zealand.”

(Grant us a steady heart, mind, and strong body that we may help bring your will for us in New Zealand to fruition.)

Garcia said he was thankful for becoming a representative of an ethnic and religious minority amid the Christchurch attacks in March.

“It is a privilege and an honor to work with all of you. And it is a testament to this great nation that migrants can become New Zealanders and represent this nation in our House of Parliament,” he said.

“A greatness that was sorely tested earlier this year when a man determined to drive division and intolerance into our midst entered two mosques and killed 51 people, who had chosen to make this great nation of ours home.”

A devout Catholic, Garcia also emphasized his stand for valuing life.

“When it comes to human beings, we cannot pick and choose which ones are protected and which ones are not. And we cannot say some vulnerable lives must be protected but others not,” he said.

“Whatever laws we might pass in this Chamber, the pro-life voice must no longer be despised and discounted as offensive.”

Garcia, meanwhile, thanked those who gave him “fortitude and courage” such as his mother Anna, who took care of his father while he suffered from dementia for 10 years.

“Fourteen years ago, I was a struggling student at the University of Auckland law, taking papers and the bar exam. Those were tough times. We were a single income household of six, but now here I stand as a Member of Parliament of this great nation,” he said.

Garcia ended his speech by quoting the poem of her daughter Mariana.

“A migrant house is built tall on foundations filled with sky, stacked with the hopes of generations into storied bastions that testify to us. We were made to hold together,” he said.

“I stand proud in the shade of a roof made for me, to raise it high by proclaiming I have a Spanish name, an American accent, and an Asian face and I have been welcomed in Aotearoa. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mabuhay!”

Garcia graduated from the University of the Philippines and practiced commercial law for 24 years: 10 while in Manila and continued in New Zealand in the next 14 years. He also attended the Academy of American and International Law in Texas and the University of Auckland.