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The Gift of Diversity

Making a Difference by H.ClimacoBy Hermie Climaco
Back in 2003, when my 7-month office-skills course from Training Futures in Tysons Corner was about to end, our class planned a get-together party that would come before graduation day. “We will have a diversity party,” I remembered our training director, Marla Burton, announced very excitedly. It didn’t interest me then to ask Marla what she meant by diversity. Subconsciously, I knew it had something to do
with our class being composed of people from different parts of the world: India, Tibet, Iraq, Indonesia, Korea, El Salvador, Peru,
Afghanistan, Egypt, China, Vietnam, Ethiopia, U.S.A., and of course the Philippines, which I represented. But “what’s the big deal about it?”

Again, I wondered — subconsciously. And so, when Marla adjourned our class meeting with the reminder: “Wear your national dress! Don’t forget to wear your native costumes!” That really didn’t hit me as something important.

Last year, my family moved from Woodbridge, Virginia to Capitol Heights in Maryland. One of the things that my family did first during those transitions was to find our would-be church — which turned out to be St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church in Seat Pleasant, Maryland, and which was only about ten-minute drive from our house. Two months passed. My family fully became part of this church — we regularly attend Sunday Mass there, the children are going to Sunday classes, and we have made
several good friends in the parish.

Friendships forged — I was approached one day by Jennifer Ferguson, head of the church’s multicultural committee who is of a Jamaican descent, about joining their forthcoming multicultural event in celebration of the church’s 98th anniversary.*

On the night of November 11, the first multicultural celebration of St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church began. Dances, songs, playing of musical instruments, poems, skits and a fashion show were presented by the following countries: Jamaica, Martinique, Italy, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Ethiopia, Native America, and again the Philippines. It was a marvellous evening! The different cultural presentations that displayed each culture’s lifestyle, tradition, music, art and literature were amazing, while the sight of those colorful native costumes, worn regally by participants and guests, was awesome! For the first time, cultural multiplicity captured my attention. After five years of being here in America it was only then that I fully grasped the true meaning, the importance, the value and the beauty of “diversity” of cultures and ethnicity. “It was a most valuable experience for me. It was a night of reflection and discovery. Watching the people’s cultural diversity, its oozing beauty, and being among them, brought about a sense of amazement, great admiration, and reverence to the one responsible in this wonderful creation.” Thus, I wrote about this “Multicultural Day” experience I had last year.

Last month, our church again celebrated its diversity; once more, the beauty of multiplicity was exhibited. The Filipino culture, represented by around 30 members of the Couples For Christ community who came in various colors and style of barong tagalog, saya and kimona, and a muslim dress representing the island of Mindanao, wowed the audience as more than half of them walked from the center aisle showing off their Filipino attire up to the stage where they sang, in their own accompaniment of guitars, Dahil Sa Iyo, Silayan, Saan Ka Man Naroroon, Buhat, Dungawin Mo Hirang, etc. I now fully understand what diversity is. It is a common treasure of cultures. It is a source of richness and of peace. But above all, it is a gift from God to humanity.

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